Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Happens When You Watch 18 Films in 3.5 Days - Part 1

I'll tell you what have a great time!

I spent last weekend in Hollywood with thousands of other classic film fans attending the TCM Classic Film Festival. Beth and I stayed at the Loews Hollywood, which is next door to the outdoor mall complex that houses the Chinese Multiplex (the three smaller venues for the event, the three larger venues being: TCL (Grauman's) Chinese, Egyptian Theater and El Capitan Theater.)  The Loews Hotel was extremely wonderful and very convenient to all TCMFF screenings. I highly recommend it to friends for next year who were 'so-so' on the Roosevelt.

I had created a schedule of what I wanted to see...and for the most part I stuck to the schedule (I'll explain exceptions below.)  Although I know that some venues filled and they had to turn away patrons, most of the screenings accommodated all pass-holders and then let in extra 'standby' ticket-holders.  Even the tremendously popular MILDRED PIERCE which screened in the 616-seat Egyptian Theater had room for standby ticket-holders.

I tried to take notes about each screening while standing on line for the next's a blow-by-blow of the films that I saw the first two days of the festival:


We flew from RDU to LAX (via ORD) and met Jessica at the Delta terminal to give her a lift into Hollywood.  It was fun chatting during the 40 minute ride about other online friends. We checked into our room and then headed out to explore.

I went solo to THE KILLING a great noir/heist film starring Sterling Hayden.  This film had a great jazz score and included many older character actors...many with European accents.  The film quality was perfect...this was a DCP screening, it was flawless. Actress Coleen Gray who was in the film was interviewed before the film.  I introduced myself to Trevor before the film (you can't miss him...only pork pie hat at the festival.)  Chatted with a mother/daughter seated next to me who lived in the LA area, this was their second year.

Afterwards, I queued for SAFE IN HELL which Beth joined me for.  Also at this screening were Will, Maggie, Laura, Trevor, Paula, Aurora and others, I'm sure.  I was in line a few people behind Paula, and didn't recognize her (she had a floppy hat on...but did recognize her voice.) I tweeted her that I was standing behind her and she turned around and gave me a hug...and I met her husband, Tim...a really nice couple.

This was screened in Chinese Multiplex theater #4, the smallest venue at 177 seats.  The screening was packed solid and they re-screened this on Sunday in one the TBA slots.  (There was a lot of buzz as I chatted with people on line all weekend about this film.)  A pre-code with director William Wellman's son interviewed by the brilliant Donald Bogle to discuss the film and his father.  A pre-code for sure...but some tender moments between the leads.  (I must admit my eyes close a few times during this...I saw most of it, but I'll need to watch again when I'm more awake.)


The first full day of the festival!  We (Beth joined me for this) started the day off early with a Robert Mitchum in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.  A creepy way to start the day for sure!  I'd never seen it before.  It was screened at the Egyptian, the line was in the sun so we were sweating before heading into the theater.  Watched this with Beth and Aurora and sat down in the 'geek seats'...front and center! One of my favorite scenes is when they shoot the car underwater with Shelley Winters' hair billowing in the river current.  Creep-tastic!  An older Lillian Gish excellent as foster mom to a group of children.

Next up we exited the Egyptian and immediately re-queued again for the next screening: THE NARROW MARGIN, a tale of a detective assigned to protect the wife of a mobster on a cross-country train trip.  Really snappy dialog between the detective and the mobster's wife. This screening was a 35mm print and had two technical glitches, which turned out to be the only glitches the whole weekend that I experienced.  The first issue is that there was a delay on a reel cut-over  one real ended and played through the trailing lead, while the other machine didn't start and cut-over properly.  It was manually started quickly and we were back in business.  The second issue which occurred a little later was that the sound dropped for about 15 seconds.  I'm not sure if this was a problem with the print or something else.  I talked with Will about these glitches and he said "I'll give them pass on those minor issues."

After this, I had a small break, so I grabbed some lunch with Beth at Starbucks and then headed to the hotel to recharge my phone and read up on the upcoming films.

Back to the Multiplex #4 for I AM SUZANNE!  This was the most intriguing film on the schedule and I really wanted to see it...I queued up fairly early (think I got queue card #2) as it was in the smallest venue.  I was not disappointed...this film was indescribable.  According to the film restoration person speaking before the film, most prints of this film in circulation were 16mm prints and they went back to the original 35mm negative and recreated a 35mm print.  The lead acress Lilian Harvey was quite beautiful.  This film is hard to categorize: musical, show-within-a-show, love story, had elements of many genres.  I sat between Will another guy who knew a lot about the film and the puppeteer troupes used in the film.  After the screening we got into an intellectual discussion about the film...until I abandoned Will and headed to the Egyptian for my next screening...stopping at the Starbucks along the way for a turkey sandwich and coffee which I inhaled on line for IT.

I've never seen the film IT, but was glad I saw it on Friday evening.  Live accompaniment by a 15-piece orchestra.  Clara Bow biographer David Stenn was full of insight before the film...gotta purchase his book.  Will and I sat down in front to be closer to the orchestra.  Bow has that joie de vivre, that 'fire within'...the 'IT' girl, for sure.  After the film, most people were rushing back up Hollywood Blvd. to get in line for one of my 'must sees' of the weekend.  Will and I escaped out the side fire-exits and got a jump on the crowd.  He was off to see Hondo.

Meanwhile I lined up for ON THE WATERFRONT and met Beth on line.  We both got into the massive 1100 seat Grauman's Chinese Theater and sat with Alan.  Introducing the film was Ben Mankiewicz who interviewed Eva Marie Saint.  They were having a fun time with each other.  The film was wonderful on the huge Chinese Theater screen.  Nice applause for all major actors with their first on-screen appearance.  What a great way to end the evening.

But wait!  There was a midnight screening of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE that started about 30 minutes after the previous film.  Great crowd, the house was about 2/3 full...many TCMParty folks in attendance.  Great laughter at all of the weirdness throughout the film.  (Curious? The entire film is online here.)

Got back to the room at 1:30am and caught up on twitter then hit the sack at 2am.


  1. Enjoyed your recap, Joel -- and just wanted to highly recommend David Stenn's book. I read it years ago, and absolutely loved it. I was kicking myself for not realizing that he'd be there and taking it with me to try to snag his autograph!!! Looking forward to your next installment . . .

    1. Just downloaded it from iTunes...gotta finish another book first, then on to this one!

  2. I will never forget that moment after I AM SUZANNE where i turned to you to say, "Well, we should get going." AND YOU WERE ALREADY GONE. Poof! I love the fact that I found the one guy in the world who could quote chapter and verse about that movie. Good times.

    1. Haha! I thought to myself that he was going to ramble on a while about marionettes. And while that's fine, I had another film to catch and wanted something to eat first. I cracked up when you showed up in line right behind me for 'IT'. Thought you might be 'delayed' a bit. :)