Planning #TCMFF 2023 and the Band Played On

At this writing we are two weeks away from the fourteenth annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF). The event will run from April 13 through the 16 in Hollywood. The festival these this year is “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” which marks an important milestone in the history Warner Bros. studios, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Warner Bros. legacy will play a prominent role at the festival.

The 14th TCMFF will kick off with the world premier 4k restoration of Rio Bravo (1959) directed and produced by Howard Hawks. You can read what I think about the Western here. I am only sorry I will not see this screening with one of the film’s stars, the fabulous, always entertaining Angie Dickinson in attendance. Also present will be two of The Film Foundation’s board members Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson.

This year’s Robert Osborne Award will be presented to historian, author, and Professor Donald Bogle. Despite this tremendous honor, I hope Mr. Bogle is on hand to introduce a screening or two. He is a favorite of mine at every festival. His knowledge of African American cinema and history never fail to fascinate and whichever discussion he is part of is eye-opening. A huge congratulations, sir.

There are other screenings and presentations I am excited about this year, several of which pose difficult decisions that may well force me to make last-minute changes. That said, here is my planned schedule as of today.

Thursday, April 13

Seaton’s Airport (1970) was high on my list when it was announced, but showing at the Hollywood Legion Theater it is simply too far for me to get to and watch a second feature on Thursday night. Instead, I must choose between an 80th anniversary restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and a restoration of Tay Garnett’s One Way Passage (1932) and I am leaning toward the latter. Restored by Warner Bros. in collaboration with the Film Foundation, One Way Passage stars William Powell and Kay Francis who make a fantastic screen couple. The only reason I would forego Shadow is I have seen One Way Passage less times than Hitchcock’s film, which I love. This is tough one.

I am a bit disappointed in the next time slot and will have no choice but to spend time with Cary Grant and Doris Day in Delbert Mann’s That Touch of Mink(1962). Although those are two favorite actors, That Touch of Mink is not high on my list for either of them. Harry Cornelius’ Genevieve (1953) is also tempting with Diane Baker in attendance.

William Powell and Kay Francis in One Way Passage (1932)

Friday, April 14

This first full day of the festival starts with a roar, a contest between the Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the wonders of movies – King Kong vs. Bette Davis. Alas, King Kong in a 90th anniversary screening at the Chinese Theatre will be too much to pass up.

It kills me to miss a film in the next slot, but I will be going to the Club TCM presentation, Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot – A Trip Through the Iron Gates. Third-generation filmmaker and granddaughter of Harry Warner, Cass Warner, will be there to discuss behind-the-scenes at the legendary studio. Author/historian Steven Bingen will also be there.

Next is my pick of the festival – Raoul Walsh’s The Strawberry Blonde (1941) presented as part of Warner Night at the Movies by Warner Bros. Discovery’s Library Historian, George Feltenstein. This is a new restoration of a delightful movie with an extraordinary cast that includes James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, and Jack Carson. I have been longing for a movie that encourages an audience sing-a-long with a bouncing ball and this delivers – after “The End”. In addition, this presentation will recreate a moviegoing experience to include special extras as shown in 1941.

If you want to practice The Band Played On, music by Chas. B. Ward, Lyrics by John F. Palmer, and be ready for this screening, here is the chorus:

Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde,
And the band played on.
He’d glide cross the floor with the girl he adored,
And the band played on.
But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,
The poor girl would shake with alarm.
He’d ne’er leave the girl with the strawberry curls,
And the band played on.

To continue – the negative on this day is that The Strawberry Blonde ends less than an hour before George Stevens’ Penny Serenade (1941) begins. I can only hope festivalgoers find this screening too sad to attend. Starring my absolute favorite screen couple, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, Penny Serenade will make you weep, but it also features Cary Grant’s favorite of all his performances, a beautiful film that evokes memories and squeezes your heart. After that, I am hoping I can make it, albeit with tissues in hand, to Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fire to complete a 1941 trifecta. I admit chances are low for this one starring Stanwyck and Cooper at the smallest theater and introduced by Dana Delany. Fingers Crossed. By the way, this also means I am missing the poolside screening of Beach Party (1963) with Frankie Avalon in attendance, which stinks.

Although the midnight movie, René Cardona’s The Batwoman (1968) sounds like a hoot, I want to be up early the next morning with no ill effect.

Saturday, April 15

I find the Saturday schedule replete with conflict. There are numerous films scheduled that I want to see and somehow they are all opposite each other. I went through several possible scenarios. Following are the two most likely, but who knows where I will end up.

Scenario 1: Start the day with my favorite Kubrick film, the affecting Paths of Glory (1957), move on to two by John Huston, The African Queen (1951) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) followed by Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) and the new-to-me Unfinished Business (1941) directed by Gregory La Cava. The problem with this scenario is I am unlikely to make it to Unfinished Business in tiny Theater 4 if I go to The Exorcist. I can always pray Unfinished Business fills a TBA spot on Sunday, but there’s no guarantee. There is also the issue of a yet-to-be-announced screening at the Chinese for Saturday night that I must wait for.

Scenario 2: Start the day at the Hollywood Legion Theater for The Wiser Sex (1932), which I have never seen followed by When Worlds Collide (1951). Both of those screenings promise terrific introductions: Cari Beauchamp for the pre-code and Barron and Burtt for the science fiction. From there I go to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, followed by Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), and Unfinished Business (1941). This scenario is tempting because it leaves me plenty of time to make it to all screenings. I think. But then I wouldn’t see The Exorcist at the Chinese Theatre, which I do not think should be missed.

Sunday, April 16

The last day of the festival begins much as Saturday ends, with a tough choice to be made – Hitchcock, Lubitsch or Harryhausen? At this writing I am leaning toward Lubitsch and the beautiful Heaven Can Wait (1943). I’m not sure I can ignore Marjorie Main and Eugene Pallette as a couple on a big screen. Wesley Ruggles’ No Man of Her Own (1932) will follow that. The rest of the day will depend on what fills the TBA spots. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950) and Clash of the Wolves (1925) would make a fine ending to the 2023 TCMFF. The problem is that Clash of the Wolves is at the Hollywood Legion. Even with accompaniment by the great Ben Model I may not be able to make it there. Also, I’ve seen All About Eve on a big screen in a historic movie palace a couple of times.

There you have it. I hope to see you in Hollywood.

As has been the case for all years I have attended TCMFF, I am happy to do so as a member of the media covering the festival. Follow me on social media on @CitizenScreen for spontaneous coverage from Hollywood.

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If you’re new to TCMFF, I recommend Chris Sturhann’s Blog of the Darned where you’ll find all sorts of tips.

6 thoughts

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m in the process of putting together my own schedule … and seeing/reading other people’s thoughts always helps me sort out my own. Feeling very anxious.

  2. I kind of want to see THE EXORCIST but don’t know if it will be too scary for me. Please tell me why it shouldn’t be missed. I did meet Linda Blaire at the Texas Fright Mare Horror Convention. I couldn’t believe how tiny she is in person.

  3. Thanks for the shout out. We don’t have much in common this year, it’s so subjective. I think just Ball of Fire, but I’m thinking I’ll be doing some of the TBAs Sunday, so maybe there.

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