Mr. Strangeways is a big phat classic Hollywood film nerd and his favorite old movie TV channel is Turner Classic Movies, aka “TCM” which has dedicated itself to presenting the great films from the silent era through Hollywood’s Golden and Silver Ages. If you’re over 40 or so and existed in a world before cable TV and thousands of TV channels, you probably only grew up with 4 to 8 local TV options to choose from, which would make anyone born in a post cable world CRY, but it was actually an amazing opportunity to see terrific (and, not so terrific) old films on the “Afternoon Movie Matinee” or “The Late Late Show” on your local TV stations. EVERY station in every market would program old movies at some point during the week, so anyone old enough to watch TV prior to about 1985 or so, got to grow up in a world with access to Abbot & Costello comedies; Douglas Sirk tearjerkers usually starring Lana Turner or Jane Wyman; Elvis Presley vehicles; Warner Brothers potboilers and crime dramas; and an endless loop of Univerasal Studios classic movie monsters and Japanese Godzilla films on the Saturday night version of “Creature Feature” in your local market. It was DIVINE!
Sadly, the advent and competition from cable television caused local stations to stop programming old movies. And, local independent channels, not aligned to any network, that would broadcast hours and hours of classic films, started signing up with the then new Fox, and WB networks thus ending their need to rely on syndicated film programming. It also didn’t help that black & white films were stigmatized as “old fashioned” and unwatchable by dumb programmers.
But, cable tv did allow the creation of new cable networks dedicated to the broadcast of older cinema. AMC, prior to becoming Hollywood original programming big shots with hits like “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead”, was originally created to be an outlet for the huge catalog of old 2oth Century Fox films. The Bravo cable channel, was originally an arts based network that frequently programmed great old films, prior to Bravo becoming the home of reality TV junk. But, TCM was the king of classic film and largely spearheaded by founder Ted Turner who loved old films, the cable network quickly became the go to home for fans of classic cinema. TCM also became the masters of their domain, simply for the fact that Ted Turner, and later Time/Life and Warner Brothers who bought out Mr. Turner, owned the entire catalog of major Hollywood studios like Warner Brothers, MGM, and RKO and struck deals to broadcast the films of other studios including Universal and Paramount. They had a gold mine of material to draw from and present to their fans.
So it was a bit of a no brainer on the part of some clever soul at TCM to create a new film festival dedicated to the big screen presentation of classic films and in 2010 the TCM Classic Film Festival was born in Los Angeles. Originally a small event, the huge success of the festival has led to phenomenal growth, and this year’s festival running April 25-28, 2013 in various iconic venues in Hollywood, is expected to be attended by 25,000 devoted fans. And, here’s what you can expect from this year’s festival:
The 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival will open with a gala presentation of the newly restored musical classic Funny Girl (1968). The lineup for the festival includes appearances by Jane Fonda, who will have her hand and footprints enshrined at the TCL Chinese Theatre prior to a screening of On Golden Pond (1981); Tippi Hedren, who will be on hand for a 50th anniversary screening of the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds (1963); and documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles whose extraordinary career will be celebrated with presentations of his films Gimme Shelter (1970) and Salesman (1968). The festival will also celebrate Bugs Bunny’s 75th Birthday, with a collection of shorts curated and presented by Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck. And silent film composer Carl Davis will be on hand to conduct his score for the classic It (1927). Among the many restorations set to premiere at the festival are The Big Parade (1925), The General (1926), Giant (1956) and The Great Escape (1963), Badlands (1973) and Scarecrow (1973), plus many more.
TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne serves as official host of the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz also introducing films and events during the festival. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony, will once again serve as the official hotel for the festival, as well as a central gathering point for attendees. Screenings and events will also be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre. The Hollywood Roosevelt will also offer special rates for festival attendees.
Other amazing programs include a Tribute to Max von Sydow with a screening of The Exorcist; a Tribute to Ann “Veda” Blyth, the wicked daughter in the original Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford; and a special screening of Airplane! with the directors on hand.
Passes to the TCM Classic Film Festival and more information are available at their website.
Final note: a good friend of mine went to this festival last year and attended the special anniversary screening of Cabaret…my friend sat in front of Liza Minelli and got to hear Liza With A Z cackle her way through the movie…apparently it had been awhile since Liza had viewed the film and enjoyed it immensely. When my friend told me this story, I was so jealous I wanted to slap her…
Film Nerds: Go book your tickets! Maybe you can sit next to Max von Sydow and hear him mutter in Swedish about the horrors of making The Exorcist! (Though personally, I’d ask him about his brilliant performance as Ming the Merciless in the campfest, Flash Gordon…)