The third-annual TCM Classic Movie Festival is now in the afterimage stage, yet another fabulous bounty of classic (and maybe even some not-so-classic) films, a weekend-long glimpse into the rich history of filmmaking from Hollywood and around the world now itself relegated to history and the memory of those lucky enough to attend. This was my third year at the festival, and I wouldn’t have been able to be at any of them without the support and sponsorship of Keith Uhlich, editor of The House Next Door and Ed Gonzalez, managing editor of Slant magazine. They have my undying thanks for making what has become one of the genuine highlights of my year a treasured reality.
For now, just a few impressions and some photos from the 2012 edition, which I suspect may have been a transitional year for the TCM festival from movie buff niche status to genuine popular phenomenon, and all the pluses and minuses implied within. More in-depth coverage of my experience at the festival will be forthcoming at The House Next Door, a thought that will most likely bring anticipation and dread in equal measure, depending in part on how much you like to read. (Where’s that damn winky-wink emoticon when I need it?) You can look for that very soon, and in a much more timely fashion than I was able to deliver my piece on the 2011 festival. (My apologies in advance for my none-too-keen abilities as a photographer.)
A familiar sight for festival-goers-- long lines in the Chinese multiplex's newly redesigned hallway which connects the lobby with two sides of the third floor of the Hollywood and Highland complex. However handsomely decked out with framed photos of stars getting their immortal on at the Grauman's Chinese cementing ceremonies, locals and out-of-towners alike were none too pleased to stand in those queues when they stretched out of the Chinese Theater through-way on Friday and into the morning’s torrential downpour of rain. But there we were, many sans umbrellas, hoping to get into the screening of Raw Deal, which had a line of hopefuls that was probably triple the capacity of the small auditorium in which it would run. This was a rare TCM scheduling mishap—someone seriously miscalculated the appeal of film noir both for the general public and for noir-happy Los Angeles film buffs, and the movie immediately became a shoo-in for one of the Sunday afternoon TBA slots. I ended up seeing I’m No Angel (1932).
It was a genuine privilege to see Diana Serra Cary, a.k.a. Baby Peggy Montgomery, speak to Leonard Maltin after a screening of the documentary Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room (2010). This woman is one of the last surviving participants of the silent era of Hollywood filmmaking, and her story is a fascinating one. I only wish I could have made time to see her collection of Baby Peggy shorts that screened on Sunday.
TCM 2012 saw festival staffers decked out in the best T-shirts yet. Needless to say, I coveted one, but there was nothing even remotely as keen available in the overpriced TCM Boutique over at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Michael Schlesinger’s introductions to the comedies he has programmed for the festival (Murder, He Says, One Two Three, and this year’s Abbott and Costello/Three Stooges combo, both feature and short entitled Who Done It?) are entertaining gems that are always worthy of the terrific comedies they precede. Mike is a quick-witted, first-tier raconteur of Hollywood history, and I highly recommend seeing anything with his name attached to it at the TCM Festival.
A new friend, Natalie Zlodre of Toronto, Canada, joined me for Lonesome (1928), which would be one of the three or four best movies of the festival.
What a privilege to see The Black Cat (1931) in the presence of Sara Karloff and Bela Lugosi Jr., both of whom have turned their heritage as the daughter and son of two horror icons (who may or may not have been professional rivals as well as genuine friends) into a kind of sweet-tempered vaudeville routine. (That’s film critic Todd McCarthy in the interviewer’s chair.)
The screen at the Egyptian as seen from the balcony, where a spectacular restoration of Clara Bow’s Call Her Savage (1932) would soon unspool. This year marked the igniting of a major Clara Bow obsession on my part thanks to this movie (and last year’s screening of Hoop-la). On Monday after the festival finished I picked up her biography Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild (written by David Stenn, who introduced the screening with MoMA restoration archivist Katie Trainor) and I only have 25 pages to go…
First in line for Rio Bravo (1959)…
My camera’s flash malfunctioned at a very inopportune time, but I have to publish this terrible photo anyway as very fuzzy proof that I was in the same room as Angie Dickinson! She introduced Rio Bravo, of course.
New festival pal, Brooklyn filmmaker Theresa Brown, who joined me for The Black Cat…
And soon-to-be film archivist extraordinaire Ariel Schudson (right), joined by another new friend, the charming Orange County-based film blogger Kristen Sales, both of whom hung out with me for two hours in the afternoon heat in fevered anticipation of the adventures of John T. Chance and Co. on the big Grauman’s Chinese screen Sunday afternoon.
This is just a taste. Lots more to come, and hopefully lots more time to write it all up! Pray for me. :)