The return of TCM Film Festival following a pandemic-induced two year absence was always going to be an experience, but even I — who always has a ton of fun during the festival — did not expect to have the obscenely good time I had. Although I had barely socialised and not travelled since October 2019, my decision to break the ice by flying halfway across the world was an extremely chilled experience. To be honest, any residue anxiety dissipated the moment I sat on the plane. It was definitely foreshadowing; I laughed and stayed up until 2am most nights and watched a bunch of films with my friends and it was therapy. There are so many anecdotes and in-jokes I that have nothing to do with the festival (most will not be revealed on this blog, lol, others will be shared elsewhere), but here are some bits and pieces and photos and things from festival week:
Films I watched:
Dinner at Eight (1933) All of Me (1984) Miracle Mile (1988) — I keep falling asleep and jolting awake during the midnight screening which added to the experienced of an already excellent film! Three on a Match (1932) The French Way (1945) Portrait of Jennie (1948)— this left me rapt and I’ll be writing about for my next newsletter (currently in the works!) Polyester (1981) — a midnight screening in Odarama with Mink Stole in attendance! Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) 7th Heaven (1927)
Other highlights during festival week included:
This year’s festival was catharsis, and it was greatly needed. Love to all those I hung out with, ate dinner with, gossiped with, and with whom I had the best time. Yes, I did stay on in LA, and I’ll probably write something about moments from my extended time in the city, too. But as for TCMFF, until next time x
After two years away, the Turner Classic Movie festival is back and I will be returning to my beloved L.A. for a prolonged stay in ten day’s time! The highlight of the festival for me is always seeing friends but even more so this year, as I’ll be watching a bunch of good movies with the gang I have not seen since 2019. While I am usually bouncing off the walls by now, I am not going to lie about feeling greater anxiety for this year’s lengthy journey (and all the new paperwork required for International travel). But I know the excitement and realisation will kick in once I’m seated on the plane.
I have other fun things planned aside from movies, which I will be blogging about on here and in greater depth in my newsletter (please subscribe and follow!). But first, festival! Will I stick to these films and schedule? Who knows! Here are my tentative TCMFF picks.
Thursday 21 April
I have a confession to make. I will not be seeing any festival movies on opening day because I’ll be heading to the The Whisky on the Sunset Strip to see the Enuff Z’Nuff perform live. I’m stupidly excited, and of course it clashes, but these things don’t come around all too often. Plus, when else will I have the opportunity to see this band live — and live at The Whisky? So, that’s my plan for Thursday night. However, I will be enjoying the E.T. red carpet up until then, and lurking at The Roosevelt, because the funnest, funniest, most typical festival highlights usually occur when you are just hanging out.
If I didn’t have plans, I would either be at The Harvey Girls, but more likely Jewel Robbery with the divine Kay Francis and the irresistible William Powell at the TCL Multiplex. Or, failing that, hanging poolside Fast Times at Ridgemont High at the Hollywood Roosevelt. As I have seen all of these movies before, I would probably see what every else is doing and maybe head to dinner with friends before the chaos unfolds. As for the later slot, and because I have seen both A Star is Born (1937) and Lover Come Back, I would probably plump for Jules Dassin’s Topaki, especially because I loved Riffifi. Hoping that one gets a re-run slot on the Sunday.
Friday 22 April
This is where it gets insane, which I love. I’ll most likely start my day at the Hollywood Legion for Dinner at Eight, because I still haven’t visited the venue and it’s a great one to start the day. Should I be extremely bleary-eyed, it’ll be either The Sunshine Boys or Maisie Gets Her Man at the TCL. Then I’m hoping to see The Group, followed by Coming Home, and then All of Me. These are all draws because Diane Baker, Bruce Dern, and Lily Tomlin in attendance respectively.
The first evening slot will be tricky, because as much as I love Giant, I don’t want to find myself lagging for the midnight screening of Miracle Mile (which I’ve never seen before!) at the TCL. I love The Letter, but will likely opt for Cocktail Hour at the TCL, followed by Cooley High at the Legion, before heading back for the witching hour. The midnights are always a highlight, and of course I’ll need to refuel at some point in between, so if I skip something so be it. Plans constantly change, that’s the beauty of film festivals.
Saturday 23 April
This one is a tricky day, and the only thing I’m sure about is going to the midnight screening of Polyester with Mink Stole in conversation. So, I’ll likely start my day with James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces, followed by the wonderful Three on a Match or the wildly intriguing The Last of Sheila (all at the TCL). I’ll then scurry along to the Legion for Baby Face.
I figure this will be followed by a break, which will allow me plenty of time to get back in line for The Hustler with Piper Laurie in attendance at the TCL. That being said, Invaders From Mars sounds like a hoot, and when else will I get the chance to see it on the big screen? But when will I get the opportunity to see Piper Laurie, either? As much as I favour seeing the new-to-mes, this choice will be tough.
As for the evening, I’d would relish the opportunity to see Diner at the Legion, especially with multiple members of the cast in attendance, but the minimal time between that and Polyester means it will be tricky — and that’s providing everything runs on time. So, I figure I will plump for always enjoyable Drunken Master II at the TCL. EDIT: I stupidly overlooked Portrait of Jennie, and am now leaning towards seeing that — it’s about art, how could I not! But it’ll be tricky deciding, for sure. Once again, the day is all about the midnight slot.
Sunday 24 April
The final day already? With a chunk of the schedule TBA, very often repeated showings of earlier films, I’ll just tell you what I know. As much as I love The Thin Man series, seeing Paper Moon on the IMAX screen is too irresistible to refuse. That being said, the Wim Wenders doc, Desperado, has really piqued my interest.
My Sunday choices certainly have a retro theme. At noon I’ll be watching Kathleen Turner and Nic Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married which means missing Key Largo and Bogie and Bacall on the Legion screen. Maybe I’ll change my mind on the day. This is why I never write my choices.
No midnight screening means two slots left, and The Sting at the IMAX is very tempting, giving me an hour to grab a bite before my closing festival film: A League of their Own. It’s always nice to go out on something special and in my eyes this is a perfect movie, plus cast members Megan Cavanagh, Ann Cusack, Jon Lovitz, Lori Petty and Anne Ramsay will be in attendance.
Then, onto the afterparty at The Hollywood Roosevelt, but we know the real fun comes after. See you at In-N-Out Burger!
TCMFF weekend started with the fabulous DoubleWedding (1937), a raucously zany comedy reuniting Myra Loy and Willaim Powell as sparring partners who obviously become intensely attracted to one another. The ending was an absolute scream — I have never seen anything quite like it to be honest! A pleasure from start to finish. It set the day up quite nicely — plus, Marya bought a Pink Panda!
Then it was onto Blood Money (1933), a Pre-Code that ticked the boxes in stylish fair as Bondsman George Bankcroft becomes embroiled with the clients he is helping. By then it was midnight, and wanting to attend the midnight film, The Student Nurses (1970), my friend Millie and I literally climbed under the rail next to our seats to dash into the theatre. We literally escaped from Escape from New York! But it was worth dashing because Student Nurses was hugely enjoyable: a group of four young women studying in 1970s Los Angeles find their paths go in four very different ways. I loved it.
Then it was Sunday, the final day of the festival. The day, once again, started fabulously, with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Holiday (1938), a movie I had seen numerous times will rewatch at any opportunity. The chemistry between them is delightful, the gowns and hats are gorgeous, and the movie is delightful — a whole heap of joy.
I’m pretty sure Kalloch’s was inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli. His work for Holiday — specifically the hats — are very Schiap like #TCMFFpic.twitter.com/zPoOMg7mpM
I usually refer to this say as “Sirk Sunday” because I always watch a Douglas Sirk movie at the festival. This time it was Magnificent Obsession (1954), where Rock Hudson woos widow Jane Wyman without realizing he is somewhat unintentionally responsible for her late husband’s death. Gimme all the melodrama, I love it.
The final movie before the closing party was The Dolly Sisters (1945), a musical with more FANTASTIC surrealistic costumes, is how many of us chose to end our festival, and while this one was not necessarily my favourite, it was a great deal of fun. THE COSTUMES! I’m hoping to write more on this aspect of the movie. at some point so this is all I will say for now about that angle but YES WOW.
I loved ALL THE FASHION in The Dolly Sisters!!!! Orry-Kelly went there — I wanna write a sartorial focused book on this movie #TCMFF
We always close the festival in style at The Roosevelt to drink and chat and say our goodbyes, and later to grab fries at In-N-Out as per tradition.
The group of us staying up late to make the most of the festival shrinks every year, but it doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. It’s about enjoying the final minutes of the festival before we say goodbye for another year, about having one last laugh with friends and memories and shared experiences. And that’s what it’s all about.
The first full day was five-movie day of joy beginning with the delicious Merrily We Go To Hell at a packed Egyptian Cinema. Sylvia Sidney and Frederic March in Dorothy Arzner’s pre-code based on Cleo Lucas’ 1931 novel called I, Jerry, Take Thee, Joan. Reporter and playwright Jerry Corbett and heiress Joan Prentice marry after a whirlwind relationship, toasting their nuptials “Merrily We Go To Hell,” which more than sets the tone of their marriage. As Jerry’s success increases, so do his alcohol addiction and Joan’s heartbreak, while the loose rules of their ‘modern marriage’ only aggravate the physical and mental decline of both. The movie is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching at times, and I absolutely loved it.
That was followed up with one of my all-time Disney faves, Sleeping Beauty, which provided the perfect opportunity to see my girl Maleficent in all of her resplendent glory. I think i was the only person who cheered when she came on screen…and it was lovely to have the animators Jane Baer and Floyd Norman in attendance, who shared their memories of working on the movie as Disney in-house animators. (ND’s photo came out better than mine!)
Disney animator Floyd Norman recalled working on Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather for SLEEPING BEAUTY. He noted that the film marked “the end of an era” for hand-drawn animation, given the colossal resources devoted to the film. #TCMFFpic.twitter.com/oEYdbGocQF
Onto Sunrise, a movie I had not seen for some time but continues to mesmerize, which I followed with the powerful, always impactful Do the Right Thing at the IMAX. I was excited for this one, not only because I had never seen Spike Lee’s groundbreaking movie on anything other than a television screen but for the pre-movie discussion with costume designer Ruth Carter, Joie Lee, and casting director Robi Reed.
Walking out of the movie at 11pm in a little daze following the power Do the Right Thing continues to hold, it was straight back into the TCL multiscreen for some midnight fun. I was determined to do both midnight movies this year, cramming in as much of the festival as possible and they did not disappoint! Two very different movies playing on the Friday and Saturday night that attracted a loyal following and entertaining audience reactions. Santo vs. the Evil Brain was the Friday night showing and my very first Santo movie. A joy from start to finish starring the Mexican wrestling champion who is practically a superhero encountering his own brainwashed brain! See, a joy! Plus, the movie had one of the best car chases I had seen onscreen (not for any of the reasons you may think, and not what you would expect for a ‘chase’, but it was fantastic). Masks and treats were handed out before the movie, and we whooped and cheered the whole way through. A fun day.
I had a great first day of TCMFF, mainly because it was different from how I have spent my time in previous years. The films always start in the early evening, and because I don’t do the red carpet or sit in the bleachers, I have no need to really be any place until the first show. Seeing the red carpet rolled out and set up in the morning and afternoon is always fun (especially if you’re eating lunch with a view), trying to cross the street or bypass the Boulevard in the afternoon is not so much, and becomes impossible the closer the clock approaches four. But I have all the detours memorized — you just need to add another five minutes to a two-minute coffee run.
Instead of hanging around and soaking up the festival atmosphere, Kendahl and I followed up our plans from the previous night and jumped in a Lyft headed downtown for the final day of the Art of the Motion Picture Design Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).
Now in its 27th year, the exhibition brings together some of the most phenomenal movie costumes from a host of Academy Award-winning films. Amongst those on display included Ruth E. Carter’s award-winning work on Black Panther (I gasped), pieces from Avengers: Infinity War (I was hyperventilating by now — and this was in the first room), Ocean’s 8, Solo: A Star Wars Story, A Simple Favour, Crazy Rich Asians, and so many more! Here’s a snippet of what was on display.
With a couple of hours to spare after we finished, we nabbed another Lyft back to the station and caught a train back to Hollywood to avoid the rush hour traffic and arrived back in plenty of time for the first movie. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at The Egyptian — what a way to kick off the festival!
The final film of the night was The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, a screwball romantic comedy (and first-time watch for me) starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. Temple is the smart high school student who develops a crush on cad artist (Grant), the man who her Judge older sister (Loy) had met in her courtroom the previous day. Obviously, they end up attracted to one another, much to the dismay of Rudy Vallee. It’s funny, a fresh take on a reliable formula, and just delightful. A great first day of the fest.
The day before the festival is always fun; the sense of anticipation in the air palpable. Everybody is excited, happy, energized for what lies ahead. We start seeing each other on Hollywood Boulevard as we walk between The Roosevelt and bites of lunch or dinner, as we stroll between hotels or to pick up supplies that take us through four days of solid movies. Time becomes irrelevant.
And then the day before becomes the night before, which always kicks off in style. The combination of the historic hotel, classic movies and the City is an intoxicating combination, on this night more than any other. So, I don my glitter heels, and I have a great time before it all gets crazy, before the movies start and before everybody is tired or on their way home. Because this is the night we have looked waited for since we arrived home from the previous year’s events. And when the party ends at the Roosevelt, we head to Boardners until 1am. The night becomes the early morning. TCMFF has begun.
The night before the festival is always a magical experience. It’s an evening of dinner with friends, gatherings, and general low key revelry. You can feel something wonderful accumulating in the air, and indeed it is: the festival we have been waiting for all year long has finally arrived. Friends are together, familiar faces on the screen, and balmy spring evenings at The Hollywood Roosevelt. We take time out from our regular lives and fully immerse ourselves in the world — the location — of classic Hollywood stars and their movies for a few days. I put on my glitter heels, click three times, and know it’s real…it doesn’t get much better than this.
My early arrival in Hollywood really allowed me to savour the pre-festival excitement that hits at the beginning of festival week. It also allowed me to do something I had not done before: greet my out-of-town friends. As they started to trickle into town on Monday and Tuesday, plans started taking shape over texts, tweets, DMs and PMs for pre-festival adventures, dinners, and get-togethers.
Arriving into town the weekend before the festival also allowed me to attend Kimberly Truhler‘s marvellous fashion and film lecture (an event I would usually miss due to travel!) and a spend a sunny Burbank afternoon vintage clothes shopping with the lovely Danny and Aubrey. (We also met some sweet cats).
In a serendipitous occurrence, we ran into Beth and Karie. Following a quick drink and bite to eat, we popped into the fantastic Besame store to peruse and purchase a few items from their wonderful Agent Carter Collection, making our way to the Women’s Club of Hollywood en masse in time for Kim’s lecture.
Then it was onto The Women’s Club of Hollywood for a fabulous evening of fashion and film. It’s an incredible historical venue around the corner from The Roosevelt, and so under-represented that long-term L.A. natives — even those on historical committees —were not even aware of it’s existence. We all gasped after being told it was once The Hollywood School For Girls attended by Ginger Rogers! Now, it’s a lovely hall space and fantastic venue that needs to be seen to be believed. Check out it’s history and more details via the link above.
When the night was over it was over to The Roosevelt for the first time this trip and to meet up with my bestie Ms Marya Gates and the TCM/Filmstruck gang. It may not have officially started, but TCMFF was well and truly underway.
For the price of thirty dollars you can gain entry to three of the most touristy places on Hollywood Boulevard: The Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe Ir Or Not, and The Guinness Book of World Records. I used to live a stone’s throw from the Ripley’s in London, and for three years never set foot inside. But when in Hollywood…
This may seem like an exaggeration, but the Wax Museum was once of the creepiest places I have ever visited. It started well—a pretty good section of horror figures (see above photos) greeted me—and went a little askew from there. I turned the corner and found myself staring at figures I recognised but only in an extremely vague sense—it was like they had travelled to a parallel universe and had melted a little from the planetary change in temperature. “That’s supposed to be…..???” was a sentence I kept exclaiming, and not always under my breath. I did that a lot during my visit, which was brief as the place is pretty small. Regardless, it is a truly bizarre, fun experience, and I recommend a visit just to prove I am not exaggerating.
The Guinness Book of records was fun but a quick buffer before the more vibrant Ripley’s. My pick of the three, you will find yourself navigating a series of rooms alternating in themes that take you on a journey from old Hollywood via occult trinkets and back again. The first space homes slabs from the original Chinese Theatre, Hitchcock’s Director’s Guild Medal (and a bronze death mask), samples of Mary Astor’s hair (hair or wig?), and framed newspaper cuttings, one being news of Mae West’s death.
I enjoyed the transition into the next room downstairs, which is a treat of magick and the occult. The items on display include Gerarld Gardner’s magician’s club, an ‘authentic’ vampire killing kit, an alter, and a porcelain phrenology head (exactly like the one residing on my desk).
The museum gains a bittersweet note as you weave your way through, culminating in the Marilyn Monroe Room. Her clothing, strewn make-up case and bikini do little to downplay her sex symbol status. “Marilyn’s Sexy Sleepwear” is not the ideal display card and does little to push past the glossy veneer of a person constantly striving to be seen for herself rather than the dizzy blonde characters she often portrayed on screen.
However, I was entranced by one particular item: the belted cardigan she wore in George Barris’ famous 1962 Santa Monica beach shoot. It captivates in a room of frippery and glamour where the visitor is still encouraged to view Monroe as a commodity.
This is emphasised when you glance the Monroe dresser that was owned by Anna Nicole Smith, the attached note emphasising the younger, but no less tragic, woman’s money value rather than her career.
I made my way out via a tribal themed room of ritualistic items, it stuck me how Ripley’s is the perfect metaphor for Hollywood: glamorous yet seedy, beautiful but tragic, dark and dangerous, yet captivating and magical. Some people will say both are crazy and bizarre. I left hypnotised.
(ps. I measured myself going in. Yes, I’m still short).
If a museum was built to house the contents of my working my mind, it would be not unlike the Hollywood Museum. Situated at North Highland Avenue in the old Max Factor building, the three level treasure trove is vast, winding, and appeals to all of my sensibilities. Mae West’s shoes, Hedda Hopper’s notebook, and Maila Nurmi’s gloves appear alongside costumes from Mad Men and sci-fi regalia, while four thematically lighted dressing rooms on the ground floor reveal whether you are best suited as a ‘blonde’, ‘brown’, ‘brunette’ or ‘red’. It’s a feast of a venue and essential to visit, as you will always find something new to discover. However this visit was all about the Bat.
I first heard about the Batman ’66 retrospective a few months ago, but assumed the exhibition would end a few weeks prior to my visit. Image my surprise as I walked into the lobby to be met with a poster announcing it was still on—I literally punched the air with glee. Based on the TV series which ran from 1966-1968 and starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman, the show spawned a wonderful, often quoted film (and countless accompanying memes). Joyous, camp, and innuendo laden, it’s a far cry from the moody, troubled, tortured Batman of recent years and I defy anyone not to be delighted by the feature length film and it’s memorable moments of West battling a (very fake looking) rubber shark or rope ‘climbing’ up a building with Burt Ward’s Dick Grayson/Robin in tow. West’s death in 2017 was a huge loss, but the popularity of the exhibition—which had been extended by two months due to overwhelming demand—is credit to legacy.
While gadgets, gismos, photographs, scripts, props and additional paraphernalia filled cabinets and display cases, I couldn’t get enough of the costume cabinet. As a Catwoman obsessive, seeing all the various iterations of Lee Meriweather, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Julie Newmar was an purr-fest (sorry!) treat.
And, of course, a certain car…
If you follow me on social media, you will surely know how much I am obsessed with all of the Batmobiles, with the ’66 version being a personal favourite, I couldn’t resist having a sly flirt with the car as I consumed her with my eyes until other attendees wandered in with similar intentions. (Although I strongly maintain she loved me the most).
I must have spent at least an hour in that room, wandering in concentric circles and ensuring that I had taken in each and every word of descriptions. Fandom has changed a lot in recent years, and can be a toxic place—especially for women—but there was none of that here amongst the vibrant colours and the “POW” and “WHAM” captions littered about the place. I soaked in as much as I could before moving on to explore the rest of the museum, a sly glance back across my shoulder, and taking one final lingering look as I waved goodbye to the gang on my way out.