At long last, Day 1 of TCMFF had arrived! The theme for 2022 was “Together at the Movies,” and it felt so wonderful to be able to enjoy movies the way they were meant to be seen–with an audience! Since the festivities for the first day began in the evening, I had the full day to sightsee, research, and relax.
The Margaret Herrick Library had been closed for quite some time due to the pandemic and had since reopened. I was lucky to be able to time my appointment at the library alongside my TCMFF visit to continue research on the June Preisser biography I am writing.
Afterwards, I met up with several friends to visit the fairly new Academy Museum. While the costume wing was closed during my visit–and I would have to make a return trip later that year to finally see it–it was fun to finally be able to tour this museum after hearing so much about it.
Once we finished at the museum, we went to In-N-Out next to Hollywood High School for some lunch. My TCMFF roommate and fellow fabulous classic movie fan friend, Julia, and I explored the area a bit more and then took some time to relax and prepare for a busy first night of TCMFF.
Jewel Robbery (1932):
My first film of TCMFF was Jewel Robbery, which was at the very top of my list to see at the festival. Despite the many fellow Pre-Code fans that attend the fest, I was so happy to be able to score a seat at this screening next to my dear friend, Karie Bible.
Moreover, one of my absolute favorite film historians is the great Cari Beauchamp, who introduced this delightful film. She offered a fabulous introduction to this film, describing “a heroine who is torn by her two passions: men and jewels.” Warner Brothers bought the rights to this continental comedy starring William Powell and Kay Francis, who had already worked in four films together. While the film did raise questions with the Hays office with its euphemistic “continental humor” and line such as “At dawn, we shall have a secret behind us,” the film was viewed as a charming release and satisfactory under the Code. The caveat was the “lightness and gaiety” with which these lines were delivered. Interestingly, there is no mention of the “dope-filled cigarette” in the Hays notes. After making this film, Francis returned to Paramount and Powell went on to MGM. As is the case with many Pre-Code films, the “women are as important as anyone else in the room, they clearly enjoy sex and have a great time in the process, and best of all, they are never punished nor forced to apologize for it.”
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944):
After enjoying a memorable opening film with an enthusiastic audience, I continued the fun with a Preston Sturges gem entitled, Hail the Conquering Hero. This film was expertly introduced by producer Michael Uslan who has a passion for Sturges and was friends with the film’s star, Eddie Bracken.
Uslan reminisced about working with Bracken, particularly when Bracken re-created “The Sneeze,” which–in its original form–was the first movie placed under copyright. The initial short film “arguably gave birth to the entire motion-picture industry,” according to Uslan. “We took the original five-second film and turned it into a one-minute, hysterical sneeze. I not only had a wonderful time making that with Eddie, but then also celebrating at the black-tie event with him. He was truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.”
Interestingly, Hail the Conquering Hero also afforded Bracken an opportunity to sneeze, as he plays a Marine discharged from the military for hay fever. However, his character is at the center of a fabricated story about receiving a heroic honorable discharge before returning home, suddenly making him a hometown hero.
Both of the films I say on the first night of TCMFF brought me so much joy. I was so happy with the brilliant writing and performances in Jewel Robbery and was impressed by the balance of seriousness and humor in Hail the Conquering Hero. In fact, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the latter film before. I was so taken by the story that I immediately recommended the film to several friends back home and made sure to acquire a copy for my parents; I watched the film with them after TCMFF concluded and they loved it.
Part of the joy of cinema for me is sharing the experience of viewing the film with others and certainly going on to continue to share the magic of a great film with friends and family beyond the confines of the theater. Without a doubt, it was great to be back at TCMFF and Day 1 was a success!