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The TCM Classic Film Festival Celebrates Cinema History

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As the film festival began, the two highlights for Thursday April 22 were a restored version of A Star is Born (1954), starring Judy Garland and James Mason, that brings the film five minutes shy of its original 181-minute run time held at the Chinese and over at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel a screening of Neptune's Daughter (1949) out by the pool attended by stars Esther Williams and Betty Garrett, as well as synchronized swimmers Aqualillies.

Although Friday April 23 began and ended with science fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Day of the Triffids (1962), there was quite a collection to choose from in between. There were musicals (Carmen Jones (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte and Top Hat (1935) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) and westerns (The Big Trail (1930) with John Wayne and Jubal (1956) with Ernest Borgnine in attendance). Two major themes of the day were Hollywood with The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), In A Lonely Place (1950), and The Stunt Man (1980), the latter of which concluded with a Q&A with writer/director Richard Rush and actors Steve Railsback and Barbara Hershey, and films that focused on con men and criminals, such as The Producers (1968), Breathless (1960), and Midnight Cowboy (1969) with Mel Brooks, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jon Voight in attendance respectively. The biggest star of the day on the silver screen was King Kong.

For those with stamina, Saturday April 24 could have been framed by Peter Bogdanovich. He provided introductions to a brand-new print of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which he referred to as the "greatest damaged film," in the morning and to a midnight screening of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) featuring a new audio restoration and starring Boris Karloff, who Bogdanovich directed in one of the actor's finals films, Targets (1968). He shared stories that offered poignant revelations of the men in the twilight of their lives and careers. Welles was pained to see Ambersons on television, squirming from a hallway as they watched. Though frail due to old age and emphysema, Karloff was a consummate, hard-working professional while on the set of his last American-made film.

Saturday featured a tribute to the three generations of the Huston family. Siblings Anjelica and Danny introduced The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) starring their grandfather Walter and directed by their father John. Individually, Anjelica talked about her career and role in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Danny did the same with a screening of The Proposition (2005).

Many other classics littered the schedule, allowing attendees to see titles on the big screen such as Harold Lloyd's silent comedy Safety Last (1923) accompanied by the Robert Israel Orchestra, Singin' in the Rain (1952) set during the transition from silent films to sound in Hollywood, various types of love stories ranging from the innocence of Pillow Talk (1959) to the confusion of The Graduate (1967) and the obsession of Leave Her to Heaven (1946).

The festival concluded on Sunday April 25. Five films previously shown were screened again, providing an opportunity for fans that missed out. However, the day was still filled with many highlights. Introductions were given by Eli Wallach for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), by Tony Curtis for Some Like It Hot (1959), and by centenarian Luise Rainer for The Good Earth (1937), which she won an Best Actress Oscar.

The Closing Night Event was Metropolis (1927) accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra. Robert Osborne was on hand and announced the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival would be taking place. Festival programmers have set the bar high for next year's event if they want to match the success. I will be one of many returning to see if they do.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
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