TCM Film Festival 2019 Recap

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There was much to celebrate at the TCM Classic Film Festival this year, and of utmost was its spectacular 10th anniversary. For the first time, the festival sold out of all its passes and filled even the biggest of theaters to maximum capacity.

Last year, I went to the festival on standby, hopeful that I may get a pass this year and indulge in all the perks of being a passholder, but alas, time and constraints made that goal a little too far away. Still, I went to as many pictures that I could and saw many online friends and bloggers I’ve gotten to know this past year, including some from blogathons I’ve been a part of!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

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As it was then: The Woman’s Club of Hollywood on La Brea

As was tradition, those of us already in Los Angeles went to fashion historian Kimberly Truhler’s Fashion in Film of TCMFF 2019 presentation at the Women’s Club of Hollywood on La Brea Ave. Last year, I didn’t have time to tour the building, so I remedied that this year. It was fascinating to hear about all the up-and-coming actresses working through the studio system and learning about how they were educated; to see the classrooms and the kitchens that they utilized then, that now seem so ghostly and hollow. You wonder how many inside jokes were uttered, what they thought of 1920s Los Angeles…

Kimberly’s talk was fascinating, and she shows her knowledge of the smallest things that go into film costumes, especially the origins of some of the greatest, most under-appreciated designers of an era before the Costume Design Oscar. There were some disparities between some of her inferences and what I’ve been told by friends in Beverly Hills well-acquainted with the designers and artists of that era, but nothing so objectionable to be solid facts. Hollywood is made of myths and folklore, and it’s these little gray eras that make for great stories.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

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The FB meet-up at the Roosevelt Hotel pool. Photo courtesy of Neeley Drown

Before the festival even began, a number of us from the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook group met for our annual get-together behind the pool at the Roosevelt Hotel. It was fun to reunite with friends from other parts of America as well as friends who flew in all the way from Europe. It really gives you a great sense of the kind of people classic cinema attracts – people of all shapes, ages, and sizes – and how universal storytelling of Old Hollywood is. English may not be everyone’s first language, but something like charming smirk of Cary Grant is understood by all. It was also nice to see local friends like Meredith Ponedel, niece of Dorothy Ponedel, the Hollywood makeup artist, who I don’t really see very often day-to-day.

Cora Sue Collins and Ted Donaldson, two great child stars from the ’30s and ’40s were the guest speakers and they told some great stories about the old days. Because 1935’s Mad Love was expected to be a must-see this year, Cora Sue recounted the first time she worked with Peter Lorre on the picture and how odd-looking he was.

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

On Thursday, the festival really began kicking off with a red carpet event and a reunion of When Harry Met Sally, one of my favorite romantic comedies.

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Eyvind Earle, Concept painting, c. 1950, Sleeping Beauty (1959). Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney

Of course, me being me, and not having a fancy pass, I went elsewhere! Instead, I spent the entire morning at the Walt Disney Studios, exploring some of the original art dating back to Plane Crazy. As my close friends can attest, I’m crazy about Disney so that was an especially great day for me at the Mouse Factory. I knew that Sleeping Beauty was going to play at the Egyptian Theater the next day, so I was truly delighted to see some original Eyvind Earle art. He was the master who painted all those beautifully graphic backgrounds with their hard lines and sharp corners.

No photos allowed, but trust me, it was fantastic!

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So, instead of seeing any movies, I went to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a classic film tour guided by the wonderful Karie Bible. She was just fantastic and engaging and totally macabre in the best way possible. Leading us from grave to grave, we covered grasslands where the likes of Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston, Rudolph Valentino, Hattie McDaniel, and other stars lie in eternity. What really took my breath away was the long reflecting pool made for Douglas Fairbanks. It reminded me of that great line William Holden gave in Sunset Boulevard:

“It was a great big white elephant of a place. The kind of crazy movie people built in the crazy Twenties.” – Joe Gillis

The Twenties were America at its most excessive, and Hollywood must’ve seem biblical. Stars like Douglas Fairbanks certainly seemed larger-than-life. Proportionally, he must have also wanted to be larger-then-death.

Judy Garland was the last sight of the tour, and there was no more fitting place for her to be. It wouldn’t do me justice to describe it, but from what Karie told us, sometimes the sun would refract from the bevels of the window tiles, cascading into little rainbows.

Isn’t that just perfectly Judy?

I highly recommend Karie’s Cemetery Tour for anyone visiting Los Angeles interested in classic film. She’s a fan, and I so enjoyed seeing her several times at the festival and talking about our shared love of old Hollywood history and architecture.

Friday, April 12th, 2019

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I had thought about seeing Sleeping Beauty on Friday morning but misremembered my times and ended up being late for the show. No matter, because I needed to get ready for The Opposite Sex later in the evening. It was a poolside screening inside the Roosevelt Hotel and I had front row seats (thank you very much, Citi sponsors). Dennis Miller and Illeana Douglas introduced the film, and it was just delightful. The movie itself wasn’t the greatest, but sometimes, it’s about the atmosphere and the scenery. There was no better night than that one. With some Marx Brothers wine in hand, it was just fun to watch something old with people who like that sort of thing.

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

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This was my favorite day! In the morning, I went to see Father Goose, starring Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. Leslie Caron is one of my favorite actresses of all time, so anything she’s in is good, but I was so surprised at how funny Cary Grant was! I loved seeing him play against character as a disheveled drunk sneering at children and innocents. They say this was his penultimate movie and he retired because audience then wouldn’t accept these new kind of roles he wanted to pursue. A shame, because he was really brilliant in it. Two of the child stars from the picture spoke after the screening with Leonard Maltin and they seemed to have just the best experience making the film and learning ballet from Leslie Caron.

Leslie Caron is just amazing, okay?

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Me thinking about Leslie Caron…

When I went to take a breather at the Roosevelt lobby, I happened to run into Floyd Norman, the legendary Disney animator, and spoke to him about my visit to Disney the other day. It still amazes me that there are people today who can use phrases things like, “I asked Walt about that – ” and “Walt told me – “. I also ran into Illeana Douglas and we spoke for a little bit about haunted Hollywood homes, which made the paranormal buff inside me very happy.

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Running into Illeana Douglas at the Roosevelt Hotel.

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After talking to some friends, meeting some new ones, and having dinner with delightful Twitter friends, I went over to a new TCMFF venue, Hollywood Legion Post 43 on Highland Ave. It may be my favorite venue, in part because there’s an atmospheric bar downstairs the likes of Bogart and Gable used to drink in. It also warmed my heart and made me proud to see U.S. veterans tending to the building with such care. All I ask are classic films and idyllic patriotism to lead my way!

The film shown was 1958’s Indiscreet, starring a very suave Cary Grant (there was a lot of Cary Grant pictures this year) and a hammy Ingrid Bergman, who was so bonkers and funny and exaggerated that it might possibly put all her other performances to shame. I spotted Ginny from The Wonderful World of Cinema so I waved her over and we got to talk a bit before the film. I just love running into friends at the festival!

Sunday, April 14st, 2019

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Tiring, right? I thought so. Running here and there to different movie theaters is exhausting, doubly so in the tourist congestion of Hollywood Boulevard. On Sunday, I decided to take it easy and just hang out, try to see friends one last time before they fly back to their respective parts of the globe they call home.

Milling about the Chinese Theater, I saw Angie Dickinson and Ben Mankiewicz just coming out of a conversation about The Killers. I spoke with Miss Dickinson for a few seconds, which was surreal. I had intended on going to see either A Woman of Affairs or The Dolly Sisters at the Egyptian Theater and decided on the former since I wanted to go home early. Alas, it was a packed house for that show, and not a single standby was let in. That was okay, it was getting late, so I just got dinner with some new friends like Marya Gates, Jeff Lundenberger, and Danny Reid of Pre-Code.Com.

So I’m making this promise now – and if I break it, well, rub it in my face – I’m going to get a pass next year! Somehow, some way, I’m going to get in on this TCM club and experience the full power of Turner Classic Movies…

Till next year!

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