The TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood for its seventh year April 6-9, 2017, dedicated to the late genial host Robert Osborne. It opens Thursday afternoon with a tribute by Osborne’s colleagues and friends, with all programs that day preceded by an Osborne video tribute.
The festival features a little something for general film fans looking to see classic films on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen. This year’s theme highlights “Comedy in the Movies,” though the schedule includes pre-code, film noir, westerns, musicals, and dramas spanning the 1920s through 2000s. Introductions by stars, critics, authors, filmmakers, and family members usually precede each screening.
The festival will honor the late host Robert Osborne, shown with Debbie Reynolds in 2012.
This year’s festival properly highlights the role of archivists in restoring and preserving so many of these films, allowing them to be actually be screened for audiences. At Club TCM on at 5 p.m. Friday night, “Bring ‘Em Back Alive: Tales of Film Restorations” features Jeff Masino of Flicker Alley, Amy Heller of Milestone Films, and Bret Wood of Kino Lorber discussing some of the challenges in restoring and rescuing films from obscurity.
On Thursday night at 6:15 p.m., the documentary, “Dawson City: Frozen in Time” plays, revealing the intriguing story of 1910s-1920s nitrate films discovered in 1978 buried in a swimming pool for disposal instead of returned to Hollywood. The documentary includes stills, contemporary footage describing the find, and excerpts from some of the films discovered, including from Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Lon Chaney, and Pearl White movies and the 1919 World Series. Sunday afternoon at 2:15 p.m., Andrea Kalas of Paramount hosts a program called “Republic Preserved,” highlighting excerpts from restored Republic Pictures films with work by John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Anthony Mann, and Nathanael West. Animation historian Jerry Beck hosts the tribute, “Beyond the Mouse: The 1930s’ cartoons of Ub Iwerks,” Friday morning at 9 a.m., featuring newly restored and rare shorts by animation legend Ub Iwerks.
Silent films receive their due, highlighted by excellent live accompaniment, what truly makes silent movies come alive. Pianist Donald Sosin accompanies “So This Is Paris,” which recently played at the San Francisco Silent Film festival, Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Harold Lloyd’s “Speedy” plays Sunday night at 8 p.m., featuring the eclectic accompaniment of the Alloy Orchestra. A truly original program, “The Great Nickelodeon Show,” plays Friday night at 7:15 p.m. Historian producer Russell Merritt and music director Frederick Hodges recreate early Nickelodeon shows, combining one-reel shorts, glass slides, illustrated songs, variety acts, narration, and live music.
Filmgoers this year will be treated to the great opportunity to see rare film formats projected on the big screen. The Cinerama Dome hosts filmmakers and historians Ben Burtt and Craig Barron discussing the making of the hilarious “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” Friday morning at 9:15 a.m. “This Is Cinerama” screens Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the original film which introduced the format to the world.
Other venues feature other rare formats. The newly restored “Those Redheads From Seattle” plays Friday night at 9:45 p.m. in 3D.The newly equipped Egyptian Theatre screens rarely shown nitrate film prints, including director Alfred Hitchcock’s first “The Man Who Knew Too Much” Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. The classic film noir “Laura” plays Friday night at 9:30 p.m. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “The Black Narcissus,” featuring luminous color cinematography by Jack Cardiff, screens Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. The Ginger Rogers vehicle, “Lady in the Dark,” plays Sunday night at 7:45 p.m.
Carl Reiner, left, and his son Rob Reiner will have a footprint ceremony at the Chinese Theatre.
For those looking for opportunities to see celebrities, a variety of programs will include their participation. Saturday afternoon at noon, actor Michael Douglas participates in a live two-hour interviews discussing his life and career. Friday morning at 10:30 am, Carl and Rob Reiner are honored with a hand and footprint ceremony in the forecourt of the legendary Chinese Theatre. Director Mel Brooks introduces his film “High Anxiety” Friday night at 9:15 p.m. The Thursday screening of “In the Heat of the Night” at 6:30 p.m. is packed with celebrities, including Sidney Poitier, Quincy Jones, Lee Grant, Norman Jewison, and Walter Mirisch. Director Peter Bogdonavich is interviewed Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Club TCM, and introduces a variety of programs throughout the festival. Actress Lee Grant is interviewed Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Club TCM, and host Dick Cavett is interviewed Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Each appears at other film screenings as well. “Best of Show” with most of its cast plays Saturday night at 6:30. In a nod to the loss of so many classic stars and the need to attract younger audiences, the festival now highlights more films from the 1960s-2000s.
For those looking for something campy, the festival hosts screenings around the Roosevelt Hotel’s pool every night, including “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?,” and “Planet of the Apes.”
British films get their due this year, with such films as “I’m All Right, Jack,” “The Magic Box,” which tells the remarkable true story of early British film inventor Claude Friese-Greene and featuring cameos by scores of British film stars, “Cry, the Beloved Country,” and “King of Hearts.”
The festival highlights some rarely screened films like King Vidor’s “Street Scene,” a story about life on a block of New York apartment buildings, and screens films first introduced by the Film Noir Foundation and the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at other screenings, including, “The Underworld Story, “The Cock of the Air,” and “The Front Page.”
Lighthearted meetups and contests run for those looking for something relaxing and easy.
Passes are virtually sold out, but $20 tickets for most film screenings are sometimes available by arriving an hour or more early to the film theatre.
The TCM Classic Film Festival offers an intriguing mix of celebrities and films for those getting their feet wet in classic films, while looking for an opportunity to meet vintage film fans in the legendary setting of Hollywood.