Hard choices, great times — getting ready for the TCM Film Festival (Part II)

TCM13-logoReveal Shot will have full coverage of the 2013 TCM Film Festival. On Sunday I looked at the first two days of the event; here is a preview of the next two days.

For a definitive look at the entire festival schedule, see writer Will McKinley’s “Obsessive-Compulsive Guide To The TCM Film Festival.”

Saturday, April 27

At 9 a.m., the original “Cape Fear” (1962), with Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Polly Bergen, is playing at the fabled Egyptian Theatre opposite (at the Grauman’s Chinese Multiplex) the seafaring tale “Captains Courageous” (1937) and the biggest event of the morning, I assume, for most attendees who are up that early — animation historians Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck hosting a collection of shorts commemorating Bugs Bunny‘s 75th anniversary.

I’m finally reading Michael Barrier’s “Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation In Its Golden Age” right now, so there may be particular reason for me to see the Bugs Bunny program. But I have most of the Looney Tunes collections on DVD, with Jerry Beck’s commentary (and Barrier’s) on many of the cartoons. And I have been to cartoon festivals that probably included a number of the ones that will be included here.

Again, I have to look at which film makes the most sense to see on the big screen, especially if I haven’t seen it theatrically. By that standard, I have to go with “Cape Fear.” Polly Bergen was originally scheduled to participate in a discussion after the screening, but had to cancel. Barrie Chase, best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner in the late ’50s and early ’60s, will be there (and at Sunday’s showing of “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World“).

“Captains Courageous” might have been a good option in another time slot; I loved the book, and liked the movie when I saw it in about 1986. I have it on DVD but haven’t watched it yet. “The Ladykillers” (1955), a comedy starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers as criminals who meet their match in an elderly woman they try to get rid of, is also being shown that morning.

The next big draw comes at the 11:45 a.m. screening of “Deliverance” (1972), with Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and director Jon Boorman in attendance for a pre-film discussion. If I put on my reporter’s fedora with a press card in it, this is the obvious way to go. Maybe Reynolds will have a flashback and think he’s on “The Tonight Show” in 1973, and say something really outrageous about Ned Beatty.

Meanwhile, however, one of Sidney Poitier‘s three 11967 hits, “To Sir With Love,” plays at the Chinese Multiplex 6.

Lulu, who is in the film and sings the title song, will be part of a discussion. Naturally it would have been ideal to see Poitier,2 but if I see anything around noon, it’ll be this one.

“The Lady Vanishes” (1938) also appears during this time period, and might have been my choice under other circumstances. Norman Lloyd will be present.

What worries me about seeing “To Sir With Love” is that by the time it ends, it will be nearly 2:00, when “Giant” will be shown in a world-premiere restoration at Grauman’s Chinese. Though I have a press pass, I don’t believe it guarantees me a seat for a movie that will be very well attended. Then again, a lot of people are going to be trying to rush from “Deliverance” at that point to see George Stevens’ epic, starring James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

I’ve been toying with a list of the top 25 Warner Bros. films between 1930 and 1970, and I think I want to include “Giant.” For that reason alone I should see it at the festival.

TCM, though, sets up the biggest conflict of the festival Saturday afternoon. It’s also featuring a world-premiere restoration of the great World War I silent “The Big Parade” (1925), which I’ve only seen parts of and really looked forward to seeing here. I get the need (I guess) to generate excitement with these sorts of moves, but one of these movies could have easily been slotted for presentation that evening. I think primarily it does a disservice to “The Big Parade,” given that silent film buffs, even at a festival like this, are a minority, and the fascination with Dean alone is an assurance of a big crowd for “Giant.”

Jane Withers will be part of a discussion after the 3 hours and 21 minutes of “Giant”; at that point it will be a good time to grab an early dinner, and possibly meet up with some friends.

At 9:15 there’s a choice between “Le Mans,” the 1971 Steve McQueen auto-racing thriller, and Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce” (1945). Ann Blyth, who played Mildred’s evil daughter, will be there. I’ll have to go with the “Man Points” call here. I’ve seen bits and pieces of “Le Mans” on TV, but it’s obviously something that should only be experienced in a theater. I’ve seen “Mildred Pierce” several times, and don’t need to revisit it this weekend.

I would like to see the horror classic “Island of Lost Souls” (1933), which Charles Laughton, at midnight. I’ve rarely been to midnight screenings, and somehow I didn’t get around to the Criterion Home Video release of “Souls,” so this is a must.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Sunday, April 28

By this point I’ll have a sense for screenings I’ll have to attend early. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963), probably my favorite movie, and the main reason I first wanted to attend the festival this year, screens at the Cinerama Dome at 12:15, in 70mm. I’ll be there as early as I must to make sure I get a prime seat, even if that means skipping the restoration of “Badlands” (1973) at Grauman’s Chinese at 9;30. Maybe I’ll see “Cinerama Holiday” at the Dome that morning. But I’m not going to be far from that building after 9:45 or so.

I notice that the TCM schedule matter-of-factly lists “Mad Mad World” at 192 minutes. Many of you will know the convoluted story of this movie and its various running times.

Producer-director Stanley Kramer premiered the film at 210 minutes, and then had to keep cutting until it had shrunk to the 154-minute version that became familiar over the decades to TV viewers. A 3-hour, 12-minute print in 70mm would be a very big deal indeed, one that I would think TCM would have touted from the moment a 50th-anniversary screening was announced. So I’m afraid to let myself we’re in for that kind of miracle, and will assume this is the familiar 154-minute version. I would love to be surprised, however, and will enjoy it in any case.

Surviving players Mickey Rooney, Carl Reiner, Barrie Chase and Marvin Kaplan will participate in a pre-film discussion. Jonathan Winters was scheduled, but just died earlier this month. It’ll be fascinating to see them, and I’m glad they’ve agreed to come, but these actors were present at a screening last year, which makes me wonder how much they really feel like seeing it again (or if they will come up with new anecdotes or observations). It’s odd, maybe, but I always hope the elderly stars who attend these events have a good time, given that they’ve probably answered the same questions countless times, or, as is clear from some DVD commentaries, have long forgotten about things that seem so germane to latter-day interviewers and fans.

It might be a tight squeeze to get to the Chinese for the 4:15 screening of the Richard Zanuck documentary “Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking.” It’s being shown opposite “Three Days of The Condor” (1975), which I unfortunately just watched, on DVD, during a lazy Saturday afternoon in December.

I think I’ll probably close out the festival with “Dial M For Murder” (1954) in 3-D at 6:45. Norman Lloyd will be there for the pre-film discussion. It’s seen at the same time as “The African Queen” (1951), which I would probably would have wanted to attend some other time.

There’s a closing night party at Club TCM at 9, and I want to go to that, and maybe catch up with people I’ve met during the festival.

— David B. Wilkerson

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  1. The others being “In The Heat Of The Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” In my view, Poitier should have won two Academy Awards as Best Actor: In 1961 for “A Raisin In The Sun,” and in ’67 for “In The Heat Of The Night.” His performance in “Lillies Of The Field” (1963), for which he did win the award, is something like his seventh or eighth-best of the decade, a long way after “Pressure Point” (1962) and “The Bedford Incident” (1965). It’s probably even with “The Slender Thread” (’65).  
  2. I did have the pleasure of seeing a screening of “The Blackboard Jungle” (1955) at USC in the late ’80s, which was followed by a discussion with Poitier and director Richard Brooks, who has since died.  

One Response to Hard choices, great times — getting ready for the TCM Film Festival (Part II)

  1. Pingback: Lessons learned at the 2013 TCM Film Festival through Day 2 « REVEAL SHOT

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