TCM Classic Film Festival. It will run April 22-25 at historic venues throughout Hollywood, including Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is best known as a cable channel showcasing both prominent and more obscure achievements from the film industry’s earlier decades. Mogul Ted Turner launched the network in 1994, and it has grown incredibly popular among both cinephiles and casual viewers alike.
There will be plenty of films and events of GLBT-interest during the festival’s four days. In fact, the TCM Fest will kick off with one of the greatest gay icons of them all: Judy Garland. A newly restored version of the 1954 musical version of A Star is Born, starring Garland and James Mason and directed by the gay-but-closeted George Cukor, will have its world premiere the night of April 22 at the Chinese Theatre. This marks the first major restoration of the film since 1983, and it will feature better picture quality and richer color than ever before.
Two other significant, restored movies that will be included in the festival are Jean-Luc Godard’s sexy, French-New Wave classic Breathless (1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo (who is scheduled to appear) and Jean Seberg, and Fritz Lang's German sci-fi epic Metropolis (1927). The latter will include 30 minutes of recently discovered footage that hasn’t been seen since the film’s 1927 premiere. This North American premiere of the nearly complete Metropolis will be accompanied by a live musical ensemble performing the original score.
Prior to 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, perhaps the grittiest, best-regarded cinematic saga of two men in a mutually caring, tragically doomed relationship was Midnight Cowboy (1969). The first X-rated film to be nominated for, yet alone win, the Academy Award for Best Picture, it stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight as two hustlers in New York City who dream of a better life…together. Gay director John Schlesinger — who won an Oscar for his fine work here — later helmed such GLBT-themed productions as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and The Next Best Thing. Voight will be on hand to discuss the TCM Festival’s screening of Midnight Cowboy.
The excellent 1937 film The Good Earth will receive a rare big-screen presentation during the fest. Star Luise Rainer, who plays a Chinese woman struggling to preserve her home despite numerous obstacles, won the second of two consecutive Best Actress Academy Awards for her memorable work here. Rainer recently turned 100 years old, and she is scheduled to appear in conjunction with the screening.
Director Douglas Sirk — whose lush, melodramatic style was imitated to perfection by gay filmmaker Todd Haynes in 2002’s Far from Heaven — will be represented at the TCM Fest by his classic, racially charged Imitation of Life (1959). The late Lana Turner headlines the movie, but her Oscar-nominated co-stars Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner will be in attendance.
No classic film festival (or gay-themed film festival, for that matter) would be complete without an appearance by “Mommie Dearest” herself, Joan Crawford. The actress’s rarely screened 1941 film A Woman’s Face, directed by the previously mentioned George Cukor, will be shown and will be introduced by Casey LaLonde, Crawford’s grandson.
And, of course, a Hollywood-based celebration of unforgettable movies couldn’t neglect Sunset Boulevard (1950), Billy Wilder’s dark comedy that introduced the world to faded, questionably-sane silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). William Holden co-stars as her assistant/boy toy, and the movie was later musicalized by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’ll be very surprised if the screening audience is able to suppress the inclination to recite Desmond’s final, classic line: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!”
Funny man Mel Brooks will also be honored during the TCM Festival. He will screen his hilarious 1968 Oscar-winner The Producers (which was itself adapted into a successful stage musical), as well as receive a long-overdue star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. No word yet on whether The Producers’ over-the-top gay duo, Roger DeBris and Carmen Ghia, will be present as well.
This is but a small sampling of the unique delights in store for festival attendees, GLBT and otherwise. For complete information about the TCM Classic Film Festival and to purchase tickets or passes, please visit its official website.
Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.