TCMFF 2016 – Sunday 1st May: “We’ll Always Have 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”.

TCMFF 2016 – Wednesday 27th April: Pre-festival Hollywood Hijinks

I wake up on Wednesday 27th April. It takes me a moment to process everything. I am in Hollywood. HOLLYWOOD. Usually I’m the one sitting at home, scrolling through my friends’ Twitter feeds and wishing that I had joined them for some Hollywood Hijinks. Last year I vowed that 2016 would be the year that I finally made it over for the festival. Here I am. It’s real.

2015 was a bumpy ride and after after three years of living in London and I returned to Birmingham in November. Things needed shifting in my life. I needed a break – to “shake the waters” – and what better way to achieve this than to travel across the country (my first long-haul flight) to a country that I had never previously visited? And to travel solo. The thought thrilled me. In all honesty, from the moment I bought my TCMFF pass in November the thought of being in Hollywood in a few months time was everything I needed. I wished I had booked for longer.

I had arrived in Hollywood the previous afternoon (Tuesday 27th April) after a twenty hour day – an airport, an airplane and a minivan. This could be why my head hit the pillow at 7pm local time and, apart from a couple of interruptions, I did not wake-up until 6am the following morning. Jet-lag? Pah! I look outside into the obligatory hotel carpark and rested my eyes upon this glory. It’s a nice sight.

I step out of the hotel after breakfast  and there she is, waiting for me right outside on the walk of fame: one of my favourite Hollywood icons, the “Ice-Cream Blonde” herself, comedic actress Thelma Todd. Todd’s tragic and mysterious death in 1935 is constantly debated – theories range from foul play to accident – but no conspiracy can undermine her talent or the exuberance she brought to the screen in films opposite the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy or as part of a double act with Zazu Pitts.

I spend the morning leisurely walking around and after lunch head over to Warner Bros. in Burbank for a tour by Warner Archive’s very own Matt Patterson (@mrmattpatterson). As a festival newbie, this would be the first time I’d meet everyone after years of online chat (not always about film) and exchanging Christmas cards. I bounded over to Nora (aka The Nitrate Diva) and Coleen (aka @MiddParent) and much hugging ensued.  Matt greeted us and we were soon joined by new friends Melanie, and later Emily, to wander around lot, marvel at the buildings, peer around corners and just generally gawp at the overwhelming familiarity of what is directly in front of us.


Then it was back to the hotel, quick change and on to The Formosa where Ms Marya Gates (@oldfilmsflicker) had organised a Pre-TCMFF ‘Cocktail Extravaganza!’ Events would would officially start the following afternoon but this was a perfect way to kick things off with an evening of hugs, drinks and laughter. I cannot explain how much of a joy it was to finally sit across/next to those people who, despite never having ‘met’ in the traditional sense, are so dear to me and such a big part of my life (More names will appear in these posts. Don’t worry – I have not left you out!) We were a large crowd and I talked – or shouted over the noise – until I was hoarse. It was a happy night and for the first since in what felt like forever I felt relaxed, at home, and among friends.