Mid-April has been a total blast for me as I’ve attended the TCM Classic Film Festival for the first time! This was on my bucket list for a long time but, since I’m usually at school when the event happens, it has never been really possible for me to go before. However, as I’ve explained in recent articles, I’ve completed my bachelor last April 2018 and, so, I’ve decided to take a year off before starting my master next September (in Stockholm!). This was mainly so I could finally be able to attend the festival and also to prepare for a master in a foreign country (takes a lot of time and energy). Not to mention working enough to be able to pay the actual quite expensive festival + plane ticket, and all that jazz.
My overall thought now that I’m back from the festival: an amazing and resourceful experience, not only for all the movies I’ve watched (a grand total of 14 in 4 days!) but also the interviews and discussions with special guesses, and meeting all those Facebook, blogger and twitter friends (seriously, at some point I stopped counting). Sadly, there are some of them that I only saluted and didn’t have much occasion to speak to more than I would have liked but, hopefully, I’ll catch up when I’ll be back next time! But now, let me tell you in greatest details how I experience the festival from A to Z.
Day 1: April 10, 2019 – Leaving Montreal + Arriving in Los Angeles
I knew I would have to wake up early during the festival and this started (roughly) when I already was in Montreal as I had to wake up at 4:30 am to go take the plane at 7:30 am. Life is cruel. We had a snowstorm during the night and as a result, we had to REMOVE THE SNOW FROM THE CAR. Issh! How I longed to see the palm trees and the Californian sun! I mean… welcome to Quebec… Everything went very well at the airport. The guy at the American border was very sympathetic (and cute) and thought that it was “very cool” that I was going to a film festival! 🙂 In the plane, I almost started my classic film journey as I started watching the 1954’s version of A Star Is Born (the newest one was also available, which could have made an interesting double feature). But, around 30 minutes after the beginning of the film, I stopped it to take a nap. I was quite exhausted! But, from what I’ve seen it looks like a great film.
I arrived in LA in the late morning, picked up my suitase (obviously) and went to the hostel. This was the second time I was staying at the Orange Drive Hostel. It’s a fine place, very close to Hollywood Blvd (where most of the festival was taking place). It can get a bit noisy as you are close to the active life of Hollywood but, frankly, after watching tons of films/day, standing in line, waking-up at 7:30 am, I was able to sleep perfectly no matter what. Anyway, after checking in, I stayed faithful to myself and took a shower before taking a little nap. I always do that when I travel and arrive in a new city.
I the late afternoon, I went for a walk and headed for the TCM Classic Film Festival Boutique which was situated at Sweet. Ok, there were so many things I could have bought but I decided to stay reasonable and choose only a set of four festival pins and a “Classic film notebook” where I can write about the films I’ve watched. I think it’s quite a cool object and I’ve already started writing a bit about the films I’ve seen at the festival (the ones I saw for the first time). Time to eat came and I had this great idea: I went to buy a poke bowl at this little place I found by coincidence and went at Runyon Canyon Park to eat it. I walked up to the hills and sat on a bench to have a beautiful view. Ok, it was kind of windy and the smell of my food attract dogs so it was not exactly easy to eat, but I’m glad I could do a bit of exercise before sitting in theatres for four consecutive days! When I came back to the hotel, I bumped into Lara from Backlots who also was staying there, just like Isabella from Grand Illusion (whom I saw the following morning)! I had already met Lara when I was in San Francisco. Of course, it was great to see her again!
Day 2: April 11, 2019 – the festival starts!
Actually, the film projections were only starting in the evening but there were a few fun activities taking place in the morning and in the afternoon. After a Starbuck breakfast where the waitress managed to write my name correctly (yay!) I went to the Roosevelt Hotel *feeling fancy* for the First-Timers Meet- Up. There, they gave us a few tips on how to enjoy the festival and answered people questions. It was quite short but I got my first-timer ribbon and met the blogger Keisha from Cinema Cities! It was nice to see another familiar face! But this was just the beginning of it. I also saw Annette from Hometown to Hollywood with whom I had been friends on Facebook since quite some time. We only had the occasion to talk only on a few occasions at the festival but she seems to be a very nice person! Keisha and I then met up for a copious lunch at that restaurant, 25 Degrees which is accessible from the Roosevelt. Nice place, but maybe a bit expensive for the type of food. But then, it’s Hollywood. The staff was sympathetic tho! After that, we went back to the Roosevelt for the Meet TCM pannel where updates about the channel and the network were given to us. A bit later, I assisted to the So You Think You Know Movies quiz hosted by Bruce Goldstein, also at Club TCM. I didn’t team up with anybody and only watched but, honestly, I don’t think I would have been of much help. I thought I knew a lot about movies, but these questions were difficult!
The evening finally came and time to start watching a bunch of films as well! Everything started at the Egyptian Theatre. As I didn’t have the essential nor the Spotlight pass I was not able to assist to the screening of When Harry Met Sally (In presence of Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and movie director Rob Reiner), but there was plenty of other thrilling options offered to us. So, the very first film I saw at the festival was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes! I was highly impatient to see it on the big screen as it is one of the films that made me discover classics. And I was not disappointed. The quality of the print was absolutely perfect. It is surely Technicolour at its most glorious. This Howard Hawk’s musical starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell is perhaps one of the best vehicles about women’s friendship and has everything to provide unforgettable entertainment: iconic songs, tons of gags, myriad of costumes, etc, etc. The screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was introduced to us by Australian TCM host Alicia Malone (who has one of the loveliest accents ever). I loved what she said about the film, especially her little poem!
But but but, more than a film viewing happened that night: when we were waiting outside of the theatre, I finally met Samantha Ellis from Musings of a Classic Film Addict. She was so nice and so was her sister who was accompanying her at the festival! We’ve seen a few screenings together and got along very well. I think I can definitely call them “friends”, hoping the feeling is mutual! I also met Julia from Cinema Crossroads who also is a super sympathetic person. I love the George Sanders pin she gave me! So, I discussed with them before the screening and watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with the Ellis sisters! Note: the seats at the Egyptian Theatre aren’t very comfy…
I then stayed at the Egyptian for the screening of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, a comedy starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple. Before the screening, I met Diana from Flickin’ Out, Aurora from Once Upon a Screen and Kellee from Outspoken and Freckled! This was a Nitrate screening and the first time I was seeing one! I had heard of this film thanks to David Bowie’s song Magic Dance that he sings in the film Labyrinth. He used the “you remind me of a man” dialogue as an introduction to his iconic song, only it became “you remind me of the babe”. I like the film but not as much as I would have thought. It’s a fun comedy but that’s about it. I, however, loved the fact that Myrna Loy was playing a respected female lawyer which is not something you could often see in films of the 40s.
Day 3: April 12, 2019 – My biggest day at the festival
April 12 was busy, VERY busy. I attended a total of five screenings, from morning until the evening. The first decision was a tough one as I really hesitated between High Society and The Clock. The first one is a huge favourite of mine (and probably looks brilliant on the big screen) but I had heard a lot of good things about The Clock and thought I probably would have fewer chances to see it in a movie theatre in the future. So, The Clock was my final choice. This film directed by Vincente Minnelli stars Judy Garland in one of her rare non-musical films and Robert Walker, playing in a role far different from his most well-known one: Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951). He, therefore, proved an incredible versatility. His character in this is so adorable and lovable and so is Judy’s. I’m so glad I chose this film to kick-off the second day of the festival. It’s a beautiful and simple story without unnecessary flourishes. The screening of The Clock was happening at the Chinese Multiplex House 6. The film was introduced to us by actor and comedian Mario Cantone who is just absolutely HI-LA-RI-OUS. Oh my!
After, I went back to the same theatre for the screening of my favourite Audrey Hepburn’s film: Love in the Afternoon, the delightful romantic comedy directed Billy Wilder and starring Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, and Maurice Chevalier, and taking place in a peaceful and loving Paris city. Just like The Clock, it is another one of those films that melted my heart but then, I already knew that since it wasn’t my first viewing (but on-big screen, yes). Seeing it in a movie theatre was particularly worthy for the close-ups of Audrey Hepburn’s angelic face. Actress Kate Flannery (The Office, American Housewife) introduced the film. I think it’s between this screening and the previous one that I said hello to Kristen from Journeys In Classic Films but I am not 100% sure!
I then had to hurry for the screening of My Favourite Wife which was taking place at the Egyptian Theatre (you have to walk a little bit). This was a popular event as Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, was here to be interviewed by Mario Cantone just before the film. So, when I arrived, there already was a long line and my cue-card was #400-ish. Hum… While I was waiting in line, Diana gave me one of her strong female characters pins! I chose the Scarlett O’Hara’s one because I identify so much with her. I have to thank the woman from the festival crew who helped me find a seat in the theatre because it was not obvious. Luckily, I sat next to two very adorable elderly women. PS: I discovered that when someone tells you the seat next to them is taken, it is not necessarily true. And I think it’s shameful. Sorry, but a bag is not a person! Anyway, I’m glad I could watched the screening of My Favourite Wife despite everything because the interview with Jennifer Grant was absolutely wonderful. She’s a very wise and humble person and I loved listening to her talking about her superstar father. It also was the first time I was seeing this film and I really liked it. Just like in The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne share beautiful and incontestable chemistry. Highlights of the moment: Jennifer Grant was wearing glasses that were an exact replica of those worn by her father in North by Northwest! How cool!
We then arrive at what was probably my favourite part of the whole festival, which was taking place at the Chinese Multiplex House 1. Remember, in the article I wrote presenting you my various choices for the festival, I was hesitant between going to the projection of Steel Magnolias in presence of Shirley MacLaine or Day for Night in presence of Jacqueline Bisset. Well, since Shirley MacLaine canceled, it made my choice easier and I went for the Truffaut’s classic. And, oh my! I surely don’t regret it. Jacqueline Bisset was magnificent. When she arrived on stage for the interview (conducted by Eddie Muller, host at TCM) my heart was pounding with admiration. This woman liberates an incredible presence. And, apart from that, the interview was one of the most interesting of the whole festival. I know these are supposed to last 10 minutes but this one was clearly longer but who cares?! I would have listened to her forever honestly. I particularly liked the part where she talked about how it was to work with François Truffaut. He seems to be a cool dude. Very humble, apparently.
And, well, the film itself, it was great of course. But then, that wasn’t really a surprise. I think I can safely say that it is my second most favourite French film after Grand Illusion! Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, please do! You can read my review here. After the screening, I walked by very close to Jacqueline Bisset in the lobby of the Multiplex! I didn’t have the chance to shake her hand, ask for an autograph, or anything like that, but still, it was a pretty memorable moment!
For the last film of the evening, I went back to House 1 and joined Samantha and Alisha for the screening of Winchester ’73. I’m normally not really a fan of Anthony Mann (I kind of link The Man from Laramie tho *cough* James Stewart and Arthur Kennedy *cough*) but I let myself be tempted when Samantha, who is normally not a huge fan of Westerns, told me it was one of the best she had seen. And since I pretty like the genre in general, and there’s James Stewart in it, well, I didn’t need much more to be convinced. The film was introduced by film writer and historian Jeremy Arnold (I realized recently that we are following each other on Linkedin. I had completely forgotten!). And oh dear, the film itself… well, my general thought is that I am indeed NOT a fan of Anthony Mann. I thought it would be different for this one but, not really. I mean, visually it’s gorgeous and I really think James Stewart delivers one of his best performances in a Western but I honestly thought the story to be a bit silly and really far from any of my values and principles (sorry, I don’t see why everyone gets so excited over a gun…). But, nevertheless, I still enjoyed the moment and, since it’s an essential classic, I’m glad I saw it.
Day 4: April 13, 2019: the festival continues!
For the first film on April 13, I went to see When Worlds Collide because I knew the main actress, Barbara Rush, was going to be there for an interview. When I arrived in line at the Multiplex House 1, I coincidentally saw Samantha who was a bit ahead of me and, surprise!: Annmarie from Classic Movie Hub! We took a picture. It was really nice to see her especially since I’ve been a member of CMH since quite some time. I and Samantha sat together at the screening, not too far from the stage to have a good view of Barbara Rush. She’s such a gentle and easy going person! And for someone who’s 92, wow! I loved the interview which was conducted by Dennis Miller. There was another favourite of mine going on at the same time, From Here to Eternity, which probably looked magnificent on the big screen, but I opted for a lesser-known one because I also wanted to make some discoveries. Plus, I’m normally not that much a fan of science-fiction, but my favourite ones are those from the 50s. When Worlds Collide isn’t necessarily a masterpiece, more in the category of B Pictures, but it’s a great entertainment, it makes you think, and having it introduced by the main actress was surely significant. PS: Oddly enough, I first heard of this film via the song Science Fiction/Double Feature that the mouth sings during the opening credits of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. One of the lyrics goes like this “But when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride, I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills”. George Pal was the producer of the picture. PS: this film has some interesting uncredited actors in minor roles such as Kasey Rogers and Mary Murphy. There was one of the extras that looked like Anne Francis, but I don’t think it was her!
I then had to run to the Egyptian Theatre for the screening of A Woman Under the Influence. When I arrived, the line had already entered so, I was afraid I’ll get number 400 and would have a hard time finding a place. But I got #100-something… The lack of popularity can be explained from Gena Rowland’s cancellation. Also, I’m aware it’s a film that can be challenging psychologically, and maybe not for everybody. Nevertheless, I still wanted to see it as I knew it was a must-see and I needed to see more John Cassavetes’s film and more Gena Rowland’s films as well. It’s a New Hollywood essential. Since Rowland wasn’t there, the film was presented by independent filmmaker Ross Lipman and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. The film itself was indeed very… special, but fascinating in it own rights. It’s the main actors, Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, and the direction of John Cassavetes that make it complex but worthy. However, if you want to just entertain yourself, it’s not exactly a good escapism!
The film was quite long so, by the time it ended, I didn’t really have time to go to another film in the afternoon. Plus, my mind needed rest, so I went to grab a bite that I ate at the hostel and relaxed there.
The early evening arrived and I had to face another difficult choice: attending the poolside screening of The Bad See in presence of Patty McCormack or, attend the screening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in presence of music composer Burt Bacharach. Hum… I went for the second option because I really love the score Bacharach wrote for that buddy movie. And, once again, I don’t regret my choice! I loved listening to Burt talk about his career. He composed so many iconic songs, including some favourite of mines. And the film! To be honest, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid never was one of my very favourite Westerns (I mean, I liked it but didn’t love it) but seeing it on big screen completely changed my perspective on things. It was, without a doubt, one of the best cinematic experience of the festival. Interestingly, one of my very favourite Westerns, The Wild Bunch, was released the same year (1969) and I can kind of spot some similitudes between both films, not only narratively, but also in the way they were shots. Hope some of you will agree! Anyway, it would make a good double feature. I once again watched this film with the Ellis sisters and, as always, it was a blast to see them!
I finished the day with the screening of Indiscreet (Ingrid Bergman on the big screen: yes!) which was the occasion for e to finally go to the Legion Theatre at Post 43. This place has quite a unique architecture! Plus, there is a bar downstairs that hasn’t been touch for decades, which makes it a highly historical place. Movie stars used to go there, such as Humphrey Bogart! When I was looking for a place to sit in the theatre, someone called my name and it turned out to be Victor Kong (very sharply dressed) from the blog Popcorn & Flickers! So, I sat with him for the screening and then walked with him when I came back to the hostel. Very cool guy! I was a bit tired after another full day of screenings but Indiscreet is such a lovely film. For me, its highlight was to see the famous dancing scene on the big screen!
Day 5: April 14, 2019 – Last day of the festival :O
The festival came to an end very quickly. Well, not surprising since you do so much stuff in so little time! I didn’t see the most exciting films on the last day, but things started beautifully with the screening of Holiday, which reunites the Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn duo under the direction of George Cukor. Plus, cutie-pie Lew Ayres and Edward Everett Horton are also part of the distribution of this delightful comedy. Before the screening, I met the famous Marya E. Gates, the lady behind #Noirvember (and many other film-related things)! I sat with her and Sidney for the screening! This one was introduced by actors Diane Baker (!!!) and Ron Perlman. It was great!
I then went to the Egyptian Theatre for the screening of The Robe. Not really a favourite to be honest. I’m not that much into biblical films (but a few exceptions). However, being the first Cinemascope film, made it kind of significant and it probably was the first Jean Simmons’s film I was seeing in a theatre. It also was a good occasion for me to see another Victor Mature film (his daughter Victoria was in the audience, along with movie director Henry Koster’s son, Robert!). But I don’t think Richard Burton’s acting was particularly great! Oh, and I also appreciated the presence of Perfect-Bone-Structure-Michael Rennie. Anyway, I don’t think it’s a very good film but it reminds kind of entertaining in a way. It was presented by John Bailey, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Sorry to say, but I found this introduction to be a bit boring.
Instead of attending a third screening right away, I went back at the Roosevelt for a Club TCM event (I hadn’t attended many of them) and saw the panel on the complex legacy of Gone With the Wind. This was a highly relevant and interesting discussion with Stephanie Allain, Molly Haskell, Jacqueline Stewart, and Donald Bogle. This was the kind of discussion that really makes you think and see the film on different angles. After that, while I was in the lobby, I met the lovely Beth from Spellbound by Movies and we chat a little! There’s also this guy (I don’t remember his name) who suggested me a good Thai restaurant: Pink Pepper. Thanks!
And that’s where I went for supper. It was still quite early, so there weren’t anybody except me in the place… but the food was succulent and it was highly appreciated, for once, to sit at a table and eat a more complex meal. Anyway, if you are in Hollywood, I recommend it. My Singapore noodles were delicious and not too expensive!
The last screening of the festival was already at the door! This was the musical The Dolly Sisters, nitrate screening (the colours looked gorgeous). I also saw it with Samantha. It was a very good film and I loved some of the musical numbers. However, I feel some parts could have been cut and the fact that John Payne was always singing the same song sort of unvoluntary became a running gag (kind of made me think of this wedding scene in I Married A Witch where the opera singers keeps singing the same song on and on). But, it also was a good occasion for me to see one more Betty Grable’s film and one with June Haver whom, I don’t think I had seen in anything before. They surely were perfectly cast as sisters! And well, how can you say no to S.Z. Sakall?! Love this guy! Before the screening, I also met screenwriter and film historiand Kimberly Pierce and Laura from Laura’s Miscellanous Musings.
The closing night party took place after, I initially planned to go only to say hello but then I hang out with the Samantha and Alisha and stayed until 2 am. LOL. I also FINALLY saw Monika Henreid and we had the chance to talk a little! She’s a very kind and friendly person. I wish we had the chance to chat more! But that’s the thing with the festival: so many people, so little time.
That party was a memorable way to end the classic event and made me realized how fast time went by during these few days!
I was leaving the following day but only in the late evening, so I had to occasion to spend the day with one of my Facebook friends who lives near Los Angeles. He showed me interesting classic film related places: a shop with old magazines, book, photos, etc., a shop with a TON of dvds, and the American Film Institute! And then, I spent the late afternoon and had supper with a dear friend of the family who also lives in Los Angeles. That last day was very agreeable but I won’t enter into details since that article is already quite long!
I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the festival next year as I’ll be in Stockholm, but I surely hope to be back one day. It was a unique experience and, if you never attended, I hope I convinced you to do so one day. Yes, it is expensive, but it’s worthy and a must for any classic Hollywood films fans!