Measuring the 2015 TCMFF Lineup... So Far
The films announced thus far for the 2015 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) are a diverse group of cinematic favorites, embracing the festivals main theme of “History According to Hollywood”. This is a rather speculative heading sense so much of cinema has relied more on dramatic license and less on accuracy. But I guess that’s the point of the theme isn’t it. After all, how truly accurate is history any way? Most of the time history is mangled by the faulty memories of those who lived it, and the film industry certainly has never been one to allow facts to get in the way of a good story. Who of us have?
I’m happy to say that the festival programers have once again been diligently striving to bring the fans the very best there is to see, often working directly with the Hollywood studios, notable film archives, and private collectors in order to present on the big screen some of the most revered movies of all time. Of course, there are the expected anniversary screenings, many new restorations, and even a thought-to-be lost gem. Attendees of the annual event have come to expect nothing less and their expectations have from year to year been well met thus far.
So, let’s talk specifics. The original four films announced as part of the 2015 programming are the modern classic Apollo 13, the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stanley Kubrick’s epic Spartacus, and the silent comedy Steamboat Bill, Jr. Sadly, Spartacus has been removed from the schedule due to “unforeseen” circumstances (makes you wonder what the circumstances could possibly be this far ahead of the scheduled date). The three remaining films bode well as indicators for the rest of the schedule. They each represent very distinct periods of the history of cinema; the near past of just twenty years ago, the greatest year in cinema, and the silent age. For a festival focusing on history it seems to be off to a good start. Of course, it’s nice that all three are also particularly good films that boarder on the cusp of being called masterpieces. It would not be a disappointment to see any of them on the big screen.
The next and perhaps most anticipated announcement was that The Sound of Music would be the grand opening night presentation. And both Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are expected to be in attendance. Certainly this will pump some much needed energy into the red carpet event that has suffered from a lack of attendees the past couple of years. Despite the presence of the always charming Shirley Jones and bubbly Eva-Marie Saint, last year’s red carpet was definitely the least impressive display of old Hollywood the past five festivals had seen, and paled considerably in the shadow of the first two mega-watt years. I suppose the drop off of red carpet walkers is to be expected, however I question whether or not it’s worth standing for hours in the sun to maybe have the opportunity to interview someone. I’m hoping the combo of Andrews and Plummer will encourage a resurgence in Hollywood spirit this year.
Among the other fourteen films listed on the festival’s official site there are some very promising options emerging from the pack. I am particularly interested in seeing the musical 1776, especially since the two male leads (William Daniels and Ken Howard) are suppose to be in attendance. I am aware that not everyone is familiar with this whimsical interpretation of the founding of our country, so I was pleasantly shocked to find it on the festival’s program. All I can say is that the film is a beloved favorite in my family and there isn’t a forth of July that goes by that doesn’t have us all watching it no matter where we may be (one year my brother was in Afghanistan and caught it on the American Forces Network). TCM traditionally includes special introductions to provide context about each film. I know that specific details about these unique fan experiences will be announced in the weeks and months ahead, including guest appearances by actors, actresses, directors, producers and other key figures, but I really hope this screening includes Blythe Danner who played the lovely young Martha Jefferson. To see her and Daniels pose ready for their one dance together would be an absolute thrill.
And then there’s the Doris Day musical comedy Calamity Jane, the backstage musical 42nd Street, Steve McQueen hustling as a card-sharp in The Cincinnati Kid (with Ann-Margaret set to appear), the David Lean epic Doctor Zhivago (please, Omar Sharif, please!), Marriage Italian Style (with Sophia Loren in person), the 1970 Best Picture winner Patton, the Disney animated Pinocchio, the usual Alan Ladd entry represented by The Proud Rebel, the French noir caper Rififi, and the always well-received romance film Roman Holiday. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
For those who are counting that’s only 12 films. What I’ve failed to include in the above list is the 2015 documentary The Dawn of Technicolor, and 1919’s The Grim Game. Turner Classic Movies is presenting the World premiere restoration of a long thought lost to history, Harry Houdini film complete with a live score conducted by the composer. The famed magician stars as an accused murderer who escapes from the police to go after the gang who framed him. Although the description leaves much to be desired, the silent film is the first one to appear at the festival that has ever peaked the interest of my husband. This is because he is a magician. The kind that has been performing since he was thirteen-years old, is a member of the Magic Castle, and can perform slight of hand that will boggle your mind. I have no doubt that this screening will have many a stand by attendee shuffling a deck of cards, practicing their skills as they wait to see if they can get in. With the Magic Castle just around the corner this is going to be a very long line.
So there you have it - so far any way. Like many others my interest has piqued, but I’m still waiting to hear about the film that will really make me jump out of my socks. I’m not too worried as TCM has never failed to deliver. With so many great classic films out there just waiting for their turn to appear at the acclaimed festival I have no doubt the 2015 TCMFF will fulfill my expectations.