Nothing in our world seems normal, which is why this is not the time to break with tradition. As I do every year in preparation for the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival (TCMFF), I have put together a planned schedule. Sure, this is not your run-of-the-mill festival where we dodge those strange characters on Hollywood Blvd. as we rush to the next screening. This year, to ensure everyone’s safety from that dastardly COVID-19, TCM is presenting an on-air celebration celebrating TCMFF until we can gather once again. The virtual version is scheduled for April 16 through the 19, when the actual festival was to take place, and will include movies and moments from past festivals as well as movies that were slated to screen this year.
I will not pretend that that the cancellation was easy for fans, perhaps as difficult as for the staff and talent at TCM itself. This festival has come to represent many things to many people, among them a reunion with friends with whom we share a singular passion. Not to mention also that this year I was particularly excited to spend my birthday at the festival. Oh well…but of course, the decision to cancel is the correct one and we are all-in for the virtual gathering in celebration as well. Excitement for 2021 in Hollywood will surely grow exponentially.
Before I get to my picks for the TCMFF Special Home Edition, let me share details about a few ways you too can take part in a week of classic gathering, maybe even meet a few people you’ve been in touch with on social media. No doubt, activity will flourish as the week progresses. If you are a Facebook fan, join the group at the Going to TCMFF page. TCM conversations are always lively there.
On Tuesday afternoon, the press will be at hand for a roundtable interview with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, General Manager Pola Changnon, and Senior VP of Programming, Charlie Tabesh. I will be there and will share details after that event, which brings to mind that I would have been an ambassador at the TCMFF this year. My general duties will not change during the virtual happenings so follow my escapes as Citizen Screen on the following platforms:
On Wednesday evening, fashion and film historian Kimberly Truhler will be presenting the Fashion in Film of TCMFF 2020 virtually. You can sign up for that webinar here. Kimberly’s presentations have become an essential part of TCMFF week every year. Finally, but certainly not least, be sure to follow @TCM_Party on Twitter by using #TCMParty. That group and hashtag are always active, but expect lightning fast activity during the TCMFF Home Edition. Here is the planned hosted #TCMParty schedule for some added fun, but join any time:
On to the movies!
This will not be as robust a listing as I usually post pre-festival will, but I offer my two cents on why these few standouts should be on everyone’s list. For the entire schedule and many great tidbits about the films and festival visit TCM and the full festival schedule.
Thursday, April 16
TCMFF Home Edition officially kicks off at 8 PM EST on Thursday with a presentation of George Cukor’s A Star is Born, the opening night film at the first TCMFF in 2010. I love that choice and I adore Judy Garland, a talent that should carry us all through this difficult time. That said, I am highly recommending a late night-early morning offering, Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011), a wondering interview of 100-year-old Oscar-winning actor Luise Rainer with Robert Osborne that also took place at the inaugural festival. The charm, grace, and history discussed during this interview makes it a must-see.
Friday, April 17
Interviews with Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak, both touching and entertaining, have to be on everyone’s list of musts for the day. Movie offerings, however, are gems from start to finish. My initial instinct to go straight to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest introduced by Saint and Martin Landau at the 2010 festival. It’s a favorite of mine. However, I am going for the rare pre-code, Clarence Brown’s Night Flight (1933) starring John Barrymore introduced by Drew Barrymore at the 2011 festival. Pre-codes are the most difficult movies to get into at every festival. Screenings of these films are rare, but popular and a lot of fun. They are usually screened in the smallest theaters at TCMFF. Repeat screening on the last day of the festival are commonly replete with debauchery. I expect a huge home audience for Night Flight, a new to me offering.
Saturday, April 18
Another day of terrific offerings. I suggest you ensure your family is on hand to watch these films with you; they are a great way to bond while in captivity – er, I mean sheltering at home. I am – once again – going for a pre-code, this time Double Harness (1933) directed by John Cromwell. His son James was on hand to introduce this popular screening at the 2016 festival.
Following Double Harness on Saturday will be a trio of Vitaphone Shorts that I also highly recommend: Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder (1929), Don’t Get Nervous (1929), and Lambchops (1929). The founder of the Vitaphone Project Ron Hutchinson presented these shorts at the 2016 TCMFF as part of a program celebrating the “90th Anniversary of Vitaphone.” Ron was a good friend to many in our community.
Sunday, April 19
It’s my birthday and I’ll watch movies if I want to.
I was really looking forward to celebrating my birthday on the final day of this year’s festival in Hollywood. I pictured toasting to me surrounded by movie-loving friends at Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel during the closing night party. Instead, I will be at my mothers’ where I have been since the shelter-at-home mandate began. I am away from my home, but with my family. I am away from my movie collection, but with TCM. I have no film fans up close to discuss the movies with, but I have all those wonderful people out there in the dark of social media. I cannot complain.
Sunday offers a prime-time line-up made up completely of screenings slated for this year’s festival. It is a varied list ranging from the silent Badelys the Magnificent (1926) to Victor/Victoria (1982). The latter was a prime pick for me because Julie Andrews was going to attend. Imagine that as a birthday present? Anyway, no use crying.
A strong recommendation goes to Peter O’Toole, Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2012), yet another mesmerizing interview with Robert Osborne. Finally, a nod for Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman (1932) screened at the 2017 TCMFF with an introduction by film historian and author Cari Beauchamp whose intros are among my favorites. The movie and its star are an absolute hoot.
Since the TCMFF Special Home Edition is as much about memories as it is about a shred experience, here are a few memories of my own from past festivals. Since I am not home, I do not have photos to share except in the ones in past posts that mean the world. Thank you for indulging me. I have done similar picks posts before every festival, eight in total. This year would have been my ninth. Nevertheless, I share just a few post-festival recaps.
From the 2013 TCMFF, my first:
From the 2014 TCMFF:
From the 2015 TCMFF:
From TCMFF 2019:
I hope to see you online, to share exchanges about the movies and other events I have noted here. I hope to share memories of past festivals or of the special times when we were introduced to these films. Above all, I hope you all stay safe by staying home and watching movies. These are crazy times and it’s important to try to make the best of it – did I not sound positive here? Anyway, thank you to TCM for putting the TCMFF Home Edition together so quickly.
As I do every year, I am ending by adding the picks of other bloggers and fans. It is always enjoyable to read other people’s recommendations. If you have yours published, please share them.