And It Begins: My 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival Preview
March 27, 2023
It’s that time again—the TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood April 13-16. This year’s theme is Celebrating Film Legacies, highlighting “stories told and retold over generations that have shaped our identities, shared culture and values.” Among other things, TCMFF 2023 will commemorate Warner Brothers’ 100th anniversary and feature special appearances by William Friedkin, Ann-Margret, Russ Tamblyn, Angie Dickinson and many more.
I'll be attending the festival with a media pass this year and will be documenting the experience here, on Twitter and on Instagram, so please follow along when the fest kicks off! In the meantime, here’s a preview of 2023’s event, maddeningly detailed through my annual pain-staking, chaotic and crazy decision-making process.
7:30pm: One Way Passage (1932)
Last year I was set to open the fest with another William Powell-Kay Francis flick from 1932, Jewel Robbery. That didn’t happen for me, but hopefully this one will! I have my eye on the pre-Codes, as always, and would love to open the fest with one.
Backup: I’ve never seen Hairspray (1988), so taking it in for the first time poolside at the Roosevelt with Ricki Lake and Mario Cantone sounds like an epic experience.
10:15pm: Genevieve (1953)
Two things I adore about TCMFF: new discoveries and special guests. Well, this screening has both going for it—I’ve never heard of it, and Diane Baker will be in attendance. I don’t know her connection to the movie, but it’s always a pleasure to hear her speak.
Backup: Sleep, because Genevieve starts around the time I’m supposed to be winding down!
9am: King Kong (1933)
I’ll be working Friday, but you better believe I’ll be day dreaming about this 90th anniversary screening on the giant IMAX screen! I just saw King Kong in a theater within the last year, but that IMAX element definitely had the devil on my shoulder convincing me to skip work today…
Chester (James Cagney) and Francis (Frank McHugh) with a bevy of chorus girls in Footlight Parade.
12pm: Footlight Parade (1933)
Another Friday pre-Code, another film I have to miss because of work. Sadness. Luckily, I’ve also seen this in a theater—the opulent Orpheum downtown—but I really wanted to watch it again with an audience; it’s my favorite WB pre-Code musical. Plus, Bruce Goldstein is doing the intro, and I expect him to share many nuggets from this film's Production Code file. So, if you're reading this, I highly recommend this screening!
5pm: Banned in the South: Hollywood, Censorship, and Depictions of Race
This Club TCM presentation will most likely be the first program I’ll attend on Friday. As someone who has conducted a ton of research in the Academy's Production Code files, I know a lot about classic film censorship, but I don’t know a lot when it comes to depictions of race. I’m very keen to learn more about this and fill the gaps in my knowledge.
9pm: Man’s Castle (1933)
Man, pre-Code Spencer Tracy = fire. I’m so glad TCM is screening this rarity. So glad, in fact, that I’m passing up the previous block of films so I can get in line super early. While it’s not relegated to the dreaded tiny Theater 4, the slightly larger capacity of Theater 1 will still make this a tough one to get into.
8pm: Beach Party (1963)
Stepping back in time for a moment, but here’s my thought process: Queue numbers are generally handed out one hour in advance of a film’s screening time. I’ll grab my number for Man’s Castle, leap across Hollywood Blvd., listen to Frankie Avalon’s intro to Beach Party, and then head back for Man’s Castle. Or I’ll stay at the Roosevelt, if somehow my number for Man’s Castle is over 100. (It’s a pre-Code, so anything can happen.)
I probably won't stay up to see the film, but here's my Batwoman shirt!
11:59pm: The Batwoman (1968)
Realistically, I will be sleeping at this time. In spirit, however, I will be at this screening, clad in the Batwoman t-shirt Viviana García Besné gifted me. Viviana, who helped restore the film, will be doing the intro for this midnight flick; she’s a friend I met through my boyfriend, who has helped her archive in Mexico out on numerous occasions. (You can read my 2019 interview with Viviana HERE.) Normally, I would be at any screening she's introducing, but I literally would not be able to keep my eyes open this late.
9am: The Wiser Sex (1932)
Each year, TCM programs at least one super rare pre-Code that everyone gets obsessed with, sells out quickly and wins a TBA spot on Sunday. I predict this will be that pre-Code, and I fully intend on being one of the first people in line. Unfortunately, that means I need to be at the Legion Theater—yes, 500+ seats, thank you TCM!—at 8am. I may or may not be contemplating camping out in their parking lot and/or downstairs bar…
Backup: If, somehow, 500 early risers beat me to The Wiser Sex, I will gladly race down the street to hear Russ Tamblyn speak before Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). He’s a fest honoree this year, and I really want to see him at least once!
11:30am: Academy Conversations: When Worlds Collide (1951)
Right back to the Legion line I go again for this film. TCMFF actually programmed this classic at the 2019 festival, which I attended to hear star Barbara Rush speak. I normally wouldn’t re-watch a fest selection, but my favorites, Ben Burtt and Craig Barron, are doing a presentation on the movie’s sound and visual effects, and I can’t pass up their entertaining events. (Though I will probably pass on the picture since I saw it so recently.)
1:30pm: Varieties & Novelties: A Trip Through the Short Subjects from the Paramount Archives (2023)
Skipping out on When Worlds Collide will allow me time: 1. To eat and 2. To line up for this special presentation by Paramount archivist Andrea Kalas. I’ve long enjoyed the unique treasures she's shared from both Paramount and Republic in fests past, and I can’t wait to see what she’s unearthed for us this year!
3pm: A Conversation with Russ Tamblyn
Without a doubt, this block represents the toughest decision of the whole fest for me, and I know I’m not alone. (This year, there are two or three slots jam packed with things I don’t want to miss, and then other blocks I’m fine skipping!) I really want to make it a point to hear Tamblyn this year, but this talk is up against an intro by another classic film star, so I may just have to split my time (or myself?) into two…
It’s a tie: Ann-Margret is introducing Bye Bye Birdie (1963) at the Chinese Theatre IMAX at the same time Tamblyn will be in Club TCM. While I would love to see this film (I never have, it’s screening on the enormous IMAX screen and Dick Van Dyke co-stars!), I think I’ll try to catch Ann-Margret’s intro and then fly over to Club TCM for the second half of Tamblyn’s talk. Let’s hope the timing and traffic work out for me.
Backup: Of course, a pre-Code is also screening at the same time, just to make the decision even more challenging. I’ve seen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) on the big screen before, but Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins are so good and there’s so many fantastic pre-Code moments that this is a hard one to pass up.
5pm: Assisting the Classics
As someone who worked closely with a legendary entertainment figure (not in the classic film world, but he was a fan!), I’m very intrigued to hear about these guests’ experiences working with luminaries like George Cukor, Groucho Marx, Esther Williams, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
Backup: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I adore fest discoveries. In most other blocks, The Crimson Canary (1945), a 64-minute B murder mystery I’ve never heard of, would 100% be my top choice. Sigh. Perhaps it will win a TBA spot on Sunday considering it’s been confined to the teensy Theater 4.
6:30pm: Sorry Wrong Number (1948)
I feel it my duty to see one Barbara Stanwyck film every year, and timing-wise, this one fits the bill. Plus, it would be fun to watch with a crowd.
9:45pm: Unfinished Business (1941)
An Irene Dunne rom com I’ve never seen?!? SAY NO MORE, even though the insanely late starting time will have me struggling to stay awake. Solution: snacks, lots of them.
12:15pm: No Man of Her Own (1932)
Of course, I’m totally fine skipping the first block of the day, only to come head to head with a dilemma: Attempt this pre-Code in Theater 4, or see The Red Shoes (1948) for the first time. Since I’m sitting the morning festivities out, I plan on hunkering down in line early for this pre-Code. That should be enough to make it in… right?
Backup: If the Theater 4 pre-Code situation seems hopeless by the time I pick up my queue card, I’ll opt for The Red Shoes (1948) instead. I’ve tried many times to see it , and I’ve been told it’s best to experience this one on the big screen, so maybe fate will make it happen this year.
2:30pm: Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (1935)
Back to back rarities in Theater 4?! Just my luck. TCM always programs one or two films from the 1930s or 40s that I’ve never heard of. Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk, aka Father Takes a Walk, is one such title this year. I still remember being blown away by another little-known British movie, On Approval (1944), several years ago at the fest, and this picture, a sweet-sounding tale set in England, definitely is new discovery material; I’m also traveling to England later this year, so the country is on my mind. (That said, it is playing on TCM April 10, so hopefully it will be on demand if I miss this showing.)
TBAs, TBAs, TBAs: The selections announced in these Sunday slots will probably direct my afternoon viewing, as they usually do.
7:15pm: Clash of the Wolves (1925)
I’ve never heard of this silent film, and that always piques my curiosity. Upon further review, Clash of the Wolves stars Rin Tin Tin as a pup who helps Charles Farrell (a favorite of mine) win his love (June Marlowe). The dog also helped put newly formed Warner Brothers on the map! Really, who doesn’t love a dog movie?! Plus, there’s live accompaniment by Ben Model, the film screens on 35mm and it's 74 minutes long. Win, win, win.
Backup: The only reason I may skip Clash of the Wolves is because it’s a long fest, and my exhaustion may not fare well with a silent film. If I’m feeling that, I may opt for The Big Chill (1983), a movie I’ve never seen that’s holding a mini cast reunion in the IMAX.
If you’re attending TCMFF this year, let me know what movies and presentations you’re looking forward to! And stay tuned for a more in-depth preview of all the pre-Codes playing this year, 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.