The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

It Happens Every Spring: The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival, Part II

Written by: Jill Blake, CC2K Film Editor

CC2K film editor Jill Blake attended the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Here is part two 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. 

Last week I posted part one of my TCM Classic Film Festival coverage, which included the first two days of the event. You can check that out here. 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. 

Saturday, April 12th

The first screening of the day was Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, one of the greatest films ever made. Getting up early on Saturday morning was a real challenge after the midnight screening of Eraserhead, but my date with Charlie was much more important than sleep. The screening was introduced by actor Jason Lee, which I have to admit, I initially thought was an odd decision. Never judge, folks. Lee is a major Chaplin fan; he was well-spoken, sincere, and clearly appreciative that TCM allowed him to introduce the film. At one point while talking about Chaplin and sentimentality, Lee became emotional. He wiped away tears. It was incredibly moving and quite possibly my favorite introduction of the entire festival. Unlike many other special guests who just come for their introduction and leave, Lee took a seat right behind us and watched the film in its entirety. As for the actual screening of City Lights, the new 4K restoration print was gorgeous. It was a special experience to watch this film with an audience. The only thing that would have made it better? A live orchestra performing Chaplin’s score. This was the very first time TCM Film Festival has screened a Chaplin film. Let’s keep that trend going, TCM. 

Next up was a screening of the world premiere restoration of Gojira (This is NOT the Raymond Burr version). Prior to the film, Eddy von Mueller interviewed Gareth Edwards, the director of the new Godzilla reboot. Edwards managed to impress the audience, despite the fact that classic film fans are generally allergic to “remakes.” After assuring us all the classic tale is in good hands, we immediately forgot his sales pitch and watched Ishiro Honda’s masterpiece. Great film, gorgeous print, and excellent to see it in a packed movie palace. 

Director Gareth Edwards and Eddy von Mueller 

Immediately after Gojira, we headed over to the El Capitan for John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, with Maureen O’Hara in attendance. This was my first time in the Capitan; a gorgeous venue, although it was a damn icebox (from Walt’s cryogenic chamber?). Before the film, TCM host Robert Osborne interviewed Maureen O’Hara, who at 93 years of age, is still radiant. Unfortunately, her mind doesn’t appear to be as strong as it once was. Instead of answering Osborne’s questions, O’Hara spent much of her time talking about spirituality and God. At one point it was as if she was scolding the audience to do what’s right or suffer the consequences. “God is listening”, she said. It was an awkward moment, one that confused many audience members, but Osborne (as always) handled it gracefully. 

This was my first viewing of How Green Was My Valley and although I was impressed by the performances (especially Walter Pidgeon and Roddy McDowell), I wasn’t moved by the film. It’s not a bad movie—I just didn’t understand the point of it. I’ll definitely give it another shot and see if I can thaw my icy heart. 

Next we headed over to the Chinese for what would be the best double-bill of the festival. First up was Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, starring The Beatles. This screening featured an introduction with actor and friend of TCM Alec Baldwin and music producer Don Was. I was really hoping for a surprise guest (Paul, Ringo, or even Pattie Boyd), but it was not to be. The restoration looked amazing, and seeing it on that giant IMAX screen was an absolute thrill. But what was truly special was experiencing this movie with good friends. We were singing and dancing in our seats and it was glorious. The only thing that would have made it better is seeing it with my mom, who first saw the movie fifty years ago when it was first released. Good news is this print will be making its way back to the theaters this summer, so I’ll be able to go see it with my mom. 

After A Hard Day’s Night, we got back in line at the Chinese for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, a film that was, up until recently, locked in a rights dispute. Friedkin was in attendance for the screening and instead of utilizing the time for a Q&A, he thanked those involved with getting the film back into circulation.Despite its fairly simplistic plot, Sorcerer is surprisingly effective and intense, with an incredible performance by Roy Scheider. 

Finally, I closed out my Saturday with a midnight screening of the pre-code oddity Freaks. The film was introduced by comedian Dana Gould, who did an excellent job last year at the screening of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Gould joked that Freaks director Tod Browning “made David Lynch look like Garry Marshall.” He also noted that this film ruined Browning career: “his defining achievement, and the film that also destroyed him. It was a disaster! It was the Jack and Jill of its day! A woman threatened to sue MGM because she said the film made her have a miscarriage. It is truly an astounding and astonishing motion picture.”

I’ve seen Freaks many times and it’s a fantastic film. There were many in the audience who had never seen it before and it was incredible to hear the stunned silence at the end of the film. 

 Sunday, April 13th

The final day of the festival is always the hardest because the late nights start to catch up to you. In past years, I’ve never been able to make it to the morning screening. This year I had to make sure I got up in the morning for the Academy Conversations: The Adventures of Robin Hood with Craig Barron and Ben Burtt. What a treat! Barron and Burtt gave one of the most entertaining and informative discussions I’ve ever experienced (and while wearing Robin Hood hats!). It’s not easy keeping an exhausted audience engaged at 9am on the fourth day of a festival. They did a wonderful job and I really hope TCM brings them back to the festival. As for the film, The Adventures of Robin Hood is a favorite of mine. It’s a beautiful film, starring two of the most beautiful people to ever step foot in front of a camera. And it’s in luscious three-strip technicolor. The print was amazing and I’m so glad I was able to get my ass up and make it. 

Ben Burtt and Craig Barron during the Academy Conversations: The Adventures of Robin Hood in the Egyptian Theatre on Sunday at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival In Hollywood, California.
PH: Eddy Chen

I skipped the next block of screenings and made my annual trip to Larry Edmunds Bookshop. I picked up Mark Harris’s book Five Came Back and a load of movie stills. If you’ve never been to the Lare, it’s a must. Jeff (the owner) and his staff are so knowledgable and just all-around awesome guys. 

Next up was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, with a special conversation with star Alan Arkin and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. The interview with Arkin was incredible. Before this screening, he had taped an interview with Robert Osborne that will air on TCM in early 2015. From those who attended that taping, it was a great event. I knew nothing about this movie going into it, and I have to say that I was emotionally wrecked. Despite problems with some aspects of the story, the performances are powerful, especially Arkin’s, in which he was nominated for an Academy Award. 

For the final film of the festival, I had originally planned to attend Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger with live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. At the last minute, my friend Sean and I changed our minds and attended the encore presentation of the rare The Great Gatsby (1949) starring Alan Ladd. Earlier in the afternoon I was introduced to Greg Proops, and he said one of the greatest surprises of the festival was the Alan Ladd version of Gatsby. We chatted a bit about the film and he urged me to see it. Although seeing a silent film with live accompaniment is a rare experience, I felt like seeing this version of Gatsby, and with Ladd’s son David in attendance, is more so. This version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is by far the best, despite a few changes from the original story. And although we weren’t sitting in a grand movie palace for our final film of the TCM Classic Film Festival, there was something very special about this experience. 

We finished out the festival with the closing night party at the Roosevelt with champagne and conversation (I may have thrown a little gin in there, too). Thanks to TCM for an excellent festival. Here’s to 2015!

CC2K film editor Jill Blake (yours truly!) with Nicole Alvarado, Drew Morton, and Carley Johnson. Both Drew and Carley are co-founders at The Black Maria with Jill and contributors here at CC2K.