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Pre-Fest and Day 1 of the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival: Previews, Star Stories, and a Pre-Code

April 22, 2024

The 15th annual TCM Classic Film Festival just wrapped. As usual, it was a wonderful four days filled with friends, films, and very little sleep.

 

Today’s the first of my daily recaps from the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival. I’ll be combining the abbreviated first day of the fest, Thursday, with some of my pre-fest activities, which started on Tuesday.

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This is where we began the TCM Classic Films Tour on the WB backlot. (Picture by Kim Luperi)

TUESDAY 4/16

TCM Classic Films Tour  

Warner Brothers Studio Tour Hollywood and Turner Classic Movies recently teamed up for the TCM Classic Films Tour on the WB backlot. I had the opportunity to take a preview tour on Tuesday morning, which featured an entertaining conversation with TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz and Dave Karger, WB’s Danny Kahn and George Feltenstein, and actor Burton Gilliam, who filmed Blazing Saddles (1974) on the lot 50 years ago. I’ll have a more in-depth recap of this event in the coming weeks, so look out for that!

 

As part of the tour, we got to ride through New York and Brownstone streets, see Bette Davis’s former bungalow, peek the sound stage Casablanca (1942) and other classics were filmed on, walk through the prop department (which was UNREAL), obsess over costumes from classics like My Fair Lady (1964), and much more. Despite living in Los Angeles, I had never taken a WB tour. (They have four versions!) It was a thrill witnessing a small percentage of the history the studio has painstakingly preserved and simply being on a working lot.

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TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz, Eddie Muller, Jacqueline Stewart, Dave Karger, and Alicia Malone on stage at the media reception. (Picture by Kim Luperi)

WEDNESDAY 4/17

TCMFF Media Reception

As I mentioned in my TCMFF preview, I was lucky to land a media pass for the fest this year. The first time I attended a TCMFF media reception was last year, and happily, my schedule allowed me to attend this year’s event, too.

 

All five TCM hosts—Ben Mankiewicz, Eddie Muller, Jacqueline Stewart, Dave Karger, and Alicia Malone—were on hand to welcome media to the festival. The hosts shared the events they were looking forward to and also announced the newest season of The Plot Thickens podcast, focusing on director John Ford. (Fun fact: Eddie Muller voiced Ford!)

 

Eddie is excited for Sunday, his “single greatest day introducing movies ever, because I get to introduce the greatest film noir ever made, Double Indemnity (1944), I get to introduce the greatest detective story ever made, Chinatown (1974), and the greatest heist movie ever made, The Asphalt Jungle (1950), all in one day.” (To that, Ben countered, “Similarly, on Sunday, I’m introducing The Long, Long Trailer.”) Jacqueline is looking forward to interviewing Billy Dee Williams—and her mom will be on Facetime to ask him a question! Dave can’t wait to introduce a recent discovery of his, The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), featuring John Carradine as the villain. (Keith Carradine will be on hand to talk about his dad.) “There’s always so many films that I haven’t seen before playing at the festival,” Alicia said, “and so many films that I will continue not getting to see at the festival, because we’re all so busy!” She’d love to watch Heavenly Bodies (1984), but sadly, she won’t get to!

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A Vitaphone disc for Mysterious Island (1929). You can't see it here, but the title is etched into the disc! (Picture by Kim Luperi)

Afterwards, I chatted with other media passholders and admired the movie memorabilia in Club TCM. Original Vitaphone discs, sheet music from The Wizard of Oz (1939), costumes from classics like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Hondo (1953), and ephemera from TCM, including polaroids of Robert Osborne, were sights to behold.

THURSDAY 4/18

So You Want to Put on a Classic Film Festival

TCM reunited many of the key people involved in bringing the first festival to life in 2010, including Charlie Tabesh, Genevieve McGillicuddy, Gina McKenzie, and Darcy Hettrich. It was a heartwarming conversation; they shared laughter, jokes, stories, and photos. After some brief reminiscing about the logistics and effort involved in that debut event, the program turned largely to story time about the stars. To sum it up, Darcy could write a book (or ten) based on her talent experience. She shared tales of getting Jerry Lewis, Burt Reynolds, Luise Rainer, and more to the festival. (Rainer’s story involved getting the 100-year-old star across the Atlantic when a volcano in Iceland grounded all flights!) There’s too many juicy stories to share here, so look out for a dedicated article on this conversation soon.

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A stark, dramatic Dutch poster for Only Yesterday.

Only Yesterday (1933)

OK, I take back everything I said about John Boles in my pre-Code preview. He was great in this movie. Margaret Sullivan was amazing in this movie. Billy Burke was terrific in this movie. It boasts countless pre-Code moments, from Sullavan and Boles’s affair to Burke’s entire characterization and beyond. I researched this film’s Production Code Administration file before the fest, and it was a thrill seeing so many of the censored lines on screen that I read about in the file. (Also, I finally got to understand the context around some of them, like the sash line!) Overall, I enjoyed Only Yesterday more than I thought, from the comedy to the tragedy and everything in between, and found it more provocative than I imagined. Certainly a high note to start the fest on! 

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This board greeted fans poolside before entering the screening of Clue. I'm not exactly sure what this game entailed, but it looks fun and I wish I could have played along! (Picture by Kim Luperi)

Clue (1985)

I had already decided against The Small Back Room (1949), because it would get out after midnight, and I simply wasn’t ready for that on day one. (Plus, I needed to be back in Hollywood by 7:30am the following day to hop in line for the Vitaphone presentation, one of my most anticipated programs of the fest!) So, I stopped by the poolside screening of Clue instead to enjoy some mid-movie jokes. It looked like they had some sort of mystery scavenger hunt set up pre-show, and as a big Clue fan, I would have loved to partake in that and hear Lesley Ann Warren’s intro! But I was happy to take in part of the movie poolside before calling it a semi-early night and heading off to bed.

 

Stay tuned for my day 2 review, coming tomorrow!

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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