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Day 3 of the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival: Nitrate and New Discoveries

April 29, 2024

Welcome to my day 3 recap of the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival! To catch up on day 1 and my pre-fest activities, click here. To read what I was up to day 2, click here.


Saturday started very early. Like, arriving to Hollywood at 7:15am early. But there was a good reason for this!

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Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948)

I got up bright and early for this nitrate noir at the Egyptian—and I’m glad I did. The line snaked around the corner well before 8am, which tells you a lot about how passionate TCM fans are. I know this nitrate print, which comes from UCLA, has screened before there, but somehow, I missed it. I also attempted to watch it at home one night… and fell asleep. I remembered the beginning right at the start, and at the same time I was absolutely entranced by the way Gail Russell’s eyes glowed. From that point, I was hooked! 


Edward G. Robinson, playing a phony medium who starts to really predict the future, was phenomenal as a man who is more terrified by his gift than excited by it. Russell and John Lund, two actors I'm not as familiar with, also turned in solid performances. It’s always a delight seeing rarely screened nitrate prints and even better when it’s with an enthusiastic, appreciative crowd. Afterwards, I heard a lot of people saying they were on the edge of their seats during the film's tense climax; that’s how you know you just watched a fantastic noir!


Next on the schedule: racing over to the Multiplex in hopes of making it into She Done Him Wrong (1933). The Mae West pre-code was slated for Theatre 4, because it screened on 35mm. Armed with a queue number of #52, I figured I’d be OK… but I wasn’t. I’ve seen the movie before, so it wasn’t a huge letdown, but I was looking forward to experiencing a West film on the big screen for the first time. When we were informed that they weren’t letting any more people in, I rounded the bend in the line to hop right back where I was for Queen of the Mob, which I 100% would not have made it to if I went to see She Done Him Wrong, so it all worked out. (Also, noticing how long the Theatre 4 lines were prompted me switch up my priorities for Sunday. More on that later.)

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Queen of the Mob (1940)

This was on my schedule because 1. It’s a film I hadn’t heard of before, 2. My friend Jeremy Arnold was introducing it, and 3. The runtime was an hour. Ralph Bellamy got top billing, but this Paramount B-movie was all about Blanche Yurka. She played the queen of the title, a criminal mastermind who oversees her gang made up 75% of her sons and 25% of J. Carrol Naish. A stage star who hoped this film would bring her stardom (it didn’t), Yurka possessed a quietly fierce presence that made her all the more menacing. As the G-Men start to close in on the group, it's interesting to witness the power dynamics at play, both internally (ring leader vs. mother) and externally (Yurka vs. Naish). Arnold said in his intro that this film has never had a DVD release, nor has it played on TCM. It was truly a treat to experience a pristine print of what amounts to a forgotten film.

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Robert Taylor may be at the head, but it's the ladies who rule in Westward the Women.

Westward the Women (1951)

I heard countless people talking about attending this screening, so I went slightly overboard and lined up two hours early. That turned out to be overkill, but on the bright side, I got to meet and chat with three lovely fellow fans, Sophia, Emily, and Duncan.


What can I say about this film except WOW! I think that was the reaction every single person I spoke to afterwards had about Westward the Women. I had never heard of this William Wellman Western before. I’m not sure why it flies under the radar, but it absolutely shouldn’t, and I’m so glad film historian/professor Jeanine Basinger picked this film to play at her Robert Osborne Award ceremony.


Westward the Women stars Robert Taylor as a guide hired to escort a large group of women who volunteer to journey west from Chicago to marry new settlers in California. On the surface, it sounds like a story that presents the women simply as objects, right? Wrong. The reality was very different and quite refreshing. As Basinger pointed out in her introduction, the women chose the men they wanted to marry, not the other way around, which was not what you’d normally see in the 1800s or the 1950s! And more than once, the trip leaders remind the settlers that they’d better treat the women well—or else. (At one point Taylor even shoots one of the men for raping a women, and he doesn’t get punished for it at the end, which surprised me.) It was a slow-moving picture, just as the laborious passage west was during those days, and it took its time showing the audience in a very frank way how arduous and deadly the journey was—and how incredibly strong the women were. Westward the Women goes down as one of my favorite discoveries of this year’s fest. Hopefully, I’ll share more of Basinger’s talk soon.


Westward the Women ended my Saturday on a high note. Since the next block of films wouldn’t get out until 11pm or later, I opted instead to head home and get a decent night's sleep. Stay tuned for my recap of the final day of TCMFF, coming soon!

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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