Only a handful of movies have been announced for the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF), but excitement builds anyway as tickets are scheduled to go on sale in just a few days. The 2018 festival is scheduled for April 26 – 29 and many of us have been waiting for 2018 passes since this year’s event concluded. It’s a vicious cycle we enjoy perpetuating. In any case, mark your calendars for 10AM ET. on Tuesday, November 7 if you’re a Citi member for the exclusive pre sale and for 10AM ET. November 9 for the public sale. Get all of the details you need at TCM. You’ll note, by the way, that passes for this festival are not cheap and overall expenses can be prohibitive, but if you’re a classics fan and have never attended TCMFF it’s a sacrifice worth making at least once. You can read any number of posts about past experiences by many bloggers to know why. Now to 2018…
Along with the anticipation of the festival itself is the yearning for our favorite movies to be screened. I’ve yet to be disappointed with a screening in the five years I’ve attended the festival, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have ideas about what I would love to see. This year is no different. The chosen theme for TCMFF 2018 is Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen, which is intended as a “celebrating the representation of the written word on the silver screen.” When you consider that all movies start out as written words the possibilities for screenings are endless. That said, I still have had specific titles swirling around in my head since the dates and theme were announced and I’d like to share those recommendations with you. I should mention that I planned the list to contain 10 suggestions, but as you’ll see I failed miserably at limiting the list to so few. In fact, it was a strain on my heart to keep it at a svelte 21.
These are not listed in order of preference and I also did not take into account whether any have been screened in previous festivals. I don’t think that should necessarily be a deterrent. You’ll also notice my choices are from varied eras, allowing for the greatest number of guests possible. I’ve highlighted the guests I’d like to see in a few instances to make it easy for TCM to know who they should extend an invitation to. You’re welcome! Also, while I don’t mention the inclusion of writers they would no doubt enhance any presentation. Here we go…
My TCMFF 2018 Recommendations
Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen
- Alan Crosland’s The Beloved Rogue (1927) starring John Barrymore and Conrad Veidt gets the most votes in my mind. This film, about French poet François Villon, had been thought lost for decades. According to legend, The Beloved Rogue is the John Barrymore movie the star watched with a large audience who didn’t know he was in attendance. The story goes that Barrymore was standing at the back of the movie palace and, dissatisfied with his own performance, said, “what a ham…”
It would be fun to have Drew Barrymore introduce this movie with Tom Meyers of the Fort Lee Film Commission. Tom and his team have several Barrymore-related projects in the works in Fort Lee. The Barrymores have strong ties to America’s first film town. I believe the TCMFF crowd would appreciate some early film history added to the introduction of the great Barrymore in a silent movie.
- Another movie I am really rooting for is William Dieterle‘s The Life of Emile Zola (1937). This movie has a memorable supporting cast, but it’s the film’s star, Paul Muni, who would make this special. He was my father’s favorite actor, which means a lot to me right now. Plus I’ve never seen him on a big screen. This biopic of the famous French novelist, which won Best Picture of the year, would be the perfect opportunity for me to do so.
- Rouben Mamoulian‘s 1931 screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is another one I’d love to see. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stars Fredric March, who won the Oscar for his portrayal of the main character(s), and Miriam Hopkins who is always enjoyable to watch.
- Curtis Bernhardt‘s Devotion (1946) starring Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland as Emily and Charlotte Bronte should be a strong contender. The movie also stars Paul Henreid, which means Monika Henreid can be on hand to introduce the movie. Monika is currently working on Paul Henreid: Beyond Victor Laszlo, a documentary focused on her father’s career.
- Based on John Steinbeck‘s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, John Ford‘s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) is as essential as it gets among book-to-film adaptations. It would be terrific to have both Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda on hand to introduce this movie, which features one of the greatest performances from their father’s legendary career.
- Based on a collection of stories titled The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894), Disney’s 1967 animated classic of the same name directed by Wolfgang Reitherman should be considered a bare necessity. (Pa rum pum.) But seriously folks, wouldn’t it be fun to watch this animated classic together?
- Norman Taurog‘s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) would be an enjoyable screening. This movie features a stellar cast and we can have the added attraction of Cora Sue Collins in attendance to discuss the making of it. Cora Sue plays Amy Lawrence in the movie and she is sure to enchant the TCMFF crowd with her stories.
- The perfect vehicle to follow Tom Sawyer is Irving Rapper‘s The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944). This movie is not without its flaws, but it’s no throw away second feature either. After all Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was one of – if not thee – greatest humorists the world has ever known. His story deserves the kind of actors cast in this picture including Fredric March, Alexis Smith, Donald Crisp and Alan Hale leading a terrific list of supporting players. To introduce this one we can have any number of Mark Twain Prize winners including Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg and on and on. Just sayin’.
- Sidney Franklin‘s The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) starring Norma Shearer and Fredric March focuses on the difficult early family life of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is another one I’d love to see with the TCMFF audience. The cast alone is worth standing on line for.
- The lovely Barbara Rush should introduce The Young Philadelphians (1959) in which she co-starred with Paul Newman. Directed by Vincent Sherman, the movie is based on a 1956 novel by Richard Powell. Plus, I happen to be very fond of it and its terrific cast, which includes Alexis Smith, Brian Keith, Robert Vaughn, Billie Burke and a few other classic greats of note. I’d have Illeana Douglas interview Barbara Rush, by the way.
- Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990) is memorable thanks in large part to Kathy Bates’ extraordinary performance as the fan from hell. The fact that the movie is sure to chill even the most ardent horror fan is a side benefit. With Reiner, Bates and James Caan, (who’s also great in the movie) in attendance the experience would be absolutely unforgettable. Jot that down!
- Based on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847), William Wyler’s 1939 movie of the same title would be a treat on the big screen. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of this movie because of what I think is a sell out ending. However, I also think it would be an immersive experience watching Wuthering Heights with a TCMFF audience.
- Lumet’s criminally underrated Fail-Safe (1964) starring Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau and another impressive list of players is one of the greatest thrillers of all time. Directed in the style of 12 Angry Men, Fail-Safe is based on the novel by Eugene Burdick. With an ending that leaves one speechless this is sure to be a hit with the TCMFF crowd. Again, the Fondas could introduce it along with Charles Matthau.
- Phil Karlson’s Scandal Sheet (1952) starring Broderick Crawford and Donna Reed is a fantastic film noir choice. I know Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, does appearances for screenings of her mother’s films. It would be great to have her introduce this movie, which tells the story of a newspaper editor who commits a murder, alongside Eddie Muller.
- George Cukor’s version of Louisa May Alcott’s novel would be fantastic to see on the big screen. Little Women (1933) features an impressive cast any number of which can be well represented for an introduction. To name just two ideas – Tom Meyers would do a swell job of representing the Fort Lee-born Joan Bennett and Wyatt McCrea can discuss the movie and Frances Dee’s career.
- Fred Zinnemann’s Julia (1977) is based on the story by Lillian Hellman and both of the film’s two stars, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, deliver affecting performances. It would be a huge attraction to have them both in attendance for a screening of this memorable film.
- Peter Brook’s 1963 adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a must. I had to read the book in high school and I will never forget the effect it had on me. The same goes for Brook’s naturalistic and truthful telling of the disturbing story. Any member of the cast and/or the director in attendance to discuss the making of the movie would be great.
- Charles Vidor’s Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye is my favorite of his movies. Beautiful to look at, wonderful to listen to and with all the charm of its star, Hans Christian Andersen reminds us fairy tales can come true. Who doesn’t want to share that with like-minded classic movie fans?
- An Odets/Lehman screenplay based on a Ernest Lehman novel – that’s what big money screenings are made of. Oh yeah plus Lancaster, Curtis and a memorable supporting cast. That’s what makes up Alexander Mackendrick‘s Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and its cynical world. I would love to see this introduced by Jamie Lee Curtis and Eddie Muller.
- Any number of movies based on the writing of W. Somerset Maugham would be treats at TCMFF. For personal reasons, however, I’m going with William Wyler’s The Letter (1940), which is based on a 1927 play by Maugham. Given this movie’s power of seduction (who can look away after that opening sequence) it deserves an introduction with serious clout. My plan would be to ask either Susan Sarandon, since she narrates the TCM original documentary, Stardust: The Bette Davis Story, or Meryl Streep who narrates the terrific Tribute to Bette Davis on the network. Both of them in attendance talking about Davis before we watch one of her greatest films would be a dream.
- I was going to end my recommendations list with Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. because what better example of writing for the screen is there? But then I couldn’t in good conscience include Wilder’s masterpiece and leave out the movie that beat it at the Oscars, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), which I also love. Of the two I had to admit Mankiewicz’s movie is the better choice due to the fact that the writer of the short story, The Wisdom of Eve, on which the movie is based does not get screen credit. TCMFF 2018 is the perfect occasion during which to honor the writer’s work officially this many years later. Of course either Sarandon or Streep would do quite nicely introducing this movie alongside Ben Mankiewicz.
Mary Orr’s The Wisdom of Eve was originally a 9-page short story that appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in May 1946. Orr later expanded the story, in collaboration with Reginald Denham, into a successful play. 20th Century Fox later paid Mary Orr $5,000 for all rights to The Wisdom of Eve. What resulted is one of the all-time great motion pictures, which also deals with the importance of writing to a star’s career – stage or screen.
Those are my 21 choices. I know acquiring all of the movies I mentioned is not possible and I know that some may not even be in good shape, but maybe I made note of a few that hadn’t occurred to anyone before. If not, then at least I enjoyed giving serious thought to how I would schedule the festival myself if I had great powers. Also, in case anyone’s interested, I have quite a few ideas for panels and Club TCM presentations. For instance, Illeana Douglas can moderate a group discussion about Pioneering Women Screenwriters and Victoria Riskin can discuss her father Robert Riskin’s many contributions to films. Let me know if you want to hear more of those ideas and what your movie recommendations would be. Here endeth my post.
Hope to see you at TCMFF 2018!