The 2016 TCM Film Festival

After three consecutive visits to the TCM Film Festival as media coverage I can say with certainty it’s my favorite event of the year. To spend the weekend in company with thousands of other classic film nuts in the heart of Hollywood is my idea of bliss.

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This year I was able to spend 2 days at the festival and, as in years past, I was treated to special moments I’ll never forget. I arrived at the Hollywood Roosevelt (festival headquarters) on Saturday and headed straight to Club TCM – my favorite spot at the festival. I got there just in time to hear Nancy Olsen read Colleen Moore’s recollection of her arrival in Hollywood (from My First Time in Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp).

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Now, if the name Nancy Olson doesn’t ring a bell let me refresh you. Sunset Boulevard. Union Station. Pollyanna.

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I’ve long been a fan of hers and hearing her speak was one of my festival “must do’s.” At 87 she’s as vibrant as ever and I was ecstatic that I was there to hear her. As soon as she finished her piece I raced across the street to the Chinese Multiplex to catch a screening of Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. Never heard of it? Prior to the festival neither had I.

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Released in 1934 it stars Ronald Coleman as the famous amateur detective from the series of Sapper novels. A comedic caper centering around a prince and his mysterious cargo ship from the far east its supporting cast includes Loretta Young, Una Merkel, Charles Butterworth and C. Aubrey Smith.

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The film was introduced by archivist Michael Schlesinger who advised us Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back was the greatest movie we’d never scene. Tangled up in a knot of three separate distributors the film has never been released on VHS or DVD and has rarely been seen since it’s original premier. He advised he’s been lobbying Criterion to release it for years but they don’t feel there’s a market for it. Well, I’m here to say there IS a market for this film. I LOVED it. It’s a quick, lighthearted mystery that’s laugh out loud funny. My screening was at capacity and everyone in the theater loved it as much as I did. In fact, it was so popular that it was shown again on Sunday. If Criterion or another company should decided to release it I will be one of the first to make a purchase.

After leaving the film I was headed back to the Roosevelt via the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre when I happened to notice a screening of Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell starring Gina Lollobrigida was about to begin. On a whim I decided to check it out.

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The film was preceded by an onstage interview of Ms. Lollobrigida by Ben Mankiewicz. I must admit, I didn’t know much about her as I had only previously seen one of her films (Come September). I soon learned she is quite the fascinating individual. After losing her home in World War II she accepted extra work to earn income for her family. She was in art school at the time and had no intention of becoming an actress but when she was offered a large fee for a starring role she agreed. From then her career snowballed and she became a huge international star. When she no longer wanted to act she pursued her true passion – photography. She became a photojournalist and even interviewed Fidel Castro. Today, she is a talented sculptor and her pieces are exhibited all over the world. She was such an interesting person to hear and I was so happy I decided to attend her interview.

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Gina Lollobrigida In Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell Movie On 1968  (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

 

As for the film? Well, it wasn’t really my thing. For a late sixties sex farce about a single Italian woman who slept with three GI’s during the war, told them all they were her baby’s father and is reunited with all of them at once 20 years later it was actually kind of boring. I ended up leaving early to head back to the Roosevelt.

When I returned to the hotel I came across Rita Moreno signing her memoir. Here session was almost over and there was no line so of course I bought a copy and had her sign it!

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Her character of Anita in West Side Story is my favorite in the film. To get to meet her in person was such a treat! She was a true delight and it’s a memory I’ll always cherish.

After a short round of trivia where I managed to snag a prize I headed back to Club TCM to catch a presentation of Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive. I caught its original incarnation two years ago and loved seeing the home movies of the stars. It was just as wonderful the second time around watching Ginger Rogers frolic in her pool, the foreign language film nominees visit Disneyland and Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea film The More the Merrier. As an added bonus we were treated to home movies of the Nicholas Brothers with their family members in attendance. It was an unforgettable experience listening to them regale us with stories of their talented ancestors.

On Sunday I returned to the festival to catch a screening of Horse Feathers.

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Introduced by comedy legend David Steinberg this early Marx Brothers film played to a packed house. I love classic comedy and there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen. To enjoy the mad cap antics of the brothers with a group of people laughing like crazy is a true experience. In fact, it’s the exact experience that makes the TCM Film Festival so special. Nowhere else do I find myself in the company of such an enthusiastic audience. To watch the films I love with people who love them as much as I do is the perfect way to spend my day. I can’t wait until next year!

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