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It Happens Every Spring: The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

Written by: Jill Blake, CC2K Film Editor


CC2K film editor Jill Blake attended the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Here is part one of her post-festival coverage. 

The fifth annual TCM Classic Film Festival has ended. This year’s event was filled with four days of the greatest classic film viewing experience one can have: a true communal spirit, sitting alongside your friends and fellow fans, watching amazing classics on a giant screen in a dark Hollywood theatre. Oh, and let’s not forget geeking out with classic film enthusiasts about random character actors from the 1930s and zooming in on highly inappropriate photos of Fredric March that I may or may not have on my phone (I totally do…and don’t judge). It’s not just about watching tons of movies and showing off Fredric March photos, it’s about meeting with friends old and new, and experiencing the unique circus that is Hollywood.

Prior to the festival, I posted my picks here at CC2K. For the most part I was able to stick to my original plan, with just a couple of changes. In case you missed it, here is my pre-festival piece, An Annual Tradition: The TCM Classic Film Festival. My festival experience went smoothly, without any technical or logistical issues. In past years, there were inconsistencies with the queuing system outside the theatres. This year the festival organizers and volunteers kept the lines off of Hollywood Blvd., which made the process less confusing and more pleasant. Also, I made it into every screening I got in line for. This is a first. I attribute this to a well-rounded schedule (read: pure torture), giving festival attendees a wide variety of options at each time slot.  

Thursday, April 10th

My original plan to kick off the festival was to attend the Sons of Gods and Monsters panel, hosted by TCM Senior programming producer Scott McGee. However, I was detained (it’s a long story) and arrived to The Hollywood Museum 10 minutes prior to the start of the event. Unfortunately, the panel was already full and I was unable to attend. This was the only event I couldn’t get into the entire weekend. I headed back over to the Roosevelt and grabbed a table for the poolside screening of American Graffiti. Prior to the screening, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz interviewed cast members Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, and Paul Le Mat. Honestly, it was a bit of an awkward interview, but Ben handled it wonderfully (as usual). Graffiti is a fun movie, especially when watching in a casual setting, but our view of the screen was extremely limited. We stayed for about half of the movie (or about two pricey Tropicana Bar drinks) and headed over to the Chinese Multiplex for William Wyler’s The Heiress. 

When we arrived there was already a long line for the screening, which was great to see. The film was introduced by Eddie Muller, historian and film noir expert extraordinaire. He welcomed all of us and said that we had made the right decision: “Always go with Wyler.” Sage advice. Muller also announced that Wyler’s youngest son David was in the audience. Very exciting to have him there, watching his father’s film. Although I have seen a large portion of William Wyler’s filmography, The Heiress is one that had escaped me over the years. I am so glad that I was able to see it for the first time with an audience. The applause and cheering for Olivia de Havilland’s character Catherine Sloper when she says the line “Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.” was incredible. An amazing way to kick off the festival. 

Friday, April 11th

The first screening of the day was John Ford’s Stagecoach, one of the greatest westerns ever made. My friend Sean is not a huge fan of John Wayne, but I convinced him this was a must see. He really enjoyed the film and it was great watching it with someone seeing the movie for the first time. Although the print wasn’t perfect, it was great seeing it on 35mm…a rarity these days.  

After a nice lunch at Stella Barra Pizzeria with Sean and friends Carley Johnson (from The Black Maria and her personal site The Kitty Packard Pictorial), and Jessica Pickens (reporter for The Shelby Star and her personal site Comet over Hollywood), the four of us headed over to the Montalbán Theatre for Ask Robert, with TCM Host Robert Osborne. When we entered the theatre, we saw signs that the event would be taped to be aired at a later date on TCM. We knew this wouldn’t be a typical Q&A session. Robert Osborne came out on stage and answered a few questions from the audience. Author and actor Charles Busch took the microphone to ask a question and when Robert started to reply his mic went dead. He called out for a new one and to his—and the audience’s— surprise, Alex Trebek walked out looking dapper in a white jacket and tie. Alex turned to Robert and said,  “This isn’t your retirement party, Robert. We are here to celebrate twenty years of you and TCM.” Acting as emcee, Alex called numerous celebrities, friends and family to the stage to celebrate the occasion. Among the guests in attendance were Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Alec Baldwin, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Michael Feinstein, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, with taped messages from Bill Cosby and Cher. Osborne was genuinely surprised. A more in depth report about this event will be published over at  Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence

Alex Trebek and Ben Mankiewicz celebrating the 20th Anniversary of TCM with Robert Osborne during the Ask Robert Event at
The Montalban Theatre on Friday at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival In Hollywood, California. 
PH: Mark Hill 

 

After the Robert Osborne celebration, I discovered that Fredric March’s star on the Walk of Fame is located directly across the street from the Montalbán Theatre on Vine. Although I’ve been to LA several times, I had never found it. 

CC2K Film editor Jill Blake (aka “yours truly”) with Fredric March’s star on the Walk of Fame. Don’t worry, I threw those jeans in the trash. 

Next up was a toss-up between Double Indemnity  and Paper Moon. Sean had never seen Paper Moon, but we decided on Indemnity since he had only seen a really bad copy online. We met up with our friend Martin at the newly renovated TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese). The theatre is beautiful and they really took care to maintain the integrity of the original. The restoration of Indemnity was gorgeous, and although I’ve seen the movie a million times (including a great print at the Robert Osborne Film Festival in Athens, GA), I’m glad we chose this screening. 

After Double Indemnity, Martin, Sean and I ventured over to the Multiplex behind the palace for one of my must-sees at the festival: William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. We met up with friends Jared and Ben. It made me incredibly happy to see one of my all-time favorite films with a group of people who love it as much as I do. This was Martin’s first viewing of Best Years, and that made the experience even more special. Author Mark Harris was scheduled to introduce the screening, but he had to cancel at the last minute due to an illness. Eddie Muller gladly stepped in and interviewed David Wyler, son of director William Wyler. David said that Best Years wasn’t necessarily his father’s favorite film, but it was definitely his most personal. Each of the three servicemen (portrayed by Fredric March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell) represented a part of Wyler, who served in WWII in the First Motion Picture Division. The world premiere restoration print was beautiful and the entire experience was an emotional one. 

David Wyler discussing The Best Years of Our Lives on Friday at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival In Hollywood, California. 
PH: Tyler Golden

Best Years ended right before midnight, which gave me only a couple minutes to run across the lobby to the next theatre for the last screening of the night: David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt introduced the screening. “Welcome to day three of Coachella for shut-ins!”, he joked. Yeah, that sounds about right. This was my first viewing of Eraserhead and I spent the majority of the screening leaning over to Jessica (also a first time viewer) and whispering the following: 

“What the actual fuck?!?”

“Noooooooooo. Nooooooooo. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”  

“Oh my holy shit.”

“He’s using a humidifier? Well, I don’t think that’s gonna help.”

“I don’t like that it’s laughing.”

“We weren’t gonna have any more kids. This DEFINITELY seals it.”

Needless to say, Eraserhead is an…interesting film. 

 

Stay tuned for part II, covering days 3 & 4 of the TCM Classic Film Festival, coming next Friday!

 

Author: Jill Blake, CC2K Film Editor

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