TCM Film Festival 2020 Picks

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Though the usual TCM Film Festival (TCMFF) as we know it is not being held in Hollywood this year, I am so delighted that TCM will be presenting a Special Home Edition of the festival for all of us to enjoy! If you have not attended a TCMFF before, this is the perfect opportunity to do so from the comfort of your own home. Plus, you’ll have the best seat in the house!

While I’ll miss seeing all of the wonderful people I met in person during my first taste of TCMFF last year, we are still a lively community that is heavily present on social media. I look forward to continuing to share in the warm camaraderie of TCMFF attendees online and certainly intend to partake in some TCM Parties via tweeting under the #TCMParty hashtag. Additionally, I made some buttons to dole out while in line for screenings. The “Pair of Jeans” button I designed for screenings of Dinner at Eight (1938) and The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)–featuring Jean Harlow and Jean Arthur, respectively–is now available through my Patreon page.

Last year, I was so excited when the TCMFF lineup was announced and was beyond enthusiastic to start planning which screenings and events to attend. Presently, the schedule for the TCMFF Special Home Edition is now available, with all events listed in EST. With this edition of TCMFF, there are no events that conflict with one another. As a result, you can fully partake in the entire festival–at least with enough caffeine or a determined DVR!

Here are my highlight picks for TCMFF Special Home Edition, with the times remaining in EST.

Note: These listings are pulled from the TCMFF website, with some of the films trickling into the wee hours of the next day, though they are still listed on the given fest day on which the TCMFF programming begins. All events are listed in chronological order, though, to avoid confusion across time zones.

Thursday, April 16:

 
11:00 PM
Metropolis (1927)
Closing Night Film at the 2010 TCM CFF, this was the North American premiere of a restored version of the film with footage found in 2008 in Argentina, with live score by the Alloy Orchestra.
 
1:45 AM
Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011)
Recorded at the 1st TCM CFF in 2010 when Ms. Rainer, the first back-to-back Oscar winner for Best Actress, was 100 years old.
2:30 AM The Good Earth (1937)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Luise Rainer in attendance.
 
5:00 AM
Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool on Opening Night, with Esther Williams and Betty Garrett in attendance and featuring a performance by the Aqualillies.

What a fun opening lineup! For me, Metropolis is a terrific way to kick off the fest. I have seen this gorgeously eerie film once before and was completely immersed within the story and phenomenal futuristic creativity at the forefront of the film. This is a must-see, since its message is still one that holds up quite well, but is also one that I would love to one day see on the big screen.

Interviews never fail to capture my interest. Luise Rainer was a Hollywood legend and lived well into her old age, granting fabulous interviews from her long career throughout her life. Viewing her interview is a perfect way to transition into the screening of The Good Earth, which secured her an Oscar win for Best Actress. This is actually a film I have not seen before but have had it recommended to me several times.

Finally, Neptune’s Daughter is a great way to conclude this first day of TCMFF. I have seen this film once before and adore Esther Williams’s work. In particular, this fun MGM musical is supported by the comedic gifts of Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, in addition to featuring Ricardo Montalban. I particularly enjoy the delightful double rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in this film, among other charming musical numbers. For me, MGM musicals are always worth catching–especially if it’s a chance to see Williams on the big screen!

Friday, April 17:

2:00 PM Eva Marie Saint:  Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2014)
Recorded in front of a live audience at the 2013 TCM CFF as part of a tribute to Eva Marie Saint.
3:15 PM North by Northwest (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau in attendance.
5:45 PM Some Like It Hot (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Tony Curtis in attendance.
3:15 AM Night Flight (1933)
Out of circulation for over 50 years, this was introduced by Drew Barrymore, granddaughter of the film’s star John Barrymore at the 2011 TCM CFF.
5:00 AM Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2013)
Taped in front of a live audience at the 2012 TCM CFF, as part of a tribute to Kim Novak.

As usual, interviews are a high priority for me, because I love to hear more firsthand accounts from the talents involved in particular films. Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak are renowned for many film roles but I do find it interesting to note that they both worked with Alfred Hitchcock and are certainly recognized for roles in his films. Hearing Saint’s interview prior to a screening of North by Northwest–a visual gem–is a great way to whet one’s appetite for the film.

Some Like It Hot is a film that I have seen time and again. In my opinion, it also happens to be one of the best comedies ever made, with acting and writing that is spot-on. Some of my favorite performers star in this film, including Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe E. Brown, in addition to this work being a Billy Wilder masterpiece.

Finally, I have an immense fondness for 1930s films, so Night Flight has captured my attention. This film is one I have not seen before and I am always eager to expand my knowledge of 1930s cinema. The film also happens to feature John and Lionel Barrymore and appears to be a dramatic film worth enjoying.

Saturday, April 18:

8:00 AM Mad Love (1935)
Introduced at the 2019 TCM CFF by Bill Hader with actress Cora Sue Collins in attendance in the audience.
9:15 AM Double Harness (1933)
Introduced at the 2016 TCM CFF, by James Cromwell, the son of director John Cromwell.
10:30 AM Vitaphone Shorts:
Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder (1929)
Don’t Get Nervous (1929)
Lambchops (1929)
Presented at the 2016 TCM CFF, as part of a program celebrating “90th Anniversary of Vitaphone,” by the founder of the Vitaphone Project, Ron Hutchinson.
1:30 PM Safety Last! (1923)
The first of four Harold Lloyd films presented at the TCM CFF, this was accompanied by live orchestra and music composed and conducted by Robert Israel, in 2010, and introduced by Suzanne Lloyd.
8:00 PM Casablanca (1942)
A perennial favorite, this film has been presented three times at the TCM CFF, including a screening introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and Monika Henreid in 2010. Peter Bogdanovich will return to co-host this on-air screening.
1:30 AM Norman Lloyd: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2016)
Recorded in front of a live audience as part of a tribute to Norman Lloyd, at the 2015 TCM CFF; Mr. Lloyd was 100 at the time of the taping.
2:30 AM The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Presented at the TCM CFF in 2013 with Norman Lloyd in attendance to talk about his friend, Alfred Hitchcock.

The lineup for this TCMFF is certainly exciting, but I must admit that the schedule for Saturday is ON. FIRE. I saw Mad Love for the first time at last year’s TCMFF and was entranced by the many fine performances in the film, in addition to Bill Hader’s enjoyable introduction. I was very pleased with the film and want to share it with many people since I find it to be an overlooked gem.

After Mad Love, though, is another 1930s film that I have not yet seen: Double Harness. The film stars one of my favorites, William Powell, alongside the great Ann Harding. I look forward to viewing more of Powell’s filmography with this particular installment.

One of the highlights of the fest for me, however, is the selection of Vitaphone shorts. Ron Hutchinson was one of my absolute heroes and I was so lucky to be able to attend one of his lectures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and to witness his love of Vitaphone and preservation. His passion for preserving our cultural heritage has always been a massive source of inspiration for me and I am so grateful that his knowledgeable self was featured on TCM to introduce some Vitaphone shorts. We have him to thank for so much in terms of the preservation of these early sound shorts that feature stars who would later become even more renowned. Out of the three shorts featured, I would especially recommend the breezy and delightful Lambchops, featuring young couple, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Their joy and brilliance together simply leaps off the screen. To learn more about Hutchinson and the Vitaphone Project, please visit my article here.

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Safety Last! is a film that I have seen quite a few times but it is another masterful work. I would strongly recommend this to anyone who has not seen the film before–particularly someone who has not seen a silent film. I think that silent comedy is highly accessible and has a timeless quality about it. Moreover, Harold Lloyd’s thrilling sequence of scaling the building and hanging from the clock will certainly have any viewer at the edge of his or her seat!

Though I have seen Casablanca before and am very familiar with the film, regretfully, it is one that I have not seen on the big screen. I will likely revisit it during this TCMFF but I hope to one day see it in theaters.

Norman Lloyd’s interview is one that is sure to be interesting and will transition well to The Lady Vanishes, which I have not seen before. The film has been suggested to me several times and I am happy to see it included in the lineup along with Lloyd’s interview.

Sunday, April 19:

6:00 AM Jezebel (1938)
Presented at the 2017 TCM CFF.
9:00 AM Peter O’Toole, Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2012)
Recorded in front of a live audience, and part of a tribute to Peter O’Toole at the 2011 TCM CFF.
10:00 AM Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Screened as part of a tribute to Anne V. Coates, ACE, at the 2015 TCM CFF, with the Oscar-winning editor in attendance.
2:00 PM Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Presented at the introduced by film historian and author Cari Beauchamp at the 2017 TCM CFF.
6:00 PM Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Presented three times to date at the TCM CFF, in 2010, 2012 and 2017 editions, with guests over the years including Debbie Reynolds, Stanley Donen, and Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee.
8:00 PM Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016)
Floyd Norman was slated to be honored with a tribute at the 2020 TCM CFF.
12:15 AM Baby Face (1933)
Longtime festival guest Bruce Goldstein intended to present a special presentation at the 2020 TCM CFF, about the censorship of the film and footage added back in decades later, to this popular pre-Code film.
1:45 AM Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
Serge Bromberg was scheduled to present this recently restored silent with musical accompaniment at the 2020 TCM CFF.
3:30 AM Victor/Victoria (1982)
Julie Andrews was slated to attend the screening of this film, at the 2020 TCM CFF.

The final day of TCMFF is just as busy as the day before! What better way to start your day than with the Bette Davis drama, Jezebel?

Following, Jezebel is a great film that has eluded me over time: Lawrence of Arabia. It is preceded by an interview with the film’s star, Peter O’Toole, and is one that I hope to see on the big screen one day.

Sunday happens to be a terrific day for Pre Codes! I am a huge fan of Pre Code cinema and am ready to revisit Jean Harlow’s sultry and scandalous performance in the film. Harlow trades in her iconic platinum blonde tresses for fiery red hair, carrying out a turbulent plot with ease.

TCMFF then lightens the mood with screenings of one of the best musicals ever made–Singin’ in the Rain–followed by a special tribute to American animator, Floyd Norman.

Things heat up once again with another Pre Code film, which also happens to be the first truly Pre Code film I ever saw–Baby Face! Barbara Stanwyck is brilliant in this role and the film is brimming with all sorts of naughty Pre Code fun.

The remaining two films I am highlighting are new to me. John Gilbert is fabulous in many silent roles and I am eager to see his performance in Bardelys the Magnificent.

The final film in this varied lineup is Victor/Victoria. Recently, I was lucky to see Julie Andrews interviewed in Chicago as part of her book tour. She is just as lovely in person as the many fine characters she has portrayed on screen. A professional in every sense, I am certainly happy to see more of her work through TCM’s programming.

All in all, I think that there is something for everyone in this lineup, as is always the case with the terrific offerings that make TCMFF so special. I hope that all fans of TCM and classic cinema have the opportunity to enjoy this exciting edition of TCMFF. I look forward to hearing all about my fellow attendees’ reactions to the films and interviews here, in addition to sharing my own reflections soon.

Let’s movie!

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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