Last weekend, Turner Classic Movies hosted its third annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. The theme was “Style in the Movies” and included, among other things, a salute to Kim Novak, a tribute to Stanley Donen and his films, and a spotlight on movies featuring costumes designed by Travis Banton. The opening night festivities included a red carpet premiere for a restoration of Cabaret with Liza Minnelli in hand.
Since I only had a Matinee Pass, my TCMFF experience did not begin until Friday morning. It was wet and rainy as I drove that morning to Hollywood. Once I found the Chinese Multiplex, with the help of a guy who’d been to TCMFF every year, I got in line to see Wings (1927), the very first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Before the screening, TCM VP Tom Brown introduced legendary producer A.C. Lyles, known as “Mr. Paramount.” Lyles had seen Wings in theaters when it came out, and the film impacted him so much that it literally changed his life. He asked for a job at the theater where he saw the film and then began writing letters to Paramount Pictures, where he ultimately landed a job – and he’s been there ever since.
Seeing Wings armed with this perspective made me imagine what it must have been like to see this in the late 1920s. Almost as though we were going back in time, the movie began with the Paramount 100 Year Anniversary logo and then showed every iteration of the logo, going right back to the silent era. I had never seen Wings before, and to see it on the big screen for a first time was incredible. For those of you who don’t know, the story is about two small town young men who become fighter pilots during World War I. Adding a wrench is the fact that they love the same woman – and there’s another woman chasing after one of them. The film boasts stunning aerial photography that simply must be seen to be believed; the battle scenes are some of the best I’ve seen, and this was made in 1927. This truly is a movie in every sense of the word.
Wings unfortunately got off to a late start, so I skipped the post-film discussion with William Wellman, Jr., the director’s son, in order to get in line for Raw Deal (1948). But, apparently, everyone else at TCMFF wanted to see Raw Deal, and so the line was closed. So I doubly missed out with that one. Instead of going to see I’m No Angel (1933) or Love Story (1970) or heading outside to brave the rain and thunder, I decided to sit down, have lunch, and finish reading The Sign of the Four.
My break allowed me to get in line extra early for Nothing Sacred (1937), a hysterical screwball comedy that was the only Technicolor film Carole Lombard ever made (her costar is Fredric March). The film was included in TCMFF as part of a tribute to costume designer Travis Banton. Deborah Nandoolman Landis, the costumer behind Raiders of the Lost Ark and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, introduced the film, highlighting how Banton’s costumes bring out the characters in the movie. The film itself is one of the zaniest screwball comedies I’ve ever seen. I am so thankful that I saw this with an audience because it made everything even funnier. The fight between Lombard and March towards the end was the apex of its comic heights.
If I didn’t only have a Matinee Pass, I would have stuck around to see Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) at night. This is, to date, my favorite Joan Fontaine film (I suppose that The Women is my favorite movie with Fontaine, but I wouldn’t consider it a “Joan Fontaine Film” per se). This gorgeous movie was unfortunately showing at 9:15p.m. Instead of waiting around without the guarantee of getting a standby ticket, I skipped trying altogether. I do hope to see this brilliant film on the big screen one day – and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it.
Stay tuned for my recaps of Saturday and Sunday!