Showing posts with label TCM Classic Film Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TCM Classic Film Festival. Show all posts

Thursday, April 20, 2023

2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #4 Recap


The last day of the TCM Classic Film Festival was a tough one for me. I was only able to attend two more events, both in the afternoon and evening and only after spending all morning resting up. I assumed I was suffering from extreme exhaustion so I prioritized the two events most important to me.

After having a quick lunch with a friend, I headed over to the Hollywood Legion for a special 35th anniversary screening of Stand and Deliver (1987). The film is both a modern classic of Latinx cinema but also really important as an inspirational tool for students and teachers. I had never seen it before and I'm glad that I saved my first viewing for this special event.

This screening was part of TCM's theme to celebrate Warner Bros.' 100th anniversary. It began with a Warner Bros. trailer then an introduction by Luis Reyes, film historian and author of the book Viva Hollywood which I reviewed here. Reyes discussed the film and pointed out two of the actors in the audience who played students in the movie. He also spoke briefly about actress and long-time TCM fan Vanessa Marquez who was tragically killed back in 2018. She plays Ana Delgado in the film.

The moment we were all waiting for was for the interview with Reyes and Stand and Deliver stars Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips. I really enjoyed listening to them discuss how they came to the project, the impact the film had on their careers and on countless teachers and their mutual respect for each other. 

Despite feeling under the weather, I was completely engrossed in the film and was swept away by the excellent storytelling, the fantastic characters and performances and the opportunity to cheer on some fellow Latinos in their pursuit for intellectual excellency!

I stayed at the Hollywood Legion to get in line for my next and last event of the festival, a screening of the Rin Tin Tin silent film Clash of the Wolves (1925). TCM host Jacqueline Stewart introduced silent film accompanist Ben Model who then introduced the film. I've been to several performances by Ben Model and he's a unique talent with his ability to respond to the actions and emotions on the screen with his music. His scores are never written down so each performance is a unique experience.

The event didn't disappoint! We all had fun with this nail-biting Rin Tin Tin adventure. My friend Annie and I had a good cry when Rin Tin TIn was injured and left to die. But of course, with Rin Tin Tin being the star of the show, he not only survives but he thrives!

The plan for me was to try to go to the Closing Night Party but my body gave up on me and I decided to call it a night. I'm sad that I wasn't able to say a proper goodbye to my friends. But my decision was ultimately the best one I could make for everyone involved.

Some observations on the festival overall:

  • The festival was scaled back quite a lot this year. There was no imprint ceremony, no big announcement at the media event (see more details on Day #1's recap) and fewer big name guests. I imagine a lot had to due with budget cuts given the recent merger. However, TCM still put on a great lineup of movies, panels, and events for all of us to enjoy. Looking at the schedule you wouldn't guess anything was scaled back.
  • Queueing up for films can be tricky and there had been problems in previous years. This year the volunteers did a stand-up job handling the lines. Line drama was kept at a minimum.
  • There were some nice surprises during the festival including the last minute addition of George Clooney at a screening of Ocean's 11 (2001). And not so nice surprises like a shelter-in-place order due to a shooting on Hollywood Boulevard.
  • Quite a few festival goers caught COVID, including yours truly. I suspect that a combination of the colder weather and the rain made for a fertile breeding ground for the virus. I didn't quite realize that I had it until I got tested right after the festival. I just assumed I was really tired.
  • There was a sense of sadness that hung over us primarily in the days right before the festival. I mostly sensed this from the festival regulars. On the flip side, there were so many first-time festival goers this year and many of them were brimming with enthusiasm.
  • The festival has morphed into something a bit different with time. When I started attending the festival in 2013, each year was absolutely magical. It would be a long weekend packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, ones that I would be talking about until the next festival rolled around. With the passage of time and the loss of Robert Osborne and many of the classic film stars who were special guests at the festival over the years, it'll be hard to keep that spark going. This was inevitable and if the festival continues TCM will do a great job trying to give festival goers the best experience they can even as things inevitably change.
  • The most special aspect of the festival has been and will always be the people. The TCM hosts, the presenters, the TCM staff, the volunteers and the passholders all make the festival a social event like no other.

A special thank you to all the folks at TCM for this year's festival!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #3 Recap

 The sun was shining on the third day of the TCM Classic Film Festival. I got up early to attend my number one pick for festival events: a screening of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with Russ Tamblyn in attendance! I was excited not only to see Tamblyn and hear him speak about his experience on set but also to watch one of my favorite musicals of all time on that gigantic TCL Chinese Theater screen! (I heard it's the largest screen in North America!)

On my way to the screening, I rode the elevator down to the lobby of my hotel and it stopped at the third floor. And guess who walked in? RUSS TAMBLYN! I stood right next to the man I was literally going to queue up to see. What a thrill! The lady who was with him asked us in the elevator what we were excited to say and I perked up and said Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and that I recognized Russ Tamblyn right away. What a thrill! 

TCM host Dave Karger sat down with Russ Tamblyn ahead of the screening for an interview. Tamblyn talked about how he was cast for the film, how they coordinated the red hair and the different acting/dancing/singing skills among the seven brothers, his crush on Janie Powell, as he called her, and more. He's the last surviving of the seven brothers and Tamblyn joked that he can now say what he wants and there is no one to contradict him. It was a very memorable interview and I only wish it lasted a bit longer. 

And yes it was absolutely breathtaking to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on that big screen. I got emotional and was a "sobbin' woman" during the screening.

Russ Tamblyn and Dave Karger. Photo courtesy of TCM

I took a brief break from the festival to visit with my friends Daniel and Lillian and was back in Hollywood in time to head over to the Hollywood Legion for the next special event.

Donald Bogle and Ben Mankiewicz. Photo courtesy of TCM

I have never been to a Robert Osborne Award Ceremony and there had been three held so far for Martin Scorsese, Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin. I made it a point to go this year especially since film historian Donald Bogle, an author I great admire and whose work I use a lot in my research, was the newest honoree.

The ceremony included an introduction by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, a tribute video, speeches by Debra Martin Chase and Louis Gossett, Jr. Mankiewicz presented the award to Bogle who followed up with an acceptance speech and an introduction to the movie Carmen Jones (1954) which screened immediately after. Bogle was very moved by the ceremony and it was really great to hear how he got his start, his early days working with Otto Preminger and his intro to the movie.

Louis Gossett Jr. 

I had planned to attend a screening of Unfinished Business (1941), introduced by film historian and author Sloan De Forest, but my body broke down and I slept for 12 hours instead. I didn't fare much better the next day. Stay tuned for my fourth and final recap!

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #2 Recap


My festival experience this year was scaled back immensely due to unforeseen circumstances, both good and bad. For the rest of the festival I was able to attend two events each day while also building in some time with friends.

On the first full day of the festival, I sat down with documentarian Daniel Raim whose films Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers and Fiddler's Journey to the Big Screen I have reviewed on here. He has some exciting projects coming up and I look forward to checking them out!

Then I got in line for Blood on the Moon (1948), Robert Wise's noir western starring Robert Mitchum. I'm a huge Robert Mitchum fan and have been disappointed to attend every year and not see a Mitchum film on the line-up. A few were shown the first year I went and I attended River of No Return (1954) which was life-changing. I looked at the schedule every year I attended and couldn't find another Mitchum film (unless I missed one!). So I was particularly thrilled for this opportunity.

Blood on the Moon was a hot ticket at TCMFF and it quickly sold out. Introducing the film was Alan K. Rode who recently wrote and published a book exclusive about the film with the University of New Mexico Press.

I had a new appreciation for this film seeing it up on the big screen with a crowd. The noir elements, Wise's direction and Mitchum's charisma really enhance what might have been just a standard Western.

After Blood on the Moon, I headed over the pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel for a special screening of Beach Party (1963). A lot of us got there early. In fact I was there two hours in advance to get a good spot to see the screen and to catch a glimpse of special guest Frankie Avalon.

Photo courtesy of TCM

TCM host Dave Karger introduced Frankie Avalon before the screening and Frankie still has that youthful spirit you see in the movies. He talked about working with Annette Funicello, how he only had to take one pie in the face, how he thinks the dancing hasn't aged well and more. There was a shooting (!!!) that happened nearby so a news helicopter was hovering over us which made it a little difficult to listen to. But we were all safely tucked away and thrilled to see Frankie Avalon and Beach Party. The true fans stayed afterwards to watch the whole movie.

During the introduction, a photographer was literally in the pool getting shots of the main stage. He got some cool ones like this photo which makes it look like Dave Karger and Frankie Avalon are hovering over an abyss!

Photo courtesy of TCM

Friday, April 14, 2023

2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #1 Recap


Greetings from rainy Los Angeles! The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival kicked off on Thursday April 13th but the festivities have been going on all week.

On Tuesday I met up with some classic film friends for dinner at Smoke House, a Burbank steak house that's been operating since 1946.

Before dinner, I met up with my friends Aurora, Laura and Doug at the Forest Lawn Cemetery: Hollywood Hills. Many of our beloved classic movie stars and directors are laid to rest there. It's a huge cemetery so you have to come with a game plan and ready access to Find a Grave. We had limited time but we were able to pay our respects to some of my favorite people including Bette Davis, Telly Savalas, Sandra Dee, Ernest Borgnine, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Charles Laughton. I'm a huge fan of The Mills Brothers and I found Donald Mills in the Columbarium of Radiant Dawn. 

On Wednesday I picked up my media badge and received a book themed tote bag (But Have You Read the Book by Kristen Lopez) as well as a copy of Mark Vieira's new book Warner Bros. 100 Years of Storytelling.

 Later in the afternoon I attended the Media Welcome Event in the Blossom Room at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. TCM transforms the Blossom Room into Club TCM for the festival. The space includes a mini museum of props as well as a bar. There are events happening at Club TCM throughout the festival and it becomes the central hub for the long weekend. This year they had a really cool display of Warner Bros. memorabilia for the 100th anniversary. I was particularly taken with the three remaining intact violins from one of Busby Berkeley's numbers in the Gold Diggers of 1933. They also had Berkeley's large leather scrapbook on display too! Both were very cool to see.

There wasn't a big announcement this year at the Media Welcome Event. Last year it was announced that Pam Grier was the special guest for The Plot Thickens podcast. No such announcement this year. But we did get to mingle with the hosts. I got this Oscars-style selfie with some friends and TCM host Alicia Malone. She's as kind and gracious in person as you'd expect her to be!

The festival kicked off in earnest on Thursday afternoon. Every year I conduct interviews on the red carpet but this year I decided to scale back a bit. This allowed me the opportunity to attend So You Think You Know the Movies, Bruce Goldstein's trivia event that has opened pretty much every festival to date. The event started with a musical number from Good News (1930) which is by far my favorite musical rarity. It's based on a Broadway musical and was remade in 1947 with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. I love both versions but the 1930 has a special place in my heart especially when I get to see Dorothy McNulty's crazy dance moves (she later became known as Penny Singleton). The first question in the contest was about her and of course I had to help my team out with that one. 

I'm not terribly good at trivia but I was able to help with another question about the Nicholas Brothers. The question was about the youngest brother and which silent film star he was named after. I knew it was Harold Lloyd from having read Donald Bogle's biography on Dorothy Dandridge who was briefly married to Harold Nicholas. It's funny because Donald Bogle was standing right behind me during the trivia game. What a delight! Things like this only happen at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

Later that evening I met up with my friend Jessica and my editor at DVD Netflix Annie for dinner at Musso and Frank's Grill. I've always wanted to go especially because of the restaurants history of famous classic movie stars and writers dining there over decades. Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin. Marilyn Monroe, the Rat Pack, were all regulars there. 

After dinner we headed over to the Chinese Multiplex to line-up for the Doris Day and Cary Grant sex comedy That Touch of Mink (1962). Alicia Malone gave a great introduction before the film and it was so much fun to see this film with an audience. I've seen this film several times before but have a new appreciation for the film including the supporting players Audrey Meadows and John Astin. 

Stay tuned for more updates from the TCM Classic Film Festival!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #4 Recap


Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Bright and early on the final day of the festival, I headed over to the Chinese Multiplex for a special screening of Waterloo Bridge (1940). 

The film was introduced by author Sloan De Forest. I'm a big fan of her books and it was great to finally see her in person (had a great chat with her afterwards!). Waterloo Bridge (1940) stars Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor as two lovers from completely different social sets who get separated during WWI only to have a devastating reunion sometime later. It's based on a 1930 play and was adapted to screen as a pre-code in 1931. Unbeknownst to us and even to De Forest, the print being screened was the British censored version which cut out the more suggestive scenes in relation to Vivien Leigh's character.

Club TCM

A brief visit to Club TCM helped me rest and recharge for the final hours of the festival. On display were costumes from a few notable classic films. It was difficult to take pictures so I did my best to snap one of these costumes Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid wore in Casablanca (1942)

Live Read: I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)

I've never been to a live read before so I jumped at the chance to attend this one. Led by Dana Gould, a group of comedians reenacted the cheesy sci-fi movie I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). The script was read by actors David Koechner, Laraine Newman, Jonah Ray, Janet Varney and Baron Vaughn. Musician Eban Schletter performed live music and sound effects for the event. 

I wasn't sure what to expect but I did think they would show the actual movie, or at least clips of it, during the live read. Instead, it was just the actors taking turns at the mic to read the dialogue with a static background on the screen behind them.

The live read was a helluva lot of fun. I was in the second row with some friends and we had the best view in the house.

Coffy (1973)

The closing night movie was one of my top selections for the festival. There was a massive line to get in and I'm glad I made it. The event started with an interview by TCM host Prof. Jacqueline Stewart and Coffy star Pam Grier. I think Stewart only got two questions in because Grier had much to say and a lot of love to share. And what better way to enjoy this blaxploitation classic for the first time with the film's star and a lively crowd in attendance.

Closing Night Party

The closing night party is always bitter sweet. It's an opportunity to catch up with anyone you may have missed and to say goodbyes. I didn't stay long because the poolside party was quite crowded. I did get an opportunity to chat with former child star Gordon Gebert. (A big thanks to Laura who helped get his attention for me!). This was a real joy. I was able to tell him how much Holiday Affair (1949) means to me. He must have heard that a million times that evening. He was so gracious and told me stories about working with Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Burt Lancaster and Norman Lloyd.

So you may be asking, what was the best part of the TCM Classic Film Festival? The people of course! I got to spend so much quality time with good friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. The festival is like a big reunion for me and I cherish all the moments I get to spend with all of my far away friends. I didn't share much about my friends in these posts. However, I shared plenty on my social media. Make sure to head over to Twitter and look up #TCMFF @raquelstecher to see all the fun we had during the festival. I appreciate the TCM staff as well as all my amazing friends for making this a festival to remember.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #3 Recap

 The Flame and the Arrow (1950)

My day started with an impossible time block. There were so many good events happening at the same time and it was difficult to chose. It came down to one person: Gordon Gebert, the child star of one of my all-time favorite movies of all time, Holiday Affair (1949). It was imperative that I see him in person! And he was going to be at the special screening of The Flame and the Arrow (1950). 

This swashbuckler starring Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo, Nick Cravat, Norman Lloyd and of course Gordon Gebert, was being screened at the Hollywood Legion Theatre. Ahead of the film there was a special presentation by visual effects artist Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt in which they discussed the film's use of color, forced perspective and painted backgrounds and the various sound effects. They also shared the story of Lancaster and Cravat's working relationship as acrobats turned actors and their lifelong friendship and we were treated to some rare home video clips of the two palling around.

The presentation was followed by an interview with Gordon Gebert who delighted us with all sorts of stories about being a child actor working for Warner Bros. and RKO, being on set of The Flame and the Arrow, his stunts in the film and learning archery and ballet for certain key scenes. After the presentation and interview we were treated with a 1960s Technicolor print of the film. It was a fun movie made better by the amazing cast and Jacques Tourneur's direction. 

The French Way (1940)

The next block was a difficult one too. I had to choose between several amazing options, including seeing The Hustler (1961) with Piper Laurie in attendance. But I opted for the Josephine Baker film The French Way which was made in 1940 but released in 1945 due to the war. Film historian Donald Bogle gave a presentation which included lots of background information about Josephine Baker herself. We were also treated with an archival interview of Baker on a cruise ship and a beautiful restoration of the film by Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions. International films are few and far between at the festival and I'm always delighted to catch at least one during my festival experience. 

Donald Bogle

The French Way was a beautiful little film. Baker shines despite the fact she's given limited screen time and no love interest. Micheline Presle is also in the film playing a young French woman debating whether to elope with her beau. Filmed during the French occupation, the story includes the characters preparing for air raids including a scene where Josephine Baker of hobo Leon (Lucien Baroux) to help tape up her windows and several scenes in bomb shelters.

Blue Hawaii (1961)

My goal at this year's festival was to attend all three of the poolside screenings, even if I didn't stay for the whole movie. The third and final screening was the Elvis movie Blue Hawaii (1961) which is quite perfect for the poolside setting. Attendees dressed up Hawaiian shirts, wore leis and sipped on Blue Hawaiian cocktails. I was planning on leaving early to attend to attend the special screening of Drunken Master II (1994) but alas after having a few of those cocktails I was quite literally too drunk to go see the other film. After a couple of really tough years, this was just the sort of evening I needed.

Stay tuned for more TCMFF coverage!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #2 Recap


Lily Tomlin Hand and Footprint Ceremony

Festivities on the second day of the TCM Classic Film Festival kicked off with a hand and footprint ceremony honoring actress Lily Tomlin. Hosted by TCM and held on the courtyard of the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theatre), the event began with introductions by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and actress Jane Fonda as well as a speech by Lily Tomlin herself. Special guests included producer George Schlatter, actress Rita Moreno and fellow Grace and Frankie star June Diane Raphael. In addition to her hand and footprints, Lily Tomlin added small footprints and signature commemorating her character Edith Ann from Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

Check out my YouTube video of the ceremony below (and make sure to subscribe to my channel!). 

Ben Mankiewicz, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda

Lily Tomlin, George Schlatter and Jolene Brand

Rita Moreno and Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin, June Diane Raphael and Paul Scheer

A Little Song, A Little Dance

Afterwards I headed over to the Chinese Multiplex to attend A Little Song, A Little Dance, a one-hour presentation hosted by Paramount archivist Andrea Kalas. We were treated to a selection of musical numbers from a variety of Paramount feature films and shorts. The highlights for me were seeing a clip of the Will Mastin Trio, including a young Sammy Davis Jr., and a sing-a-long to Dinah performed by my personal fave, The Mills Brothers!

A Conversation with Bruce Dern

I wasn't able to stay for the whole thing but I did enjoy the first half hour of TCM host Ben Mankiewicz conversation with actor Bruce Dern. The event was held at Club TCM, which is the Blossom Ballroom of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Dern spoke at length about working with Elia Kazan and Alfred Hitchcock, his early career as a track athlete and his training as an actor. The biggest takeaway for me was that Dern equates acting to the ability to be "publicly private" something he learned during his early days in The Actor's Studio.

Soylent Green (1973)

My friend Pam and I at the poolside screening of Soylent Green.

I headed over the Tropicana Bar for a special poolside screening of Soylent Green (1973). April 22nd was Earth Day so it was fitting to screen this dystopian film especially with its powerful environmental message. Guests were treated to Soylent Green cookies (don't worry they didn't contain actual people!). Actress Leigh Taylor-Young, who stars in the film as Shirl, was interviewed by William Joyce about her experience making the film, working with actors Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson and Joseph Cotten and the film's ecological message and its bizarre misogyny. 

Cooley High (1975) Reunion

Left to Right: TCM host Prof. Jacqueline Stewart, actors Cynthia Davis, Garrett Morris, Steven Williams, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Glynn Turman and director Michael Schultz

I took the complimentary shuttle to the Hollywood Legion theatre to catch a very special screening of Cooley High (1975), one of the most influential black films of the 20th century. This coming-of-age story is one of my personal favorites and it was such a thrill to see the majority of the cast reunited for this screening.

TCM host Prof. Jacqueline Stewart sat down with director Michael Schultz and the cast to discuss the making of the film and its representation of black youth and its setting Chicago. This reunion was extra special because it was the first time since the making of the film that anyone had seen Cynthia Davis, who plays Brenda in the film. It was a lively conversation and I could tell there was a lot of love and respect between everyone involved. And an added bonus, Garrett Morris and Glynn Turman briefly reenacted one of the pivotal scenes from the film. What a joy! I was the most excited for this event and it did not disappoint.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Glynn Turman and Michael Schultz

Cynthia Davis, Garrett Morris and Steven Williams

Stay tuned for more TCMFF coverage!

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