TCMFF 2020: The Special Home Edition

This week, many of us would have been traveling to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).

Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 situation, the 2020 event had to be cancelled. However, the leaders of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) put their heads together, and created a special TCMFF Home Edition to keep fans and their staff engaged during a difficult time.

On Tuesday, a media round-table was held with TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz, TCM General Manager Pola Changnon, and TCM Senior Vice of Programming Charlie Tabesh.

Each shared that this has been an emotional time, as they look forward to the festival as much as the fans do. I didn’t expect to get teary on the call, but hearing how emotional the cancellation is for the staff (as much as the pass holders) made me cry a little.

Here is a summary of the questions asked during the media roundtable:

Can you give an overview of why TCM decided to do the TCMFF Home Edition?

Pola Changnon: A month ago, we were concerned about the evolving situation and how that may or might not affect our festival dates (April 16-19). It was around this time a month ago, that it became clear that we would have to cancel the festival. We didn’t feel comfortable postponing — you can imagine the work it takes to rearrange the films and locations. Within a day, all of us were together in Los Angeles for business. We started the day off with an acknowledgement that we would have to cancel. By the end of the day, Charlie Tabesh felt confident that he could pull something together for the network in place of the festival. This is a special weekend that people look forward to all year long – both staff and pass holders. We asked ourselves how could we do this and will it be special enough? Within a couple of days, Charlie came up with something so robust.

Charlie Tabesh: We had to figure out, “How do you make this different than what is already on TCM?” We wanted it to be special and include a lot of material that we wouldn’t include day-to-day on TCM.

Our first idea was that we would play movies that we were planning to show at the festival this year. The issue there is we wouldn’t have the guests, tributes and other special videos that were done over the years.  One of the reasons we included previous festival moments so that it involved some of the best of past festivals, we figured out how to make it special with Ben’s intros, and talk about how we were there with celebrities and use tribute pieces and interviews that happened before a film. That’s what makes it different as far as production.

Ben Mankiewicz: We shot intros in a way that I’ve never shot anything. We have had a scaled down crew with no one coming within 10 feet of me. We shot and wrote fresh intros—we always write fresh intros — but fresh as in related to the festival. Programming this weekend will look different, and isn’t shot on my set. I’m also reminded by what Pola said—people look forward to this weekend all year. That includes us. A large part of what we look forward to is the connection we have with our fans. When TCM announced that we couldn’t do the festival, I was asked to write something to say on the air. In both writing and delivering it, I got really emotional. I almost couldn’t get through without crying. I didn’t expect that. It’s emotional for all of us. Charlie’s crew helped me provide some new context. All of what TCM does this weekend – online, social media — is to engance the programing we will have airing this weekend.

What is the plan for next year? Are you going to keep the same programing that was planned for this year?

Charlie Tabesh: There are a lot of things we can take from this year and move it to next year. But next year there may be different talent or different restorations and anniversaries. There will be things that will reshape the festival. We have a bit of a head start, but the work will still need to be done for next year.

Following the upcoming home edition, will TCM plan other events for the upcoming year?

Ben Mankiewicz: Anecdotally, the response I get on social media is almost the most significant response that I have gotten anywhere. The engagement with fans is the best and most meaningful part of my job. I think we have learned there is real value of having this online component so that even more people can be included.

How to watch:

You can find the full schedule for the TCMFF Home Edition here.

To make the best of this weird quarantine situation, Comet Over Hollywood will post throughout the weekend what we’re watching during #TCMFF and outfits I would be wearing if I was there. Follow along on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2016: The Films

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a week since I flew out to Los Angeles for my fifth Hollywood visit and fourth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF).

Ready to cover the festival on Thursday night.

Ready to cover the festival on Thursday night.

Last year, my parents joined me for the TCMFF, but this year I traveled solo for the event. I originally announced that I wouldn’t be attending TCMFF this year. Two weeks prior, I was in Washington, D.C. for a Bernard Herrmann festival and wasn’t sure if I could swing it. However, everything happily worked out and I was heading back to Cali-for-i-A again and humming “Going Hollywood.”

I arrived on the Wednesday the day before the festival started, giving me the opportunity to attend a book signing of the film fashion book “Creating the Illusion” by Jay Jorgensen and Donald Scoggins. I was most excited about this presentation because it was held at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which is located in the Laskey-DeMille Barn. Built in 1913, the barn was one of the first studios in Hollywood. In 2006, I tried to visit the museum but it was closed.

The museum had interesting pieces of memorabilia such as Marion Davies’ doll collection, a costume from the 1925 Ben-Hur, and the Charlie Chaplin outfit Gloria Swanson wore in Sunset Blvd.

Marion Davies' doll collection at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

Marion Davies’ doll collection at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

The festival ran from Thursday, April 28 through Sunday, May 1. TCMFF begins in the evening on Thursday with two film slots. There is also a red carpet event where the celebrities attending the festival walk the red carpet before the opening film, which was “All the President’s Men.”

This year, I skipped the first and two films to watch the red carpet attendees and was able to see:

  • Former child star, Darryl Hickman
  • Actor, producer Norman Lloyd
  • Former child star, Ted Donaldson
  • Actress Lee Meriwether
  • Actor and former TCM Essentials host, Alec Baldwin
  • Actress Katharine Houghton
  • Director Roger Corman
  • Actor Louis Gossett
  • Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon
  • Italian actress Gina Lollobrigdia
Darryl Hickman on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica Pickens)

Darryl Hickman on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica Pickens)

Gina Lollobrigdia on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica P.)

Gina Lollobrigdia on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica P.)

Lee Meriwether on the red carpet.

Lee Meriwether on the red carpet.

The films I saw during throughout the festival included:

    • Los Tallos Amargos (1956)—An Argentinian noir. The title translates to “The Bitter Stems”
    • He Ran All the Way (1951)—John Garfield’s last film before his 1952 death
    • When You’re in Love (1937)—World premiere restoration with special guest Jennifer Grant, Cary Grant’s daughter
    • Batman (1966)—with special guests Lee Meriwether and Adam West
    • Manchurian Candidate (1962)—with special guest Angela Lansbury
    • Roar (1981)—Midnight screening of Tippi Hedren Film
    • 90th anniversary of Vitaphone—A presentation on the dawn of sound and 7 shorts
    • The Long Goodbye (1972)—with special guest Elliot Gould
    • Band of Outsiders (1964)—with special guest Anna Karina
    • Gog (1953)—Midnight showing of 3D restoration
    • One Potato, Two Potato (1964)—with special guest director Larry Peerce
    • Network (1976)—with special guest Faye Dunaway

Of these films, my favorites were “The Long Goodbye” (1972) and “One Potato, Two Potato,” but neither of these were new discoveries for me. In fact, I just watched both in February and March 2016. However, I enjoyed so much on my television that I wanted to revisit both on the big screen, and I don’t regret it. My TV in my apartment is quite small, and when I watched “The Long Goodbye,” I felt like I missed some important nuances at the beginning. The film was gorgeous on the big screen in 35mm, and I loved seeing it with an audience, especially when they started to chuckle when a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in an early role. It was equally cool to see this screening because Elliott Gould was interviewed prior to the film and I also saw him interviewed at Club TCM an hour before.

Elliott Gould interviewed by Alec Baldwin at the Roosevelt Hotel. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Elliott Gould interviewed by Alec Baldwin at the Roosevelt Hotel. (Photo/Jessica P.)

“One Potato, Two Potato” is a very simple film but has a message that’s more powerful than almost any other film I have ever seen. While I was crushed at the ending when I watched it on my TV, I was sobbing in the movie theater.

Of those new-to-me favorites, I really enjoyed “When You’re in Love” with Cary Grant and Grace Moore because it was a fun and humorous musical romp. The 90 years of Vitaphone screening is also in my top two favorite festival moments. Audiences had the opportunity to see Vitaphone shorts that hadn’t been viewed in 87 years! My favorites of the seven shorts were the comedic duo, the Beau Brummels and Baby Rose Marie (who you may know from the Dick Van Dyke Show) singing her heart out. I also really enjoyed “Roar” (1981). It was so bizarre and disturbing, but I also have never laughed so much during a film while not being certain if I should laugh or not. It’s incredibly difficult to describe how you feel while watching it, so I suggest looking it up.

Least Favorites:

Anna Karina with Ben Mankiewicz

Anna Karina with Ben Mankiewicz

Of all the films I watched, I wasn’t a fan of “Band of Outsiders,” which is probably an unpopular opinion. Of the French New Wave filmmakers, I’m a François Truffaut fan (who also used Bernard Herrmann as a composer) and not so much Jean-Luc Godard. It was awesome to see Anna Karina but the film to me dragged. I guess some people would automatically say “It’s because you didn’t get it” because I feel like it’s one of those films people say they liked just to sound smart. But I fell asleep and didn’t feel like I missed much. I also was pretty surprised when Anna Karina said it took three weeks for her male co-stars to learn “The Madison” dance. Maybe it’s because I’m a dancer, but it looked like a dance that anyone could learn in a day.

Films I Regret Not seeing:
There are some time slots that I regret eating during. I most regret missing “Private Property” (1960) because I was eating lunch. Other films landed during films or presentations I was attending. I hate that I missed “A House Divided” (1931), Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934), Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), the documentary “Harold and Lillian,” “I’ve Always Loved You” (1946) and “Repeat Performance” (1947).

Many TCMFF fans missed the 1933 pre-code “Double Harness” starring William Powell and Ann Harding and I was almost shocked by the popularity. It’s a great film and has been shown frequently on TCM since it was restored in April 2007 with several other presumed to be lost films such as Rafter Romance, One Man’s Journey and Stingaree. I guess I figured most TCM viewers had watched it in the past, especially because it aired a few months back during the pre-code festival on TCM. FYI: It’s airing Friday, May 27, at 11 a.m. ET.

Director Francis Ford Coppola during his hand and foot print ceremony. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Director Francis Ford Coppola during his hand and foot print ceremony. (Photo/Jessica P.)

This year I saw the least amount of films I have ever watched at TCMFF. This is partially because I opted for some of the special events like director Francis Ford Coppola’s hand and foot print ceremony (which was attended by director Peter Bogdanovitch), an interview with Elliott Gould held in Club TCM at the Roosevelt Hotel, a presentation on the Art of Film Scores by Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino, and “My First Time in Hollywood” with presentations by Nancy Olson and David Ladd.

Met an old friend in Hollywood

Met an old friend in Hollywood

I also took some time to stop and eat at least one meal a day. For those of you who have never attended, you have to make a difficult decision: Do I eat? Or do I see this really cool film that I’ve never seen before? Since I got sick the last two years, I decided to take a few breaks and not push myself too hard. For example, at my first festival in 2013 (when I was a few years younger), I watched 16 films with no meal breaks. This year I watched 11.

And even while not booking ever slot with a film, it was still an outstanding time. I’ll be back next year, and most likely with my parents.

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Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: the Disney World of classic movies

It’s like Disney World for classic film fans.

Rushing from place to place and waiting in lines for entertainment.

Robert Osborne introducing "Desert Song" (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne introducing “Desert Song” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Turner Classics Movie’s Robert Osborne could be considered the “Walt Disney” of the whole event.

Yes for classic film fans, the Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) may be considered the “happiest place on Earth,” where thousands of people spend four days doing nothing but watching classic films and enjoying each other’s company.

Since this was my first year attending TCMFF, I can’t compare it to past years but several have said it was the best year ever, and I would believe it. After three years of wanting to go to TCMFF, I was not disappointed. I had a ball.
There were several times- riding on the plane, sitting in a movie theater, walking down Hollywood Blvd.- that I thought “Am I really here?”

I visited Hollywood once before in 2006 on a family vacation and was left rather dismayed by the disregard of history and confused by the odd people dressed like Marilyn Monroe and Shrek outside of Graumann’s Chinese Theater (now TCL Chinese).

But even those people desperate for attention in their costumes and passing out their CDs didn’t cheapen TCMFF.

Typical me. Photo bombing a TCM picture outside the Egyptian (there I am on the left in the green)

Typical me. Photo bombing a TCM picture outside the Egyptian (there I am on the left in the green)

In fact I felt like I excitedly drifted along on a cloud of old Hollywood splendor; only thinking about which movie I would watch next.

And after years of being a classic film fan I was finally with people who understood what I was talking about. I could toss around names like Van Johnson, Edward Everett Horton or mention the slang “pre-code” and every one knew exactly what I meant.

It’s an uncanny feeling to be sitting in an audience waiting to watch “Libeled Lady” and have the audience applaud when stars Jean Harlow and William Powell enter on screen.

I haven’t seen many classic films on the big screen and it’s a special experience. Not only did I realize how much I liked some films, but I noticed more. Facial expressions and shifting of eyes that you may miss on the small screen.

Though I blogged each night on my phone, I wanted to do one last review of the festival.

Films viewed during the festival:

France Nuyen, Ben Mankiewiczi and Mitzi Gaynor poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel

France Nuyen, Ben Mankiewicz and Mitzi Gaynor poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Thursday, April 25:
-South Pacific (1958)
Starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, Juanita Hall and France Nuyen
With guests Mitzi Gaynor and France Nuyen
The film was shown poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel and hula dancers performed before the film.

For more on Thursday:

Friday, April 26:
-Libeled Lady (1936)
Starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy
“Screwball comedy is a lost art,” said TCM’s Scott McGee before the film.
The whole audience also cheered as McGee said he was a huge fan of William Powell’s.

Kate MacMurray introducing "Suddenly It's Spring"

Kate MacMurray introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

-Suddenly, It’s Spring (1947)*
Starring Paulette Goddard, Fred MacMurray, MacDonald Carey. Introduced by MacMurray’s daughter Kate.
MacMurray’s daughter shared wonderful stories about her father including: MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Introduced by Rose McGowan
It (1927) starring Clara Bow
This was my first silent film with a live orchestra accompaniment.
“Clara was a great natural talent of movies,” said Bow biographer David Stenn.
-Hondo (1954) starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page Introduced by Leonard Maltin.
This was my FIRST EVER 3D film.
For more on Friday:

Saturday, April 27:
-Bugs Bunny Cartoons for his 75th birthday
Very clever of TCM to start a Saturday with cartoons. Leonard Maltin introduced the cartoons saying how Warner Brother’s cartoons were the first to have the characters talk at the screen.

(Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

-Alfred Hitchcock’s A Lady Vanishes (1936) Introduced by 98-year-old actor Norman Lloyd.
Lloyd gave up a tennis game to speak before the film and said A Lady Vanishes and 39 Steps were the last two English films Hitchcock made and were both perfection.
“I tell film students, don’t go to film school. Just watch 39 Steps,” Lloyd said.

-Desert Song (1943)* starring Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot. Introduced by Robert Osborne
A film that had not been shown over 50 years due to copyright, this was my 500th musical that I’ve seen.
It seems fitting that my 500th musical would end with me meeting Robert Osborne afterwards.

Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth introducing Mildred Pierce (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth introducing Mildred Pierce (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

-Mildred Pierce (1945) starring Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, Jack Carson, Eve Arden
Introduced by Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth
“I have nothing but wonderful memories of Joan,” Blyth said.
-Island of Lost Souls (1932) starring Charles Laughton, Lelia Hyams, Richard Arlen
I love that TCM also ended nights with a horror film at midnight.
For more on Saturday:

Sunday, April 28
-Come September (1961) starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollabrigida, Bobby Daren, Sandra Dee
Introduced by Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer
-I Am Suzanne (1933)* starring Lilian Harvey and Gene Raymond. Introduced by MoMa archivist Katie Trainor
Though this film was very odd (the plot revolved around marionette puppets), it was worth seeing. Trainor said the film had not been seen in 80 years. This was also my 501st musical
-It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
The General (1926) and One Week (1920) starring Buster Keaton. Introduced by Robert Osborne
A special screening because it was the second to last film to be shown in Graumann’s before being remodeled to IMAX. The crowd booed when Osborne announced this.
For more on Sunday:

Along with the films it was a pleasure to meet so many fellow bloggers and Twitter pals in person. Especially since I have talked to many of you for three years. There were screams of excitement and embracing as we kindred classic film souls finally met in person.


With knees shaking, I met my favorite person in the whole world, Robert Osborne


With another favorite, Ben Mankiewicz


Sad to be returning home, I ran into TCM’s Scott McGee who was on my flight home!

My favorite film of the festival: “Suddenly, It’s Spring” (1947). I had never seen it and it was wonderful. MacMurray’s daughter also gave one of my favorite talks during the festival

My favorite day of the Festival was Friday since it held so many firsts for me.
Now, as I sit on my couch back in North Carolina, I can only count the days until next year.

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