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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCMFF 2012 Selection Guide

Earlier today I received an email from a fellow classic film fanatic, Joshua Daws of He has a pretty good idea what he wants to see during the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival, but he wanted to know what I could recommend, and I was more than eager to offer my suggestions.

Like most of the other TCMFF attendees I’ve actually been thinking about this question ever since the schedule came out last week. Like the first two years of the festival the problem is deciding between so many great choices. Typically there are no fewer than three films playing at the same time, and as many as six. This abundance of wealth has at times left me heartbroken over what I gave up in favor of viewing an alternate cherished classic, preferring to see films I’ve never seen before so that I can experience them for the first time on the big screen of a movie theater.

However, as it turns out not only have I seen most of the films being presented this year, I've seen them a lot. So, my choices for seeing what I've never seen before are limited. In fact, during one particular block there’s nothing I haven’t seen before, and recently too. This gave me the idea of planning my days around the special guests (who are pretty impressive) regardless of my familiarity with the film in question, but then I’m passing up a great opportunity to experience never before seen films for the first time the way they were meant to be seen - in a darkened theatre. Oh, the dilemma. After much consideration I came up with the following response to my friend’s question. The list includes what I plan to see and the films I recommend if you’ve never seen them before. My carefully considered plan may go out the window on the actual day, but it’s a place to start. I wish you good luck and happy viewing!

Opening Night: If you aren’t among the fortunate top tier pass holders who are allowed to see Cabaret I recommend SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. I don't understand why they have Ron Perlman introducing/talking about it, but I do know he is a big fan of classic films and has been a guest programmer on TCM. If you have seen the Preston Sturges comedy then I would opt for THE WOLF MAN. Not only is it a good film and the beginning of all things wolf man, but Special FX Makeup legend Rick Baker is going to be at the screening. I would avoid the poolside screening of High Society unless you just want to mingle and meet a lot of people. The atmosphere is great, but I think the film itself is over rated. This may be sacrilege to say, but Grace Kelly is a disappointment in the role originated by Katharine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story.

If you stick around for a 2nd film Thursday night I recommend SABRINA for anyone who hasn't seen it. It’s just such a sweet, light romantic comedy that’s sure to please everyone. CLEOPATRA on the other hand is very long and tiresome and not very good except from a spectacle point of view. I'm going to be seeing CRISS CROSS because it's a Noir I've never seen before, and there’s nothing like watching a Noir for the first time.

Friday: The first screening would have been a tough choice if I hadn't seen THE SEARCHERS so many times I know it inside-out. So I'll be watching the first Academy Award winner for Best Picture, WINGS. Not only have I never seen it all the way through, but the action sequences are suppose to be amazing even by today's standards. And legendary Paramount producer, AC Lyles, and the director's son will be there to talk about it. Bringing Up Baby is way overrated for my money. I love Grant and Hepburn, but they just aren’t as we know them in this film. It feels like they’re both doing imitations of other screwball comedy actors.

2nd Film Friday: This is a tough one special guest wise (so many greats in this block). However, if you've never seen FUNNY FACE then that's the one to see, especially with the director Stanley Donen in attendance. Or, ELMER GANTRY with Shirley Jones who won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role. It’s a great film with Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons, but again I know it too well. I'm tempted to see LOVE STORY since I've never seen it and producer Robert Evans (the man who saved Paramount) will be there. However, I've never found it appealing and there is a Noir I'm more likely to go to called RAW DEAL (what can I say - I have a Noir kind of heart).

3rd Film Friday: I can't miss out on Kirk Douglas being present for 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. I've seen it, but not recently and I know the other films too well. My 2nd choice would be FRANKENSTEIN with acclaimed horror film director John Carpenter in attendance. NOTHING SACRED would be pretty good for those who haven’t seen it. It’s a pretty good Carole Lombard film, but not her best.

4th Film Friday: I’m about to commit more sacrilege; I am not a Kim Novak fan, and I think Vertigois overrated. So, I'll be seeing SON OF FRANKENSTEIN with horror fan and successful director, John Landis. He just published a definitive book on the monsters of Universal Studios so this should be very good. Two for the Road in my opinion is not very good despite it's pedigree, so 2nd choice would be CRY DANGER. It's a pretty good noir with a good cast.

5th Film Friday: This was the toughest choice for me only because I know all these films way too well. I decided to go with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. It's my favorite of the bunch and director, Mel Brooks will be there. Now that should be a lot of fun. But if you don't know GRAND ILLUSION it is freaking amazing! And of Course SWING TIME is possibly the best Astaire and Rodgers film. I guess it just depends if at that point you’re in the mood for a 1930’s French film about prisoners of war, or an American musical comedy from the same time period.

And it’s sad to say, but I have no opinion about the midnight show Friday since I've never heard of PHASE IV. Apparently it’s one of those low budget horror/disaster films from the early 70s. The Friday midnight screenings have a reputation of being a lot of fun, but I’ll probably be asleep at home for that one.

1st Film Saturday: Although I may be covering the hand print ceremony with Kim Novak I am very tempted to skip it and go see the Noir FALL GUY, particularly since legendary producer Walter Mirsch will be there. THE LONGEST DAY is jam packed with every male star ever known up to that point (1962), and absolutely terrific if you've never seen it before. AUNTIE MAME is really cute and fun with Rosalind Russell at her charming best.

2nd Film Saturday: I gotta see SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. I really don't care for any of the other films in this lineup, but I can recommend TROUBLE IN PARADISE for anyone who hasn't seen it. It's a Lubitsch film and is amusing enough. THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is interesting for the heist during the intro of the film, and it is an intriguing film if you've never seen it. Plus the director, Norman Jewison will be there. That alone might be reason enough to see it.

3rd Film Saturday: I'm torn between two films I haven't seen GIRL SHY and COUNSELOR-AT-LAW. One because it's a Harold Lloyd silent and the other because it has Melvyn Douglas (a favorite of mine). However, I can't recommend NIGHT AND THE CITY enough. This is a particularly good Noir made in Britain starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney with a whole bunch of great British actors directed by Jules Dassin.

4th Film Saturday: I know everyone will be going to see SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN in the big theater at Graumann’s, especially since Debbie Reynolds will be there. However, I'll be seeing THE BLACK CAT because I've never see it and I love Boris Karloff, but if you've never seen GUN CRAZY I think you'd really like it. It's such an unusual Noir, and very good. Plus the female star will be there!

5th Film Saturday: I'll be seeing SECONDS (again a film I've never seen), but I highly recommend A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. It's everything James Cameron wanted Titanic to be and wasn't. In fact, you’ll recognize some of the story lines from Cameron’s film in this one. The story is based in fact and many survivors of the sinking were on set during the shooting, and acted as advisors. This could be particularly interesting because this screening actually marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking to the day.

I'm going to do my best to make it to the midnight screening of DUCK SOUP, but that may be a tough one to get into, and I may be spent.

1st Film Sunday: This may change once they announce the TBA slots, but right now I'm planning on seeing A TRIP TO THE MOON. TO CATCH A THIEF would be my recommendation to anyone who hasn't seen it, and then HOW THE WEST WAS WON. Both are great spectacles for the eye. The first for the color and location, and the other for the use of Cinerama. Black Narcissus is just too trying for me. absolutely gorgeous to look at, but the story gets kind of boring. However, the director's widow (who happens to be Martin Scorsese's long time Editor) will be there.

2nd Film Sunday: I'll be going to CALL HER SAVAGE as it is the only film I haven't seen during this time block. For no one who has seen CHARADE I'd say it’s a must see. Not only does it have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but it’s a heist/mystery/thriller with a terrific ending. Anyone who’s a Walter Mathau fan will absolutely adore him in this. And then, of course, there’s GRAPES OF WRATH. This is a great John Ford adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel starring Henry Fonda with an incredible supporting cast that will rip your heart out.

3rd Film Sunday: Here, I'm at a loss. I find none of these films appealing. Some for over exposure, and another for an overall "Eh" factor. I'll be waiting to see what fills the TBA slot. However, for those who haven't seen it, I can highly recommend THE WOMEN. It just so happens that I've been watching it constantly lately. Just about every big name actress of 1939 is in this picture, and the cat fights (verbal and physical) are unmatched. If you don't want to go down to the Egyptian for that then I suggest RIO BRAVO. It's not the best John Wayne film, and I find Angie Dickinson's character annoying, but it is a fun film and Angie will be there in person.

And for the last film of the festival I can't see missing out on THE THIEF OF BAGDAD. But if a great silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks doesn't float your boat, I would catch MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (this is the forth Grant film in the festival). It's a great Cary Grant light comedy with Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. If you don't know it this could be the delight of the festival for you.

There you go. Way, way, way more information than you were looking for, but I hope it helps. And now I'm going to copy and paste and post for my article of the day. You're welcome!

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