TCM just released the complete schedule for its upcoming Classic Film Festival in Hollywood that takes place between April 10 and 13. I’ve been attending the festival since it began five years ago. Being obsessed with movie history, old Hollywood and classic films, it’s definitely my favorite movie event of the year. I always inform my family that they will not see me for the duration since, following a gala opening night celebration on Thursday night, the festival runs from early in the morning to quite late at night from Friday to Sunday. It takes place at several Hollywood venues including two of Sid Grauman’s glorious 1920s movie palaces that are only a few blocks apart — the Chinese and the Egyptian.
Many of the screenings include discussions with people who were involved with the films: actors, directors, other members of the crew, and, increasingly, the descendants of these people. This year’s festival takes place a bit earlier than usual to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies which began broadcasting on April 14, 1994.
I’ve seen some incredible discussions at the festival in past years, many of them moderated by TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz who will be on hand again this year to introduce the films. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to hear people who are no longer with us talking about their work: Tony Curtis, Peter O’Toole, Betty Garrett, Esther Williams and Juanita Moore, to name a few as well as many other amazing people who are still around such as 104-year-old Luise Rainer, Kirk Douglas, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Blyth, Kim Novak, Peter Bogdanovich, Jane Withers, Stanley Donen, Leslie Caron, Mickey Rooney, Anjelica Huston, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, Buck Henry, Jane Powell, Hayley Mills, Barbara Rush, Roger Corman, Angela Lansbury, Robert Evans, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Mel Brooks, Mitzi Gaynor, Jane Fonda, Tippi Hedren, Carl Reiner, Norman Lloyd and countless others.
The opening night gala on Thursday, April 10, will feature Shirley Jones introducing a beautifully restored version of Fred Zinnemann’s Oklahoma! (1955), the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that also starred Gordon MacRae. Unfortunately, that film is only open to festival attendees with the highest level passes, but not to fear — there are plenty of other great choices on Thursday night including:
• Robert Aldrich’s gloriously campy What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) starring the feuding Bette Davis and Joan Crawford with female impersonator Charles Busch leading the discussion (hopefully in Davis or Crawford drag!)
• Nicholas Ray’s unusual western Johnny Guitar (1954) starring Joan Crawford and Oscar-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge
• Two sparkling Ginger Rogers classics fom 1939: Greogory La Cava’s 5th Avenue Girl and Garson Kanin’s Bachelor Mother
• William Wyler’s The Heiress (1949) for which Olivia de Havilland won her second Oscar
• A poolside viewing of George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (festival headquarters) attended by stars Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins and Paul LeMat
Choosing what to see on Friday, April 11 will be similarly agonizing. There are way too many films to name but some of the ones I’m most looking forward to are:
• A rare screening of Clive Brook’s On Approval (1944) moderated by film historian Jeffrey Vance
• John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) with a discussion by author Nancy Schoenberger
• World-premiere restoration screening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) introduced by Charlton Heston’s son, Fraser Heston
• The extraordinary documentary Grey Gardens (1975) about Jacqueline Kennedy’s down-on-their-luck cousins, introduced by filmmaker Albert Maysles
• George Roy Hill’s The World of Henry Orient (1964) starring Peter Sellers and Angela Lansbury, with two of the film’s stars, Paula Prentiss and Merrie Spaeth, in attendance
• Vincente Minnelli’s beloved Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) with Robert Osborne interviewing Margaret O’Brien who played Judy Garland’s younger sister in the film
• Director Allison Anders introducing Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) starring Ellen Burstyn
• 70th anniversary restoration of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray on the big screen at Grauman’s Chinese
• Harold Lloyd’s wonderful Why Worry? (1923) introduced by his granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd and featuring a world premiere live performance of Carl Davis’s new score for the film
• Ryan O’Neal on hand to introduce Peter Bogdonavich’s Paper Moon (1973) in which he starred with his daughter Tatum
• The always hysterical Blazing Saddles (1974) introduced by Mel Brooks
• The world-premiere restoration of William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) with Fredric March and Myrna Loy
• A poolside viewing of The Music Man (1962) starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones
• A late-night screening of David Lynch’s avant-garde Eraserhead (1977) introduced by actor Patton Oswalt
Are you exhausted yet? How about some of the highlights for Saturday, April 12? Ugh, it will impossible to choose!
• Actress Ileana Douglas introducing her grandfather Melvyn Douglas’ poignant I Never Sang for My Father (1972) with Gene Hackman
• Director Gareth Edwards and film historian Eddy von Mueller presenting the world premiere restoration of the original Japanese version of Godzilla (1954)
• Composer Richard Sherman showing a 50th anniversary screening of his classic Mary Poppins (1964) starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke
• Richard Dreyfuss discussing Herbert Ross’ The Goodbye Girl (1977) in which he co-starred with Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings
• A dazzling restoration of Stormy Weather (1943) starring Lena Horne with a discussion with film historians Donald Bogle and Bruce Goldstein
• Alan Ladd’s son, David Ladd, introducing Elliot Nugent’s 1949 version of The Great Gatsby
• 93-year-old Maureen O’Hara in a rare personal appearance to talk about John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941)
• Alec Baldwin and record producer Don Was at the Chinese to screen a 50th anniversary restoration of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
• Movie goddess Kim Novak on hand to screen Richard Quine’s Bell, Book and Candle (1958) that she made with James Stewart
• The Nutty Professor (1963) introduced by its director and star Jerry Lewis
• William Friedkin presenting a restoration of his 1977 film The Sorcerer
• Composer Quincy Jones on hand to screen a 5oth anniversary restoration of Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1964) with Rod Steiger
• Actress Anna Kendrick introducing one of her favorite films, George Cukor’s wildly entertaining The Women (1939)
• A special midnight showing of Tod Browning’s acclaimed Freaks (1932) with a discussion led by comedian and writer Dana Gould
If your eyes are still in their sockets, and you haven’t collapsed under the pressure of having to choose from this embarrassment of riches, you won’t want to miss the final day of the festival on Sunday, April 13, including such gems as:
• Norman Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof (1971) featuring a discussion with Jewison, casting director Lynn Stalmaster and composer John Williams
• A special presentation of Michael Curtiz’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) including a 45-minute talk by visual effects maven Craig Barron and sound engineer Ben Burtt that will showcase newly found stills, recordings and rare outtakes from the film
• A highly anticipated 75th anniversary screening of Victor Fleming’s epic Gone With the Wind (1939) starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland
• A rare screening of a restored version Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film The Lodger (1927) featuring a live performance by the Mont Aldo Motion Picture Orchestra
• A 75th anniversary screening of the beloved classic The Wizard of Oz (1939) presented in IMAX 3D.
Are you dizzy yet? Can you see why my wife comes close to filing desertion charges every April? And there’s more — a lot more — including discussions, interviews, and ceremonies — you can even watch Jerry Lewis (finally) place his hand- and footprints in the cement in the famous forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese. Click here for the complete schedule and here for information on passes and individual tickets. See you in Hollywood!