The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day 4
April 24, 2023
Welcome to my recap of the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival! Last week, I wrote about my pre-fest activities and first three days at the fest. You can read those articles HERE, HERE and HERE.
I skipped the first block of films on Sunday, mostly because I wanted to hop in line early for No Man of Her Own (1932). I’m glad I did, because many passholders were turned away from this pre-Code screening in theater 4. (No Man of Her Own was my first run-in with the infamous, tiny theater 4 this year.) While I had seen the movie before, I thoroughly enjoyed watching future husband and wife Clark Gable and Carole Lombard’s first and only film pairing; their chemistry radiates off the screen. The movie boosts some fantastic pre-Code moments, too, mostly courtesy Gable and the wonderful, under-appreciated Dorothy Mackaill.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in No Man of Her Own.
I actually raced out of No Man of Her Own 10 minutes early to hop in line for the next picture playing in theater 4: Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (1935). This was the movie I looked forward to seeing most—outside of the pre-Codes, of course. I always prioritize new discoveries at the fest, and there’s usually two or three films from the 30s or 40s on the schedule that I’ve never heard of; nine times out of 10, that instantly makes me want to see them. That’s what happened with Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk, a Warner Brothers picture made in England.
Given that Leonard Maltin was slated to introduce the film and it’s rather hard to find, save for a recent screening on TCM, I figured the theater would be packed. But… that turned out not to be the case. Perhaps some fans figured they’d be turned away (at least one person I know said as much) or other films during this block proved more enticing, but the theater was only about 70% full, which astonished me.
That said, I'm very glad I got to see Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk; it turned out to be my favorite discovery of the fest. It came with high praise, too: Maltin related a story in this introduction about one of his mentors, film historian and preservationist William K. Everson. Maltin and Everson had a mutual friend who, at one point, had access to Warner Brothers’ entire library. He asked Everson what was the one WB movie he’d love to see, and immediately, he replied Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk. The friend was thoroughly surprised; they had never had a request for that title. Everson got hold of a print and shared it with friends, which is how Maltin first saw it decades ago. When TCM’s Charlie Tabesh asked Maltin if he had recommendations for this year’s fest, this was the first film that came to mind. (The title card on the print actually read Father Takes a Walk, a change Maltin suspected was done for TV to “de-ethnicize” the title.)
Paul Graetz as the lead in Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk.
I think most of those in the audience would agree that Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk is a sweet film with a lot of heart and a good dose of humor. The generational differences in the workplace, the family bonds and strife, the religious tension and eventual unification, and the compassionate ideas the main character espouses are all topics that remain relatable today. (I really enjoyed the part of the film when Mr. Cohen takes his walk, which I figured would encompass more of the movie; he doesn’t get on his way until basically the last act!)
I took a break the next block to walk around and enjoy a sit-down dinner. I knew I’d need some energy for my final film of the fest, another new discovery: Clash of the Wolves (1925). I love experiencing silent films with live accompaniment at the fest and usually try to make a point to attend at least one silent screening. (And if it stars a dog, all the better!) The plot here is pretty simple—Rin Tin Tin is viewed as a menacing wolf (he’s apparently half wolf, half dog), but when he’s saved by Charles Farrell, he does him a solid and saves his new owner, too. It’s a fun, action-packed film that features impressive dog acting from its star, some intense stunts, a crazy/hilarious disguise (again, for Rin Tin Tin) and an adorable pack of puppies.
Charles Farrell and Rin Tin Tin in The Clash of the Wolves.
Jacqueline Stewart enthusiastically invited us to her Silent Sunday night series—live this time!—before she chatted briefly with musician Ben Model on stage. Model scored The Clash of the Wolves before, and while he tends to follow a similar thematic structure, since he doesn’t write his scores down, all his performances differ slightly. He also takes cues from the audience, and he encouraged us to get into the story, which we did; cheers erupted for Rin Tin Tin’s heroic stunts and boos could be heard when villains appeared on screen.
All in all, The Clash of the Wolves was a fantastic way to end the fest. I enjoyed so many lovely conversations, got to see some wonderful friends and I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year.
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.