Amidst all of the new and contemporary movies that we, here at Cinemacy, watch and share with our readers, there are always old classics that have been skipped, or just need to be to re-watched and enjoyed all over again. One event that celebrates the films of the past is the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival, held annually at the Hollywood Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, and running from Thursday, April 6th through Sunday, April 9th . This festival, in which this genre of movie lovers take in and discuss all things classic movies (sometimes walking about in full vintage dress to get into the fun), celebrated the theme, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies.’ Films shown included such classic comedies as Steve Martin’s feature film debut, “The Jerk,” the 50th Anniversary screening and restoration print of Dustin Hoffman’s “The Graduate,” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” which honored the late Debbie Reynolds. This year there was a somber note in remembering Robert Osbourne, TCM’s famous host who passed away last year and who served as the channel’s most recognizable face. Osbourne’s presence was synonymous with the channel itself. Nonetheless, it was a wonderfully produced film festival where I even caught a few gems that I had not seen before.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Alfred Hitchcock’s feature film that got him recognized as a filmmaking talent by then-legendary Studio Head David O., was one of four films presented as part of TCM’s special nitrate film screenings. This new screening series in which four film prints that were shot on nitrate film stock – whose high silver content in the film stock made color contrast alluring, but also highly flammable and prone to theater fires – were played at the Egyptian Theater, whose projection booth was painfully retrofitted in order to play the film stock. As Martin Scorsese noted in the introduction of the movie’s amazing print quality, nitrate film was popularly used before the 40s until it was eventually phased out. The mystery of a family whose daughter is kidnapped and held ransom, played to enthused audiences. Peter Lorre’s English-speaking film debut was a stylish mystery that had me excited to watch the remake (the 1956 remake of the same name, starring James Stewart and Doris Day).
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Peter Bogdanovich introduced his most critically awarded film in “The Last Picture Show” before the Saturday afternoon screening. He was impressed that the packed house had shown up “that early” for the screening. Bogdanovich spoke candidly, speaking about the visual inspiration modeled after “Citizen Kane,” in which friend Orson Welles advised that the only wayBogdanovich could capture the sharp depth of field that Citizen Kane had achieved years before, was to shoot it in a black and white format, which also places the film in its context of the period. The 50s-set movie about a small Texas town that centers around the local high school was a visual masterpiece, and became further cemented in film legacy when it took home Academy Award wins for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman for their Supporting Actor and Actress roles (this also marks Jeff Bridges’ first film debut).
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
John Travolta had a multi-picture deal with Paramount Pictures after starring in “Grease” when he was cast as Tony Manero, a young Brooklyn teenager who’s weekday work only serves to pay for weekend dancing and shenanigans with friends. The film, with Travolta’s disco-dancing and the Bee Gee’s iconic soundtrack, immediately entered pop culture and ended up making a quarter of a billion dollars. Directed by John Badhamm, who was on-hand to introduce the film, Badhamm recounted that Travolta was nervous about the dance scenes and that the iconic white suit (which there were only two versions) had to be dried off with a hair dryer between takes.
Black Narcissus (1937)
Closing the festival coverage was another nitrate film screening of the beautiful “Black Narcissus” (this film was buzzed about since Thursday’s screening of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” as the most anticipated of the nitrate films) – and it did not disappoint. Introduced by the Academy’s Film Archivist, this film was included for its beautifully preserved print, making it obvious why “Black Narcissus” won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The Technicolor picture, about a group of sisters who open a nunnery in the Himalayan mountains, was truly one of the most gorgeous films I had seen in a theater. It was a fantastic way to end the festival, so if you ever have the chance to see it on the big screen, jump at the opportunity to do so!
In fact, make a plan to rediscover great classic films as well as explore unknown gems, by attending the TCM Film Festival next Spring.
For more information, visit TCM Classic Film Festival 2017.