Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day One

The first official day of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival was on Thursday, April 10th, but for me it really began the day before, on Wednesday, the 9th.

The fun started when I met "KC" of the blog Classic Movies for lunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. KC and I have known each other online for years, and it was such fun to finally get to know each other in person! Having her at the festival made this year even more special.

We shopped in the TCM Boutique, and then my husband joined us for sodas in the historic Pig 'n Whistle.  Later on we met up with Raquel and her husband Carlos to enjoy shopping at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, a favorite destination of film fans for decades.

I left Larry Edmunds with two great new additions to my library of books on film, UNIVERSAL-INTERNATIONAL WESTERNS 1947-1963: THE COMPLETE FILMOGRAPHY by Gene Blottner and LOS ANGELES'S BUNKER HILL: PULP FICTION'S MEAN STREETS AND FILM NOIR'S GROUND ZERO! by Jim Dawson.

Larry Edmunds had a nice window display featuring many of the films scheduled to play at the festival:

My husband and I had never eaten at Musso & Frank so we enjoyed checking out one of Hollywood's historic restaurants...

...before moving on to the social media gathering TCM threw at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge, located next to Miceli's on Las Palmas. It was great to meet Nora, TCM's social media manager who is the "voice" of TCM on Twitter.

It was absolutely wonderful reconnecting with old friends and meeting several people in person for the first time. Despite the fact we live all over the country, we feel that we know each other well and have an instant connection, united by our love for classic films.

I was honored to be invited by TCM to speak at the gathering, along with TCM Guest Programmer contest winners Tiffany Vazquez and Peter Tubla, and Twitter's #TCMParty founders Paula Guthat and Trevor Jost.

The way things worked out, the party was such a rip-roaring social success, especially with much-appreciated appearances by Ben Mankiewicz and Illeana Douglas, that we agreed with our TCM hostess that additional entertainment wasn't really necessary, other than helping with a trivia contest. (My husband enjoyed pitching in with a question!) TCM very kindly gave each of us beautiful travel bags as a thank you.

Some of the gang with Ben and Illeana:

The whimsical caption was my husband's contribution!

There was one more stop to make that evening, a party hosted by the Warner Archive and Marya of OldFilmsFlicker at the historic Formosa Cafe. It was great fun for me to transport a bunch of my favorite people from all over the country to the party in my van!

We were packed into every inch of the little cafe, which dates from 1925. I'd never been inside before so I enjoyed the chance to check it out.

To make things even better, Matt of the Warner Archive passed out free movies, and I brought home two Marsha Hunt films: MUSIC FOR MILLIONS (1944), starring June Allyson and Margaret O'Brien, and THE PLUNDERERS (1960) with Jeff Chandler and Dolores Hart. I'll be reviewing them here in the future!

There's more on the day's events from Raquelle at Out of the Past and Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film. I'm sure there will be even more posts as bloggers gradually return home this week.

Coming soon: An overview of the festival's official opening day, including a TCM press conference and personal appearances at Club TCM by two beautiful ladies, Kim Novak and Jane Seymour. Also in the works for the near future: a review of the first of the 14 films I saw at the festival, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950), with Clifton Webb, Myrna Loy, and Jeanne Crain.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival came to a conclusion last night, and I think everyone who attended would have been happy if the festival could have gone on much, much longer -- if only things like eating, sleeping, and earning a living weren't necessary!

Last year's festival was wonderful, and if anything the 2014 edition was even better. To say that this year's festival was a memorably happy experience is an understatement. It was pure joy from start to finish.

This year even more classic film bloggers and Twitter users attended the festival, and between reconnecting with friends met last year and meeting some people in person for the very first time, the festival had the feel of a big reunion.

There are friendly, familiar faces around every corner -- in line, in the theaters, even in Starbucks! Spending time enjoying wonderful movies with friends is the best part of the festival for me.

TCM puts on a very classy operation; as my Twitter pal Lou Lumenick Tweeted, "Some other film festivals I've been to could learn a lot about how to treat audiences from TCMFF."

I also particularly appreciate that TCM acknowledges the role bloggers and Twitter users play in covering and supporting the network and the festival, including providing many of us with credentials which allow us to cover the entire festival.

This year TCM even invited a number of bloggers and Tweeters to a small "Tweet-up" party the evening before the festival, and both Ben Mankiewicz and Illeana Douglas stopped by to visit with us.

The festival closed out last night with Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz giving the network a 20th anniversary toast at the Club TCM party, after which many bloggers convened poolside for final photos and goodbyes.

This year I was able to catch the early morning screenings and increase the number of films seen in the festival's 3-1/2 days to 14, up from 11 in 2013. Four of the films were brand-new to me, and seeing THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) in 3D felt like a brand-new experience in some ways as well!

As was the case last year, I'll be breaking down my coverage into an overview of each day, along with individual reviews of films which have not been reviewed here previously. This year I saw twice as many never-reviewed films as last year, so this will take a while!

As my posts go up I plan to add links to the bottom of this introductory post, so all of the festival coverage can be easily found in one place.

I also have several non-festival posts in the works, some of which were previewed last week, so there will be lots of classic film coverage in the coming weeks!

In the meantime, here's a Los Angeles Times overview of the festival written last week by Susan King.

TCM 2014 Festival Posts: The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day One.

Previous 2014 coverage: Coming Soon!; The TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 Schedule; Film Festival Coverage Coming to Laura's Miscellaneous Musings.

Related: The 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Coming Soon!

It's been a busy few days here, between attending the closing weekend of the Noir City Film Festival and preparing to take extended time off for this week's TCM Classic Film Festival.

The TCM Festival gets unofficially underway for me on Wednesday, with a full agenda of pre-festival social activities.

My favorite thing about last year's festival was the chance to enjoy movies with some great people I've been corresponding with online for years, so I'm excited to reconnect with friends I met in person last year, as well as meeting some in person for the very first time.

I spent last Sunday having a wonderful time with Aurora, Robby, and Lindsay, and tomorrow, after knowing each other solely online for years, I get to have lunch with KC of Classic Movies! I'm also looking forward to seeing Raquel, Jessica, Will, Karen, Jill and so many other friends coming from out of town!

Thursday I'll be attending media interviews with Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, and others, and then the festival gets underway in earnest that evening.

I'll have complete festival coverage here beginning next week, and in the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter!

My top choices from the festival schedule can be found here.

In addition to extensive TCM Festival coverage, in the coming weeks I'll also have reviews of a great closing night at Noir City seeing M (1951) and THE HITCH-HIKER (1953); a tribute to Mickey Rooney; a look at a couple of interesting Los Angeles cemeteries which are the final resting places of many famed filmmakers; a Disney News roundup; reviews of books on Vivien Leigh, Anthony Mann, and John Wayne; and a preview of the July schedule at Turner Classic Movies.

As the saying goes, stay tuned!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 Schedule

It's almost time for the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival!

The Festival begins in Hollywood next Thursday, April 10th, and continues through Sunday evening, April 13th.

I'll have the privilege again this year of covering the festival from start to finish as a member of the credentialed media.

During the festival please watch for my updates on Twitter and also on the Twitter list created by Turner Classic Movies, the Fest Social Crew 2014. Along with my fellow classic film bloggers, we'll be bringing you all the latest news on the festival as it happens in real time.

When the festival comes to an end, I'll be presenting a series of detailed daily recaps and movie reviews.

The schedule was released a couple of weeks ago, and I've been carefully studying it and making difficult decisions.

As was the case last year, I've eliminated from consideration films I've seen in a theater in the recent past, such as FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1937), MARY POPPINS (1964), THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), or THE GREAT GATSBY (1949). I might make an exception for THE QUIET MAN (1952), depending on the "To Be Announced" film selected for an encore showing Sunday afternoon.

Flexibility is the name of the game, and so I've marked second and sometimes third choices for each time slot. That said, last year I did end up seeing the majority of my first choice picks, so hopefully that will be the case again this year!

Here are some of the films I'm hoping to see:

Thursday, April 10th:

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) - I'm a huge fan of Jeanne Crain -- please visit my new profile of her at ClassicFlix -- yet I've never seen a single one of her films on a big screen. This is my chance! The film was originally due to be introduced by Tim Conway but his name has disappeared from the schedule so the host will be a surprise.

Then it's a tough choice: One of my favorite comedies, Ginger Rogers in BACHELOR MOTHER (1939), or the chance to see JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) on a big screen. Since I just saw JOHNNY via DVD two months ago, I'm leaning towards BACHELOR MOTHER, but that one is playing in the smallest theater so JOHNNY may still win in the end!

Friday, April 11th:

STAGECOACH (1939) - I love John Wayne and John Ford and have never seen this on a big screen. It's even got Tim Holt! No contest for my pick in this time slot, although I'll regret not seeing the unveiling of the Charlton Heston postage stamp. (Stephanie Zimbalist is among those who will attend the ceremony, along with Heston's son Fraser.) This year I'm spending the first night of the festival in a local hotel so that I can make the early showing without having to get up and fight rush hour traffic.

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) - Charlton Heston's son Fraser, who I saw at a screening of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) a few years ago, will be on hand at the Chinese Theatre to introduce this movie. Although I've admired the film's amazingly long opening shot a couple of times, I've never seen the movie all the way through. It sounds pretty strange, but it's something I should check out, especially given how much I admire both Heston and leading lady Janet Leigh.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) - This is one of my three most favorite movies, and I've seen it on a big screen an amazing seven times. The last time, however, was nearly a quarter century ago, and with Margaret O'Brien in attendance this is a "can't miss."

WHY WORRY? (1923) - A Harold Lloyd-Jobyna Ralston silent, with Carl Davis at the Egyptian Theatre conducting his world premiere score.

EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933) - I may not have time to get from the Egyptian to the Chinese Multiplex in time to catch this classic Warren William-Loretta Young pre-Code, but I'm going to try! If I don't make it then I'll have an early night.

Saturday, April 12th:

STELLA DALLAS (1937) - Not only is it classic Barbara Stanwyck, it's another movie with Tim Holt in the cast! But THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) at the El Capitan is also a great option.

MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936) - I haven't seen this Cooper-Arthur-Capra classic in years, and TCM will debut a restored print. I'd also love to see Irene Dunne in I REMEMBER MAMA (1948) in the same time slot, but that would mean cutting it a little too close for the next screening.

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) - I just saw this for the first time at New Year's, but if Maureen O'Hara is there, I'm there. I can't miss the opportunity to see the star of some of my most favorite films, including MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), RIO GRANDE (1950), THE QUIET MAN (1952), and THE PARENT TRAP (1961). TCM wisely scheduled this in the festival's biggest venue, the El Capitan Theatre.

I've next been leaning toward seeing Kim Novak in person at BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958), but there may be an opportunity to see her on the opening night of the festival. If I see her then, I may switch gears and go see WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956), as I would love the chance to see Douglas Sirk's Technicolor magic on a big screen. That might also allow me the time to check out the pre-Code HAT CHECK GIRL (1932) with Sally Eilers and Ginger Rogers.

HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) - Margaret Lindsay and Nancy Coleman in an obscure Edgar Ulmer film? Sold!

Sunday, April 13th:

SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) - I really enjoyed this colorful romantic comedy a few years ago and think Rod Taylor on a big screen sounds like a great way to start the day.

The middle of the day is uncertain, depending on which films receive encore presentations, but THE QUIET MAN (1952) or EASTER PARADE (1948) are possibilities. Or I could devote the entire middle section of the day to GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)!

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) - It's been a long time since I last saw this, and revisiting this classic seems like the perfect emotional closing to the festival. I'm a bit skeptical about "retrofitting" films in 3D but am kind of curious about this one thanks to feedback from Will at Cinematically Insane.

Last year I saw 11 movies in three and a half days, so we'll see if I can improve on that number at this year's festival!

For enjoyable peeks at varied schedule picks by other bloggers, please check out posts by Raquel at Out of the Past, Lindsay at Lindsay's Movie Musings, Joel at Joel's Classic Film Passion, Eve at The Lady Eve's Reel Life, Jandy at The Frame, Jill at CC2K, and Aurora at Once Upon a Screen.

Update: Here's more plans from KC of Classic Movies and an epic post by Will at Cinematically Insane.

To visit coverage of last year's festival, click here.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Tonight's Movie: One Way Street (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight's Noir City double bill paying tribute to director Hugo Fregonese began with the Argentinian film HARDLY A CRIMINAL (1949) and concluded with his first American film, ONE WAY STREET (1950).

ONE WAY STREET is a Universal film starring two powerhouse actors, James Mason and Dan Duryea, along with reliable heavies William Conrad and Jack Elam, plus lovely Marta Toren.

As was the case on the festival's opening night, Dan Duryea's son Richard was again present to watch his father onscreen in beautiful 35mm.

ONE WAY STREET has a slam-bang opening and a pretty good finish, but the middle section of this 79-minute film sags a bit.

The movie begins with an absolutely gorgeous title credit, followed by an evocative opening sequence watching beautiful Laura (Toren) staring out an apartment building window as sirens wail in the distance.

She's listening anxiously to the sirens along with John Wheeler (Duryea), who has just pulled off a heist of $200,000. Embittered physician "Doc" (Mason) is summoned to attend to wounded henchman Ollie (Conrad), then shocks the group by taking off with the $200,000. Wheeler not only loses the money, he loses Laura, who decides to leave town with Doc, her secret love.

Doc and Laura flee to Mexico, where Doc begins to experience some satisfaction helping villagers in a poor town. If he and Laura are to find happiness, though, Doc needs to return to the U.S. with the money for a final confrontation with Wheeler.

The opening of the film is quite exciting and well-plotted. Doc's plan to take the money and run is cleverly carried off, and that's followed by a disturbing sequence with Jack Elam, creepy as ever.

The middle section of the film, with Doc and Laura in Mexico, doesn't work so well. The film could have dug more deeply into Doc's unhappy past and his relationship with Laura, but their romance is on the tepid side and character motivations are left fairly vague. A series of scenes with Doc interacting with villagers and bandits aren't especially interesting either.

The final confrontation with Wheeler and Ollie is quite exciting, while the ending, which I suppose it could be called poetic, was a bit of a letdown.

While it didn't work for me completely, the film has many strong moments scattered throughout and is definitely worth seeing, especially given its fine cast. All in all, this was a solid night at the movies enjoying new discoveries.

In addition to the previously mentioned lead actors, Basil Ruysdael has a nice role as a roving priest. Rodolfo Acosta, King Donovan, and O.Z. Whitehead are also in the cast.

There are also some fun faces in bit parts. Rock Hudson has a few lines as a truck driver, and James Best appears as another driver. A cop is played by Kenneth Tobey, who would one day star with director Fregonese's wife, Faith Domergue, in IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955).

ONE WAY STREET was filmed in black and white by Maury Gertsman.

On Friday I'll be heading back to the festival to revisit one of my favorite discoveries of 2013, NIGHTFALL (1957).

Tonight's Movie: Hardly a Criminal (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight's double bill at the Noir City Film Festival was a tribute to Argentinian-born director Hugo Fregonese.

Fregonese began directing in 1945, and HARDLY A CRIMINAL (1949), known in Argentina as APENAS UN DELINCUENTE, was his fourth film. It's extremely well made, so it's no surprise Fregonese was then recruited to Hollywood, where his first film was the second movie from tonight's double feature, ONE WAY STREET (1950).

Fregonese immediately followed ONE WAY STREET with one of my favorite lesser-known Westerns, SADDLE TRAMP (1950), and then the atmospheric APACHE DRUMS (1951) for producer Val Lewton.

I see foreign films relatively infrequently, so I felt rather adventurous watching a '40s film from Argentina! It proved to be a rewarding experience. I was impressed by the production values and intrigued by just how much it felt like an American film noir. This year's Noir City theme, "It's a Bitter Little World," was created to illustrate that film noir was an international phenomenon, and this film certainly proved the point. I'd be interested in seeing more films like it.

HARDLY A CRIMINAL tells the story of Jose Moran (Jorge Salcedo), who toils as a clerk in Buenos Aires but dreams of a life of wealthy comfort. He attempts to enrich himself by gambling but instead ends up in debt to loan sharks.

He hatches a scheme to embezzle a huge amount of money from his employer and hide it; he expects to be caught and serve six years for fraud, but believes that once he's done his time he'll put his hands on the money and live out his days in the lap of luxury.

Although Jose thinks he's come up with a clever scheme, he's actually a rather stupid man. For one thing, there were no guarantees that the location in which he hid the cash would still be there in six more years! And with both the police and crooks trying to deduce where he hid the money, let's just say things don't go as well as Jose had planned.

This is a film in which the lead character can't even be called an antihero; he's simply sleazy and doesn't command any viewer sympathy. What makes the film very worthwhile is its confident storytelling and kinetic pacing. It's an absorbing 88 minutes as the audience watches to see whether Jose will get away with his plan or get what's coming to him.

One of the interesting things about the movie is the glamorous woman Jose meets in a casino during the brief period between the theft and his arrest. She's played by American actress Faith Domergue, who had married director Fregonese in 1947. Her part is almost entirely nonspeaking; I wondered if perhaps the role was designed that way if she didn't speak Spanish! Domergue's next film was WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) with Robert Mitchum. She was later in IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) and ESCORT WEST (1958).

In regard to HARDLY A CRIMINAL, I also especially enjoyed the close look at the very cosmopolitan 1940s Buenos Aires, shot by Roque Giaccovino.

The supporting cast includes Tito Alonso as Jose's brother and Linda Lorena as the otherwise bright girl who is inexplicably loyal to Jose.

Here's Eddie Muller's introduction of the film in Seattle earlier this year.

The movie is currently on YouTube under its original title, but it does not have English subtitles.

Happy 90th Birthday, Doris Day!

The great Doris Day, a national treasure, turns 90 years old today.

Doris was born in Cincinnati on April 3, 1924.

Click here for a new audio interview Robert Osborne conducted with Day. There's more from TCM on Day's birthday and the interview here.

TCM will be running Doris Day movies all day today! The 12-film marathon begins at 3:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

The schedule includes one of my all-time favorite Day films, CALAMITY JANE (1953), which also stars Howard Keel. The highly hummable score includes the Oscar-winning "Secret Love."

Alas, another favorite Day musical, THE PAJAMA GAME (1957), isn't airing today, but there are many other good films being shown, including THE THRILL OF IT ALL (1963) with James Garner and LOVER COME BACK (1961) with Rock Hudson.

Below is a photo of Doris from my personal collection, taken on the set of PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES (1960). She's pictured with director Charles Walters, who autographed this for me a year or two before he passed away.

I've seen the vast majority of Doris Day's films and need to revisit more of them and write about them here! And there are still a few of her titles I need to catch up with for the first time, such as THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) and MIDNIGHT LACE (1960).

Doris Day films which have been previously reviewed here are: ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948), MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949), IT'S A GREAT FEELING (1949), THE WEST POINT STORY (1950), JULIE (1956), THE TUNNEL OF LOVE (1958), IT HAPPENED TO JANE (1959), PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES (1960), DO NOT DISTURB (1965), and THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (1966).

Previously: TCM Star of the Month: Doris Day

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Five Underrated Westerns

This week I'm happy to be able to share my picks for Five Underrated Westerns over at the blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

It's an especial pleasure having my list posted this week as I just met Brian, the blogger behind the Rupert Pupkin site, at the Noir City Festival a couple of days ago. I suspect that if intermission hadn't come to an end we might still be talking movies today!

I'm keeping great company at his site, as other contributors of "Five Underrated Westerns" lists include Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s and Colin of Riding the High Country.

Please click over to Rupert Pupkin Speaks to check out my list! I'm very appreciative of the opportunity to share thoughts on some favorite films and hope to help them find wider audiences.

More detailed reviews of each of the films mentioned in my guest post can be found by searching here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings.

Previous guest posts at Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Five Underrated Comedies and Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013.