My TCM Film Fest Family Album

pv_23736_005_2451_2I’m not a big hugger; it’s nothing personal, it’s just not my thing. But I received – and gave – more hugs at the recently completed TCM Classic Film Festival than in any other weekend of my adult life. 

So, what gives?

Turner Classic Movies’ fifth annual conclave was brilliantly curated and flawlessly executed, with more than 100 events in a 4-day cinematic cyclone that concluded with THE WIZARD OF OZ – in the same venue that hosted the film’s premiere 75 years ago. Over the course of just 82 hours, I caught 16 screenings, 3 panel discussions, a celebrity-filled tribute to host Robert Osborne, a number of parties, very little sleep, and almost no food. It was, as always, a delightfully exhausting and supremely unforgettable experience.

But TCM got one thing wrong this year.

2014 TCM Classic Film Festival - "The Italian Job" ScreeningThe announced theme for 2014 was “Family in the Movies: the Ties That Bind.” Based on what I witnessed – and experienced myself – I’d amend that to “Family at the Movies.” Because thousands of people, many who had never met before, laughed together, cried together, hugged, bonded, and otherwise felt a connection that some of us don’t often experience in our daily lives. And it all happened in the audience at some of the most historic venues in Hollywood.

It was like a reunion, with family we’d never met. And the tie that bound us all together was Turner Classic Movies.

I know this sounds really sappy. And I’m sure I’ll read this post in a week or two, when I’m less sleep deprived, hungry, and emotionally vulnerable, and I’ll probably cringe at the sentimentality. But that’s why I’m writing this now, just hours after I got off the plane from LAX, before my native sarcasm has an opportunity to re-calcify.

Fact: the people who attend the TCM Classic Film Festival are some of my favorite people in the world. I don’t care how old they are, what they look like, where they live, what they do for a living, or whom they voted for in the last election.

Ben“Conservatives, liberals, progressives, and libertarians all unite in their love of Humphrey Bogart,” host Ben Mankiewicz said at the press conference that kicked off the festivities on Thursday morning at the TCL Chinese 6 Theaters in Hollywood. 

My apologies to my actual family and IRL friends and co-workers, but I feel closer to the friends I’ve made through my TCM viewership than to many (most?) other people in my life. Without a doubt, social media facilitates these interactions and helps to consecrate the transmogrification from virtual to actual. We may meet in person for the first time at TCMFF, but we feel like we’ve known each other for years. Because, in many cases, thanks to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram, we have.

If you’re reading a blog about classic film, you probably already know this. What you may not know, however, is how real the emotion is when we all say goodbye, and how much we look forward to seeing each other again. Seriously, when was the last time you felt that way about your real family?

In the midst of the sadness/euphoria of the closing night party at the Roosevelt Hotel on Sunday, Monster Island Resort host Miguel Rodriquez recorded a special TCMFF edition of his excellent podcast. I’m featured on it, along with a motley crew of classic film bloggers and tweeters, including Paula Guthat, Citizen Screen (aka Aurora), Joel Williams, Kellee Pratt, Nitrate Diva (aka Nora), and Beth Accomando.  All of these folks tweet regularly using the #TCMParty hashtag. Click here to listen.

Also: for you on-line types who couldn’t be there this year, here are some pictures to help you connect faces with @ names. This will make it even easier when you join us in 2015. But start saving your pennies now! The hugs may be free at the TCM Classic Film Festival, but the passes are not.


My non-Twittered girlfriend Maggie and me.


Pre-gaming on Wedensday at In-N-Out Burger w/ (back) Aurora (@citizenScreen) and me (front) Alan (@AlanHait), Michael (@le0pard13), and Paula (@Paula_Guthat)


Opening Day #TCMParty lunch at Musso & Frank w/ (L-R) Paula (@Paula_Guthat), Aurora (@CitizenScreen), me, Alan (@AlanHait), Kimberly (@GlamAmor), Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66), Elise (@EliseCD), Colleen (@Middparent) w/ Kay (@KayStarStyle) behind the camera


The (in)famous “Oscar-style selfie” w/ (L-R) Margaret (@BeautBoulevards), Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66), me, Aurora (@CitizenScreen), Kimberly (@GlamAmor), Kay (@KayStarStyle), and Kelly (@Kelly_Wick)


Paula (@Paula_Guthat) carbo-loading w/ a shake from the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain on Hollywood Blvd.


Elise (@EliseCD) and I toast Robert Osborne on Friday at the Montalban Theatre


Miguel (@MonsterResort) and Beth (@CineBeth) were #1 and #2 for the GODZILLA restoration at the Egyptian on Saturday. That’s dedication.


Kellee (@Irishjayhawk66) and I are ready for the red carpet!


Champion hugger Kristen (@SalesonFilm) Whenever I saw her at a screening I knew I had made the right decision.


Little ditty ’bout Jeff (@JLundenberger) and Diane (@Diandapanda)


TCM Ultimate Fan winner Tiffany (@FilmiliarFace), Aurora (@CitizenScreen) and Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) ready for trouble


Ariel (@Sinaphile), Andy (@Andy_Sell) and Marya (@oldfilmsflicker) call it a wrap on closing night.


KC (@Classicmovieblg) and Laura (@LaurasMiscMovie) on closing night.


Joel (@Joelrwilliams1) and Beth (@Pooka_pal) by the Roosevelt Hotel pool


Alan (@AlanHait) and Debbie (@Moviesharkd) reppin’ for Philly.


Karen (@TheDarkPages) and Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) showing off bright smiles for two noir lovers


Sara and Lara (@Backlotsfilm)


Larkin (@LarkinStallings) and Jackie (@LivingLola)


Miguel (@MonsterResort) and Kelle (@Irishjayhawk66)


Colleen (@Middparent), Paula (@Paula_Guthat) and Nora (@NitrateDiva)


Me, Cindy (@Ciniebugz) and Joel (@joelrwilliams1)


Miguel recording the podcast in the fires of eternal damnation


Paula (@Paula_Guthat) and me on the TCM Movie Locations Sightseeing Bus Tour on Monday


Elise (@EliseCD) and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) in the lobby of The Bradbury Building


Aurora (@CitizenScreen), Paula (@Paula_Guthat), Will and friend.


Michael (left) was the guide and George (right) was the driver for the TCM Movie Locations bus tour. I gave them a nice tip, which I’m sure had nothing to do with them agreeing to pose for this picture.


Paula, Will, Elise and Aurora after the TCM Tour on Monday


#TCMParty veterans Aurora, me, Kellee, Paula and Joel ham it up for the camera in the Genworth Living Room at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatre.

Our pals Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz lead us in a toast to TCM's 20th birthday.

Our pals Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz lead us in a toast to TCM’s 20th birthday. Here’s to 20 more years.

Posted in TCM, TCM Classic Film Festival | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

My Obsessive-Compulsive Guide to the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

tcm-2014-2Last updated 4/22/14 7 PM (ET). Updated info in italics 

Here’s my favorite thing about the TCM Classic Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday in Hollywood: there’s no right or wrong way to pick the movies you see. Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce – like Burger King in the ‘70s, the only right way is your way. 

This will be my fifth trip to the classic film conclave, which packs more than 100 screenings and events into 82 (mostly sleepless) hours in Hollywood. I’m just as excited as ever, but this year the typically torturous process of choosing my personal schedule was easier than in the past.

I used to lament the wealth of competing choices, secretly wishing we could go back to Year One in 2010 when the crowds were small and the options were few. Now I understand that the staggering volume of programming – in one case nine events will happen in the same time block – creates the opportunity for each attendee to customize his or her experience based upon the vagaries of taste and personality.

tcmff_2For example: let’s say your definition of “classic” is a film released before 1959, and that you prefer 35mm projection and hate big crowds. You can park yourself at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres (aka the Multiplex) and jump between the two smallest TCMFF venues, house 4 (177 seats) and house 6 (250 seats), where 34 of the 35 films will be screened on actual film, with more than 20 of them released before 1959.

UPDATE  4/22/14 – The final tally of pre-1959 releases in house 4 and house 6, after the TBAs were announced, was 26 of 35.

Or maybe you want to experience the buzz of watching a beloved classic with a big, enthusiastic crowd at larger venues like Disney’s El Capitan Theatre (998 seats), TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater IMAX (916 seats), or the Egyptian Theatre (618). Or perhaps you want to focus on the special programs and live interviews at the Club TCM meeting space (capacity roughly 400) in the Blossom Room at the Roosevelt Hotel (site of the first Academy Awards ceremony) and newly added locations like the Hollywood Museum (200) on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. or the Montalban Theater (300 seats) at 1615 North Vine Street.

Or maybe you want to do it all. Since human cloning is not yet legal in the state of California (frankly, I expected more from Gov. Schwarzenegger), your best-case scenario will probably be a maximum of 20 screenings or events over the course of the weekend (if you don’t eat, rarely sleep, and walk really fast). Even with a carefully planned schedule, you’re going to miss out on 80 percent of what’s happening.

Accept that fact, and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience.


Here are 10 Tips for planning your TCMFF 2014 experience (with a bonus tip at no extra charge):

1aUnderstand the limitations of your pass level.

First: all pass levels are sold out, and have been for weeks. Second: the only passes that provide entry to all screenings and events are the Essential Pass ($699), which sold out in an unprecedented five hours back on November 14, and the Spotlight Pass (price: $1,599) which was gone in less than a week. So if you didn’t act early, your access will be limited.

The Classic Pass ($549) will get you into everything except the opening night screening of OKLAHOMA at the TCL Chinese Theatre (though you are still invited to watch red carpet arrivals on the bleachers). The Matinee Pass ($349) allows Friday through Sunday entry to screenings and Club TCM, but not the two interview events at the Montalban Theatre. And the Palace Pass ($249) will get you into screenings at the TCL Chinese, the Egyptian Theatre, and the Montalban Theatre, from Friday through Sunday – with no access to Club TCM (and I’m pretty sure that means the parties, as well).

So let’s say you’re a Matinee/Palace passholder and you want to see a film on Thursday night, or get into a venue your pass otherwise doesn’t allow. Your solution: $20 standby tickets (or $10 with a student I.D.) are available to all screenings except OKLAHOMA at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Thursday and the three poolside screenings at the Roosevelt Hotel. These tickets are cash only, and you’ll have to wait in a standby line until all passholders are seated (which means you may not get a great seat, but whatever). Note also that THE WIZARD OF OZ walk-ups are $30, and standby tickets are not available to any of the interview or discussion events, except the Leonard Maltin-hosted tribute to Hubley Animation on Saturday at 3 p.m. But that event is in the 177-seat Auditorium 4 at the Multiplex, so standby opportunities will likely be scarce.

2aDecide if you can afford to come back next year.

When first-timers ask me how to pick from more than 100 events and screenings, I always reply with the same question: is this likely to be your only trip to the TCM Film Festival? If so, and you may never get another chance to be inside these historic theaters, you should make it a point to get to as many venues as possible. It’s better to duck out early to make another desired screening than to miss a venue entirely.  (Remember: Leaving early is okay, arriving late is not.) Which leads me to my next point:

 3aLine up early.

If there are events you must see, make sure to show up 30 minutes early just to be safe. Also, remember that the newly renovated TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX seats 230 fewer people than it did last year. This is in part why the Essential and Spotlight passes sold out so much faster than in past years, and it will mean more sell-outs at the Chinese than ever before. Make note of the size of each venue (particularly the smaller ones at the Multiplex), and consider capacity when you decide if you have time to eat something other than popcorn. Which leads me to my next point:

4aPlan your meals in advance.

There are no meal breaks built into the schedule, nor are there food items of any nutritional value at the theater concession stands (other than Raisinettes, which may contain some small amount of actual fruit). My solution is to live on a caffeine buzz for four days. But, if food means more to you than it does to me, plan accordingly.

Within the Roosevelt there are two restaurants that are convenient and not absurdly over-priced. 25 Degrees is a burger joint in the lobby of the hotel and you can sit at the counter and be in and out in less than 30 minutes. (PLUS they play TCM on the TV, so you can continue your classic film consumption, even on a screening break.) There’s a fancier restaurant in the back of the lobby called Public Kitchen and Bar, but I’ve never been there. Both offer 10 percent discounts for TCMFF attendees, as does the hotel’s room service, but not for liquor. If you’re more of a Ray Milland type, plan on procuring your hooch from the Hollywood Liquor Store at 7040 Hollywood Blvd. (half a block from the hotel). Also: CVS at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. (diagonally across from the hotel) has a full complement of beer, wine, and spirits at popular prices (as well as snacks for your hotel room.)

There are two coffee shops in the shadow of the Roosevelt: the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 6922 Hollywood Blvd offers the 10 percent TCMFF discount, while Starbucks at 6933 Hollywood Blvd (across the street, next to Madame Tussaud’s) does not. My friend Amy Robinson Vogel also recommends Kelly’s Coffee and Fudge Factory inside the Dolby Theater lobby at 6801 Hollywood Blvd for a less crowded caffeine fix. They’re open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and also serve hot breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, and, of course, fudge. Kelly also suggests the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in the Disney Store at 6834 Hollywood (next to the El Cap) for coffee, ice cream and desserts. They’re open from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays, and midnight on weekend.

Other (sort of) acceptable options on Hollywood Blvd: Baja Fresh and Hooters at 6922, Greco’s New York Pizza at 6814, and McDonald’s at 6776. In the Hollywood and Highland Center mall you have a few sit-down options: Johnny Rocket’s 1950s-style diner, California Pizza Kitchen, Cabo Wabo Cantina, Cho Oishi sushi, the Hard Rock Café, Ohm Café, Woodfire BBQ and The Grill (where my friend Cathi Mercer ran into Robert Osborne last year at lunch). Of these, only Johnny Rocket’s is really fast enough for a quick, between-screening sitdown.

And don’t forget Pink’s Hot Dogs at 709 N La Brea Ave (a 20-minute walk from the Roos, but plan to wait in line for as long as 30 minutes), In-N-Out Burger at 7009 Sunset Blvd. and Orange (2 blocks from the Roosevelt), Mel’s Drive-In at 1660 S Highland Ave, Musso and Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. (don’t miss the Thursday-only chicken pot pie special, but reservations are suggested), the Pig ‘n Whistle at 6714 Hollywood Blvd, and Miceli’s (“Hollywood’s oldest Italian Restaurant”) at 1646 N Las Palmas Ave. The latter three are steps away from the Egyptian Theatre, and hold a lot of history within their walls. (And thanks to my friends in the “Going to the TCM Film Festival” group on Facebook for helping me compile this list.)

UPDATE 4/8: The concession stand at the Multiplex now has a sandwich and appetizer menu. Thanks to Debbie, Jandy, and David for that intelligence. 

Now that I’ve told you about all the places to eat on Hollywood Blvd….

5aAvoid Hollywood Blvd!

Sure Hollywood Blvd. has its charms, if you consider throngs of tourists, homeless skateboarders, and panhandlers in dirty superhero costumes charming. But it will almost always take you longer to get to a venue via Hollywood Blvd. than by other means.

If I’m going from the Roosevelt to the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex I always exit the hotel from the main entrance, cross Hollywood Blvd, walk past the side of Madame Tousaud’s, and enter the Hollywood and Highland Center from behind the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. (There’s a staircase near the entrance to the parking garage where the tour buses load up.)

When going to The Egyptian or the El Capitan from the Roosevelt, I exit the hotel via the side door on North Orange, make a right and then a quick left and walk through the alley next to the parking garage. This will take you to the back side of the El Capitan or, if you keep going, to Highland Ave. From Highland I go through the parking lot for Mel’s Drive-In, go through another alley, and end up at the side door of the Egyptian. This allows me to avoid the scrum between North Orange and Highland.

6aThere is no TCMFF iPhone/iPad app this year, so plan accordingly!

This is a bit of a head-scratcher. For the first four years of the TCMFF, the network provided a free, smartly designed, user-friendly app for smartphones and tablets that allowed attendees to access and sort the schedule in a variety of ways, and also allowed for schedule changes and other data to be “pushed” to users.

There’s no app this year, but there are a few options to replace it: bookmark the schedule page on your smartphone or tablet’s web-browser (I tried that on my iPhone and it’s kind of a pain); carry the paper pocket guide schedule that all attendees receive; or print this blog post and carry it around with you. (You can laugh, but a few people told me last year that they did just that. Take that haters!) Remember to check the Information desk in the lobby of the Roosevelt for updates, particularly the titles for the Sunday TBA screenings.

If you’re not on Twitter, I suggest you join up, at least for the weekend. In the absence of an app, the @TCMFilmFest Twitter account will be your best, on-the-go resource for news and schedule changes. Remember also that all tweeps attending the event tag their tweets with #TCMFF. And, now that you’re on Twitter, follow me and the rest of the TCM Film Fest Social Media Crew.

As in past years, TCM will still offer 7 special pins for social media users. Just show up at the Info Desk and show them the apps on your smartphone or tablet and you’ll get your pins. Users of the following social networks have received pins in the past: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, TV Tag (formerly Get Glue); the Watch TCM app; and ???.

UPDATE  4/09/14 - According to a TCM rep, the pins for this year will be: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Google+, and Watch TCM. But it’s not enough to just have the apps, you have to do certain things with them:

• Facebook: “Go to the Genworth Living Room at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex, get a photo of yourself from their team, and post the photo to Facebook to tell your friends that you’ve arrived here at the Festival.”
• Twitter: “Spot a TCM celebrity and tweet to tell us at #TCMFF”
• You Tube: “Show us a TCM YouTube clip you like.”
Google+: “Leave us a comment on on Google+.”
• Instagram: “Find a new friend. Snap a photo together. Post to Instagram.”
• Vine: “Capture the Festival in a Vine video.”
• Watch TCM - Download the app


7aDon’t forget Club TCM and the TCM Movie Locations Tour.

Often, in my mania to attend as many screenings as possible, I neglect the Club TCM space at the Roosevelt. And that’s unfortunate, because TCM does a great job with the art direction of the space, the programming, and the overall vibe. And this year is no different. In addition to the scheduled events, there at two displays you should seek out.

TCM at 20: Inspired by the Classics is an installation of visual works created by a select group of artists in honor of TCM’s 20th anniversary. Artists include: Tony Bennett, Manolo Blahnik, Charles Busch, Jules Feiffer, Joel Grey, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Kim Novak, Todd Oldham, Jane Seymour and Burt Young.

The 75th Anniversary of GONE WITH THE WIND will be remembered with an exhibit of storyboard and concept art paintings from the film, presented in partnership with the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the home of the David O. Selznick archive. (For more info about this display, click here.)

Home Movies by Hollywood: Photography from the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library is a display of rare, candid photos of classic film stars and behind-the-scenes figures at play, or vacation, and shooting their own home movies. It’s presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in conjunction with Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive on Saturday at 4:30, also at Club TCM.

On March 14, TCM launched the TCM Movie Locations Tour, a branded tour that brings Hollywood “film history alive by pairing modern and classic movie clips with visits to the locations where they were filmed.” And the best part about it? It’s FREE. The three-hour excursion in a luxury coach is operated by Starline Tours, and departs from the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. All eight trips scheduled to take place during TCMFF are officially sold out, but standby seating is available. Visit the Starline kiosk in the forecourt of the Theatre 30 minutes before a scheduled tour and you may get lucky!

The following are the dates and times for the TCM Movie Locations Tour offered during TCMFF:

Wednesday 4/9 1:30pm
Thursday 4/10 9:30am
Thursday 4/10 1:30pm
Friday 4/11 at 9:30am
Friday 4/11 at 1:30pm
Saturday 4/12 at 9:30am
Sunday 4/13 9:30am
Monday 4/14 9:30am

8aTry to get to the Montalban Theatre, but allow plenty of time.

Confession: every year TCM tapes a Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival interview at an historic Hollywood venue, and every year I miss it: Peter O’Toole at the Music Box Theatre in 2011; Kim Novak at the Avalon Hollywood in ’12; and Eva Marie at the Avalon in ’13. My excuse is usually that it’s too far away, and the time it takes to travel both ways would force me to forego at least two screenings. This year I hope to break my streak on Sunday afternoon for the Alan Arkin interview at the Montalban Theatre.

From 1936 until 1955, The Lux Radio Theater was recorded live on this stage for broadcast on CBS. That means that just about every significant actor from every studio performed here, which makes it totally worth the trip for any classic film fan. Two TCMFF events will take place at the former Lux Radio Playhouse: Ask Robert, a Q&A with Robert Osborne from 2-3:30 p.m. on Friday, and Alan Arkin: Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday. It’s a 25-30-minute walk from the Roosevelt, a 10-minute cab ride, or you can take the RED subway line at the Hollywood/Highland station one stop east to the Hollywood/Vine station. However you get there, TCM is limiting seating at this 900-seat venue to 300, so you should plan to get there at least 30 minutes early


9aBe on TV!

If you attend the Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival taping, you’re almost guaranteed to be visible somewhere in the final show, which will be broadcast on TCM and released on DVD. If you don’t want to go off-site, but still want to achieve your dream of appearing on TCM, stop by the Roosevelt lobby on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon betwe. Each year, TCM sets up a fully functional TV studio where Robert Osborne talks to celebrities, film historians, and passholders. These interviews are broadcast in primetime on TCM, and often repurposed for other uses, like theatrical screenings (Osborne’s chat with Tippi Hedren was included in the national TCM-sponsored screenings of THE BIRDS). The live audience is clearly visible during the interview, so get over to the Roosevelt lobby if you want to be seen on your favorite channel.

Update 4/10/14 – The tapings take place between 11:45AM-4PM in the Roosevelt lobby with Osborne and by the pool with Ben Mankiewicz.


10aClassic film stars don’t live forever, not even Mickey Rooney. If there’s an aging celebrity you really want to see in person, don’t wait until next year. Icons like Mickey Rooney, Peter O’Toole, Ernest Borgnine, Esther Williams, Betty Garrett, Tony Curtis, and Juanita Moore (from IMITATION OF LIFE)  have appeared at the TCMFF in past years and then departed for the great backlot in the sky. Other celebs appearing this year, like Mel Brooks, Kim Novak, Margaret O’Brien and director Norman Jewison have all appeared previously, in some cases multiple times.  It’s a grim topic, but age and health are factors you must consider.

11aRemember, you are among friends.

Listen, all of us are weird, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. And some of us are shy or socially awkward – that’s what happens sometimes when you spend a large chunk of your life watching movies most other people have never even heard of. But remember this: thousands of people have flown from all across the country (and the world) to share this odd hobby with other fans. Everyone at this event, regardless of age, occupation, or religious affiliation shares one thing in common: we really love old movies. And we probably don’t know a lot of people in our daily lives who feel the same way. That means we want to talk about it. So strike up conversations, make some screening buddies, and, if you’re like me, you may end up with some new, real-life friends.

And now, on to the schedule. First, some overall facts.

1949, Hollywood Roosevelt HotelThis year there are 84 films and 20 special events. Of the films, 37 will be screened on 35mm film, 41 on “Digital,” and six are still to be announced. If five of the six of the TBAs end up being screened in 35mm, that will make the breakdown exactly 50/50 this year. (Last year it was 46 on film and 38 on digital). And, if you factor in the 10 shorts in the Saturday, Leonard Maltin-hosted Tribute to Hubley Animation, all of which will be presented in unspecified “digital” formats, this will be the first year in which the majority of the film programs at TCMFF will be presented in digital formats.

UPDATE 4/9/14: Nine of the Hubley animation shorts will be presented in 35mm prints. The TV spots and other content will be screened from digital sources. This confirms that, once again, more TCMFF films will be screened from 35mm than from digital sources.

UPDATE 4/22/14: All six TBAs were screened on 35mm, which means the final breakdown was 43 film and 41 digital.

In the past, TCM’s definition of “Digital” has included professionally mastered DCP files (the industry standard for digital theatrical projection), HDCAM (a digital tape format), and even DVD and Blu-ray. The past poolside screenings at the Roosevelt have all been screened in consumer formats. The on-line schedule does not indicate the specific formats for the pool movies this year, but it’s likely to be the same situation, since the Roosevelt does not have professional screening equipment. Keep that in mind if format is a deciding factor for you (as it is for me).

UPDATE 4/9/14: The TCMFF pocked guide confirms that AMERICAN GRAFFITI, THE MUSIC MAN and THE MUPPET MOVIE will all screen on DVD.

Here are the daily breakdowns:

Thursday 4/10 – 8 screenings/4 events
Friday 4/11 – 26 screenings/6 events
Saturday 4/12 – 30 screenings/6 events (eat your Wheaties)
Sunday 4/13 – 20 screenings/4 events

That makes Saturday your most challenging day, choice-wise, and also your longest. So avoid the urge to party late on Friday night. Or don’t, and deal with the consequences on Saturday.

Next, the breakdown of screenings by venue: Updated!

TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6 – 18 screenings (17 35mm/1 Digital)
TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4 – 17 screenings (17 35mm – Hubley shorts not included)
TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1 – 16 screenings (16 Digital)
Egyptian Theatre – 14 screenings (8 35mm/6 Digital)
TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX – 11 screenings (all Digital)
El Capitan Theatre – 5 screenings (all Digital)
Roosevelt Poolside – 3 screenings (all Digital)

Finally, the breakdown by decade (Updated!):

1930s – 19
1940s – 18
1960s – 15
1950s – 14
1970s – 13
1920s – 2
1980s – 2
1990s – 1

Update 4/13/14 – The TBS screenings are 5TH AVENUE GIRL (1939) at 12PM, ON APPROVAL (1944) at 2PM, EMPLOYEE’S ENTRANCE (1933) at 4:30 PM, and THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) at 7 PM, all in 35mm.

The 1930s enjoys the biggest jump this year, from 11 announced screenings from that decade in 2013 to 19 this year. And the 1950s is the big loser, falling from 24 in 2013 to 14 this year.

And now, my picks. I’ve split the entire schedule into 21 separate programming blocks, and indicated the competing choices available at those times. I’ve also included the venue, screening format and any guests who may be in attendance.

As I said in the first chapter of this book, my picks aren’t right, they’re just mine.


BLOCK 0: Thursday 2:00 PM – 6:30 PM (3 events)
2:00-3:00 PM Meet TCM: Special Edition at the Egyptian Theatre panel
w/ TCM staff members TBD
3:30-4:30 PM Sons of Gods and Monsters panel w/ Rick Baker (special effects makeup artist), Joe Dante (director) at Hollywood Museum
5:00-5:30 PM TCM at 20: Inspired by the Classics w/ Robert Osborne, Kim Novak (actress), Jane Seymour (actress), Charles Busch (actor/playwright), Bruce Eric Kaplan (artist) at Club TCM
5:00-7:00 PM Welcome Party at Club TCM

The first block is the easiest, since there are no actual choices to make. Start with some lunch at Musso’s, Miceli’s or Pig ‘n Whistle, then head over to the Egyptian for the Meet TCM panel, where TCM pulls back the curtain and reveals the people behind the now 20-year-old network. There are always a few scoops to be had at these events, so I strongly suggest you attend.

Next, walk a few doors down to Hollywood Museum, the newest TCMFF venue, for Sons of Gods and Monsters, a discussion of monster movie makeup from the silent era until today with Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker and director Joe Dante. TCMFF passholders can visit the museum for free beginning at 2 PM.

Then head back to the Roosevelt for quick intro to the TCM at 20: Inspired by the Classics exhibit with Robert Osborne, followed by the opening party. By the way, the booze at the Club TCM parties is not free, so don’t plan to get “tight” (as they like to say in old movies) on TCM’s dime.

My Pick(s): All of the above. 


BLOCK 1: Thursday 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM (5 screenings) Updated!
6:30 PM OKLAHOMA (1955) w/ Shirley Jones (actress) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. Digital.
6:30 PM WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) w/ Charles Busch (actor) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
7:00 PM FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1939) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
7:15 PM CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
7:30 PM AMERICAN GRAFITTI (1973) w/ Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, Paul Le Mat (actors) at Roosevelt Hotel Pool. DVD 

This is an easy block for me. My press pass doesn’t get me into OKLAHOMA, so that’s out. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? with the hilarious Charles Busch will be a hoot, but I’ve seen that movie at least a dozen times. I find the pool to be a less-than-optimal venue, so AMERICAN GRAFITTI is eliminated (despite the presence of Paul Le Mat, whom I love). That leaves CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN with Clifton Webb, who is one of my favorite classic film actors, or FIFTH AVENUE GIRL, with one of my favorite classic film actresses, Ginger Rogers. This may be a down-to-the-wire call, but I think Ginger gets the nod because FIFTH AVENUE GIRL is screening in a brand new 35mm print from Warner Bros. Classics, struck in honor of the film’s 75th anniversary. PLUS I’ve never seen the film.

My Pick: FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1939) 


BLOCK 2: Thursday 9:30 PM – 12:00 AM (3 screenings)
9:30 PM BACHELOR MOTHER (1939) w/ Greg Proops (comedian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
9:45PM THE HEIRESS (1945) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
10:00 PM JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) w/ Michael Schlesinger (archivist) New Restoration at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.

THE HEIRESS, William Wyler’s film version of Henry James’ Washington Square is another favorite, but one I’ve seen many times. (The 35mm print from Universal is tempting, though.) Same goes for Nick Ray’s JOHNNY GUITAR, though I’d love to hear Schlesinger talk about the process of restoring the film. TCM says this screening is the “60th anniversary premiere of the newly restored version,” but doesn’t say if it’s been screened elsewhere. Either way, I think the winner is a 35mm print of Ginger Rogers and David Niven in BACHELOR MOTHER. A double dip with Ginger, with gravel-voiced comic Greg Proops around for the ride, sounds like a great way to kick off the TCMFF



BLOCK 3: Friday 9:00 AM – 11:15 AM (4 screenings + 1 event) Updated!
9:00 AM THE THIN MAN (1934) at Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
9:00 AM EAST OF EDEN (1955) w/ Scott Feinberg (reporter) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.  
9:15 AM STAGECOACH (1939) w/ Nancy Schoenberg (author) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (courtesy of Shout! Factory) 
9:45 AM ON APPROVAL (1944) w/ Jeffrey Vance (historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm (courtesy of Film Preservation Associates) 
10:00 AM Charlton Heston Stamp Dedication Ceremony w/ Fraser Heston (family), Stephanie Zimbalist (actress), Ken Howard (actor, SAG-AFTRA President) at TCL Chinese IMAX (NOTE: Ken Howard was replaced by Gabrielle Carteris.)

The first full day starts with a eclectic selection of choices.  Woody Van Dyke’s THE THIN MAN with William Powell and Myrna Loy is a favorite, but I’ve seen it many times, and it’s not a new restoration. Elia Kazan’s EAST OF EDEN is not a favorite. John Ford’s STAGECOACH will be introduced by Nancy Schoenberger, who is currently penning a new book about the cinematic partnership between Ford and John Wayne, and that’s very temping (as is the new 35mm print). The Charlton Heston Stamp Dedication Ceremony is not tempting, despite my affection for Chuck. So the winer here is the film I’ve never seen, ON APPROVAL. Based on a play by Frederick Lonsdale, this British comedy of manners sounds delightfully meta. Author Jeffrey Vance, who did the commentary on the recent Blu-ray, introduces the film, which clocks in at a tight 80 minutes, a good way to ease into a long day.

My Pick: ON APPROVAL (1944) 


 BLOCK 4: Friday 11:45 AM – 2:15 PM (5 screenings + 1 event)

11:45 AM ZULU (1964) w/ Alex Trebek (host) at Egyptian Theatre. Digital.
12:00 PM TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) w/ Fraser Heston (family) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. Digital.
12:00 PM GREY GARDENS (1975) w/ Albert Maysles (director) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.  
12:00 PM MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1934) w/ Dennis Bartok (writer and film historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
12:15 PM THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964) w/ Paula Prentiss, Merry Spaeth (actors) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
12:30 PM A Conversation with Carl Davis at Club TCM w/ Carl Davis (composer and conductor) and Jon Burlingame (writer and author)

I’ve never seen Cy Endfield’s ZULU with Michael Caine as a British colonialist fighting Zulu warriors in the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, which is being introduced by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. But it’s not really my genre, so I will pass. I have seen TOUCH OF EVIL, Orson Welles brilliant film noir with Charlton Heston, but not the restoration from the original camera negative that is premiering here (introduced by Heston’s son Frasier). I’ve also seen GREY GARDENS, the touchingly funny documentary about mother and daughter “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, which is followed by a chat with legendary director Albert Maysles. And I’ve seen composer/conductor Carl Davis in person before, so that rules out A Conversation with Carl Davis.

That leaves a toss-up between Leo McCarey’s MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, a Paramount-produced tear-jerker about aging with Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, or George Roy Hill’s delightful THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, wherein two girls on the edge of adolescence stalk a pianist they’ve fallen in love with. Thanks to appearances by actresses Paula Prentiss and Merrie Spaeth (who played Gil, one of the two leads), I think HENRY gets the nod, even though I’ve seen it a bunch of times.


henry orient

BLOCK 5: Friday 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM (5 screenings + 3 events) Updated!
2:00 PM A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss w/ Richard Dreyfuss (actor) and Illeana Douglas (actor) at Club TCM.
2:00 PM Ask Robert w/ Robert Osborne (host) at the Montalban Theater.
3:00 PM MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) w/ Margaret O’Brien (actor) at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
3:00 PM A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1947) w/ Thelma Schoonmaker (editor/family) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.  
3:15 PM MY SISTER EILEEN (1942) w/ Lance Brisson (family) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
3:00 PM ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1974) w/ Allison Anders (director) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
3:15 PM INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) w/ Joe Dante (director) at Egyptian Theatre. 35mm (courtesy of George Eastman House). 
4:00 PM A Conversation with William Friedkin w/ William Friedkin (director) and Eddie Muller (author) at Club TCM

A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss is hosted by Illeana Douglas, one of my favorite people in the world, but I tend not to choose the Club TCM interview options, so I will likely forego it. Same with A Conversation with William Friedkin, which follows in Club TCM, with the noir god Eddie Muller asking the questions.

I feel like I’ve heard all of Robert Osborne’s stories at this point, so Ask Robert at the Montalban Theatre also doesn’t get the nod, despite my love for Mr. O. Nor does Vincente Minnelli’s  MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS with Margaret O’Brien, or Powell and Pressburger’s A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, which is truly one of my favorite films, but also one I’ve seen many times. If you haven’t seen this story of a WWII British airman (David Niven) given a second chance to fall in love with an American (Km Hunter), I highly recommend it. And the presence of Mrs. Michael Powell, Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker, makes it all the more tempting.

Alexander Hall’s MY SISTER EILEEN with Rosalind Russell is based on a play and set in New York City, my home town, but I’ve seen it before. That leaves this block as a toss-up between Scorsese’s ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, introduced by filmmaker Allison Anders, or Don Siegel’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS with special guest, director Joe Dante. This is a toughie, but I think ALICE gets the nod.

NOTE: There’s a rare break in the schedule at 5 PM, so eat some food.

Update 4/11/14 – The TCMFF will be offering shuttle vans to the Montalban Theatre for Ask Robert. Inquire at the Info Desk for departure info.


Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore

BLOCK 6: Friday 5:45 PM – 9:00 PM (5 screenings + 1 event) Updated!
5:45 PM THE LION IN WINTER (1968) Restored by the Academy Film Archive and Sony Pictures at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
6:00 PM A Conversation with Quincy Jones w/ Quincy Jones (musician) and Leonard Maltin (historian) at Club TCM
6:00 PM DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
6:00 PM PAPER MOON (1973) w/ Ryan O’Neal (actor) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
6:15PM IMITATION OF LIFE (1934) w/ Donald Bogle (historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
7:15 PM WHY WORRY (1923) w/ Carl Davis (conductor) and Suzanne Lloyd (family) at Egyptian Theatre. 35mm (courtesy of Harold Lloyd Entertainment) NOTE: This screening was originally announced in Digital. 

Everything in this block would be a potential first choice for me. Anthony Harvey’s gritty, realistically staged THE LION IN WINTER is like watching a master class in acting with Kate Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. It’s a delightful film, but I’ve already seen it on the big screen (with Harvey in attendance). If you haven’t, don’t miss it.

The Leonard Maltin-hosted A Conversation with Quincy Jones is a no, despite my respect for Jones, who I once gambled next to at a roulette table in Vegas. (BTW he was accompanied by a very attractive woman, which is exactly what I would expect.)

Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck is also tempting, particularly because this is the premiere of a brand new restoration “from the original pre-print film elements.” It’s one of the great film noirs of all time, but I just saw it at Film Forum in NYC earlier this year, so no.

Peter Bogdanovich’s PAPER MOON, the Depression-set comedy with Ryan O’Neal as con artist Moses Pray and Tatum O’Neal as his tough-as-nails daughter Addie was my original pick, until O’Neal cancelled.

I like John M. Stahl’s 1934 IMITATION OF LIFE with Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers better than Douglas Sirk’s melodramatic 1959 version with Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, and the presence of African-American film historian Donal Bogle makes it a close second. But the silent film with live accompaniment always wins the time slot for me, so the winner is Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in WHY WORRY with composer Carl Davis conducting the world premiere live performance of his new original score.

My Pick: WHY WORRY (1923) 


BLOCK 7: Friday 8:00 PM – 11:45 PM (6 screenings) Updated!
8:00 PM THE MUSIC MAN (1962) at Roosevelt Hotel Pool. DVD
8:45 PM THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) w/ Mark Harris (author) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.  
9:00 PM BLAZING SADDLES (1974) w/ Mel Brooks (actor/writer/director) at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
9:00 PM THE INNOCENTS (1961) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
9:15 PM EMPLOYEE’S ENTRANCE (1933) w/ Bruce Goldstein (repertory programmer) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm (from the Library of Congress).
9:30 PM THE ITALIAN JOB (1969) w/ Quincy Jones (composer) at Egyptian Theatre. Digital.

This is another toughie, with four movies I love up against each other, and two others I’ve never seen (but should). Morton DaCosta’s film of Meredith Wilson’s THE MUSIC MAN is at the pool, so, despite my love for Robert Preston, Ronny Howard and “Gary, Indiana” I will pass.

William Wyler’s touching WWII drama THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is one of the best “Coming Home” stories ever filmed, and this is a world premiere restoration, introduced by Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Much as I love this film, it also drains me emotionally, so I will pass.

Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill in a heist movie? How is it possible that I’ve never seen Peter Collinson’s THE ITALIAN JOB? I must rectify that, but tonight will not be the night. Nor will it be the night to see Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS with Deborah Kerr (“rhymes with star”), in a film based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

It’s a toss-up between Mel Brooks appearing live with his comedy Western BLAZING SADDLES, or my favorite Pre-Code cad Warren William as the boss from Hell in Roy Del Ruth’s EMPLOYEE’S ENTRANCE, opposite gorgeous Loretta Young. TCM says the latter will be introduced by Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein, with a presentation called Pre-Code 101. So, for now, that gives the nod to Warren William.



BLOCK 8: Friday 12:00 AM – 1:30 AM (1 screening)

12:00 AM ERASERHEAD (1977) w/ Patton Oswalt (comedian/actor) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm

David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD is bound to give everyone in attendance nightmares, so kudos to TCM for scheduling it right before we go to bed. Jack Nance (Pete Martell from Twin Peaks - the guy who discovers Laura Palmer “wrapped in plastic”) plays Henry Spencer, a man in an industrial town whose girlfriend gives birth to a mutant baby. Hopefully comedian Patton Oswalt can explain it better than I can.

My Pick: ERASERHEAD (1977)


BLOCK 9: Saturday 9:00 AM – 11:15 AM (5 screenings + 1 event)
9:00 AM THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) at the El Capitan. Digital.
9:00 AM FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
9:00 AM STELLA DALLAS (1937) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (courtesy of the Academy Film Archive).
9:15 AM I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER (1970) w/ Illeana Douglas (actor/family) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
9:15 AM CITY LIGHTS (1931) w/ Jason Lee (actor) New Restoration at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital
10:00 AM Handprint Ceremony with Jerry Lewis at TCL Chinese IMAX.

Hopefully you could sleep after watching ERASEHEAD. Squirt some Visine in your eyes and let’s get started on Day 3.

Wolfgang Reitherman’s THE JUNGLE BOOK is the first of five screenings at the El Capitan, and it’s short (78 minutes) and sweet and lots of fun. Based upon Kipling’s classic story collection, this animated musical stars Jack Benny bandleader Phil Harris at Baloo the Bear, along with George Sanders as the villainous Shere Khan, Sterling Holloway as Kaa the Snake, and Sebastian Caboy as Bagheera the Panther. The last time I saw this was in 1978, so I’m due for a re-visit. And the El Cap is a great place to watch an animated film.

Vincente Minnelli’s FATHER OF THE BRIDE gives us Spencer Tracy at his best, with Joan Bennett and a young Elizabeth Taylor as the titular bride. I’ve seen this many times, and so have you, probably.

Much as I love Barbara Stanwyck, I don’t particularly enjoy her melodramatic performance in King Vidor’s STELLA DALLAS. So, despite the newly struck 35mm print, I will skip.

Chaplin’s tale of a little tramp who tries to raise money to help a blind girl is one of the most touchingly lyrical films of all time. And while a newly restored version of CITY LIGHTS is very tempting, I will not be there, despite the presence of actor Jason Lee. BTW, this plays with a pre-recorded track, not live accompaniment.

Maybe this makes me a bad Old Movie Weirdo, but handprint ceremonies don’t really interest me. So I will skip the Handprint Ceremony with Jerry Lewis and wait until later in the day to see him.

Gilbert Cates’ I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER will probably have me crying to start of the day, but Gene Hackman is so good, and the film is introduced by Illeana Douglas, the granddaughter of co-star Melvyn Douglas. Hopefully she’ll bring some Kleenex, or at least offer her shoulder.



BLOCK 10: Saturday 11:30 AM – 2:15 PM (5 screenings + 1 event)
11:30 AM MARY POPPINS (1964) w/ Richard Sherman (Composer/Lyricist) at El Capitan. Digital.
11:45 AM GODZILLA: THE JAPANESE ORIGINAL (1954) w/ Gareth Edwards (director), Eddy von Mueller (historian) World Premiere Restoration at Egyptian Theatre. Digital.
11:45 AM MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936) World Premiere Restoration. At TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
11:45 AM I REMEMBER MAMA (1948) w/ Richard Corliss (author and film critic) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
11:45 AM HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) w/ Dennis Bartok (writer and film historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.
12:30 PM Mom and the Movies: A Conversation with Richard Corliss w/ Richard Corliss (author and film critic) at Club TCM.

Is this the most eclectic slot of the whole weekend? Very possibly. Composer/Lyricist Richard Sherman introduces MARY POPPINS with Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke on screen, but sadly not joining the festivities at the El Capitan.

MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN is Capra at his corniest, but don’t hate. It’s a restoration, and Gary Cooper is so pixillated! MEET JOHN DOE is better, but they’re not showing that one, so deal.

George Stevens’ I REMEMBER MAMA garnered Oscar noms for star Irene Dunne (in old age makeup) and supporting players Oscar Homolka, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Ellen Corby. Not much happens, but what does will probably make you cry. The screening is introduced by author and film critic Richard Corliss, who will then head over to Club TCM to talk about his new book. Sadly, I will miss him in both places.

Woody Allen’s HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is a great film, but I don’t think of it necessarily as a TCM film, so I will skip.

Gareth Edwards, director of Warner Bros. GODZILLA reboot (in theaters May 16), introduces what TCM (and Rialto Pictures) are somewhat clunkily referring to as GODZILLA: THE JAPANESE ORIGINAL. This is, of course, the surprisingly dark GOJIRA, restored and excluding many scenes of Raymond Burr smoking a pipe and looking at things. I’ll be there with my Oxygen Destroyer.



BLOCK 11: Saturday 2:00 PM – 5:30 PM (5 screenings + 3 events)

2:00 PM THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) World Premiere Restoration. At TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
2:30 PM A Conversation with Thelma Schoonmaker (editor) and Carrie Beauchamp (author, film historian and documentarian) at Club TCM.
2:45 PM STORMY WEATHER (1943) w/ Donald Bogle (author and film historian) and Bruce Goldstein (Film Forum repertory programmer) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
3:00 PM HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) w/ Maureen O’Hara (actor) World Premiere Restoration at El Capitan. Digital.
3:00 PM THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977) w/ Richard Dreyfuss (actor) at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
3:00 PM The Family Business: A Tribute to Hubley Animation w/ Leonard Maltin (film critic and historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House  4.
3:30 PM THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm. 
4:30 PM Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures From the Academy Film Archives w/ John Kimball (family), Miriam Nelson (family), Tim Zinnemann (family), Randy Haberkamp (AMPAS), and Lynna Kirste (archivist) at Club TCM. Screening format unspecified

This is tough block.  How do you choose between the world premiere restorations of Sergio Leone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY at Grauman’s (sorry, TCL) and John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY with the legendary Maureen O’Hara at El Cap, Herbert Ross’ THE GOODBYE GIRL with Richard Dreyfuss at the Egyptian, a rare screening of the 1949 version of THE GREAT GATSBY with Alan Ladd (introduced by his son) at the Multiplex House 6, Thelma Schoonmaker and Hollywood Home Movies at Club TCM, and the premiere of the restoration of STORMY WEATHER with historian Donald Bogel? You watch cartoons.

Leonard Maltin hosts a tribute to animation directors John and Faith Hubley, showcasing John’s work for United Productions of America (UPA), including the first appearance of Mister Magoo. Also featured are training films and classic ads.

My Pick: The Family Business: A Tribute to Hubley Animation


BLOCK 12: Saturday 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM (6 screenings + 1 event)
5:30 PM THE GODFATHER PART II (1974) TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
5:30 PM THE STRANGER’S RETURN (1933) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
6:00 PM WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) w/ Gregg Kilday (film editor, The Hollywood Reporter) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm
6:15 PM THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) w/ Jerry Lewis (actor) at El Capitan. Digital
6:15 PM BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958) w/ Kim Novak (actor) at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
6:30 PM A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964) w/ Alec Baldwin (actor), Don Was (record producer) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
6:30 PM A Conversation with Richard Sherman at Club TCM w/ Richard Sherman (composer/lyricist) and Leonard Maltin (film critic and  historian).

Francis Coppola’s THE GODFATHER PART II is truly one of the greatest films of all time, and really should be in a more prestigious venue than the Multiplex. I’ve also seen it many times, so I will skip.

King Vidor’s THE STRANGER’S RETURN features Miriam Hopkins in a Pre-Code film and I’ve never seen it. How did that happen? She plays a divorced girl visiting the family home to find her roots. Instead she finds Franchot Tone, which sounds much more interesting.

The restored A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964) will probably sound great on that sweet new sound system at Grauman’s  (sorry again, the TCL Chinese). Hopefully Alec Baldwin will shut off his cell phone so we can hear it.

Much as I love Sirk, I find WRITTEN ON THE WIND to be hilariously terrible. So no to that.

Richard Quine’s BELL BOOK AND CANDLE features Kim Novak as a modern-day witch. Novak is still with us, and will be appearing at the screening. Coincidence? I think not.

But the winer is Jerry Lewis’ THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, which is the only Jerry Lewis film I find funny. And Jerry Lewis will be there.


Nutty Professor 1963

BLOCK 13: Saturday 8:00 PM – 10:15 PM (2 screenings) Updated!
8:00 PM HAT CHECK GIRL (1932) w/ Anne Morra (MoMA), Katie Trainor (MoMA) World Premiere Restoration at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm (from MoMA)
8:00 PM THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) w/ Bill Hader (actor) at Roosevelt Hotel Pool. DVD.

This is not really a full, official block, but there are two films at this time that you could see in addition to some of the options in the previous slot. First is the world premiere restoration of Sidney Lanfield’s HAT CHECK GIRL w/ Sally Eilers and a young Ginger Rogers in a film that was “unreleasable” after the Production Code took effect two years later. Second is THE MUPPET MOVIE with TCM Essentials Jr. host Bill Hader by the pool. I suspect there will be a lot of 30- and 40-somethings crying whenever somebody sings “Rainbow Connection.” Sadly, I will not be one of them.



BLOCK 14: Saturday 9:15 PM – 11:30 PM (6 screenings) Updated! 
9:15 PM SORCERER (1977) New Restoration w/ William Friedkin (director) at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
9:15 PM THE PAWNBROKER (1964) w/ Quincy Jones (composer) at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm (newly struck print presented in conjunction w/ Paramount).
9:30 PM THE NAKED CITY (1948) w/ Tiffany Vasquez (TCM Ultimate Fan Contest winner) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (from the Library of Congress).
9:30 PM THE WOMEN (1939) w/ Anna Kendrick (actress) “Brand New Restoration” at El Capitan. Digital.
9:45 PM THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
10:00PM HER SISTER’S SECRET (1946) w/ Arianne Ulmer Cipes (family), Jan-Christopher Horak (Director, UCLA Film & TV Archive) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm (Preserved by UCLA Film & TV Archive).

Yikes, this is another tough slot. The restoration of William Friedkin’s SORCERER at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX (but not in IMAX) will likely be the hot ticket in this slot, and I’ve never seen it. Also hot will be George Cukor’s THE WOMAN at the El Cap with actress, who just hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend.

TCM Ultimate Fan contest winner Tiffany Vasquez intros THE NAKED CITY with Barry Fitzgerald, which was just on TCM (with Tiffany on-air introducing it). THIS IS SPINAL TAP goes to 11, and also features a tour-de-force performance by Letterman sidekick Paul Schaefer. Sidney Lumet’s THE PAWNBROKER with Rod Steiger was  first U.S. film to deal with the Holocaust from a survivor’s viewpoint. It’s presented in a newly struck 35mm print, introduced by Quincy Jones, who composed the film’s score.

Edgar G. Ulmer’s HER SISTER’S SECRET is a romantic drama from the low budget auteur, produced for Poverty Row studio PRC. It’s introduced by Jan-Christopher Horak from the UCLA Film & Television Archives and Arianne Ulmer Cipes, the director’s daughter.



BLOCK 15: Saturday 12:00 AM – 1:15 AM (1 screening)

12:00 AM FREAKS (1932) w/ Dana Gould (comedian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (Courtesy of British Film Institute).

Gooble gobble, one of us, one of us. Somebody at TCM enjoyed making some very perverse picks for the midnight slots this year.



BLOCK 16: Sunday 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM (5 screenings) Updated!
9:00 AM A Tribute to Mickey Rooney featuring NATIONAL VELVET (1944) w/ Margaret O’Brien (actress) and Eddie Muller (Film Noir Foundation) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
9:15 AM FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971) w/ Norman Jewison (director), Lynn Stalmaster (casting director), John Williams (composer) at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital.
9:15 AM TOKYO STORY (1953) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
9:15 AM Academy Conversations: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) w/ Craig Barron (visual effects artist) and Ben Burtt (sound designer) at Egyptian Theatre. Digital.
10:00 AM SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm.

I saw director Norman Jewison and casting director Lynn Stalmaster do a Q&A after a screening of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at the Film Society of Lincoln Center a few years ago, and the stories were delightful. The addition of legendary composer John Williams only makes this one harder to miss.

Yasujiro Ozu’s TOKYO STORY is the heartbreaking story of aging and the passage of time. If you’ve never seen an Ozu film, this is a great place to start.

Peter Tewksbury’s SUNDAY IN NEW YORK is, I think, what used to be called a “sex farce.” A gorgeous Jane Fonda stars as a young woman trying to lose her virginity, Cliff Robertson is her big brother, Rod Taylor is her mark, and Robert Culp is her ex who shows up unexpectedly. Hilarity ensues!

Oscar winners Ben Burtt and Craig Barron offer a 45-minute, behind the scenes look at the visual trickery that went into making THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD - one of the most seminal adventure films of all time. The movie follows, and it’s my pick.


UPDATE 4/9: TCM added A Tribute to Mickey Rooney to what had been the first TBA slot on Sunday morning in Multiplex House 4. This is the smallest house at TCMFF (177 seats) and people really loved Mickey Rooney, so I would show up an hour early for this.


BLOCK 16A: Sunday 11:30 AM – 1:15 PM (1 screening) Updated!
12:00 PM AM 5TH AVENUE GIRL (1939) at Chinese Multiplex 4. 35mm.

MY PICK: n/a

BLOCK 17: Sunday 12:45 PM – 5:30 PM (5 screenings + 2 events) Updated!
12:30 PM Judy Garland: A Legendary Film Career w/ John Fricke (film historian) at Club TCM.
12:45 PM CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
12:45 PM MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS (1995) w/ Richard Dreyfuss (actor) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
1:00 PM BEST BOY (1979) w/ Ira Wohl (director) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (courtesy of director).
1:00 PM Alan Arkin: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival w/ Alan Arkin (actor) at the Montalban Theater
1:30 PM GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital
2:00 PM ON APPROVAL (1944) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm. 

Another tough block. In Judy Garland: A Legendary Film Career, WIZARD OF OZ and Judy Garland historian John Fricke offers an in-depth, 90-minute look at  Garland’s movie career, 1929-63. This is a must for fans.

Richard Brooks’ CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, is still sexy after more than half a century. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman sizzle, with able support from the bellowing Burl Ives and the always charming Jack Carson.

Stephen Herek’s MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS is, I believe, the first film from the 1990s every to play at the TCM Film Festival. It will be interesting to see how many classic film fans show up. The discussion with Richard Dreyfuss before the screening may help attendance.

Ira Wohl’s BEST BOY is an emotional documentary about the filmmaker’s mentally challenged cousin, and his struggles to achieve independence. This is a great film.

How do you not pick GONE WITH THE WIND at the Chinese Theatre on the 75th anniversary of its release? You will likely never have an opportunity to experience this film like this again. But I have ADD (as well as OCD) and there’s no way I can sit still for four hours. So no trip to Tara for me.

80-year-old Academy Award-winner Alan Arkin talks with Robert Osborne about his work in films from THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING through ARGO. Alan Arkin: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival will be taped at the Montalban Theater for broadcast in 2015.

MY PICK:  Alan Arkin: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival 


BLOCK 18: Sunday 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM (4 screenings +1 event) Updated!
3:00 PM 20 Years of TCM On-Air at Club TCM.
3:45 PM THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968) w/ Alan Arkin at the Egyptian Theatre. 35mm.
4:15 PM EASTER PARADE (1948) w/ John Fricke (film historian) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (courtesy of Academy Film Archive).
4:30 PM THE QUIET MAN (1952) w/ Nancy Schoenberger (author) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. Digital.
4:30 PM EMPLOYEE’S ENTRANCE (1933) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.

Appropriately, the final event at Club TCM celebrates the network’s 20th anniversary, which falls just hours after the Festival ends. 20 Years of TCM On-Air  looks at the on-air promos from the early days until now. Expect to see some rare stuff in this session that you can’t find on YouTube.

Robert Ellis Miller’s THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968) is a touching tale of a deaf and mute man, based on a novel by Carson McCullers. Alan Arkin was Oscar nominated for his performance, and he’ll be be discussing the film before the screening. I’ve never seen this film, and I really should some day. But today will not be that day.

Charles Walters’ EASTER PARADE became Fred Astaire’s only film with Judy Garland, after original co-star Gene Kelly broke his ankle. Garland historian John Fricke introduces the film.

Why Maureen O’Hara is not appearing at the screening of John Ford’s THE QUIET MAN is beyond me. Nancy Schoenberger will have interesting things to say, I’m sure, but not as interesting as the star of the movie. Still, I will probably attend this screening because, you know, it’s THE QUIET MAN.

MY PICK(s): 20 Years of TCM On-Air (late) + THE QUIET MAN (1952) 

Update 4/9/14 – TCM has added an autograph signing with Robert Osborne Sunday from 6:15-7 PM at the Roosevelt. To gain access, you have to purchase a copy of the new DVD TCM Originals: Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD for $24.99 in the TCM pop-up boutique. I wrote about the contents of that DVD here.


BLOCK 19: Sunday 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM (5 screenings) Updated! 
7:00 PM THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 4. 35mm.
7:15 PM HOBSON’S CHOICE (1954) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 6. 35mm (courtesy of BFI).
7:30 PM THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) Restored in IMAX 3-D at TCL Chinese IMAX. Digital
7:30 PM THE LODGER (1927) w/ the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. New BFI Restoration at the Egyptian Theatre. Digital
7:30 PM THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947) at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres House 1. L.A. Premiere Restoration. Digital.

This is a tough call for me, because I’ve ended three of the previous four TCM Film Fests with live orchestral accompaniment to a silent film: METROPOLIS (1927) in 2010; THE THEIF OF BAGDAD (1924) in 2012, and THE GENERAL (1926) in 2013. Each year I left on a high note, feeling like I had just completed one of the best cinematic experiences of my life. This year the TCM is offering Hitchcock’s recently restored THE LODGER (1927) with accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. I saw this film last summer with Mont Alto’s accompaniment, and it was great, but I’d rather not close out with a repeat. If you haven’t seen it, though, I highly recommend closing out your Festival experience with an experience that combines film and live performance (even if silent films aren’t your “thing.”)

Same goes for THE WIZARD OF OZ in IMAX. I saw the film in its theatrical release last September, and I enjoyed it, even with the IMAX retrofitting. Seeing it again may not provide a unique experience, but it will certainly be memorable in a historic venue with what is likely to be a full house.

Orson Welles THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is another great film, even in its studio-truncated form, but also one I’ve seen before (although not in this “L.A. premiere restoration” from Sony).

That leaves HOBSON’S CHOICE as the only film in this block I haven’t seen. Directed by David Lean and starring Charles Laughton is good enough for me, but this still doesn’t feel like the sort of triumphant finale I’ve come to expect.

That means, upon further reflection, the winner is…



BLOCK 00 – Sunday 9:00 PM–12:00 AM (1 event)
9:00 PM Closing Night Party at Club TCM

Celebrate TCM’s 20th anniversary and start the countdown for next year’s TCMFF. Also you should probably eat something.

2490In closing, please enjoy the TCMFF picks from a few of my friend and colleagues who will be in attendance: Aurora, better known as Citizen Screen; Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings; Joel at Joel’s Classic Film Passion; Eve at the Lady Eve’s Reel Life; Jandy at The Frame; Kristen from Sales on Film; Danny Miller at Cinephiled; Lindsay at Lindsay’s Movie Musings; KC at Classic Movies; Angela at the Hollywood Revue; Raquel at Out of the Past: Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled: KC at Classic Movies; Charles at Memoirs of a Mangy Loner; and Nitrate Diva.

Posted in TCM Classic Film Festival, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments

Where’s Barnabas? The Vampire-Free NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971)

Night of Dark Shadows blu-ray coverFans of the original Dark Shadows have a complicated relationship with NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971), the rarely seen second film based on the popular supernatural soap opera.

And that’s unfortunate, because NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, which is now available to watch instantly on the Warner Archive streaming service, is often unfairly judged for what it is not.

Released in August of 1971, director Dan Curtis’ stylishly spooky tale of reincarnation and possession stars David Selby and a pre-Charlie’s Angels Kate Jackson as a young couple, with Lara Parker as the spirit of the long-dead witch who torments them.  Ostensibly a sequel to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, MGM’s biggest hit of 1970, NIGHT features no characters from the first film, with only a passing reference to Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch played in HOUSE (and on TV) by veteran actress Joan Bennett. Even more significantly, it’s also the only major Dark Shadows property not to feature Barnabas Collins, the emo vampire who first put the bite on daytime television in April of 1967.

For many fans, Dark Shadows without Barnabas is like porn without the sex. And so, for more than 40 years, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS has been the misfit toy in the supernatural playpen; yes, it’s Dark Shadows, but it’s not really Dark Shadows.

120419-330892-g-ent-Jonathan-Frid.blocks_desktop_mediumWhy there is no Barnabas in the sequel to a movie about Barnabas is also complicated, and requires a few spoilers. At the end of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, the handsome hero Jeff Clark (Roger Davis) dispatches the vampire (Jonathan Frid) before he can put the permanent bite on Jeff’s girlfriend Maggie (Kathryn Leigh Scott). As anyone who has seen the film (which is also available to stream on Warner Archive Instant) knows, the permanence of Barnabas’s destruction is highly debatable. (If you don’t know what I mean, make sure to watch until the credits are over.)

But even if Barnabas is dead (or dead again) at the end of HOUSE, it doesn’t matter. The blokes at Hammer Studios killed Christopher Lee at the end of every Dracula movie and unapologetically brought him back for the next one. By 1970 it was understood by everyone that the destruction of a monster is easily rectified once a movie studio signs a check for a sequel. Stake through the heart, impaling, beheading, burning, and silver bullets all are minor inconveniences when there is money to be made, and popcorn to be sold.

So why isn’t Barnabas in NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS? All I can tell you is what series star Jonathan Frid told me when I worked for him back in the mid-1980s.

“I hated it,” Frid said to me, referring to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. “It was all about screeching cars and blood and gore. It had none of the charm of the TV show.”

Frid took particular issue with the final sequence of the film, in which director (and series creator) Dan Curtis went a bit overboard on the reverb during the climatic faceoff between hero and anti-hero.

“You couldn’t understand a goddamned word I said,” Frid lamented.

He went on to tell me what happened when Curtis called him into his office to discuss a sequel, not long after the first film was released.

“I told him I wanted $1 million dollars,” Frid said, with a chuckle. “And that was that.”

nightoflapEven if NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS was a great film – and I’m not saying it’s not – the cancellation of the TV series in April of 1971 and Frid’s lack of participation would likely have doomed it to failure. But it was the studio itself that sealed the movie’s fate. After Curtis had completed editing and scoring (with TV series composer Robert Cobert), MGM studio chief James Aubrey – the man who presided over the sale of the legendary studio’s backlot, costumes and props – ordered more than half an hour be cut from the 129-minute film. The final product was a more drive-in-friendly 95-minutes, but it was narratively confusing and editorially sloppy.

Still, there is plenty to recommend in NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

David Selby reprises the role of Quentin, a part he first played on television at the height of the series’ popularity. On TV Quentin was both a ghost and a werewolf; here he’s a NODS_2decidedly mortal painter, and the last surviving member of the Collins family. Quentin and his wife Tracy (Jackson) move into his ancestral home, with two friends, writers Alex Jenkins (John Karlen) and Claire Jenkins (Nancy Barrett) occupying the guest cottage.  All is well until the Mrs. Danvers-esque Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall) begins encouraging Quentin to do his painting in the mysterious tower room. Soon after, the spirit of Angelique (Lara Parker), a witch hanged on the estate 170 years previously, returns to once again cast her spell on the Collins family.

And then it all goes to Hell, literally.

What makes this doubly confusing for longtime fans is, all of these actors (along with a few other supporting players) were familiar faces from the TV series, but here are playing entirely different characters. And three major cast members from the first film (Barrett, Karlen, and Hall) appear here in different roles.

kate jackson youngIn many ways it’s easier to enjoy NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS if you’re not a Dark Shadows fan. While HOUSE was almost intentionally campy in its overt violence and fangs-to-the-wall storytelling, NIGHT is a decidedly more grown-up affair, with genuine chills and a level of adult sensuality the ABC censors would never have allowed on daytime TV. And then there’s the gorgeous Lara Parker, whose ghostly charms would convince any red-blooded man to do all manner of terrible things to his wife (even if she’s as cute as Kate Jackson).

So there you have it. I just did what I said I shouldn’t, and explained NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS mostly by telling you what it’s not. But what it is is a spooky, rough-hewn, relic early ‘70s indie-style horror (even if it was financed by a once-major studio). And it’s worth a look, whether you’re a Dark Shadows fan or not.

And for extra, added fun, you can listen to this episode of the Collinsport Historical Society podcast, where host Wallace McBride talks to film archivist Darren Gross about his efforts to restore the still-extant missing footage to the film. Maybe, like Angelique, that footage will magically appear again some day on a certain streaming service….

NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS is also available on a nicely restored Blu-ray from 2012. To read my story about how my father introduced me to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, click here


Posted in Classic Film, Dark Shadows, Warner Archive Collection | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

TCM Wins Peabody Award for THE STORY OF FILM

TCM Peabopdy“We’re going to do our best to uphold the high standards that this Peabody Award symbolizes,” Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne said in May of 2009 when the then-15-year-old network was first honored with the prestigious prize for excellence in broadcasting.

He kept his word. Five years later, as TCM prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the channel has once again been recognized with a Peabody Award, this time for its groundbreaking THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY series.

From September 2 through December 9 of 2013, TCM broadcast 15 weekly installments of Mark Cousins’ 2011 documentary series. It was a risky programming decision, in part because the 48-year-old Irish filmmaker looked at cinema history through an international lens, sometimes discounting the “romantic” moviemaking of Classic Hollywood in favor of the gritty naturalism of foreign film. While the series angered some Studio-centric Old Movie Weirdos, Cousins’ mission seemed to be to expand horizons and alter perspectives, and to encourage viewers to take a larger, world view when considering the 100-year odyssey of moviemaking. And, at least in the case of this viewer, he succeeded (though I would have preferred if he wore socks while doing it).


To assist in this mission, TCM surrounded the airing of the 15 one-hour documentaries with a brilliantly curated collection of 119 films and dozens of short subjects representing 29 countries across six continents. It was an exhaustive and meticulously inclusive three-month programming initiative, and one that is perhaps unmatched in scope in the history of cable television. While some fans missed the familiar classics that were briefly displaced by obscure foreign oddities, others welcomed the 15-week film school TCM offered for free (not that cable is free, but you get my point). A number of the movies were also available on the network’s newly launched streaming platform, Watch TCM, allowing viewers of all ages even greater opportunity for discovery. And every film was presented respectfully, most in good quality transfers in the director’s intended aspect ratio.

THE STORY OF FILM may well be remembered as TCM’s “coming of age” – the moment when the network began a subtle but clear evolution from the “old movie channel” to a venue that programs significant classics of all eras (whether the diehards like it or not).

“We have a very open mind as to what makes a classic movie; it’s not really about years removed from a movie’s release that makes it okay,” host Ben Mankiewicz  said at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, a few months before THE STORY OF FILM premiered. “We always, always want to find something that will be relevant and emotional for our audience to see.”

 The 73rd annual Peabody Awards, emceed by “This American Life” host Ira Glass, will be presented on May 19 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Later this Spring, Pivot TV will broadcast a special presentation “blending ceremony footage with exclusive interviews with featured recipients.” All 15 installments of THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY are also available to watch instantly on Netflix.

Posted in TCM | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Revisiting HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) on Warner Archive Instant

House of Dark Shadows (1970)“Son, you should video this movie,” my father said, handing me a copy of TV Guide and pointing emphatically to the VCR he had just bought – for $1,000 – as a family Christmas gift. “It’s based on a soap opera about vampires. I think you’d like it.”

One thing you should know about my father: he is largely responsible for my love of old movies. Another: he used “video” as a verb. But the former was much more significant than the latter, even in the technologically heady days of 1981.

The film in question was HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970), Dan Curtis’ feature film adaptation of the 1966-71 ABC TV series he created, Dark Shadows.  And my father didn’t know it at the time, but his offhanded suggestion would change the course of my life.

69Changing the course of a kid’s life is what parents do, of course, practically on a daily basis. It started for me when my father, at the Jack Benny-esque age of 39, decided (along with my mother) to adopt a baby. There weren’t a lot of middle-aged first-time dads in 1969, but he navigated the nursery like a champ (again, with a significant assist from Mom). It continued when he brought me to my first New York Mets game seven years later, and then had to repeat the drive to Flushing, Queens countless times over the next decade. Trips to Shea Stadium begat Little League games, baseball camp, card and memorabilia shows, travels to Florida for Spring Training, and so on.

Because when I like something, I like something.

And my father knew me well enough at age 11 to know that HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS would be in my cinematic strike zone. He knew this, in part, because he had introduced me to Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and all the other Universal monsters that haunted the Saturday matinees of his Depression Era childhood. And HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is a direct descendent of those black & white creep fests — a film that lies on the fault line between the atmospheric classics of the Studio Era and the gory realism of modern horror.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 11.11.43 PMAs adapted by TV series scribes Sam Hall and Gordon Russell, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS spins the tale of 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) and his return to his ancestral home in a small New England town. Unshackled from the storytelling constraints of daytime drama, Curtis delivers an action-packed, alternate reality narrative that would have been impossible on TV. The craggy-faced Frid is perfect as the anti-heroic vampire, offering a far more menacing interpretation of the character than fans were accustomed to. While Dark Shadows is largely considered to have introduced the now-well-worn trope of the “reluctant vampire,” the celluloid Barnabas doesn’t have time for that emo shit. He shows up, meets the reincarnation of his lost love (played by TV co-star Kathryn Leigh Scott), and mows down anyone who gets in his way (which is pretty much everyone in the cast).

51fH22PIf6LHOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS scared the hell out of me at age 11, just like it did to many pre-pubescent fans of the TV series in 1970 who weren’t used to quite so much gushing red blood. As predicted, I loved it, even though WOR-TV Channel 9 in New York hacked the 97-minute film to pieces to fit a 90-minute timeslot. After an initial viewing with my dad, I watched that VHS recording almost weekly, acting out scenes with my sister, who often ended up covered in ketchup. I also immersed myself in TV reference books to learn about the more than 1,200 daily episodes of the soap opera that I would, sadly, never see.

And then, the television Gods shined upon me, and Dark Shadows itself rose from the dead in syndication. The reruns didn’t last long in New York, but they did in other markets, and I found a fellow fan in Dallas named Dave Brown who would record the episodes, copy them in real time, and mail me VHS tapes every week. (Dear Millennials: Think about this the next time you complain about how long it takes for the Netflix app to load on your iPad.)

Soon after, I started writing for Dark Shadows fan publications, helping out with conventions, and, eventually, working for Frid himself – the man who had scared me so much only a few years earlier. (I didn’t tell him that, but he probably knew). All of these activities required a significant time contribution from my father, who drove me to fan club meetings, convention planning sessions, and to Frid’s home office in New York City where I worked with him and his manager, Mary O’Leary (who remains a friend 30 years later) on live theater and TV projects.

“I knew he’d like it,” my father said to Jonathan Frid the first time they met. “I just didn’t know how much he’d like it.”

My glitchy VHS from Channel 9 has since been upgraded to a beautifully restored Blu-ray, released by Warner Home Video in 2012. But, every now and then, I put that old tape in my VCR (yes, I still have one) and remember what it was like to visit Collinsport for the first time, with my father by my side.

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is now streaming via the Warner Archive Instant subscription video on demand service. WAC offers a free, two-week trial, and has hundreds of remastered movies and TV episodes, many available for viewing in 1080p high definition, on your iPad, TV (via a connected streaming device like Roku), and computer. I highly recommend it for all fans of classic and cult film and television.


Posted in Classic Film, Warner Archive Collection | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Update: TCM to Release Robert Osborne Interviews on DVD

conversations-with-robert-osborne-dvd_360Last updated 4/02/14 4:00 p.m. Updated info at end of post

After 20 years as the face of Turner Classic Movies, host Robert Osborne has earned his moment in the spotlight.

Beginning on April 7, TCM will launch a new line of DVDs featuring Osborne’s greatest on-air interviews with classic film icons. The first release in the new TCM Originals DVD series will be Conversations with Robert Osborne, a five-program set featuring broadcast interviews with Liza Minnelli, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, and Luise Rainer, plus the delightful, Alec Baldwin-hosted profile of Osborne that premiered on the network in January.

These “special programs produced by TCM and exclusive to the network” all aired as part of the Private Screenings or Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival series, and will be sold under the TCM Vault brand as manufacture-on-demand discs. The first installment is already up for pre-order on the TCM Shop webpage (for $24.99), and the listing indicates that it’s a single DVD with a running time of 460 minutes. (Even in standard definition on a dual-layer disc, squeezing more than 7 hours on to one DVD is not possible at an acceptable bitrate. My math indicates the total running time will be more like 260 minutes.) Regardless, this is a great opportunity to enjoy interviews that are not often rerun, and are (mostly) unavailable elsewhere, at an affordable price.

Here’s a summary of what’s expected on Conversations with Robert Osborne:

Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli (Airdate: December 11, 2010 – 50 mins)

Recorded at the TCM studio in New York City in late 2010, Osborne’s interview with the daughter of Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli is fascinating, funny, and occasionally bawdy. “She’s not the person I’ve read about in so many headlines through the years,” the host says in his introduction.


Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (January 12, 2011- 29 mins)

Recorded live at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood during the first TCM Film Fest in 2010, Osborne’s chat with the then-100-year-old actress was memorable mostly for Rainer’s inability to hear a word the host said, due to a forgotten hearing aid. After an awkward minute or two, an audience member suggested Osborne write out his questions for the two-time Academy Award winner (for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD and THE GOOD EARTH) and handed him a pad and pen. The results were delightful. We should all be so charming, witty and cogent at our centenaries.

2010 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. 4/25/10 ph: John Nowak

Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (March 6, 2013- 50 mins)

Taped in 2012 at the third TCM Film Fest, Novak’s interview is perhaps the most personal and emotional of the collection. “This was something all of us at TCM have wanted to happen for a long time, and it was well worth the wait,” Osborne said about his conversation with Novak. “Kim was candid, revealing, funny, heartbreakingly honest and beautiful. The end result is one of my favorites of any interview I’ve ever had the good fortune to be a part of.”


Private Screenings: Robert Osborne (January 6, 2014- 75 mins)

I think this is the best piece of original programming TCM has ever done; a respectfully robust tribute to the closest thing classic film has to a “rock star.” Despite (or maybe because of) his difficult reputation, Baldwin has an extraordinary rapport with Osborne, and their witty banter sometimes feels like the kind of thing you might hear after the cameras stopped rolling. Never have I seen Osborne looser and more relaxed on camera, and the archival clips of his early acting work are a hoot. This program alone is worth the price of the DVD.


Eva Marie Saint : Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (March 31, 2014)

Recorded at the Avalon Hollywood during the 2013 TCMFF, Osborne’s chat with the still-working actress – she appeared in Akiva Goldsman’s WINTER’S TALE earlier this year – premieres on the network on March 31, as part of a night celebrating the 89-year-old(!) Academy Award-winner. Also airing that night are ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), RAINTREE COUNTY (1957), and NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959).


A total of 28 episodes of Private Screenings have aired since 1996. According to IMDB, a few of those have been included as special features on DVD releases, but most are only available in their entirety when TCM airs them. Four installments of Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival have been produced, and another (with an as-yet-unnamed interviewee) is scheduled to be recorded on Sunday, April 13 at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood as part of the network’s fifth annual Film Fest.

No word yet on how many of these programs will make it to DVD, or how many releases there will be in the TCM Originals series. But I hope they’ll go all the way back to the beginning and offer some of Osborne’s early interviews with legendary figures like Esther Williams, Ann Miller, and a curmudgeonly Robert Mitchum. After nearly two decades, those programs, like their host, have themselves become classics.

UPDATE 4/02/14 – TCM officially announced this DVD series today, and said that it would be available exclusively through TCM’s online store.

They also revealed details of three subsequent releases: DON’T SAY NO UNTIL I FINISH TALKING: THE RICHARD D. ZANUCK STORY (2013); filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau’s NIGHT AT THE MOVIES series, featuring The Gigantic World of Epics (2009), The Suspenseful World of Thrillers (2009), Merry Christmas! (2011), and The Horrors of Steven King (2011); and AFI MASTER CLASS: THE ART OF COLLABORATION, featuring interviews with director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams (2011), filmmaker David O. Russell and actor-producer Mark Wahlberg (2012), and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis and cinematographer Don Burgess (2013).

Interestingly, the release made no mention of the DVDs being manufacture-on-demand (MOD). 


Posted in TCM, TCM Classic Film Festival | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

New Channel Brings Classic Film to Broadcast TV

postTurner Classic Movies is getting an unexpected present for their twentieth birthday: competition.

On February 3, Sony Pictures Television launched getTV, a broadcast television network devoted exclusively to classic film from the 1930s through the 1960s. At launch, the channel is available in 44 percent of U.S. television households, with affiliates in 24 markets, including 17 of the top 20.

And listen up, cord-cutters! getTV is available for free, over-the-air, just like TV used to be. I was able to get a crystal clear signal in New York City on my fancy new flat screen using a $20 set of rabbit ears from Radio Shack. And for you millionaires who can still afford cable, getTV is carried by providers in New York, Los Angeles, and most other markets where there the network has a broadcast affiliate. Time Warner Cable in New York City just added getTV this week, which marks the first time in history they’ve done anything for me without an angry phone call, or threats to throw the cable box off my 9th-floor balcony.

Harlow-publicityInitially at launch, getTV is programmed primarily with more than 3,500 films from Sony’s Columbia Pictures library and includes an inventive mix of the familiar, like HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), BORN YESTERDAY (1950) and PAL JOEY (1957), and the delightfully obscure. I’ve watched the channel for two weeks now, and I’ve been thrilled to see plenty of titles from the ’30s, including VIRTUE (1932) with Carole Lombard and Pat O’Brien, and IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) and MORE THAN A SECRETARY (1936) with Jean Arthur. And the March schedule looks equally promising, with films featuring Humphrey Bogart, Jean Harlow, and the Three Stooges (sadly, not all in the same movie), a 70th anniversary presentation of COVER GIRL (1944) with Gene Kelly (on March 30), and airings of the CRIME DOCTOR mysteries (1943-49) with Warner Baxter on Thursday nights, during primetime.

Crime_Doctor_FilmPosterAt this point, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “The CRIME DOCTOR in primetime on a broadcast TV channel? This is too good to be true.” And of course, like with any good thing, there’s a catch. getTV is an advertiser supported digital sub-channel, which means they air commercials (but thankfully no infomercials for bizarre fitness products or blankets with sleeves). And because the network is broadcasting a 4:3 standard definition signal, I’ve noticed a few cropped transfers of widescreen films in the programming mix. But I’m willing to give any channel that airs old movies 24/7 the benefit of the doubt  – particularly one that has debuted as effectively as getTV has.

But I know you have questions, as I did, about exactly what we’re getting with getTV. So I packed up my old movie weirdo bag and took the Yellow Brick Road out to Culver City, California to chat with Jeff Meier, getTV’s senior vice-president of programming. We spoke last week in his office on the Sony Pictures Lot, which classic film fans may know better as the former MGM Studio. The following is an edited transcript.

WILL McKINLEY: You’re programming a classic film network on a site many people consider hallowed ground. Does that inspire you?
JEFF MEIER: We’re a stone’s throw from “We’re off to see the Wizard.” I’m excited about that every day. That’s one of the greatest things about this job, just being here on the lot and feeling that all around you, both MGM and Columbia Pictures’ history.

WM: The films on getTV are almost all from the Sony library, correct?
JM: At launch, we’ve started with the Sony library, however, we are currently in talks with the other major studios about licensing their films.

WM: So what is driving getTV? Is it a creative concept? The contents of a library? Awareness of broadcast TV standards?
JM: What we’ve loved about putting this channel together is that all these things have come together. The primary goal you want from any channel is something that’s going to create a world that viewers want to be part of. People are coming to the channel and then exploring what’s on our schedule. It’s making the decision to watch a channel, rather than just a film. You feel like you’re joining a club, or finding a channel that can be a backdrop to your day.

WM: There’s always a huge debate among fans regarding the definition of “classic film.”
JM:  We’ve decided here that our starting point is movies from the 1930s through the ‘60s. We program pre-Woodstock movies, in feeling. There are ‘60s movies that are a little bit over the edge, and those are not the movies we want to feature at this time.

WM: And once you get past the era of the Motion Picture Production Code, you potentially have to edit to meet broadcast standards.
JM: We are trying not to get into the zone of editing. We’re trying to present the whole movie, but at the same time, we are on broadcast TV, which has tighter restrictions than cable, and tighter rules in terms of community standards.  And we’re not editing films for time. So if something runs from 10 a.m. until 12:40 p.m., that’s when the next movie is going to start.

WM: What about silent films?
JM: I won’t say never, but I haven’t been focusing on silent movies at the moment.

WM: Has the concept of a host ever been addressed?
JM: We have discussed the possibility of a host. We want to make sure we utilize a host to complement our programming and embody our Channel’s personality.

WM: Are you competing with TCM?
JM: Turner Classic Movies is great at what they do. But there is really only one channel doing that specific zone of movies. We’ve been witnessing since our launch that the viewers are welcoming us into their homes. So yes, there is room for a new classic film channel.

WM: In your mind, what is the demographic for getTV?
JM: I think the demo for this channel is, at its core, Baby Boomers who maybe remember some of the movies or remember watching them on TV when they were kids, or watching them with their parents. I think there is a hunger within that audience to expose the movies to younger generations. We’ve had parents say that they’ve had their kids watching with them. It’s clearly something that older viewers will respond to.

WM: You’re broadcasting a 4:3 standard definition signal. For movies from the ‘30s through the early ‘50s, that will work fine, in terms of aspect ratio. What about later, widescreen films?
JM: Aspect ratio is always a big concern with viewers. What we would say is, to the best of our ability, and with the best intentions, we’re trying to get it right. We are SD and there are going to be instances where the only SD version of a movie that is available to us, without having to go through a whole restoration, may be something that’s modified in some way. To the best of our ability, we’re trying to do things in the way the fans would want to watch their favorite films.

WM: Are you doing the day-to-day programming of the channel?
JM: I work with my team to collectively choose the movies and then figure out the order to put them in. We take extra steps to feel like we’re curating great moments. Our programming team is consistently brainstorming programming stunts to ensure our viewers have the best possible movies that month.

WM: About how many movies do you air each month?
JM:  On average, it is about 85 to 90 movies per month.

WM: So some titles air more than once.
JM: What we’re trying to do is bring a pay cable model to broadcast TV, in a couple ways. On any pay cable channel you’ve got your movies of the month and they air five or six times. So you get multiple chances to see it. We, too, are rebroadcasting our movies, however, we don’t want to frustrate our viewers in seeing a program that they’ve seen three days earlier. We try to repeat our movies in different day parts and sequences to cast a wider net of viewing opportunities for our audience.

WM: Jack Lemmon was your Star of the Month in February with nine titles, all Columbia releases. Is there a finite universe of people who are big enough names for that, and for whom you have enough titles for in the library?
JM: We’re thinking of it as a “theme of the month.” The Jack Lemmon theme celebrates a particular star. In March we’re celebrating The Crime Doctor with Warner Baxter. In April we’re doing William Holden and in May we’re doing Frank Capra.  Every Friday night we have a double or triple feature of a specific star. We have this section in the afternoon called Afternoon Delight that we’re trying to make a little bit more female.  We’ve got Westerns on Saturday. It’s also going to be a lot of learning. If we’re able to get feedback on time slots and movies from viewers, we’ll incorporate that into our learning for the next round.

WM: So you’re open to feedback? That’s good, because you’ll definitely be getting it. 
JM:  People are sending in emails to the website. We have a Facebook page and a lot of people are commenting. We’re getting passionate response from the viewers to the programming. They know their stuff.

For more information on getTV, click here. For a complete guide to THE CRIME DOCTOR films by my friend Cliff Aliperti, visit Immortal Ephemera

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