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My Picks for the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival

April 4, 2024

The 15th annual TCM Classic Film Festival officially kicks off in two weeks, running from April 18-21. TCM released the full program last week, which was my cue to jump into crazed organizational mode, mentally making tough movie decisions that may or may not work out based on five million factors.

 

I’m proud to say that I’ve attended all 15 TCM Classic Film Festivals. (I live in Los Angeles, so I’m spoiled by having the event only 10 minutes away!) While the festival experience isn’t new to me, my enthusiasm for it—and seeing so many friends from all over the world—hasn’t diminished in the slightest. TCMFF always ranks as one of my biggest highlights of the year.

 

“Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film” is the theme for the 2024 festival. Past events treated themes loosely, keeping them broad enough to invite a variety of different genres. While this one leans more towards noir, crime, and drama, you can see from the full schedule that they cast the net wide. 

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This year, I was fortunate to obtain a media pass for the fest. (I've been able to acquire one the past few years, as I cover the event extensively.) With that, below is my overview of the 2024 slate, including what I really want to see, films I’m bummed about potentially missing, and my backup choices. As always, this may go 95% to plan or 20%. I suppose that’s part of the fun! There are time slots where I want to see three films and others where I’m not overly excited by any selection, so for the latter I may try to snag a meal, take a nap, or choose to see a new-to-me movie. Who knows!

 

I’ll be posting recaps of my experience here, so be sure to check back to see what I made it to. I’ll also share live updates on Twitter and Instagram throughout the fest.

 

 

THURSDAY 4/18

1pm: So You Want to Put on a Classic Film Festival

I’ve worked film festivals (much, much smaller than this one), and the logistics always fascinate me. I’d never pass up the chance to hear tales from the minds behind the scenes at TCMFF!

 

6:15pm: Only Yesterday (1933)

Starting off with a pre-Code, because of course I am. I’ve heard of this Margaret Sullavan-John Boles weepie but never seen it, so this is a prime viewing opportunity for me. Only Yesterday is screening on 35mm, which is one reason it ended up in the dreaded Theater 4 (the festival’s smallest venue, one of only a few theaters they use that can screen 35mm), so I’m already calculating when I should start queueing…

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Backup: Clue (1985)

I’m a big fan of everything Clue—the board game, the books (I read them as a kid), the Super Nintendo game (which I still play), and finally the cult classic movie. And to have Lesley Ann Warren there! My heart breaks a little to miss this poolside screening.

 

10pm: The Small Back Room (1949)

TCM always programs a few festival discoveries every year, movies I usually haven’t heard of, and every year these end up being my favorite films of the fest. (Examples include 1944’s On Approval, which played TCMFF 2014, and 1935’s Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk, which played TCMFF 2023.) With that, I’m excited to see—and hopefully stay up for!—this Powell and Pressburger drama that boasts a “memorable 17-minute climax as thrilling in its own way as the 17-minute Red Shoes ballet.”

 

Backup: Grand Hotel (1932) 

While back-to-back pre-Codes would be on brand, I’ve seen Grand Hotel a few times. But if I don’t make it into The Small Back Room or I’m getting tired, I may opt for the star-studded MGM affair.

 

FRIDAY 4/19

9am: That’s Vitaphone! The Return of Sound-on-Disc (2024)

This presentation became an instant must-see the moment I heard of it. While I’ve watched a few of the six 1920s Vitaphone shorts screening, I’ve never seen them like this: the film projected in 35mm with sound played from their original 16-inch discs. The turntable was designed and engineered by Warner Bros. Post Production Engineering Department, and some of those team members will be on hand to chat about that. This type of screening hasn’t occurred in almost a century! Leave it to TCM to keep coming up with fantastic, one-of-a-kind special events like this that you won’t find anywhere else.

The Good Fairy poster-min.jpg

Backup: The Good Fairy (1935)

This is not an option because it’s Vitaphone or bust for me, but it pained me to see another festival discovery, The Good Fairy, yet another new-to-me title, scheduled at the same time. It boasts a Preston Sturges script, stars Margaret Sullavan (again!) and Herbert Marshall, and features an introduction by director William Wyler’s son, David Wyler. And it’s screening on film at the Egyptian! TCMFF attendees, make this one sell out so they bring it to Theater 4 on Sunday, please.

 

12pm: Them! (1954)

This is one of those dreaded three-way festival conundrums. Ben Burtt and Craig Barron’s entertaining, educational presentations are always on the top of my TCMFF list. I actually just saw Them! when I wrote about it recently for TCM, so I think I’m going to try to catch the opening presentation and dash off to The TCM Archive Project at 12:30 in Club TCM. Again, when you pair history + stories + TCM, I need to be there.

The Model and the Marriage Broker poster-min.png

Backup: The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951)

If I could be three places at once, one of those locations would be Theater 6 for The Model and the Marriage Broker, because 1. It’s being introduced by Christy Putnam, a dear friend of mine and Thelma Ritter biographer, 2. I’ve never seen it, and 3. It sounds like a charming romantic comedy!

 

3:30pm: Dad’s Choice (1928)/Paths to Paradise (1925)

Silent films with live accompaniment are a true treat. This program provides that, plus an Edward Everett Horton short, plus a silent feature (missing the final reel) rediscovered in the 1970s starring Raymond Griffith, whose films are largely lost. All of those elements, plus a Leonard Maltin introduction, make this a must-see for me.

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Backup: The Big House (1930)

Please don’t take away my pre-Code card. I've watched this prison flick rather recently, which is why it lands as my backup pick.

 

6pm: The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

This is another film I’ve never heard of, and clearly, I’m making those a priority for this year’s fest. Directed by John Ford, The Prisoner of Shark Island stars Warner Baxter as a “Maryland physician wrongly charged as a co-conspirator with John Wilkes Booth because he treated the assassin’s broken leg before he knew of Lincoln’s death.” That sounds chaotic, and I am here for it.

 

Backup: Frank Capra: Mr. America (2023)

I don’t know a lot about Frank Capra besides his movies, so this new documentary caught my eye.

 

9:30pm: It Happened One Night (1934)

I’ve seen It Happened One Night on the big screen within the last few years, so to be honest I planned on skipping it. But, there’s nothing else in this time slot that is jumping out at me, and this film is fun to watch with a crowd. We’ll see if I stick with this classic pre-Code or try something new like The Bellboy (1960), Gidget (1959), or All the King’s Men (1949).

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12am: The Road to Ruin (1934)

I’m not a night owl; I’ve never even remotely made it to a midnight movie before. But when the late night flick is a pre-Code... well, I'll see what I can do to help the cause on the napping and caffeine fronts. This exploitation picture was co-directed Dorothy Davenport, and it's only 62 minutes long. I really, really want to try to stay up for this screening!

 

Backup: Zzzzzzzzz

 

 

SATURDAY 4/20

9am: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)

This is one reason I might not make Friday’s midnight feature: a 9am nitrate noir at the Egyptian. This print of Night Has a Thousand Eyes has screened in LA before, but somehow, I missed it. So, I’d love to catch this Edward G. Robinson-Gail Russell-Virginia Bruce starrer directed by John Farrow based on a Cornell Woolrich story. Sounds like a dark way to start the day.

 

Backup: If I miss Night Has a Thousand Eyes, it’s because I went to the midnight feature and slept in.

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11:30am: She Done Him Wrong (1933)

I’ve never seen a Mae West film on the big screen. Obviously, the best place for a first-time theatrical viewing would be TCMFF.

 

Backup: Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

This musical normally wouldn’t make my list, but it’s a nitrate print. I usually take any chance to see a nitrate screening… except when it’s opposite a pre-Code. That’s a toss-up.

 

1:30pm: Queen of the Mob (1940)

1. This is another movie I’ve never heard of. 2. It’s a 61-minute B-picture shown on 35mm. 3. It’s introduced by my friend Jeremy Arnold. All of those are reasons I want to catch Queen of the Mob, but it will be up to the Theater 4 gods if I get in or not.

 

Backup: Food, maybe?

 

3:15pm: Méliès 3D Discoveries (2010)

Rare and/or formerly lost Méliès films screening for the first time, plus surprises, plus Serge Bromberg? Sign me up. I’ve attended several of Bromberg’s presentations in the past, and they’ve always been highly engaging and revealing.

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Backup: The Mad Miss Manton (1938)

It’s very, very hard for me to pass up a Barbara Stanwyck comedy on the big screen… but a unique, one-of-a-kind presentation will top Stany.

 

6:15pm: Westward the Women (1951)

I’ve heard of this William Wellman directed, female-led Western, but I’ve never seen it. Before this screening, renowned film historian Jeanine Basinger will receive the Robert Osborne Award, and I’ve also never attended one of those events. This 35mm print plays at the Egyptian, so I hope I have a good chance of making it in!

 

Backup: International House (1933)

Yes, again I’m relegating a pre-Code to a backup. I’ve seen the zany International House in a theater before—with co-star Rose Marie introducing it, to boot—and while I’d love to watch this comedy with a TCMFF audience, new-to-me movies usually take precedence over one I’ve watched before. (Not to mention, it’s in Theater 4…)

 

8pm: Home?

To be honest, nothing in the evening block catches my attention. While I’d love it if one of my other conflicts miraculously moved to this time slot, so goes the festival. I sometimes take free time to discover a movie I haven't seen before, which in this case could be Footloose (1984). Or I may be tired and want to go to sleep before 11pm! We shall see.

 

 

SUNDAY 4/21

9:30am: Law and Order (1932)

While Westerns aren’t normally my thing, this new-to-me pre-Code stars Walter Huston in a script co-written by his son John—plus, it’s a world premiere restoration! Not to mention, it’s relatively short (75 minutes), which is my cup of tea, especially first thing in the morning.

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A French poster for Murder, She Said.

Backup: Murder, She Said (1961)

I know Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple is a fan favorite. I’ve never seen her Agatha Christie adaptations, and TCMFF would be the perfect venue for a first viewing.

 

12pm: The Sin of Nora Moran (1933)

This unique pre-Code first appeared on the 2020 TCMFF schedule. I’ve long hoped for them to re-schedule it, and I’m glad they did this year. The Sin of Nora Moran is a frenetic Poverty Row B-picture about a woman (Zita Johann) who faces hardships and injustice at every turn. It’s long been underrated and underseen, and with the TCMFF crowd, that means it will be popular! (Not to mention, Cora Sue Collins, who appeared in the film as a child, will be on hand to discuss it, and I’ve never heard her talk about this movie.) I’ll probably need to hop out of Law and Order early to snag a queue card for this.

 

Backup: Food, I guess? I don't even want to think about missing The Sin of Nora Moran!

 

2:45pm: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

I’ve seen far too few Alec Guinness movies, and I’ve long heard of The Lavender Hill Mob but never watched it. So, why not?

 

Backup: Columbia’s Centennial Trailer Caravan

This Club TCM event sounds fun and is easy to wander in and out of.

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Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr.

7:30pm: Sherlock Jr. (1924)

My last pick landed in an odd in-between time slot, where the next round of films is slated to start right when my movie lets out. That’s to say: I can enjoy an early sit down dinner (gasp!) and take a longer break before this special 100th anniversary screening of Buster Keaton’s classic Sherlock Jr. The spectacular Mont Alto Picture Orchestra accompanies this program, and it’s always a joy being able to experience a silent picture with live music from such talented musicians. Plus, this is once again a new-to-me film! What a way to end TCMFF 2024.

 

If you’re attending TCMFF this year, let me know what you’re looking forward to!

thanks for stopping by!

I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.

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