Reporting on the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day 1 and 2

The 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival returned to Hollywood from April 12th through April 15th for their third edition. I attended last year and after my wonderful limited two-day experience, I was determined to attend everyday this year and get to as many films as possible. I managed to see 15 films in slightly over 72 hours and had a blast in the process.

My festival got off to a great start at a pre-party tweet-up at The Roosevelt Hotel. Strong drinks were flowing and great appetizers were offered. Aside from being able to indulge in these treats, it was fun to meet fellow attendees, such as the Film Noir Blonde, and discuss the films we were most excited about.

The Wolf Man (1941) was my first film selection on Thursday evening. Master make-up artist Rick Baker introduced the film and started off what was to be a host of passionate individuals thrilled to talk about classic films and the influence they have had on their lives and careers.  Lon Chaney, Jr. stars as a young man returning home to help in his father’s business, when he is stricken by the lycanthropy curse.  Not only is the transformation impressive but the story offers depth and themes prevalent today such as the relationship between father and son, the power of the mind versus body.  By providing a story that the audience can identify with and a minimalistic focus on the make-up, the fantasy is more believable.

Criss Cross (1949) was my first of four film noirs. Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, selected and introduced all five that were part of the festival. Muller considers himself a noirchaeologist and is a wealth of information on the topic. He provided interesting production tidbits helping to set the scene for a more enjoyable viewing experience.   “Racketeer Rabbit” staring Bugs Bunny opened the screening, not one of the best cartoons but appropriate.  I have only ever known Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster but she sizzles as the femme fatale drawing in starry-eyed Burt Lancaster to mastermind a armored car heist.  Dan Duryea also stars as the sinister part of their love triangle. While De Carlo is beautiful, her overacting distracts at times.  Lancaster perfectly plays the handsome and brooding lead.  The ending leaves a little to be desired but overall it is a fun ride.  A surprise glimpse of Tony Curtis in one of his first movie roles provided the most excitement in the theater and people whispered and wondered if he was who they thought he was.

Friday started off where Thursday left off with another noir, Raw Deal (1948).  Star Dennis O’Keefe has escaped from prison with the help of girlfriend Clare Trevor.  Marsha Hunt, O’Keefe’s legal aid, is forced to go on the lam with them and causes a romantic triangle.  Villainous Raymond Burr is the highlight and his screen time is too short.  The film is narrated by the leading lady which provides a unique perspective.

The Fountainhead (1949), starring one of my all-time favorite actors, Gary Cooper, was on my must-see list and it didn’t disappoint.  Based on the best-selling novel by Ayn Rand, it tells the story of a struggling architect who refuses to conform or comprise his vision.  It is believed that the novel is loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright but Rand denies the comparison.  Wright’s grandson was in attendance to introduced the film and firmly believes that Wright was the inspiration.  Overly dramatic at times, the film holds up in its theme of the protection of the masses versus the rights of the individual.  This was my favorite film of the festival.

Cry Danger (1951) provided another opportunity to listen to Muller this time with the still beautiful star Rhonda Fleming, who suffered from appendicitis during the making of the film, causing her to be in the hospital for 10 days during the shooting.  Dick Powell is imprisoned for a robbery he claims he didn’t commit when a witness comes forward five years later, freeing him.  Powell is determined to clear his name and free his best friend still serving time for the heist.  Fleming is lovely as the love interest and the best actress of all of the noir films I viewed.  Consequently, this was my favorite noir in the festival; the twists and turns were the most believable with a solid story backed by strong acting.  I highly recommend seeking out this film.

Young Frankenstein (1974) was the funniest experience thanks to an adorable introduction by Mel Brooks.  I could have listened to him talk for hours; he was charming and passionate about the events leading up to the making of the film.  It holds up as a true comedy classic, telling the story of Gene Wilder as a scientist struggling under the weight of being the infamous Doctor Frankenstein’s grandson.  One of the most joyous aspects of the festival is watching films you have already seen with a large audience of fellow movie lovers. In this screening everyone would laugh just as a scene started in anticipation of what was coming.  Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, and Kenneth Mars are a symphony of comic genius.

Lorna Miller

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