10th Annual TCMFF is a Turning Point

This is a guest post by Scott Holleran

The 10th annual classic movie festival for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) featured the customary schedule, including screenings and other events, such as a handprint ceremony in the forecourt of Sid Grauman’s Chinese theater. TCM, now owned by AT&T under the Warner Media subsidiary, honored its founder on opening night.

Singling out Ted Turner turned out to be a muted highlight of the four-day festival.

The cable channel Turner founded in 1994 underwent major changes in recent years. Having lost its founding host, Robert Osborne, and its newly launched streaming app, FilmStruck, which was shuttered last fall, TCM marks its first 25 years as a cherished work in progress.

The first movie ever aired on TCM, Gone With the Wind, was shown on the exact date of the channel’s 25th anniversary. The 1939 film, preceded by Robert Osborne’s original April 14, 1994 introduction, previously was released in theaters in partnership with Fathom Events for its Big Screen Classics series. TCM’s only other programming about its first movie featured a discussion panel with critics of Gone With the Wind.

GWTW playing at the TCL Chinese Theatre on closing night of TCMFF 2019. Photo courtesy of TCM

Attendees lined up hours in advance at Grauman’s (now TCL’s) Chinese Theater to see the movie version of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 novel. Some in the diverse audience at the Chinese theater dressed in costume.

Besides Gone With the Wind, classic movies shown during the festival include My Favorite Wife (1940), Wuthering Heights (1939) and The Clock (1945). Other pictures showcased, usually with introductions or cast, crew or related interviews, include Winchester ‘73 (1950), Marty (1955) and A Woman Under the Influence (1974). Among the festival’s most-talked about screenings were pre-Code films, such as Blood Money (1933), and films shown in nitrate, such as June Haver and Betty Grable in The Dolly Sisters (1945) and Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish 1949 biblical picture Samson and Delilah.

This year’s festival experienced some problems. Spotlight pass holders, who pay premium prices to attend, reported that multiplex screenings were poorly coordinated and failed to start on time, which prevented attendees from seeing other scheduled movies.

Certain seats were reserved for VIPs, many of whom did not attend.

The festival centers each year upon its primary gathering point, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony. Screenings and events are held at ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome, TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX (Grauman’s Chinese Theater), the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre, which is uniquely equipped with a nitrate projection booth. This year, TCM screened movies in a new venue, Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion’s newly renovated, historic 484-seat movie theater.

Hollywood Post 43 was chartered in 1919 by World War I veterans who worked in the movie industry. Classic Hollywood stars — including veterans and non-veterans alike — such as Cecil B. DeMille, Adolphe Menjou and Mary Pickford were crucial in supporting Post 43. Members included Clark Gable, Gene Autry, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston and the late Marvel Comics co-founder Stan Lee.

The American Legion Theater is the only Hollywood theater owned and operated by U.S. veterans.

During the festival, Turner Classic Movies presented its second annual Robert Osborne Award, recognizing “an individual who has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic film alive for future generations”, to film preservationist Kevin Brownlow, whose Photoplay Productions produces documentaries and restores silent classics such as A Woman of Affairs (1928), Sunrise (1927) and Napoleon (1927). Brownlow received an honorary Oscar in 2010 for film preservation.

“Kevin Brownlow has been a friend to TCM since the network was founded,” said TCM’s Senior Vice President of Programming Charles Tabesh. “[H]is work to preserve classic film history for future generations is a cornerstone of what TCM and the Robert Osborne award represent.”

Turner Classic Movies, which has an app, a website and original programming, presents motion pictures from the largest film libraries in the world uncut and commercial-free. Besides Ben Mankiewicz, regular hosts include authors Eddie Muller, Alicia Malone and Dave Karger and spots with scholars, intellectuals and historians such as Leonard Maltin, Cari Beauchamp and Jeremy Arnold, who introduced Winchester ‘73, as well as segments such as The Essentials, 31 Days of Oscar® and Summer Under the Stars. TCM also sponsors a Classic Film Tour in New York City and Los Angeles. In addition, TCM produces books, DVDs and a classic movie cruise.

Its 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival began with a 30th anniversary screening of When Harry Met Sally… starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, who appeared at the opening night screening with the movie’s director/producer Rob Reiner. Billy Crystal placed his hands in the Chinese theater’s forecourt.

Scott Holleran began his professional writing career as a newspaper correspondent in 1991. He’s worked in a variety of media, including magazines, broadcasting and Internet ventures. His news, cultural commentary, sports and other topical articles has been published in the Los Angeles TimesWall Street Journal and Philadelphia Inquirer. You can find Scott on FacebookTwitter or on his website.

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