The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day 3
April 22, 2023
Saturday’s schedule started bright and early! I left my apartment at 7:20am, parked at 7:30am, and was in line at the Hollywood Legion Theater by 7:45am for The Wiser Sex (1932). As the only super, super rare pre-Code playing this year (and the only one slated for the 450+ seat Legion), I knew it would be popular. And it was! I heard this was the only screening at the Legion this year that passholders were turned away from; luckily, I secured a low queue number and got in with no issue.
Lilyan Tashman and Claudette Colbert in The Wiser Sex.
As Cari Beauchamp mentioned in her introduction, The Wiser Sex didn’t reach the salaciousness level of, say, Red-Headed Woman (1932) or Baby Face (1933). However, the film did have its share of pre-Code moments, some of which I eagerly anticipated because I was able to peek inside the movie’s Production Code file. (Claudette Colbert nonchalantly proclaiming that men are stupid elicited the loudest applause.) I’m not normally a huge fan of Colbert or her co-star Melvyn Douglas, but I must say that she delivered a good performance; Lilyan Tashman was also a highlight. Douglas… well, there’s a reason I don’t like him; I thought he was stiff and kind of boring. While the film wasn’t my greatest discovery of the fest, I appreciated the opportunity to experience such a rarity with a packed house and enthusiastic fans.
When Worlds Collide (1951) presentation by Ben Burtt and Craig Barron at the Hollywood Legion. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
After The Wiser Sex, I hopped right back in line for the next program, When Worlds Collide (1951) with an introduction by Oscar winners Ben Burtt and Craig Barron. I actually saw the movie at TCMFF 2019 with star Barbara Rush in attendance, but I couldn’t pass up the legendary Burtt and Barron! So, I stayed for their behind-the-scenes presentation detailing some of the special effects that went into making the movie, which was entertaining as always. (Apparently, Burtt added some sounds to the film itself, which I think I heard them testing on line.) Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at this event soon.
Another special presentation awaited me after lunch: Paramount archivist Andrea Kalas’ program “Varieties and Novelties: A Trip Through the Short Subjects from the Paramount Archives.” I’ve long enjoyed her archival-driven programs at TCMFF, so once I saw her name, this event rocketed to the top of my list. Snippets from Betty Boop, Rube Goldberg’s Travel Gab, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood, George Pal’s Puppetoons, newsreels, fitness shorts, scenes from a Harlem nightclub and more made for a pleasant hour. I’m always happy to support the preservation and exhibition of programs that can easily slip through the cracks, like short subjects.
Next up was my toughest block of the whole festival. Up until this point, I hadn’t seen many special guests from the classic film era. So, I prioritized that during this time slot, but there was a big dilemma: Russ Tamblyn vs. Ann-Margret. My original plan was to hear Ann-Margret’s introduction for Bye Bye Birdie (1963) at the Chinese Theater IMAX, which would probably only last 15 or 20 minutes, and then race over to Club TCM for the second part of Tamblyn’s talk. However, when I went to get a queue card for Bye Bye Birdie about 45 minutes before showtime, there was close to 400 people in line already. That meant it would be crowded, it would take a while to seat everyone and the film might not start on time. So, I nixed that idea and made my way to Club TCM, where I secured a good spot for Tamblyn’s conversation with Ben Mankiewicz. He shared some fantastic stories about his gymnastics background (which I want to hear all about!), working with famous choreographers, West Side Story (1961) and much more. I will definitely write more about this event soon, so be sure to look out for that article.
Russ Tamblyn and Ben Mankiewicz ahead of Tamblyn's Club TCM conversation. (Photo courtesy Warner Media)
After Tamblyn’s talk, I stayed put, because my next program was another presentation, “Assisting the Classics.” Alicia Malone spoke to three former assistants who worked for Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, George Cukor and Groucho Marx, asking them what their experience was like and how they landed their jobs. As someone who worked with an entertainment legend during the last years of his life, I was very interested in this conversation; indeed, some of the stories they shared mirrored my own experience, both the good and the bad. This is another program I will write more about sometime in the future.
I did have a big schedule change Saturday night, which cut short my time at “Assisting the Classics” so I could quickly grab dinner. Originally, I planned to see Unfinished Business (1941) at 9:45pm, an Irene Dunne film I’d never heard of before. (HOW?!) But, it had been a long day, and I knew I’d be sleepy during the screening, so I made the tough decision to forgo the movie and catch one in the 6:30pm block instead. That said, I wanted to replace Unfinished Business with another new discovery, which meant Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), my backup starring Barbara Stanwyck, was out and How to Steal a Million (1966) was in.
I had barely heard of How to Steal a Million, so I went in blind—except knowing that the 60s caper starred Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole and was directed by William Wyler. Wyler’s son David was on hand to share some background on the movie, which I’ll detail more of at a later time. Overall, I found How to Steal a Million a delightful romp. Hepburn and O’Toole enjoyed a wonderfully light, playful chemistry; the steady stream of comedy landed throughout and, despite clocking in at over two hours, I was very much invested and interested in the plot. (I will say that the movie could have been edited a little tighter and move quicker in some parts.) I am 99% sure I would not have thought of seeing this film in any other setting, so I’m glad I got to discover this gem at TCMFF.
That also meant I arrived home at a reasonable hour and could relax before the final day! Stay tuned for my recap of the last 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.