I’m putting the lid on my first ever TCM Classic Film Festival. I regret having to go when there are still hours of films left to see, even though my feet and eyes are feeling the fatigue. Mostly, I’m sad that, once I leave today, I won’t have the chance to come back for another year. I’ve had so much fun and so many memorable cinematic experiences, I wish TCM Fest were always going on.
The TCM Classic Film Festival has more to offer than just movies. There are other special events, presentations and more, like today’s poolside wine tasting at the Roosevelt Hotel. I was watching movies while that happened but I did make it to another event in the Roosevelt. To be specific, I attended a presentation of sorts in the Blossom Room, the locale that hosted the very first Academy awards. It was called “My First Time in Hollywood,” hosted by author Cari Beauchamp and based on her book by the same name. Beauchamp started with a bit of Hollywood history; that of the town-cum-neighborhood, not of the industry. Then she brought up a succession of notable individuals to read passages from autobiographies of early Hollywood (the industry this time). Harold Lloyd’s own granddaughter read about his early days of sneaking onto the Universal lot for extra work. Friend of this site Laraine Newman read of Anita Loos’ drugstore conversation with D.W. Griffith. From Nancy Olson, it was Colleen Moore’s tale of being hired six hours after arriving in town from Illinois. Bruce Goldstein read Ben Hecht’s NSFW letters to his wife about the writing of Scarface. And David Ladd recounted Robert Parrish’s boyhood encounter with Charles Chaplin. Recurring descriptions of how ramshackle early studio lots were and repeated references to Griffith as some sort of mythical figure left a true, first-person impression of what this town was really like a century ago. Seated in a room that is part of that history, just a few blocks from where these stories took place, is a one of a kind experience that can only be found at this festival.
I stumbled out of the gate here at my first time covering the TCM Classic Film Festival, now in its seventh year. Poor timing and planning on my part led to my being unable to see any movies on opening night. My fortunes soon changed, though, as I kicked off the second evening with what may be the single greatest moviegoing experience of my life. More on that later, though. First, I just want to remark on what an impressive and heartwarming event this festival is. One might assume that a festival devoted exclusively to older films, many of them largely unheard of and some of them not even American, would have trouble making its mark in a city with a reputation for superficiality and flavors of the month. The fact that those are unfair and untrue representations of Los Angeles is best left for another day but the truth is that the area around Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. is perhaps the most garish and commercial in the city. To see it taken over by this massively successful project, complete with a legion of hardcore movie geeks and posters everywhere of classic movies, frankly gives me hope for humanity.