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TCM Film Fest: Four Days of Hollywood Homage

TCM Film Fest: Four Days of Hollywood Homage

The festival celebrates comedy, remembers host Robert Osborne, and offers a feast for film fans.

This time of year, fans of classic film converge on Hollywood for their biggest annual event, the TCM Classic Film Festival. This year's fest, opening Thursday, will be bittersweet, given the recent death of TCM prime-time host Robert Osborne. But he'd undoubtedly be glad to know movie-lovers are carrying on a tradition that began in 2010, gathering for four days of classics on the big screen and talks by stars, directors, and historians. The festival takes over the TCL Chinese Theatre, its adjacent multiplex, and the Egyptian Theatre, with some offerings at other venues, and runs through Sunday. This year's theme is "Make 'Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies," but not every film is part of the theme -- there's lots of drama available as well. Most attendees buy passes in advance for the fest, but some screenings will have individual standby tickets available to those without passes. Read on for some of this year's highlights.

01-remembering-robertRemembering Robert, 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Chinese Multiplex 1

TCM staff members and friends will share memories of Robert Osborne, celebrating his life and love of classic films. Osborne died March 6 at age 84; he'd missed the last two festivals, owing to health problems, but fans held out hope for his return. Osborne had been prime-time host of the 24-hour, commercial-free movie channel since it debuted in 1994; a former actor, he was also a film historian and a longtime journalist with The Hollywood Reporter. Osborne is survived by his partner of 20 years, New York theater director David Staller; no word if he'll be present at the event.

02-in-the-heat-of-the-nightIn the Heat of the Night, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, TCL Chinese
The festival's opening night gala, for passholders only, is a screening of the 1967 Best Picture Oscar-winner, in which a black Philadelphia cop (Sidney Poitier) and a racist white Mississippi sheriff (Rod Steiger) team up to investigate a murder. The racial issues it explores are, sadly, still relevant today. Poitier is scheduled to attend, as are actress Lee Grant, composer Quincy Jones, director Norman Jewison, and producer Walter Mirisch.

03-some-like-it-hotSome Like It Hot, 6 p.m. Thursday, Chinese Multiplex 1
Writer-director Billy Wilder's 1959 film is one of the funniest movies ever, and it was pretty subversive in a time when no one could envision RuPaul's Drag Race or same-sex marriage. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are two Chicago musicians who disguise themselves as women to get jobs in an all-female orchestra headed for Florida and evade gangsters after witnessing the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Curtis, out of drag, pretends to be a millionaire to court band singer Marilyn Monroe, while Lemmon, in drag, attracts the attentions of a real millionaire, played by Joe E. Brown. Film historian Jeremy Arnold will introduce the screening.

04-harold-and-maudeHarold and Maude, 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Chinese Multiplex 1
A film beloved by everyone who's ever felt like a misfit, this eccentric 1971 comedy follows the romance of a death-obsessed youth (Bud Cort) and an 80-year-old woman (Ruth Gordon). Hal Ashby directed from gay filmmaker Colin Higgins's script, which grew out of his film school thesis. TCM's Dave Karger will introduce.

05-willy-wonka-the-chocolate-factoryWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, poolside, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The festival pays tribute to another beloved movie figure we lost recently, Gene Wilder, who plays the mysterious candy maker in the 1971 feature. TCM mainstay Illeana Douglas will host, joined by Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt; Paris Themmen, who was Mike Teevee; and Rusty Goffe, who was an Oompa-Loompa.

06-cry-the-beloved-country_0Cry, the Beloved Country, 9 a.m. Friday, Chinese Multiplex 4
Another dramatic offering is director Zoltan Korda's 1952 adaptation of Alan Paton's novel, an indictment of South Africa's apartheid system. Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee star; Lee ended up being blacklisted during Hollywood's Red Scare, as did John Howard Lawson, who collaborated with Korda on the screenplay. Film historian Donald Bogle will introduce.

07-the-maltese-falconThe Maltese Falcon, 9 a.m. Friday, Chinese Multiplex 1
An alternative for Friday morning is John Huston's first film as a director, with Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade, engaged in a battle of wits with Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre over a statue of a black bird. Lorre's Joel Cairo is a stereotypically effeminate gay man, or as gay as a character could be in a 1941 movie. And what's that with Greenstreet's Kaspar Gutman and his "son"? Film noir expert Eddie Muller will introduce.

08-rob-and-carl-reinerHandprint and Footprint Ceremony With Rob and Carl Reiner, 10:30 a.m., TCL Chinese Forecourt
The father-and-son filmmakers put their prints in cement for posterity, as if that were needed -- their entertainment and activist legacy is plenty. Rob Reiner went from playing Archie Bunker's liberal son-in-law and nemesis to becoming an A-list director, then helped fund the court case that brought down California's Proposition 8. His dad, Carl, has been acting, writing, and directing since the early days of television and is likewise a backer of progressive causes. Rob will also be on hand for a screening of one of his best-loved films, 1987's The Princess Bride, at 2 p.m. Friday at the TCL Chinese, while Carl will be at the showing of his 1979 movie The Jerk, which took Steve Martin from stand-up to big-screen stardom, at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at the same theater.

09-what-ever-happened-to-baby-janeWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, 7:30 p.m. Friday, poolside at the Roosevelt
Whether you just learned about the film from watching Feud and wonder what the fuss was about, or you've seen it so many times you can quote all the dialogue, you'll want to see it with a TCM fest audience. While many of the lines have passed into the camp pantheon, the movie isn't purely a campfest -- it's actually really good, unlike some of the subsequent films Bette Davis and Joan Crawford found themselves in. Filmmaker Allison Anders introduces.

10-high-anxietyHigh Anxiety, 9:15 p.m. Friday, TCL Chinese
Director Mel Brooks, who'll talk at the screening, masterfully spoofs all things Hitchcock in his 1977 film. With echoes of Spellbound, Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, and more, it's both parody and homage. It revolves around the murder of the head of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous and stars Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, and Ron Carey. High Anxiety, you win!

11-lauraLaura, 9:30 p.m. Friday, Egyptian Theatre
Friday evening brings some hard choices, but remember, that means if your first choice is sold out, there are plenty of good alternatives. Otto Preminger's 1944 mystery about love and murder among affluent New Yorkers has a riveting script, witty dialogue, gorgeous clothes and furnishings, and great performances from Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, and especially Clifton Webb, who steals the show as fey but acid-tongued columnist Waldo Lydecker. My friend and colleague Christopher Harrity says this fits into the subgenre of movies about a gay man who wants to control a woman, with All About Eve and The Red Shoes among the others. One of the best movies ever, and it will be shown in a nitrate print, which promises to be stunning.

12-red-riverRed River, 9 a.m. Saturday, Egyptian Theatre
Howard Hawks's 1948 Western has trail boss John Wayne and adopted son Montgomery Clift battling for supremacy during a cattle drive. You'll of course catch the obvious symbolism when Clift and fellow cowboy John Ireland compare their gun barrels. Journalist Gregg Kilday, who's written for The Advocate, will introduce. Meta moment: The film is referenced in The Last Picture Show, which screens at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at the Chinese Multiplex 1, with director Peter Bogdanovitch on hand.

13-arsenic-and-old-laceArsenic and Old Lace, 9 a.m. Saturday, Chinese Multiplex 4
If you want to start your Saturday with comedy, you won't go wrong here. Cary Grant reportedly thought he overacted as drama critic Mortimer Brewster, who discovers his sweet, elderly aunts are carrying out mercy killings of lonely old men, but actually he's a delight. So are Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as the aunts and John Alexander as Mortimer's brother Teddy, who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt. Sinister but equally good are Raymond Massey as another brother, the murderous Jonathan, and Peter Lorre as his accomplice. Able support comes from Jack Carson as a bumbling cop who wants to be a playwright, James Gleason as his boss, and Edward Everett Horton as the superintendent of a mental hospital. Frank Capra directed the 1944 release.

14-best-in-show-Best in Show, 6 p.m. Saturday, Chinese Multiplex 1
The 2000 film is a typically hilarious mockumentary, this one centering on the world of dog shows, from Christopher Guest and his gay-inclusive stock company, with a gay-inclusive plot as well. Actors Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, and Jim Piddick will be there.

15-dr-strangeloveDr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 9 a.m. Sunday, Chinese Multiplex 1
We have our worries today about madmen running the world, as did plenty of people in 1964, when Stanley Kubrick's great dark comedy about nuclear war came out. A cast including Peter Sellers (in multiple roles), George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden will help you laugh to keep from crying while you ponder the state of the world. But remember, you can't fight in here -- it's the War Room!

16-postcards-from-the-edgePostcards From the Edge, 2 p.m. Sunday, Chinese Multiplex 1
The festival pays tribute to Carrie Fisher by screening the 1990 film based on her semiautobiographical novel about mother-daughter actresses, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, directed by Mike Nichols. Carrie's brother, Todd Fisher, will be on hand to speak.

17-singin-in-the-rainSingin' in the Rain, 4:30 p.m Sunday, TCL Chinese
And the fest honors Carrie's mother, Debbie Reynolds, by showing one of her best movies, and indeed one of the best musicals ever. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor costar in this loving sendup, from 1952, of Hollywood's transition from silent films to sound. Todd Fisher, actress Ruta Lee, and film awards expert Scott Feinberg will be in the house.

18-casablancaCasablanca, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, TCL Chinese
You must remember this: The 1942 Best Picture Oscar-winner remains one of Hollywood's most beloved films, and it still provides inspiration. There's so much to enjoy in this story of refugees and resistance fighters during World War II, starting with the love triangle of luminous Ingrid Bergman as impossibly well-dressed (in Orry-Kelly gowns) refugee Ilsa Lund; her old flame, cynical nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart); and her idealistic, Nazi-fighting husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). There's also the great supporting cast, including Dooley Wilson, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, S.Z. Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, and Conrad Veidt. Then there's the political relevance; since the election, it's been helpful to keep some of Laszlo's lines in mind, like "If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die." See it again.

And we haven't even mentioned Bonnie and Clyde, The China Syndrome, What's Up, Doc?, a conversation with Michael Douglas, pre-Code goodies, or much, much, more. Find all the films and related events here.

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