It’s already been a few weeks since this year’s edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, but as it goes with such a wonderful event, I’m still thinking back to all that happened over those glorious few days. It was beyond amazing to have TCMFF back in person and to be reunited with old pals and make new friends. And in my case, it was great to live within walking distance of all the action.
Now I’ve finally put aside some time to recount my experience, which I’m putting all into one big public diary entry here. Fair warning: since I’m not breaking up the days into separate posts, this will be a little long. And because I live in Hollywood now, I also wanted to include some other things that happened before and after TCMFF as they’re all a little related to the events that occurred at the festival itself (as well as my first time at the fest in 2019).
I’m keeping this section relatively brief before getting to the good stuff, but here are a few things that I did a week or so before TCMFF officially began (a couple of which informed my festival decisions):
- Tuesday, April 12th: Planet of the Apes screening at the Academy Museum, featuring a discussion between a few make-up artists before the film, led by Dana Gould in character as Dr. Zaius. Gould was among the comedians at the TCMFF live read of I Married a Monster from Outer Space, which I didn’t go to but would’ve liked to see. Also, upon exiting the screening, I realized I was walking behind the museum’s Chief Artistic and Programming Officer, TCM host Dr. Jacqueline Stewart.
- Thursday, April 14th: Double feature at the New Beverly, starring TCM’s Star of the Month for April, Errol Flynn, alongside Olivia de Havilland Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood. I didn’t get around to catching any of his films when they aired on the channel in April, so at least I got the good fortune to see two of Flynn’s best at this great theater. This isn’t related to the fest itself but I wanted to make the connection to TCM anyway!
- Saturday, April 16th: Noir City Film Festival at the Hollywood Legion Theater. I was only able to attend the two Saturday night screenings at the festival, but it was great to see TCM’s Noir Alley host Eddie Muller introduce The Accused (a film I hadn’t seen before) and Alan K. Rode introduce Caged (one of my favorite films).
- Monday, April 18th: After I left work, I caught a glimpse of Bob Odenkirk and a few other celebrities at his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. Odenkirk was part of the last year’s virtual TCMFF for the table read of Plan 9 from Outer Space so I think it’s worth mentioning! Later in the evening, I watched the red carpet premiere for The Northman outside the TCL Chinese Theatre. I saw director Robert Eggers and the film’s stars, Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman (with Keith Urban), Anya Taylor-Joy, and Willem Dafoe. While I was a little disappointed that Ethan Hawke didn’t show up, I was pleasantly surprised to see Jeff Goldblum make an appearance, whom I memorably saw at TCMFF in 2019. A lucky sighting just days before this year’s festival!
- Wednesday, April 20th: After picking up my TCMFF pass, I walked a bit along Hollywood Boulevard and found myself in the background of a segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a hot second. Back in 2019, my sister and I attended a taping of the show just a couple of days before that year’s TCMFF, so it was a funny coincidence.
TCMFF Day 1: Thursday, April 21st
I headed down to Hollywood Boulevard just before noon to take in the sights of the red carpet being put together for TCMFF’s opening night film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, then went over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to look at the festival decor inside the Blossom Room aka Club TCM. There were three pairs of costumes on display: two worn by Judy Garland in A Star Is Born, one each worn by Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, and one each worn by Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor in Giant. There were also framed costume sketches from various films hanging on the walls throughout the room, and a display of hats from My Fair Lady behind the bar. After getting a good look at the film artifacts in the room, it was already time for the first Club TCM events: the “Meet TCM” panel followed by the “So You Think You Know Movies” trivia game. I didn’t participate in the game (maybe next time I’ll give it a go), but it’s always a lot of fun to watch and see just how much I know. There were also some great surprise guests to accompany the trivia questions, including Leonard Maltin, Diane Baker, and the son of Fayard Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers duo.
With the afternoon hours waning, it was just about time for the movies to begin! Though I wouldn’t get to my first screening until the end of the night, it was still exciting knowing that TCMFF was truly getting underway. I had originally planned to watch the red carpet as I did last time, but it was revealed sometime before the festival that there wouldn’t be any bleachers this year as there had been in years past. If I went, my vantage point would’ve been across the street as it was when I watched the premiere for The Northman a few days before, which is still a pretty decent view but still too far for any decent photos on my phone. Plus I had been standing for the past couple of hours inside Club TCM and didn’t want to stand around some more (which I did end up doing at the 2019 TCMFF red carpet when they ran out of bleacher seats), so I opted to hang out at the Hollywood Roosevelt for most of the evening instead.
Skipping the red carpet meant I could go see a movie or go to the opening night reception by the hotel pool. While some great films were playing, I decided to stick around because I wanted to check out the introduction for the poolside screening of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The decision to move the party by the pool instead of inside the hotel as has been done in previous years was such a great idea, I’m surprised that it wasn’t done at TCMFF sooner. It was much easier socializing with old and new friends outside and hearing some great 80s music before the poolside screening enhanced the good vibes. Eddie Muller officially welcomed us to this year’s edition of the festival, and about an hour and a half later, Dave Karger and actor Topher Grace came out to introduce Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And it was a fun first TCMFF intro because as it turns out, the two are childhood friends, so it was great seeing them reminisce a bit on growing up together while talking about why they love the movie. There was also a gag referring to the film, with a pizza delivery guy making an appearance in the middle of the interview! I only stayed for the first few minutes of the film, as it was already time to head over to TCL Chinese Multiplex for my first screening.
I walked over with a couple of friends and met up with a few others for Topkapi, which ended up being my only time inside the notoriously small House 4. It was a treat to see the world premiere restoration, which was done entirely on film instead of digitally, as described in the introduction by Grover Crisp, who manages restoration work for Sony Pictures, and Margaret Bodde, executive director of The Film Foundation. They also told us this was a bit of a passion project for Christopher Nolan, as it’s one of his favorite films. Bodde read a letter from him since he couldn’t be at the festival because he’s currently preoccupied filming Oppenheimer. While it would’ve been cool to see him in person, it was still a joy to cap off the first night of TCMFF with this film and experience the thrills and oddities with an audience.
TCMFF Day 2: Friday, April 22nd
I got to sleep in a tiny bit for the first full day of TCMFF as my first film, The Jungle Book, started an hour after the rest of the early morning movies. While it’s not among my favorite Disney movies, this was a must-see screening for me as it was the only one of the whole festival inside the beautiful El Capitan Theatre, and it was part of a special tribute to animator Floyd Norman. Before the film, festivalgoers were treated to Disney tunes played on a Wurlitzer organ by Rob Richards, which was among my most enjoyable moments of TCMFF. Then Leonard Maltin spoke with Norman about his experience on the film and working with Disney (the studio and the man himself). I’d previously seen Norman talk a bit about his career at the 2019 TCMFF screening of Sleeping Beauty alongside one of his former colleagues, so I loved getting to hear him speak more about his work, especially after having seen the documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life during the first virtual festival. The Jungle Book itself was fun to watch with an enthusiastic crowd, especially with people like myself clapping for when George Sanders made his voiceover appearance as Shere Khan.
There wasn’t a lot of time between when the movie ended and when the next block of movies began, so as planned, I made my way over to the Hollywood Roosevelt, keeping with the animated theme for the Club TCM event “Looney Tunes in Hollywood”, hosted by animation historian Mark McCray. It was an amusing hour-long discussion with clips from various cartoons that featured many of the era’s biggest movie stars. Afterward, I went out to grab some lunch before heading back in for a special conversation with the legendary Bruce Dern. As I tweeted, the interview got off to a rough start, but fortunately, Dern wasn’t fazed and went on with the show, and gave an engaging outlook on his career in the only way he could. I recommend watching the whole conversation he had with Ben Mankiewicz. And as Shane, Robyn, and I discovered, the back of our heads are featured prominently and at two different angles through much of the video, so obviously we were in a good spot to witness Dern’s greatness in person. Before leaving the Hollywood Roosevelt, we did catch one more glance of him as he walked through the lobby. And as he left, we spotted Floyd Norman walking by in the other direction! He’s very approachable, so Robyn and I chatted with him a bit, telling him how much we enjoyed his interview for The Jungle Book earlier in the day (and I also told him about being there for the special Sleeping Beauty screening in 2019), as well as his documentary. It turns out one of the directors of said documentary, Michael Fiore, was there with him, and he ended up taking our picture!
After the excitement at the Hollywood Roosevelt, it was finally time for my next screening: Giant! In my post outlining my festival picks, I had originally intended to go see a couple of musical favorites, It’s Always Fair Weather and The Gay Divorcee. But a few days before the festival, it was announced that THE Steven Spielberg would be on hand to introduce the new restoration for Giant, and since the red carpet situation didn’t pan out, this was my chance to see the legendary filmmaker in person. That meant skipping out on It’s Always Fair Weather, unfortunately. I considered just staying for the introduction of Giant so I could go see The Gay Divorcee, but since that film was being screened in the festival’s smallest venue and it was sure to be a popular pick, I didn’t want to risk getting shut out, so I decided to stay for the film’s whole 3+ hours with Julia (who was seeing it for the first time). And really, there’s no better way to see a movie of this size, gloriously screened on IMAX inside the famed Chinese Theatre. Anyway, before the screening, Spielberg was joined by Margaret Bodde and George Stevens Jr. to talk about the restoration work and of course, the movie itself. Bodde again read a letter from a critically-acclaimed filmmaker, this time Martin Scorsese, who also created The Film Foundation. Spielberg talked about his adoration for the film, while Stevens recounted his experience being on set with his father and getting to know James Dean. It was especially fascinating to hear what Stevens had to say, and fortunately, you can see the whole conversation on TCM’s YouTube channel here. After the movie, Julia and I met up with Priscilla and Stephen in the courtyard, where we saw Stevens admiring his father’s hand and footprints alongside those of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson (the trio had their prints cemented for the release of Giant). It was such a special moment to observe from afar, and fortunately, we ducked out from behind him just in time before he took this picture.
Luckily, I still had enough energy for Friday’s midnight screening, Miracle Mile, probably because I had only seen two movies throughout the whole day. It was my first time seeing the movie, which was introduced by its director Steve De Jarnatt alongside Eddie Muller. To my surprise, I did stay awake during the runtime, which was thankfully under 90 minutes, and it ended up being my favorite discovery of the whole festival. At this point, I had only seen four movies during the first two days of TCMFF, but the next day more than made up for it.
TCMFF Day 3: Saturday, April 23rd
Somehow, I managed to get up early for another new-to-me movie, Return of the Secaucus Seven in 35mm, introduced by director-writer John Sayles and producer-actress Maggie Renzi at the Hollywood Legion Theater. Sayles’s films are a bit of a blind spot for me; I’d only previously seen Passion Fish, so I was curious to see his first film, which I hadn’t heard of before the TCMFF schedule was released. It’s quite similar to The Big Chill, which Sayles and Renzi mentioned in their introduction, saying that Lawrence Kasdan admitted he had seen their movie before making his own a couple of years later.
After the movie, I stuck around the Legion for one of my most anticipated screenings of the festival, The Flame and the Arrow introduced by the dynamic duo of visual effects artist Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt. This was my first time seeing one of their fantastic presentations in person, as I didn’t get to either of the ones they did at the 2019 festival (though Burtt was among the interviewees before the Star Wars screening I attended). I immensely enjoyed the presentation they did for Chain Lightning for last year’s virtual TCMFF, so I was very much looking forward to what they had to say about this 1950s adventure movie. They went a bit into the matte paintings used for the backdrops and the recycled sound effects from films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, while also discussing the friendship between star Burt Lancaster and Nick Cravat, who met as circus performers before making their way to the silver screen. With their impressive background, it was incredible to see them both perform their own stunts throughout the film (especially on a gorgeous 1960s IB Technicolor print!). As a bonus to the Barron and Burtt presentation, former child actor Gordon Gebert later joined them on stage to talk about his experience working on the film, as he played Lancaster’s son. After the movie, I joined Hannah and Julia, who are big fans of Gebert, to meet him and I took this picture of the three of them.
The Flame and the Arrow had a late start, which didn’t give much time to get into a movie from the next block of screenings. I hadn’t planned on watching anything at this time anyway, but I was still strongly considering it until we got out late. I possibly could’ve stayed at the Legion for Baby Face, but the line was already quite long by the time we got out, so Julia and I decided to take the shuttle down to Hollywood Boulevard and grab some lunch at 25 Degrees. Then we hung out for a bit inside the Roosevelt lobby and chatted with a couple of other friends before heading over to the Chinese Theatre for another highly-anticipated screening: Heaven Can Wait Before heading into the theater, I spotted none other than Paul Thomas Anderson walking in with his four kids (alas, Maya Rudolph did not come with them)! I’m not sure if I would’ve recognized it was him if I hadn’t already seen him in person before, but it was cool to see him turn out to a TCMFF screening nonetheless. Anyway, after the film, there was a discussion between Warren Beatty and Ben Mankiewicz… and it was interesting, to say the least; you can see for yourself in the full interview here.
I got back in line at the Chinese Theatre for my all-time favorite movie, Singin’ in the Rain, which was amazing to see on the big IMAX screen and with an audience that clearly adores the film as much as I do, with everyone applauding after every number. Paula Abdul was originally scheduled to introduce the film with Alicia Malone but ended up canceling her appearance, so actor-comedian Mario Cantone was brought in as a last-minute replacement to talk a little about the movie as well as some TCMFF happenings in general. It wouldn’t be long until I saw Cantone again, as I stayed out for Saturday’s midnight screening of Polyester, in which he interviewed star Mink Stole before the film. Stole herself got a special pre-recorded introduction by The Pope of Trash himself, John Waters! What also made the screening extra special were the Odorama cards that were handed out to accompany the movie experience; not all the smells on the card gave off an accurate scent, but when they did, it really stunk! And all of us in the audience enthusiastically groaned when it was time to take a sniff.
TCMFF Day 4: Sunday, April 24th
Since I stayed out late for the midnight screening, I slept in and skipped the first block of movies on TCMFF’s last day. With my late start, I also underestimated how much time I need to get into the screening of Fly-By-Night, a little-seen film noir that was screening in the small House 4 in the Chinese Multiplex. It was a popular turnout, and I got a queue card well past the cut-off, so after getting officially shut out, I dashed downstairs to the IMAX theater for Peggy Sue Got Married. I got there a couple of minutes after the pre-film interview started between one of the stars, Catherine Hicks, and Alicia Malone, so unfortunately I didn’t hear all that was said, but I did catch a few anecdotes about Hicks’s experience on set before getting settled in my seat. While it wasn’t my first choice, seeing Peggy Sue Got Married again ended up being one of my favorite screenings of the festival, as I loved getting absorbed in the film’s emotional beats and tearing up through them.
I had a couple of hours after the screening for a bite to eat before getting in line for my next movie, Has Anybody Seen My Gal, in which star Piper Laurie would be there to introduce. Before the movie, she and Ben Mankiewicz sat right in front of me as a tribute video highlighting her life and career played, so as I tweeted, that was pretty surreal! After the video, Laurie talked a little more about her career and specifically her experience working on this Douglas Sirk comedy. Unfortunately, she didn’t say anything about working with Rock Hudson, whom she did a number of movies with, but she did say she didn’t particularly enjoy working with Sirk and wasn’t fond of Has Anybody Seen My Gal. But I’ll say she’s among the movie’s best aspects, giving off a more natural performance than her screen partners. The best moment of the screening though was James Dean unexpectedly making a small appearance, and all of us watching delightfully applauded seeing him. It would’ve been even neater if his quick scene was shared with Hudson, whom I both saw a lot of a couple of nights before in Giant.
My last screening at this festival celebrating old movies was one that’s actually the same age as me: A League of Their Own! It was a truly memorable way to end the movie-watching portion of TCMFF, as cast members Lori Petty, Megan Cavanagh, Ann Cusack, Anne Ramsay, Patti Pelton, and Jon Lovitz reminisced on making the film and still had a fun rapport together three decades later (you can watch their introduction before the movie here). There were also a couple of other treats at this screening: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Maybelle Blair was in attendance and a pristine print of a short featuring the Kim Loo Sisters singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” before the movie.
Now it was time to officially end TCMFF with the closing night party poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt. At this point, I was still alert but could feel the marathon of the past few days starting to weigh down on me, so I didn’t take many pictures with my phone and instead took in the atmosphere and everyone around me. So since I didn’t document everything that happened through pictures, I don’t quite remember the order of events of my party experience, but this is roughly what occurred in order, some of which were captured in photos by others:
Early on in the night, I met a couple of A League of Their Own‘s Rockford Peaches and Maybelle Blair! Julia showed up in costume to the screening, which she still had on for the party, so I got to take this awesome photo of her with them.
- While standing in line for the bar inside Club TCM with Julia, we struck up a conversation with a man behind us. I saw he had a VIP pass but his name was on the opposite side of what was facing outward, so we weren’t sure who we were talking to. But then a woman in front of us turned around to compliment him on the introductions he made at a couple of screenings. It was then that I noticed he was wearing a tie patterned with the Batman logo and realized we had been chatting with Michael Uslan, the executive producer of the Batman movie franchise!
- After much waiting, the group I was hanging with finally got a chance to chat with Eddie Muller. At one point, he mentioned that his cat was able to tag along for the trip and was staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt with him and his wife. He then showed us that his phone’s wallpaper is an adorable picture of his cat.
- During our conversation with Ben Mankiewicz, we mentioned the Bruce Dern interview, and since he brought up the actor’s rough entrance, I showed him the video I recorded of the said incident since he didn’t see everything that happened.
- I told Mario Cantone how much I enjoyed the horror movie series he co-hosted with Ben Mankiewicz on TCM back in October and said he needs to get back in the “mid-century home”, referring to what he often mentioned about the set. He seemed to love that I mentioned it so he quoted himself in response “Get out of my mid-century home!” It was awesome to hear that in person because it always cracks me up.
Among the other familiar faces I remember seeing around the party were Craig Barron, Ben Burtt, Gordon Gebert, and Floyd Norman. I also met briefly with Alicia Malone at one point, and I said hi to Jacqueline Stewart as I walked by her (I have yet to formally meet her though as I have the other TCM hosts). My one big disappointment was not getting to reunite with Dave Karger, the one host I really wanted to see again after our lovely meeting at the last in-person festival, but I guess that’ll have to wait until next time! Eventually, the clock struck midnight which meant TCMFF had sadly come to a close.
The day after the festival was mostly a lazy day, which was warranted after all the back-to-back excitement over the past few days. In the evening, I met up with Julia, Annette, and Sabina at the Hollywood Roosevelt before heading to the Formosa Cafe for dinner, which was a lovely, low-key way to wrap up the week’s festivities.
Before concluding this long diary, I wanted to highlight a few things I did in the week after TCMFF that are tangentially related:
- Sunday, May 1st: Exactly a week after TCMFF ended, I decided at the very last minute to attend the HAIM concert at the Hollywood Bowl (my first time there!). The Hollywood Legion Theater is just down the street, so during the day before the concert in the evening, they played Licorice Pizza along with some HAIM music videos directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (I didn’t go to any of those screenings but I thought that was such a sweet idea). Since I spotted PTA at TCMFF and passed by the Hollywood Legion Theater to and from the concert, I’m including it as part of the post-festival experience! Also, Alana quoted A League of Their Own at one point during the concert, so it’s all totally connected!
- Monday, May 2nd: I watched the red carpet premiere for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which stretched from the TCL Chinese Theatre past the El Capitan Theatre (the screening itself was inside the Dolby Theatre). While there was definitely a crowd watching the premiere of The Northman a couple of weeks before, it of course doesn’t compare to the turnout for a Marvel movie. There are too many people to list who I spotted on the red carpet, but I’ll just say I saw a lot more famous faces there, several of whom weren’t involved with the film itself.
- Tuesday, May 3rd: I attended Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin: Ladies Night Live at the Hollywood Palladium, which was part of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival. Since I didn’t get a glimpse of them at TCMFF for the latter’s hand and footprint ceremony, it was great to see these two legendary women at this event.
- Thursday, May 5th: I went to one of the opening night screenings of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at the TCL Chinese Theatre, my first time seeing a movie there that wasn’t part of TCMFF. I’m not a comic book reader but I enjoy the MCU movies for the most part (and yes, I’ve seen all of them so far…), so it was mostly fun going to a showing in a theater of this size filled with enthusiastic fans. But nothing compares to seeing a film there with the TCMFF crowd!
So that about sums up all the fun I’ve had in Hollywood over the past month, most importantly at the TCM Classic Film Festival! Just like in 2019, I watched 12 films in total, three of which were movies I saw for the first time at the festival. In addition to the screenings, I attended two Club TCM events, one of which was an in-depth, retrospective conversation. All in all, it was an unforgettable few days and I’m already impatiently waiting for next year’s TCMFF!