Monday, April 25, 2011

Reverend's Preview: TCM Fest Brings Classic Film Lovers Together

Thousands of fans of "Old Hollywood" gathered from throughout the US last year for the first ever Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. Held over one weekend at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and other historic sites, it was such a success that an announcement was made before the festival was even over that it would return in 2011.

True to organizers' word, the second TCM Fest is set for April 28-May 1 in Hollywood. Beloved movies will unspool on the big screen (some for the first time in decades) and big stars including Warren Beatty, Debbie Reynolds, Alec Baldwin, Leslie Caron, Mickey Rooney, Jane Powell and Shirley Jones will appear. Family members of the late Gregory Peck will also be on hand to introduce two of Peck's greatest films, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Guns of Navarone.


Caron will be on hand opening night for the world premiere of a 60th anniversary restoration of An American in Paris. The actress-dancer starred alongside Gene Kelly in this colorful musical directed by Vincente Minnelli (Liza's dad) and set to the music of George Gershwin. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1951, and the then-dreamy Kelly won an honorary Oscar for his achievements as an actor and choreographer.

Beatty won an Academy Award for his direction of the 1981 historical epic Reds (one of my all time favorite movies) and he is scheduled to introduce a special 30th anniversary screening of his masterwork during the festival. While it might not appear that Reds holds much appeal for GLBT viewers at first glance, it is important to note Maureen Stapleton's Oscar-winning performance as anarchist/Communist Emma Goldman. Goldman plays a significant role in GLBT history as an outspoken critic of anti-gay prejudice. She wrote in 1923, "It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life." As Magnus Hirschfeld said of Goldman, "She was the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public." While this isn't directly referenced in Reds, the film and Stapleton's performance stand as fitting tributes to Goldman.


Several of Walt Disney's movie classics, both animated and live action, will be prominently featured at this year's TCM Fest. "Disney's Musical Legacy" will include a restored version of 1940's Fantasia, a showcase of Silly Symphonies cartoon shorts, and tributes to such Disney musical classics as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In addition, Disney's teenage discovery Hayley Mills will be present to introduce a special 50th anniversary screening of gay fave The Parent Trap, in which she stars as twin sisters who were separated by their parents' divorce but are reunited at summer camp. Mills will also present the rarely seen, non-Disney movie Whistle Down the Wind (1961), in which she plays one of several children who mistake an escaped convict for Jesus Christ. Whistle Down the Wind was subsequently turned into a similarly rarely-performed stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Other classic movie musicals to be shown include 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which will be introduced by its leading lady, Debbie Reynolds; Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel, starring Shirley Jones; a 50th anniversary screening of West Side Story in a 70mm print; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, starring Jane Powell; the unusual but noteworthy Pennies from Heaven (1981), with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters; and 1943's all-black classic Cabin in the Sky.


Also of GLBT interest during the fest will be a 50th anniversary restoration of Breakfast at Tiffany's, based on the story by gay writer Truman Capote. Although the film version was largely de-gayed, Audrey Hepburn's performance as Holly Golightly and a gorgeous young George Peppard as her admirer still resonate. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), adapted from Tennessee Williams' play and featuring a broodingly hot Marlon Brando, and 1935's The Devil is a Woman, starring Marlene Dietrich, will also be worth GLBT festival goers' attention.

Roger Corman's campy, low-budget classic The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) — later musicalized on stage and screen — will also be shown and introduced by Corman himself. Jack Nicholson made one of his first movie appearances in this horror-comedy about a carnivorous plant set on taking over the world. At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, a 70th anniversary restoration of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, generally regarded by critics as the greatest movie yet made, will be revealed during the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival.


Several same-sex couples walked the opening night red carpet at last year's fest, and many attendees were dressed to the nines in both classic and contemporary fashion styles. For the full schedule of screenings and other festival events and to purchase tickets or passes, please visit the TCM website.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

1 comment:

  1. I was so proud to be there with you last year, Chris! Can't wait to see you this year! That will be almost as fun as seeing all the fabulous films -- you know what I mean, right? ;-)

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