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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The 2013 TCMFF Lineup Creates Great Expectations

The first film that caught my eye on the latest TCMFF lineup update is The Great Escape. The first time I saw it was at the drive in. My eldest child was two going on three and I was expecting a second child soon. We had gotten a babysitter, a rare event in our lives at the time. The movie had not been my choice but any movie, any time out and away from a small house with a small child in the late Texas summer was an escape for me. How I enjoyed it! I mean I knew who won the war, but the stories of the determined men in the prisoner of war camp took my interest completely. From the stalwart, ever wry and almost cheerful English to the difficult but oh so brave (and just plain good looking!) Americans each character, each role was delightfully written and perfectly portrayed. The movie was (the perfect) great escape for me even if like many of the film’s escapees I in the end had to return to my "prison".

The stubborn determined Steve McQueen character was particularly charismatic. He made me laugh, because believe it or not I strongly identified with him. I can still hear in my mind the ball bouncing endlessly off the wall, and I still see that wild motorcycle ride across rolling hills as he searched for the right place to attempt the great leap across the coiled barbed wire. Every person in every car at that drive in was rapt, wanting, hoping, that he would make it and there was a collective groan when... well, you’ll see for yourself. All I’ll say is there was a collective ah when the sound of the ball resumed several scenes later, leaving one feeling good despite so many being recaptured. But then The Great Escape is a movie about the indomitable spirit and stands as one of the greatest escapes itself.

And then there’s Hondo!!! In my opinion this quiet little film is the very best of the John Wayne westerns. When I read Hondo was to be shown at the TCM classic film festival in the original 3D I shouted with glee (the creator of didn’t even know it had been in 3D). This is not your typical western at all to be sure. First of all the heroine is no starlet but a first class actress in her film debut. Geraldine Page was straight from Broadway and an amazing match for the Duke. And the rest of the cast is classic Wayne. Among the usual names are Ward Bond, of course (as perfect as always) and James Arness, just before Wayne suggested him for the part of Matt Dillon in the long running TV show, Gun Smoke.

It’s also important to note that in this film the Native Americans (still called Indians here) are depicted as real people and not the usual cold-hearted bad guys. They have children they love, they value honor and poses a sense of humor as well as a desire to drive out the white man. Which is only natural when you consider what you would do if total strangers set up camp on your land, told you to get out and shot you every time you tried to return home. Because of this humanizing depiction there is a tangible drama in the hero’s resistant but necessary self-defense killings.

All this and we get a fit John Wayne looking like everyone’s idea of the perfect western man. For my part, he’s the perfect man in any setting. Try and imagine any present day male star striding off the prairie toward you, saddle over his shoulder, a dog at his heels - it just doesn't work the same at all. And it’s in 3D and on the big screen!

If it were just these two films I would have to say it was reason enough to book my flight. But to get The Great Escape, and Hondo, and what I anticipate will be so many other great films? I know I’m bond to have a movie going experience like no other as I return to the annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. I can’t wait to find out more about the rest of the schedule and plan out what is sure to be a wonderful way to spend four days in Hollywood.

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