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!
Sunday. The final day. A day to say final hellos, drawn-out goodbyes and leave our happy bubble. It took forever to get here and now it’s Sunday. How did it got so quickly? We were just gaining momentum! I know that the final day hits people hard – and that every year it does not get any easier – but I know I was not prepared for the emotional gut punch that hit everyone hard that evening.
I was up and about early for Douglas Sirk’s lush and heartrending All That Heaven Allows (1955) which was to be introduced by the director Allison Anders and TCM Film Programmer Millie De Chirico. I had already met Allison at The Formosa – she is the sweetest person – and and we had another chat after the film. Her introduction highlighted the relationships between single parents and their grown up children; how in the film Jane Wyman’s son and daughter are determined to keep their widowed mother in their childhood home, glued to a TV screen, and alone while she should be out having fun and enjoying her life with Rock Hudson. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking film and screened DCP was stunning. I have never seen the film on the big screen but the colours were extraordinary – the red dress, the greenery, the snow…everything looked so luxuriant.
It was nice to walk out of the theatre and into Laura, Aurora and Kellee – aka the festival’s designated ‘Ribbon Lady’ – who kindly showered me with many collectable ribbons. I stayed around the TCL for Horse Feathers (1932) in the early afternoon. Most of you already know that I am slightly nutty about a certain troop of brothers and equally adore their tragic co-star Thelma Todd. The Marx Bothers are always more fun in a crowd and it was great to chat to Danny and watch him sketch before the film started. Kristen gave out masks and we posed alongside Anne and Peter to mark this gathering (thanks to Emily for capturing this moment!) My only gripe was that the restored print was a little scratchy and the scenes with Thelma appeared to have either been cut or they jumped in a very distracting way. This was pity as they are amongst my highlights of the film. Nevertheless, Chico’s piano scene was perfect and I could not take my eyes off Thelma as she watched on, mesmerised as we all as by Chico’s extradorinaiy talent.
After the film I found Beth and was able to procure a lovely red lipstick from the Besame Cosmetics range that she was giving away at the festival as part of her “find Beth, get a lipstick or a powder!” giveaway. She was an in demand lady and I had not seen her around since the Wednesday night. We chatted for a bit in a group then I ran to catch my friend Ben for a nice long chat at Starbucks. It seemed fitting after the film as we talked a lot about British comedy – Ben, I hope I did not bore you with show recommendations and general chat!
Thema and Groucho would appear before every TCMFF screening (obviously they were not blurred).
I was very tempted to end TCMFF with Network (1976), especially as Faye Dunaway would be in attendance and I had visited Peter Finch’s grave at Hollywood Forever. However, the general gossip that this would be the festival’s ‘hot potato’ and you needed to be there pretty early to secure a place in line. Instead I plumped for The Bandwagon (1953).
In hindsight I cannot think of a more perfect film to have ended my festival experience. Preceded by an insightful interview between the choreographer Susan Stroman and Illeana Douglas, The Bandwagon – starring an almost retired Fred Astaire and drawing on his problems of dancing with the ‘too tall’ Cyd Charisse – utilises real, behind-the-scenes experiences in a homage to Broadway shows and Hollywood’s golden age. The in-jokes fly, it is snappy, funny, and the choreography is exquisite. As for the end number…wow, Cyd Charisse is an on-screen Goddess, vixen, vamp – the woman can do no wrong. I left the cinema on a high and vowing to continuing my ballet classes when I returned home. Final film over, it was time for The Roosevelt and the TCM closing night party.
Ah, the wrap party. Or, the night when we get a little tipsy, say hello to those we had yet to run into (looking at you Noralil and Jill!) and saying goodbyes to everyone else. I entered Club TCM to be greeted with a lovely big hug by Nora which only set the president for the night ahead. Lots of laughter, photos and promises to keep in touch (which we do anyway thanks to the beautiful gift of social media) and preventing the inevitable. I also got to chat with Peter L. and see Kim M. which was the icing on a brilliant, if bittersweet, night that saw us all trundling over to In-N-Out Burger for the definitive selfie of the festival before saying our goodbyes.
Everyone asked what was my highlight of the festival and I would always say the same thing: “seeing everyone and hanging out with friends”. As much as the films draw people to this event year after year – and yes, this is now an annual event for me, too – I think that seeing people is the bigger incentive. Sure, what other festivals will you see such an array of talented people, Hollywood legends, rare pre-codes or obscure cinematic gems, but to be surrounded by people who ‘get’ your love for a particular era and share the same enthusiasm as yourself is really the icing on the cake.
My first TCMFF was about putting friends and fun before films. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
ps. Everyone in this photo – everyone who was not in this photo – THANK YOU. I HAD THE BEST TIME!!! Until we see each other again – whether next year in Hollywood or hopefully before – I will leave you with this quote. To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca: “We’ll always have In-N-Out Burger”.