The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: Still More Adventures in Paradise — Part II

•August 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Cicely Tyson. Legend.

It’s about that time . . . time for the next installment of my coverage of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2018!

One of the many memorable events from my festival experience this year was the hand and footprint ceremony for actress Cicely Tyson, held in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (I know it’s called something else now, but it’ll always be Grauman’s to me). I’d first gotten a glimpse of Miss Tyson – who turned 93 last December – on the red carpet for the festival’s opening night film, and although she’d passed by in a manner of seconds, it was enough to see that she looked absolutely FABULOUS. Her mostly gray hair was in a short, close-cropped style and she was wearing a striking white fringed jacket, looking more like she was about to rock out with the Rolling Stones than settle herself down to watch a movie. Still, as sharp as she looked that night, I wasn’t prepared for her appearance the following day at the hand and footprint ceremony! For this event, she was clad in a bad-ass black and white pantsuit that was to DIE FOR, and her hair was styled in a glossy pageboy that matched the colors of her outfit. In my whole life, I should hope to look that good.

Tyson and Tyler Perry, as she prepares to step onto the cement.

The ceremony was opened by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, who told the gathered crowd that the actress was “one of the legitimate legends of the screen” who created “indelible and memorable characters consistent in their reflection of a positive image of African-American women.” During her more than 60-year career, Mankiewicz said, Tyson had performed in film as well as on television and stage. Her big-screen break was in the role of Rebecca Morgan in Sounder (1974), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Throughout the decades that followed, her star continued to rise, and she’s showing no signs of stopping. In 2013, she returned to Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her performance in A Trip to Bountiful, and more recently, she was seen in the Netflix series House of Cards, and as the mother of Viola Davis in the ABC-TV series How to Get Away With Murder.

In addition to her performances, Tyson was one of the co-founders of the Dance Theater of Harlem and in 2016 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. “TCM is quite proud to be part of this special day,” Mankiewicz said.

Tyson was introduced by actor-director-writer-producer Tyler Perry, who directed the actress in his 2012 film Alex Cross.

“Cicely Tyson is incredibly strong,” Perry said, stressing Tyson’s strength, grace and class. “You have to be strong to survive in this business.”

Immortalized!

Tyson took the podium to a rousing ovation. “I cannot tell you – it would be an understatement for me to try and tell you what this moment in time means to me,” she said, after jokingly acknowledging the “competition” offered by a helicopter flying above. She shared with the crowd her memory of her first arrival in Hollywood, when she got on a bicycle and rode around to acclimate herself to the area. She came upon Grauman’s Chinese theater and started looking around at all of the names of people who had planted their hands and feet in the cement.

“My first thought was, ‘Why in the world would they do that?’ – never dreaming that one day, I would be asked to do the same, and knowing the reason why,” Tyson said. “To say to TCM that the fact that you thought enough of what I was trying to do throughout my entire career was worthy of this moment – I cannot tell you how grateful I am.”

It was truly a thrill to see this nonagenarian speak in such a steady, powerful voice, and move with such grace, and dress with such panache – not to mention kneel on the carpet for I-don’t-know-how-long to put her hands in the cement! (I’d have never gotten up again!) She is an American treasure and a true inspiration.

Stay tuned for next month’s installment of the 2018 TCM Film Festival!

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Audrey Totter Day: TCM Summer Under the Stars

•August 1, 2018 • 5 Comments

Day 6: Miss Audrey Totter

All things considered, I have to say that August is one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is still undeniably warm – nary a hint of the Chicago winter lurking just around the corner. There’s the slightest bit of calm before the storm at my job, before the new school year kicks into gear. And the Noir City film festival sails into town, gifting my fair city with seven straight days of shadowy noir goodness (or badness, as the case may be).

But perhaps the number one reason that I harbor such a fondness for the eighth month is that it’s the month for Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under the Stars – when my favorite channel focuses each day on a different classic film star and plays their films back-to-back, from sun-up to way past sundown. Every year, I look forward to pouring over the list of actors and actresses that TCM has selected, always pleased to find old favorites (Joan Crawford! Clark Gable! Lauren Bacall!) and equally excited to see those who aren’t often recognized – Dana Andrews? Miriam Hopkins? That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

And this year, adding to my overall August glee is Day Number 6, which shines the spotlight on one of my favorite noir femmes: Audrey Totter. And with Miss Totter, we get no less than six – count ‘em SIX – first-rate film noir features!

Yup.

So fire up your DVR (or your VCR, if you’re like me), or start sniffling in your meetings at work so you can call in sick – and then catch the following noir gems on August 6th:

The Postman Always Rings Twice.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

What: Roadside diner owner Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway) makes the wrong decision when he gives a job to a Frank Chambers (John Garfield), a drifter with itchy feet.

Why: Because the drifter falls like a ton of bricks for Cora Smith (Lana Turner), the owner’s young and sexy wife and, together, the two of them plot Nick’s murder.

Who: Totter is only in one scene, but she makes the most of it as Madge Gorland, a hamburger slinger who has a brief fling with Frank while Cora’s out of town.

What’d she say? “I’m going to wait standing up. It’s a hot day and that’s a leather seat. And I’ve got on a thin skirt.”

The Set-Up.

The Set-Up (1949)

What: An aging boxer, Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan), is determined to emerge the victor in a fight no one expects him to win.

Why: Because he’s a FIGHTER, that’s why!

Who: Totter is Stoker’s long-suffering wife, Julie, who has supported her spouse through broken noses and bloodied lips, but she’s just about had it.

What’d she say? “Don’t you see, Bill? You’ll always be just one punch away.”

Tension.

Tension (1949)

What: In one of my favorite twisty-turny noir plots, a mild-mannered drugstore clerk, Warren Quimby (Richard Basehart), plans to kill the man who’s on the make for his wife.

Why: Beats the heck out of me, ‘cause his wife is a real bitch. Seriously.

Who: Totter is that bitch – and I LOVE her. She’s Claire Quimby, and she just doesn’t give a damn.

What’d she say? “I’ve got what I’m looking for and I’m gonna grab it while I’ve got the chance: a real man.”

High Wall.

High Wall (1947)

What: War veteran Steven Kenet (Robert Taylor) is suspected of murdering his wife.

Why: Because when he found out that his wife was doing the horizontal Hokey Pokey with her boss, Kenet started strangling her – and was later found next to her dead body. Hmm.

Who: Totter plays one of her few “good girl” roles – a doctor in a psychiatric hospital who is determined to unearth the truth about the murder.

What’d she say? “You still don’t understand, do you? Do you remember what you told me in the cell tonight? Well, that’s true for me, too. If Whitcombe doesn’t confess, if he is innocent, then there’s nothing – there’s nothing for either one of us.” (Hey, they can’t all be winners.)

The Unsuspected.

The Unsuspected (1947)

What: A young woman’s body is found hanging from the chandelier in the home of her employer, radio personality Victor Grandison (the always fab Claude Rains).

Why: Because somebody killed her and made it look like a suicide!

Who: Totter plays Grandison’s trampy niece, Althea. With gusto, I might add.

What’d she say? “Victor’s the only man who can turn my blood to ice water.”

Lady in the Lake.

Lady in the Lake (1946)

What: Filmed in the “Camera I” method, where the camera serves as the eye of the film’s star (and director), Robert Montgomery, this often confusing feature centers – ultimately – on the murder of the title character. (I think.)

Why: Because it gives Montgomery, who plays detective Philip Marlowe, the chance to solve this crazy crime.

Who: Totter plays one of my favorite-named characters, Adrienne Fromsett, who hires Marlowe to find her boss’s missing wife and winds up falling for the big lug.

What’d she say? “Perhaps you’d better go home and play with your fingerprint collection.”

Don’t miss Audrey Totter Day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. August 6th.

You. Will. Not. Be. Sorry.

The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: Still More Adventures in Paradise

•July 6, 2018 • 7 Comments

The participants in this year’s ‘So You Think You Know Movies’ contest. You can see me on the left, with a white shirt and a hat. 🙂 (Well, maybe you can’t see me, but I’m there. For real!)

Since attending this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in late April, my life has been a whirlwind. My oldest daughter graduated from Howard University, my empty nest filled up again (so long, clean kitchen!), and my business partner and I made our debut as vendors at a local antique flea market, on the two hottest days of the year! But blah blah blah, enough about me – on to the important stuff!

The 2018 TCM Film Festival – my sixth! – was no less wonderful and flew by no more slowly than each year that came before. Once again, it was an unending bacchanalia of films, friends, and celebrities – not to mention selfies, protein bars, speed walking between theaters, my annual visit to Larry Edmunds Bookstore and Musso and Frank’s restaurant and, of course, my favorite Hollywood cocktail (the Basil Gimlet at the Hollywood Roosevelt)! Now that my real life has started to settle down, I’m ready to dive into my coverage of this year’s event, which I’ll provide on a monthly basis as I countdown to the 2019 festival!!

Bruce Goldstein is the best.

My very first activity has become a staple for me – each year that I’ve gone to the festival, I’ve kicked things off with the “So You Think You Know Movies” trivia contest. Last year, you might recall, my team tied for first place (no, I am NEVER going to stop talking about it), but this time around, let’s just say we didn’t quite achieve the same heights. As always, though, the contest was lots of fun, helped in great part by the first-rate hosting skills of Bruce Goldstein of the New York Film Forum.

The questions this year seemed to be harder than any before – in fact, they were so difficult that I found it impossible to write them all down! Making the contest even more challenging was the fact that the multiple choice format could have one or more answers – or none of the above! And if there was more than one answer, you had to get them all right in order to get credit. Gah!! Anyhoo, just for fun, here are a few of the questions. (Sorry I don’t have all of the multiple choice options for most of them – I just couldn’t write that fast!) See if you can get any of them. The answers will be the end of the post.

  1. What role did Pat Walshe play in The Wizard of Oz?
  2. What was Jennifer Jones’s first screen appearance?
  3. What was Judy Holliday’s first film?
  4. Molly Picon once played the mother of which of these actors: (a) Mel Brooks, (b) Woody Allen, (c) Barbra Streisand, (d) Whoopi Goldberg, or (e) Sir Roger Moore.
  5. Who played Geronimo in Broken Arrow (1950)?
  6. Of the following movie child and parent duos, which were closest in age: (a) Cary Grant and Jessie Royce Landis, in North by Northwest (1959), (b) Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury, in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), (c) Norman Lloyd and Hume Cronyn in The Green Years (1946), (d) John Garfield and Anne Revere in Body and Soul (1947), (e) Dick Van Dyke and Maureen Stapleton in Bye, Bye Birdie (1963)

Right after the trivia contest, my trusty TCMFF pal, Kim, and I hightailed it to the bleachers in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater to watch the celebrities walk the red carpet before the opening night film, The Producers (1967). This was my third year in the bleachers, and I simply love it – it’s so exciting to see all the stars close up, and so much fun cheering for them as well as for the passholders who are dressed to the nines for the event. And they’re so nice! Nearly every star stopped by the bleachers to greet us; they seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them! Below are some of the pictures I snapped of the celebrities – in addition to these, I also saw Martin Scorsese, who was there to receive the first annual Robert Osborne Award (which was presented to him by Leonard DiCaprio, who did not walk the carpet, darn it), along with Sara Karloff (Boris’s daughter); Melvin and Mario Van Peebles; Diane Baker, star of such films as The Best of Everything (one of my favorite guilty pleasures) and The Diary of Anne Frank; William Wellman, Jr. (his dad was the acclaimed director); Kate Flannery, who was featured in TV’s The Office; and Carole Shelley and Monica Evans, who played the Pidgeon Sisters in The Odd Couple (1968).

This is Wyatt McCrea — son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee. (Squee!) He’s a writer, producer and actor.

Juliet Mills and her husband Maxwell Caulfield, who have been married since 1980. Seeing them together was heartwarming — they were adorable. (sniff)

Paul Sorvino (here with his wife) told the crowd that he didn’t need a microphone. He was trained on the stage, he said, and sings opera. And then he proceeded to burst into song, gifting us with a beautiful Italian aria. Bravo!

Norman Lloyd, who is now 103 years old, is always simply delightful. He told us, “I wish I could think of something brilliant to say, but you take my breath away.” Swoon.

Eva Marie Saint celebrated her 94th birthday on the 4th of July this year. She is all that.

Keith Carradine presented quite the dapper figure. (And if you look closely, you can see Leonard Maltin in the background!)

I love Mel Brooks. He told the crowd, “Keep in touch. Don’t be strange.” Hee!

I can’t say enough about Ruta Lee. When I saw her, I joked that she must have a portrait in her attic. She is GOR. JUS.

The last star to come down the carpet was Cicely Tyson, who at 93 years of age is totally badass.

The answers to the trivia questions are below:

  1. Nikko, the flying monkey – Walshe was a 3-foot, 10-inch vaudevillian. He also played a small role in the 1950 noir Panic in the Streets.
  2. The Three Mesquiteers, a 1936 Republic Studios western. Jones was credited under her given name, Phyllis Isley.
  3. Greenwich Village (1944) – Holliday was in a dance group called The Revuers, which also featured the writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The Revuers performed a number in the film, which was later cut, but you can still catch a brief glimpse of Holliday in one scene.

    Judy Holliday (in the front, with the lime green costume) had more visibility on this lobby card than she did in the movie.

  4. Sir Roger Moore – Picon played his mother in The Cannonball Run (1981)
  5. Jay Silverheels, who was best-known for his portrayal of Tonto in the Lone Ranger television series.
  6. Dick Van Dyke and Maureen Stapleton were closest in age – they were born just five months apart!

Hope you had fun with the trivia quiz and enjoyed my snaps from the red carpet. Stay tuned for next month’s installment of my look at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!

List o’ the Week: Movies I Don’t Get

•June 16, 2018 • 30 Comments

A few weeks ago, I ran into an old friend, who happens to be one of my (very) few “real-life” friends who has any interest whatsoever in classic movies. We got to talking about some films he’d seen recently, which had been recommended to him – The Third Man and How Green Was My Valley. He gave a disgruntled, lengthy thumbs-down review to them both, saying he just “didn’t get” what all the fuss was about. Although I urged him to give The Third Man a second (or third, or fourth) try, and explained that although How Green Was My Valley didn’t really have a plot, it was a beautiful, moving film, he wasn’t convinced.

This started me to thinking about movies I’ve seen, that are highly thought of by most film fans, but that I just “don’t get.” So that’s today’s List o’ the Week: my Top 10 movies I don’t get:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I can’t deny it. This movie made me want to stick something in my eye. Anything.

Vertigo (1958)

I’m a HUGE Hitchcock fan, but I just can’t with this one. I’ve tried. But I just can’t.

Dr. Zhivago (1965)

I only get this movie as a substitute for a sleeping pill. Zzzz.

The Swimmer (1968)

I REALLY don’t get this one.

Spellbound (1945)

I love Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck is great, Hitchcock is awesome…so it’s a mystery why I don’t get this one. But I don’t.

The Champ (1931)

Oh my gosh, y’all — the scenery chomping is too much. And the final scene just makes me laugh. I’m sorry.

Black Narcissus (1947)

I know it’s all visually breathtaking and deep and Powell and Pressburger and whatnot, but I don’t get it.

Chinatown (1974)

For me, the parts were better than the whole — quotable quotes, memorable scenes (“She’s my sister! She’s my daughter!”), awesome cinematography, but I just wasn’t bowled over. Maybe because I didn’t know what the heck was going on most of the time.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Nope.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

I’m wild about Cary, but I have to admit that I … well, you know.

And that’s my top 10 list of films I don’t get. I may revisit some of these as part of a future “Second Chances” series I have planned — but in the meantime, they remain in the realm of perplexed shrugs, if you know what I mean.

What about you – are there any fan favorites whose charms escapes you? And what do you think of my list?

Pre-Code Crazy: The Animal Kingdom (1932)

•June 3, 2018 • 11 Comments

Harding, Howard, and Loy

I think I’ve made it clear on these pages that I’m a big Ann Harding fan. Her performances in Double Harness and When Ladies Meet rate among my all-time favorites. And she delivers again in my Pre-Code pick for this month, The Animal Kingdom (1932), co-starring Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy.

The Animal Kingdom focuses on a kind of love quadrangle between Connecticut book publisher Tom Collier; his former lover, artist Daisy Sage (Harding); Tom’s socialite fiancée, Cecelia (Loy); and Owen (Neil Hamilton), Cecelia’s would-be-if-he-could-be beau and Tom’s lawyer.  We meet all four players on the night that Tom and Cecelia reveal that, after dating only a few weeks, they are to be married. Not surprisingly, Daisy and Owen are less than happy to receive the news.

Daisy is none too pleased with Tom’s news.

In the scene where Tom visits Daisy to personally tell her of his engagement, Ann Harding is mesmerizing. She practically takes your breath away – you can feel her unalterable shock, her searing pain, her fierce pride, her self-righteous fury. She makes you want to bundle her in your arms and protect her from the world. Myrna Loy, conversely, plays an unexpectedly unsympathetic role in the film. When her Cecelia is first introduced, she appears to be completely devoted to Tom and both understanding and accepting of his close friendship with Daisy. As time goes by, though, we learn that Cecelia’s not the paragon of virtue that she initially appears to be. She encourages Tom to fire his brutish longtime friend (William Gargan), a former prizefighter who works for the couple as a butler; she convinces him to publish a series of tacky – but popular – pulp fiction novels instead of the more prestigious fare he prefers; she feigns a debilitating headache when Tom wants to attend the opening night of Daisy’s art exhibition – and when that doesn’t work, she uses her feminine wiles (if you know what I mean) to achieve her goal of keeping Tom at home. “You go in alone. . . I’m going to tuck myself into my warm bed and read,” Cecelia tells him, blowing him a kiss full of promises. “Goodnight, lover – I’ll miss you.” (Whoa!)

The interactions between our four major players come to a head when Cecelia invites Daisy to a surprise party for Tom’s birthday. I won’t tell you what happens there – or afterward – but, trust me, there are plenty of surprises to go around. You can discover them for yourself by tuning in to TCM on June 18th. Meanwhile, here are a few trivia tidbits concerning the cast and the production.

Cecelia’s snarky friend, Grace, is played by Ilka Chase. You might remember Chase as the kind-hearted sister-in-law of Bette Davis’s Charlotte Vale in Now, Voyager (1942). Chase was also in the original Broadway cast of The Women, where she played Sylvia Fowler, the role portrayed by Rosalind Russell in the 1939 MGM film. Chase’s first husband was actor Louis Calhern – they were married for less than a year.

The screenplay for the film was based on a play written by Phillip Barry. Barry also wrote the play The Philadelphia Story. He died in 1949 at the age of 53.

Barry’s play opened on Broadway in January 1932 and played for six months. Leslie Howard, William Gargan, and Ilsa Chase also starred in the Broadway version.

Don’t forget to watch The Animal Kingdom on TCM June 18th. And be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to see what gem Kristina is recommending for the month!

 

Pre-Code Crazy: Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933)

•May 8, 2018 • 10 Comments

The opening scene of Mary Stevens, M.D., my pre-Code pick of the month, offers a perfect illustration of the bad-ass pre-Code dame.

As the film begins, an ambulance is called to a tenement apartment on a crowded, bustling street. A frantic resident (Harold Huber) stands at the top of the stairs, urging the doctor to hurry. He quickly learns, though, that the man he assumes is the doctor is actually the ambulance driver and that the real doctor is none other than a woman. Or, as he puts it with over-the-top dramatics, “You’re the doctor!? I need a man doctor! Please go home – my wife, she’s very sick, she’s going to die! I got to have a man doctor!” (I forgot to mention that Harold Huber’s character is Italian and sounds

Meet Dr. Stevens.

like a cross between Father Guido Sarducci and Roseanne Roseannadanna.)

The husband – Tony is his name, according to the opening credits – continues to insist that his wife’s death is imminent, and finally reveals that she’s having a baby. The doctor scoffs: “Is that all?” Momentarily floored by the doctor’s nonchalance, Tony recovers enough to grab a nearby machete (seriously), brandishing it in the doctor’s face and warning that he will kill her if his child dies. Again, the doctor is unfazed – I mean, she literally does not flinch, wince, or even blink an eye. This sister is all business. “All right, all right,” she says as she pushes Tony out of the bedroom. “Now put that knife away before you hurt yourself.”

A short time later, the doctor emerges from the bedroom with not one, but two healthy, crying babies. Tony takes one look at his twins and faints dead away. “He would!” the doctor remarks.

The salad days.

The doctor in question is none other than the title physician, Mary Stevens, played by one of my favorite pre-Code actresses, Kay Francis. Stevens is a pediatrician with a wise-cracking nurse named Glenda Carroll (played by Glenda Farrell), and shares her offices with her childhood and med school chum, Don Stevens (Lyle Talbot), who doesn’t quite share her professional dedication. We soon see that Mary’s in love with Don, but he’s more interested in getting ahead by pursuing Lois Rising (Thelma Todd), the daughter of a local politician. Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” Lois is Don’s bride and Don is the new head of the city compensation bureau (“Well, some people work for a career and some people marry one,” Mary caustically remarks).

Don’s not exactly steady as a rock.

It doesn’t take long for Mary to realize that Don has become seduced by his newfound position, neglecting his medical duties and spending more time in the bottle than he does with his patients. “You never used to drink until sundown,” Mary admonishes him on one occasion, to which Don quips, “It’s a cloudy day!” His drinking problem becomes undeniably apparent when Don tries to operate on a patient after an afternoon of boozing and Mary has to take over.

Afterward, Mary lets Don have it, right between the eyes: “You’re at the head of the most important medical department in this country, even if it is run by a lot of dirty politicians! You were getting somewhere, and here you are, tossing it all away. I’m disgusted with you!” We are, too.  But that’s just the first 20 minutes of the movie! There’s a whole lot more drama and pathos to come, including coincidental couplings, marital infidelity, political scandals, out-of-wedlock babies, and unspeakable tragedies. Tune in to TCM on May 25th and find out what else Mary Stevens, M.D. has in store.

Glenda as Glenda.

And in the meantime, here’s a little more stuff:

Glenda Farrell, who could always be counted on as a sassy sidekick in her films, didn’t disappointment here. In one memorable scene, she shows that she doesn’t bite her tongue even when it comes to youngsters. After tussling with an especially smart-alecky young patient, she first tells him if he breaks one more thing, “I’ll give you a high temperature, just below your Mason-Dixon line!” And a few minutes later, she tells the Dr. Stevens, “I’d like to take out his adenoids – with a lawn mower!”

One of the screenwriters on Mary Stevens also wrote the script for this lost gem.

Keep your eyes peeled for a brief appearance by actress Theresa Harris. She appeared in close to 100 films during her career, with more than 30 of them filmed during the pre-Code era. Her best role was as Chico, Barbara Stanwyck’s bosom pal, in Baby Face (1933).

The film’s screenplay was co-written by Rian James and Robert Lloyd – that same year, James co-wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street and Lloyd’s other 1933 credits included Frisco Jenny, Heroes for Sale, and the famed lost pre-Code Convention City, starring Joan Blondell.

Don’t forget, Mary Stevens, M.D. airs on TCM on May 25th. Do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s a pre-Code goodie!

And be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to read about the pre-Code gem Kristina is recommending this month!

Cinematic Paradise: The 2018 TCM Film Festival

•April 22, 2018 • 15 Comments

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short days I’ll be winging my way to Hollywood for my sixth trip to the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival – but it’s true! As always, I’ll be sending out messages during the event via Facebook and Twitter, and providing year-round coverage with monthly posts here at Shadows and Satin. This year, for the first time, I’m also offering this pre-fest post, to discuss some of the movies I might be seeing and the many conflicts I’m facing, and ask you for your advice!

Here goes.

On the first day of the fest, Thursday, April 26th, I’ll kick things off by continuing my annual tradition of participating in the “So You Think You Know Movies” trivia contest hosted by Bruce Goldstein of New York’s Film Forum. The questions are always unbelievably difficult, but I’m proud to say that my team tied for first place in last year’s event (not because of me, but STILL). It’s lots of fun and it’s a great way to meet new film peeps. Plus, there are always special surprise guests in the audience like Diane Baker (I stood right next to her last year!), James Karen, and Norman Lloyd. Afterward, I hope to snag a spot in the bleachers to watch the red carpet arrivals for the opening night film, The Producers. And for my first film of the fest, it’ll be a no-brainer – I’ll be checking out The Sea Wolf (1941), starring Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Ida Lupino. It won’t be my first time seeing it, but it’s a great movie and, as a bonus, it’ll be introduced by my pal, film historian Alan Rode.

Next day, Friday, I plan to watch Witness for the Prosecution (1957), which will feature a discussion with actress Ruta Lee, who plays a small but pivotal role in the film, followed by A Hatful of Rain (1957), where Eva Marie Saint will be interviewed. (I have to admit that I don’t especially want to see A Hatful of Rain, which centers on the effects of morphine addiction. It’s an excellent film, but it’s SO harrowing. Yikes.) The conflicts start with the next group of films. One possibility is The Odd Couple (1968), which I’ve seen numerous times and is always a treat – and the two actresses who played the Pigeon Sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn (Monica Evans and Carole Shelley) will be on hand to talk about their experiences in the film. The other is None Shall Escape (1944), which depicts the misdeeds of a Nazi war criminal. This screening will feature an appearance by 100-year-old Marsha Hunt, who starred in the film. This is a toughie. My next conflict of the day is between Leave Her to Heaven (1945), which will be shown on nitrate film (should be gorgeous, as this color film is already a treat for the eyes), and Point Blank (1967), which I’ve never seen and always wanted to.

My first movie on Saturday will likely be When You Read This Letter (1953), a noirish French-Italian production, introduced by director Taylor Hackford, but I’d also like to see Outrage (1950), an Ida Lupino-directed film about a woman whose life is shattered when she becomes a victim of rape. Another time slot with several movies I’d like to see includes Heaven Can Wait (1978), which will feature an interview with Dyan Cannon, and The World of Suzie Wong (1960), where the film’s star Nancy Kwan will make an appearance. However, I’m almost certain to opt for Show People (1928), a silent film starring Marion Davies. I’m choosing this one because I always like to see one silent movie at the festival, and it’s being introduced by my friend Lara Fowler, who is writing a biography on Davies. The one film of the day that I unquestionably will be seeing is Sunset Boulevard (1950), where I will finally get the chance to see Nancy Olson, who played the gal William Holden should have wound up with (instead of winding up floating face down in Norma Desmond’s pool). I’ve been looking forward to this screening ever since it was announced several months ago. Another film I plan to catch that day is The Big Lebowski (1998), because I’m a HUGE Coen Brothers fan, but I’ve never seen it!

On the last day, I’d love to see Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), starring Henry Fonda, but I’d also like to check out the special event where festgoers can have their movie memorabilia appraised for free by representatives of Bonhams Auction House. A bit later, I may go for Places in the Heart (1994), which will feature a discussion with the film’s star Sally Field, but that will mean I’ll have to miss a presentation called “Growing Up Mankiewicz,” featuring the four Mankiewicz brothers: TCM’s very own Ben, Josh (of Dateline NBC), John (who writes for House of Cards and Bosch), and graphic designer Alex. Argh. An even more painful conflict is between Bull Durham (1988) — I’ve never seen it and the film’s star, Tim Robbins, will be there — and another special event, Mostly Lost, which is all about an annual Library of Congress film identification workshop where incomplete and unidentified films are shown to an audience that calls out anything they recognize on screen. So much good stuff, so little time. The only certainty on this final day will be the Closing Night Party, which is always a bittersweet blast!

And that’s about the size of it, y’all. What are your thoughts on some of my conflicts – any suggestions? What would you choose?