The TCM Classic Film Festival is in full swing on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard and to admit the first day was unlike anything I’d experienced before is an understatement. After an early-morning walk to the TCL Chinese Theater for press conference with TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz (along with TCM programmers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy), it was off to cover the red carpet at the premiere of a restored cut of Oklahoma!. The night ended with a late night screening of William Wyler’s The Heiress. Photos and exclamation points abound!
TCM is all about community, a point emphasized by both Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz in an early morning press conference to kick off the TCM Classic Film Festival. The rabid fanbase is proof, but both TCM hosts shared stories of just how connected the classic film community is to TCM. “I never knew I’d be a nurse,” Osborne mentioned as he recounted hearing stories of how TCM helped fans cope after losing jobs or loved ones. It’s a statement ringing true for me as TCM (and a special showing of all the Thin Man movies) helped me recover during knee surgery a year ago. Mankiewiciz furthered this by mentioning his profound love for television, but he isn’t connected to ESPN or FX. It’s a sentiment, coupled with Tabesh and McGillicuddy mentioning they listen to fan response to program and host changes, which shows why fans come out to LA every April for this festival, a sense of belonging and closeness to the people putting this network together. An exclusive TCM Tweet-Up for those with a strong Twitter connection to the network allowed us to get up-close-and-personal with guests Mankiewicz and Illeana Douglas. This accessibility to the network’s “stars” is unrivaled. I mean, can you imagine having unfettered access to someone like Leonardo DiCaprio?
It’s not to say the hosts don’t get starstruck as well. Mankiewicz commented “I’ve been truly intimidated…with Max von Sydow, Peter Bogdanovich…and Jerry Lewis.” Lewis especially, who’s getting his hands and footprints immortalized in the TCL Chinese forecourt this Saturday, is leaving the host “literally scared.” The press conference, an intimate experience at the Chinese, also opened up a candidness to the people being interviewed. Osborne admitted he thinks all the Great Gatsby adaptations have the wrong Daisy Buchanan (sorry, Leo), while Mankiewicz confessed he watched Twilight and found it horrible; although, he wants to take credit for rooting for Anna Kendrick when the movie premiered. There’s an amazing slate of movies this weekend, but don’t be alarmed if you didn’t come out to L.A., Managing Director McGillicudy says the network has plans to continue their relationship with Fathom Events, who’ve helped put classics like Casablanca in front of millions of audiences in theaters nationwide. She wouldn’t give specifics when I asked, but said there were plans in the works. The network is also talking with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about a possible placement for TCM in the Academy museum being constructed and slated to open in 2017. In a two-hour presser I never felt bored, and I could easily write an entire article just about the amazing items discussed (Mankiewicz calls the Hollywood Walk of Fame is “a corrupted business” while advocating for a star for child actress Diana Serra Carey, aka Baby Peggy).
After that it was time to glitz up for the red carpet premiere of Fred Zinnemann’s 1955 musical, Oklahoma!. I had a good spot on the red carpet, but stuck out like a sore thumb after the reporters on both sides of me left. The stars were out in force: Alec Baldwin, Maureen O’Hara, Kim Novak, and Richard Sherman all made appearances. Those lucky enough passholders able to enter the theater and watch the movie, were dressed to the nines with many in full-length formal gowns! Leonard Maltin stopped by to briefly talk about his appreciation for Disney (the festival is showing both Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book) with the edge, in terms of Maltin’s personal preference, going to Poppins. Gremlins director Joe Dante lovingly told me kids traumatized by the movie should “get over it.” I wished I could have gone through Dante’s entire filmography with him, especially when he started discussing the old Hollywood monster aesthetic employed for The Howling.
TCM “Super Fan,” Tiffany Vasquez and I bonded over the surreal feeling of the festival itself. Vasquez won the TCM Super Fan Contest with the prize being an on-air co-hosting gig (for the night) with Osborne while introducing a slate of movies. Vasquez says the entire experience was “surreal,” but she felt comfortable once she was on-set. The true “get” for me had to be the amazing Kim Novak who graciously stopped, shook my hand, and briefly commented that her Oscar experience this past March was “wonderful!” A few stars graciously tried to include me in conversations with other reporters-probably because I was standing by myself-such as the beautiful Margaret O’Brien. O’Brien, decked out in a blue dress with matching hair and lipstick pointed out my dress, also blue, while talking to someone else. Several stars walked past me, I won’t name names, but the entire experience was surreal in the extreme and a wonderful time!
After the chaos of the red carpet I was freezing (L.A. temperature changes are abrupt) but decided to soldier on to my one screening of the evening, William Wyler’s The Heiress. If you want to read my original review of the movie click here. I’ve watched The Heiress several times but adored the presentation at the Chinese Theater. Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift looked gorgeous on the big screen, and it was refreshing to hear the audience catch the subtle brushes of humor the script employs. The seats were super comfy and I’ll admit, I snoozed for about five minutes (it was 11pm!) but, regardless, it was an experience I’ll never forget. Returning to the hotel at almost midnight, I threw myself into bed, prepared for day two.
On today’s agenda: A screening of Meet Me in St. Louis with Margaret O’Brien, Mel Brooks at a showing of Blazing Saddles, a midnight screening of David Lynch’s Eraserhead and possibly a stop at a showing of Touch of Evil or Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.