I See A Dark Theater's Picks for TCMFF #10
March 28, 2019
We’re almost there—in just 14 days, TCMFF’s 10th anniversary will be upon us! The full festival schedule was unleashed last week, and as per usual, since then attendees have been feverishly plotting their plan(s) of attack.
The network has some fantastic programming in store for this milestone event. That said, it’s always an exhilarating/nerve-wracking/melodramatic/sorrowful endeavor putting together a TCMFF schedule. Inevitably, what happens year after year is that my hardest decisions come down to beloved movies (Holiday, My Favorite Wife) vs. new titles, rarities, guests, and unique programs. In the end, 95% of the time I’ve missed out on those familiar favorites that I can watch anytime—on a small screen, but still—in favor of the films, stars, and presentations that I may never have access to again. (In other words, I’ve never seen an Irene Dunne movie at the fest, which crushes me. But that will change this year! Hopefully.)
With that, below are my picks for TCMFF 2019—plus an extra title or two for every time slot. My guess is that it's 59% likely I'll stick to these selections, as goes the fest!
6:45pm: Night World (1932)
The last three years I’ve been on the opening night red carpet, and I don’t believe I’ve made it to the first block of programming during those fests. No word yet if I’ll be back chatting with guests, but if I am, I need to hustle over to theater 6, because a pre-Code starring Lew Ayres, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, and George Raft is screening this year. Oh, and Karloff’s daughter Sara will be in attendance, and she’s always got insightful stories to share. So, yeah, missing this isn’t an option. (But in case I do, I’m already calling Night World in a TBA spot on Sunday.)
Backup: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Because I’ve actually never seen this movie…
9:30pm: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Ever since the introduction of nitrate programming about two years ago, these rarities (the prints, not the movies) have been uber popular. I expect this classic Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, and Myrna Loy comedy to be no different. Though I enjoy this movie, it’s not one I’d normally make a point to see at TCMFF, but the nitrate factor pushes it to the top. And I’m totally fine with that.
Backup: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
I’ve also never experienced this French classic… and I probably should at some point. Like, TCMFF would be the perfect opportunity. Hmm…
9am: Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) & 10am: Cinerama’s Russian Adventure (1966)
This is a tough morning. Normally, a pre-Code drama about alcoholism (starring Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney, directed by Dorothy Arzner) would of course be the perfect start to my day. However, I own Merrily We Go to Hell and there’s a Cinerama adventure, the last of the format’s compilation films, screening an hour later. Seeing a Cinerama picture in the Dome, one of the few venues in the world capable of screening this format, is such a rare treat that I usually make those priority… even if I can’t stay for the whole 3+ hour spectacle.
Backup: High Society (1956)
I almost* enjoy High Society more than The Philadelphia Story (1940), so I know this screening would be a delight.
*mainly because of Celeste Holm
12pm: "What’s Not to Love About Republic Serials?” (2019)
Paramount archivist Andrea Kalas has presented at the last two festivals, and I thoroughly enjoyed her first program covering the Republic film library. Although this may overlap a tad with that presentation, just reading about the serials Republic produced has me stoked for this event: Mysterious Doctor Satan, Spy Smasher, G-Men vs. The Black Dragon, Haunted Harbor, and there’s so many more…
Backup: Sleeping Beauty (1959)
To be honest, a Disney animated film, even a classic one, would normally not pique my interest. But the guest, Floyd Norman, who worked on the movie and collaborated with Walt Disney, is a name I’ve become familiar with in the last few months, and I would love to hear him speak.
2pm: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
OK, so I’m not actually staying for this movie. (Sorry not sorry, cause the Chinese IMAX won’t sell out so I’m not going to be taking anyone’s seat.) This is another Ben Burtt and Craig Barron presentation—the ‘newest’ film I’ll have seen them discuss—and I never try to miss their entertaining old school technology programs. Here's hoping they’ll don some archeological headgear!
3pm: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
So, this time slot presents a bevy of obstacles for me, in addition to Raiders. I’ve had the chance to see Sunrise in a theater at least once before and haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity, so, it’s basically become a must-see at this point. But even if I had experienced it, this section poses more problems, because there’s Broadway Danny Rose (1984), “Coming Attractions: Trailers in Love” presented by the Academy Film Archive, and the movie below…
Backup: My Favorite Wife (1940)
If I had been able to cross Sunrise off my must-see list, I’d be sitting back at My Favorite Wife, which is definitely my favorite Irene Dunne and Cary Grant flick.
5:30pm: Vanity Street (1932)
Pre-Code. Never heard of it. 35mm. 67 minutes. I can eat dinner after this. Yup, yup, yup.
Backup: Day for Night (1973)
This is another new-to-me title, directed by French master François Truffaut, and star Jacqueline Bisset will be in attendance. So, if the pre-Codes outgrow their new venue, you know where I’ll be.
9:30pm: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
I made a Greer Garson button this year, which means I’m required to attend this screening, right? I’ve probably seen more of Garson’s filmography than any other actress, but ironically, this is one of only two or three movies of hers that I haven’t watched, so it’s a no-brainer. Plus, I’m hoping everyone else will be filling the Egyptian to capacity for Roadhouse (1948) on nitrate, which I’ve already seen at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Backup: Winchester ’73 (1950)
Because I’ve had so many people telling me I must see this movie. And I’ve yet to do so.
12am: Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1961)
OK, there’s no way I can stay up for this, but I have to mention it, because when I saw the guests, Viviana Garcia Besne and Peter Conheim, I lit up. My boyfriend traveled with Peter to Viviana’s archive in Mexico to lend a hand after the earthquake in 2017 and presented a panel with both at an archiving conference last year, where I met them. So, I’m really more excited about their attendance. But also, this screening is going to be a riot. What a wonderful midnight selection.
9:15am: When Worlds Collide (1951)
WHY ARE THE MORNINGS ALWAYS SO DIFFICULT?! I can’t believe I’m passing up a Loy and Powell picture (1937's Double Wedding), 1953's From Here to Eternity with Donna Reed’s daughter in attendance (I may have to sneak into that intro), and 1942's All Through the Night, a gangsters vs. Nazis comedy thriller starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and Judith Anderson (WTF). But silly sounding 1950s sci-fi flicks are a guilty pleasure, and I am more than looking forward to star Barbara Rush’s conversation with sci-fi aficionado Dennis Miller.
Actually, the more I read about All Through the Night, the more I’ve kind of become obsessed with seeing it. Though that would cancel out any hope of catching Mary Owen’s intro for From Here to Eternity... CHOICES.
11:30am: A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
There’s a Burtt and Barron program for 1934's Tarzan and His Mate running during this block, and the only reason I won’t be there is because of my boyfriend, who is a huge John Cassavetes fan. I haven’t seen this movie AND Gena Rowlands will be there to introduce it, so… that is happening. As a consolation, I’m convincing myself that Burtt and Barron’s presentation may be similar to the one they delivered for Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) a few years ago.
Backup: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
This is a movie that I’ve meant to watch for approximately 50 years. I feel like I’ve come very close on multiple occasions but for some reason just never made it. And I’m assuming it would be excellent with an audience.
2:45pm: Love Affair (1939)
FINALLY, after about 350 misses, I’m going to see an Irene Dunne movie on the big screen at TCMFF. Ideally, it would be a comedy (specifically, My Favorite Wife because we will be graced with TWO Dunne pictures this year), but I’ll take what I can get, and I guarantee you I will enjoy it.*
* That’s if my schedule goes according to plan, of course, the likelihood of which is about 35%.
Backup: Father Goose (1964)
I’ve yet to see this Cary Grant flick and several cast members will be in attendance. What better way to experience a movie for the first time?
5:15pm: Blood Money (1933)
As explained on TCMFF’s site: “With a cross-dressing bit player, jokes about hemorrhoids, a leading lady who’s a masochistic kleptomaniac and wall-to-wall civic corruption, this may just be the ultimate pre-Code film.” Yes, please. Plus, we get to see Judith Anderson in her film debut, Frances Dee plays a “compulsive liar and sex maniac,” and there are TWO discussions, one before and one after the film? Can we form a line for this one now, TCMFF?
Backup: It Happened Here (1964)
Blood Money occupies what I call a mini block, and I want to see the movie after it, too. Thus, I’d probably opt for an actual sit down meal (!) if I miss that picture, but I have heard great (and terrifying) things about It Happened Here. Also, director Kevin Brownlow will be presented with The Robert Osborne Award during this screening, which would be a treat to see.
7:30pm: Life Begins at 40 (1935)
I’m generally not a huge fan of Will Rogers, but this is one of the handful of titles playing the festival that I’ve never heard of. Plus, it’s screening on 35mm and the always illuminating Leonard Maltin is delivering the intro. Sold.
Backup: The Bad Seed (1956), with complications
Fun fact: After watching this movie in our high school creative writing class, my friend Christina and I decided to dress like Rhoda and her mom for Halloween… mostly because Christina had the same long straight blonde hair as Patty McCormick and I liked 1950s style dresses. This screening rolls over into the next block, so I couldn’t stay poolside for the whole thing, though.
9:30pm: Samson and Delilah (1949)
Biblical epics, especially ones that run over two hours, aren’t normally my jam. But this is one of two nitrate color screenings presented at the festival this year, it stars the luminous Hedy Lamarr, and Victor Mature’s daughter Victoria will be in attendance. That's more than enough incentive for me to catch this rare screening!
Backup: Waterloo Bridge (1931) or Indiscreet (1958)
I don’t pass pre-Codes up easily, especially ones introduced by Mark Vieira, author of Sin in Soft Focus. However, I own this movie and can watch it anytime (even though I haven’t done that yet...). As for Indiscreet, the last time I saw this flick was several years ago, but I remember adoring it, and I know that I’d enjoy watching this with a crowd. Sigh, decisions.
The Student Nurses (1970) actually sounds incredibly intriguing, but I know sleep will prevail.
9:15am: Mad Love (1935)
Mad Love is another movie I’ve long been meaning to see, and it sounds kooky enough that watching it with an audience would only add to the experience. Plus, I can’t wait to hear what Bill Hader has to say about it!
Backup: Holiday (1938)
I almost took offense to the fact that Mad Love was scheduled opposite of Holiday. I own this movie and have seen it recently, but Holiday was one of my entryways into classic film and will forever be very special to me, so I’d love to see it with a theater full of fans!
11:45am: Magnificent Obsession (1954)
Another day, another classic I’ve yet to see. And I’m about due for a good Douglas Sirk melodrama.
Backup: Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
Though I’m a big fan of comedy and Lucille Ball, Yours, Mine and Ours has never wowed me. But I’d be down to give it another chance, especially if that means I get to hear from some of the younger cast members.
2:30pm: Cold Turkey (1971)
I was close to dismissing this unheard of title—until I read the synopsis (small townspeople try to quit smoking for a $25 million prize?!) and saw the names Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, and Norman Lear (who will be in attendance!).
Backup: The Killers (1964)
I keep thinking that I’ve watched this movie, but I haven’t—only the 1946 version. I’m all in to see Ronald Reagan play the bad guy and hear Angie Dickinson speak.
5:15pm: A Woman of Affairs (1928)
Greta Garbo + John Gilbert + Douglas Fairbanks Jr. + big screen + live orchestra + Kevin Brownlow + Leonard Maltin = <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Gone with the Wind (1939) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) both stretch into the final block, so those are a no-go. However, there are two TBA titles that line up nicely in this slot, so hopefully one of those is a pre-Code or something I missed out on before.
8pm: The Dolly Sisters (1945)
The last two festivals I’ve closed out with nitrate selections (1944’s Lady in the Dark and 1937’s A Star is Born), so why not go for three? Musicals aren’t my favorite but this lavish Technicolor flick sounds like a sprightly way to close out the festival.
Depending on the title, of course. It's that, or the comic stylings of Abbott and Costello in Buck Privates (1941), which I feel like I owe it to my Dad to see.
9pm: Closing Night Party
And sleep! :) And then work the next morning! :(
Whew, that's an exhausting schedule—and I can't wait for it! For those readers who will be attending TCMFF, please feel free to share your picks below. See you in Hollywood!