It’s a Wonderful Life: The 2023 TCM Film Festival – Part I

It was the best of times, it was the best of times.

The 2023 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival was a stone gas. (And in case you weren’t around in the 1970s, that’s a good thing!)

Not too long ago, I returned home after attending my ninth in-person TCM Film Festival, held in Hollywood each spring, and I must say, I’m still in recovery mode. Nothing will ever be as endlessly magical and delightfully surreal as my first fest in 2013, but every subsequent year has come awfully close. And this year was no different.

Veronica at the L.A. County Art Museum.

Attending for the third time with my older daughter, Veronica (my younger daughter, Jessica, is a teacher and hasn’t yet been able to go, but we’re holding out hope that she’ll be able to one day), I saw a total of 10 ½ movies during the fest – but in a rare move, I varied a bit from my original plan. Generally, once I decide on my schedule, I stick to it – I’m not exactly the poster child for change and spontaneity, y’all. But I must say that making those last-minute switch-ups this year was kinda fun!

Veronica and I always arrive in L.A. a few days before the fest begins so we can take in a bit of the city – this year, we visited the L.A. County Art Museum and the Academy Museum. We’d also checked out the Academy Museum in 2022, but frankly, I was more impressed by the tasty cocktails I had at the museum’s restaurant last year than I was with the museum itself. But what a difference a year makes! During our visit, we saw exhibits and displays on The Godfather, Casablanca, Boyz in the Hood, Rebecca, classic film costumes, and the Oscars. The Casablanca exhibit, for example, included the piano played in the film by Dooley Wilson and the doors that lead to Rick’s Cafe, and the Godfather display featured a recreation of Don Corleone’s office, props from the movie (including the horse’s head!), and well-known outfits worn by several cast members. The entire museum experience was simply outstanding, and I look forward to returning next year!

Dooley Wilson sat here.
Don Corleone’s office! (Can’t you just hear the Godfather theme music playing?)
Elizabeth Taylor’s gown from A Place in the Sun (1951).

My favorite part of our awesome visit to the Academy Museum was an extensive exhibit called Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 that was absolutely phenomenal; it featured a wide variety of posters, photographs, costumes, and documents all focused on blacks in movies from shortly before the turn of the century to the early 1970s. I didn’t want to leave!

This photo was taken in Anniston, Alabama, in 1936, by Peter Sekaer. It shows the stairway of a local movie theater leading to the balcony, where black moviegoers were required to sit in order to watch movies.
Known as The Black Garbo, Nina Mae McKinney starred in this 1938 film directed by Leo Popkin.
Program from the 1935 Cotton Club Parade, featuring performances by Nina Mae McKinney, Lena Horne, Juano Hernandez, and the Nicholas Brothers.
Shoes worn by the Nicholas Brothers.
— Original renderings of two of the costumes from Carmen Jones (1954).
Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, and director Ossie Davis on the set of Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970).

The day after our museum adventures, we attended the pre-fest celebration sponsored by the Going to TCM Film Festival Facebook group, held at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. This annual event is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and put faces to the many fellow classic film fans that I interact with throughout the year on Facebook and Twitter. I missed out on getting tickets to a presentation at the museum by fashion historian Kimberly Truhler so, instead, Veronica and I attended a pre-fest TCM event at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel sponsored by Citibank – it featured TCM host Ben Mankiewicz interviewing Laura Dern and her mother, Diane Ladd. It was a great interview, and I especially loved listening to Diane Ladd’s stories, told in her beautiful southern accent. Dern and Ladd have written a book, Honey, Baby, Mine; the genesis of the book came from a life-threatening illness Ladd suffered as a result of pesticides being sprayed at farms near her home. Ladd’s physician prescribed long walks in an effort to rebuild her lung capacity; during these challenging workouts, Laura Dern distracted her mother by encouraging Ladd to share her life stories. Over time, both women began questioning each other on a variety of topics long kept secret, from love and sex to ambition. These in-depth conversations are shared in Honey, Baby, Mine.

Ben Mankiewicz conducted an outstanding interview of Dern and Ladd.
Laura Dern
Diane Ladd

The attendees of the Citibank event received a free copy of the Dern-Ladd book; I’ve already started reading it and I’m enjoying it so much! Because we received two copies in our family, I’m giving one away to my readers – if you’re interested in being entered in the drawing for this copy, just fill out this form. The winner will be notified on June 1, 2023.

Veronica and me after the Dern-Ladd interview, with their new book. Click here to be entered into a giveaway for a copy of Honey, Baby, Mine!

The festival started the day after the Dern-Ladd interview, and the festival kickoff event for me was, as always, the trivia contest, So You Think You Know Movies, hosted by Bruce Goldstein, programmer for New York’s Film Forum. Sadly, my team was unable to pull off a two-peat after last year’s victory, but the contest was still lots of fun. I’m sharing a few of the questions from the event – try your hand and see how you do! To see the answers, scroll down, past the dancing Nicholas Brothers . . .

  1. Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award. Who was the first?
  2. What was the name of the movie or movies directed by John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) in Sullivan’s Travels (1941)?
  3. What was Ricardo Montalban’s first film?
  4. What actor was the youngest Nicholas Brother named after?
  5. Who did Jack Lemmon once beat up in a movie?

My next TCMFF post (coming soon!) will cover the films I saw. Hope you’ll come back for this recap!

The Nicholas Brothers performed this fabulous routine in Stormy Weather (1943).

Trivia Contest Answers:

  1. James Baskett (He received an honorary Academy Award for his performance as Uncle Remus in Song of the South.)
  2. Ants in Your Pants of 1939, Hey Hey in the Hayloft, and So Long Sarong.
  3. He’s a Latin from Staten Island (It’s a short released in 1941.)
  4. Harold Lloyd (Harold Nicholas was named by his older brother, Fayard, who was a fan of Harold Lloyd.)
  5. Sylvester Stallone (in the 1975 feature The Prisoner of Second Avenue).

~ by shadowsandsatin on May 1, 2023.

15 Responses to “It’s a Wonderful Life: The 2023 TCM Film Festival – Part I”

  1. Wow! Looks like an amazing trip, Karen. Especially enjoyed seeing the photos of your visit to the museum. Love that they have the Nicholas Brothers shoes in there. Hopefully Jessica will be able to come with you to the festival next year. Looking forward to reading your next post about the film screenings. Maddy

  2. Have you ever taken the backlot tour of Warner Bros studios on your visits to LA? Because of a fire, there is only one building left from Casablanca, but there remain exteriors from the Maltese Falcon and other WB classic films.

    I love the historical exhibits at the Academy Museum. They preserve a moment of time that still lives on film and in our memories.

    • Hi, David — yes, I took a Warners tour several years ago. It wasn’t the classic tour, but I did see some cool stuff, including the place where all the props are stored, and the outside of the soundstages where many of my favorites were filmed, like Mildred Pierce. I’d like to go back, though, to do the classic version!

  3. Hi, Thank you so much for the wonder email. You made my day, I wish you well, Marion


  4. Thank you so much; all the photos really helped transport me there. That piano is uniquely beautiful and conjures up sounds and images of sharing great times with fascinating people.

  5. I dream of attending a TCM festival one day — but until I do, I will just soak up everything that you and other classic movie bloggers share about it. It looks like you had a marvelous time! Hurrah!

  6. There’s so much that is SO good in this post, but in an effort to keep this short, I’ll stick to my main takeaways:

    • That photo of the “Colored” stairway is BIZARRE. 😮 I know I shouldn’t be shocked, but it rattled me.
    • I’m totally unfamiliar with Nina Mae McKinney, but she is beautiful!
    • The backstory behind Laura & Diane’s book is touching. ❤
    • It’s lovely to see your daughter. I’m glad you two had such a fun time! (I can feel your enthusiasm in your writing.)
    • Now I must see The Prisoner of Second Avenue. 😉

    Looking forward to Part 2! 🙂

  7. Enjoyed reading the recap of Part I of your Film Fest adventure, Karen – lovely photo of you & your beautiful daughter! (The Nicholas Bros were amazing…🎵🎬)
    Best wishes,

    • Thank you, Cynthia — and thank you for your sweet compliment about the photo of Veronica and me! I am blown away by The Nicholas Brothers every time I see them. And I recently caught a video of them when they were little boys — they had the stuff even back then!

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