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TCM Film Festival: A Starry Treat for LGBT Fans

TCM Film Festival: A Starry Treat for LGBT Fans


This year's edition of the classic movie event offers Shirley MacLaine discussing The Children's Hour, a rarely seen Tennessee Williams project, big splashy musicals, and much more.


The TCM Classic Film Festival, now in its sixth year, has become the must-attend event for movie fans from around the world. The festival, sponsored by the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, takes over theaters in the heart of Hollywood -- the Egyptian, El Capitan, the Chinese, and the latter's adjacent multiplex -- for four days to show beloved films on the big screen, usually with introductions by stars, directors, or scholars. There are also panel discussions, parties, and extended interviews at other nearby venues, such as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Ricardo Montalban Theatre.

Fans have complained a bit about this year's fest featuring too many "recent" movies -- from the 1970s and later -- but there's still a lot of excitement about the event, along with concern for popular TCM host Robert Osborne, who is missing it to take care of what he says is a "minor health procedure." And as usual, the festival has much of LGBT interest. Here are some highlights, and note that if you don't have a festival pass but happen to be in Los Angeles, you can line up to buy tickets for individual screenings if any remain after pass-holders are admitted.

Shirleyx633464211442_0Shirley MacLaine on The Children's Hour
The Oscar-winning actress will be on hand to discuss the movie when it screens at 4:45 p.m. Sunday at the Egyptian. The 1961 film, based on Lillian Hellman's 1934 Broadway play, stars MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn as headmistresses of a girls' boarding school and who are "accused" of being in a lesbian relationship, with dire consequences. Neither the play nor the film had much good to say about being lesbian, and later on MacLaine, an LGBT ally, denounced the portrayal. "We didn't do the picture right," she said in the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet. "We were in the mindset of not understanding what we were basically doing. These days, there would be a tremendous outcry, as well there should be." We're eager to hear what more she has to say. (We also wonder if anyone will confront her about the view expressed in her latest book,What If..., that Holocaust victims might have been paid back for bad karma in past lives and physicist Stephen Hawking may have subconsciously brought ALS on himself.)

MacLaine will also be in the house to talk about the classic Billy Wilder comedy The Apartment (1960), screening at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Chinese, and she will be interviewed by film historian Leonard Maltin in "A Conversation With Shirley MacLaine" at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Roosevelt.

And, back to The Children's Hour: The play was filmed once before, as These Three (1936), which got rid of any lesbian references and made the "scandal" a heterosexual love triangle. This story about the project is probably apocryphal but fun enough to repeat: When someone told producer Sam Goldwyn he couldn't make a movie about lesbians, he replied, "We can always call them Bulgarians."

Below: Trailer for The Children's Hour.

Juliex633-464187998_0The 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music
The film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's last Broadway musical is so wholesome that even the right-wing "family values" crowd approves of it, but it's also beloved by LGBT audiences, as anyone who's been to a Sound of Music sing-along can testify. A gala screening of the film will kick off the festival Thursday evening at the Chinese; stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer will be in attendance. This is an event for top-level pass-holders only, but others might be able to catch a glimpse of Maria and the Captain during the red-carpet arrivals, beginning at 5 p.m. The screening starts at 6:15 p.m. A couple of events later in the festival will also feature Plummer, who won a richly deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a gay man coming out late in life in 2010's Beginners. Friday at 10:30 a.m., he'll put his handprints and footprints in cement in the Chinese forecourt, and Saturday at 10 a.m., he'll speak at the screening of The Man Who Would Be King (1975), in which he plays Rudyard Kipling chronicling the adventures of a couple of 19th-century Brits in Asia, portrayed by Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

Below: Trailer for The Sound of Music.

Sophiax633_458884490_0A Conversation With Sophia Loren
Who doesn't love Ms. Loren? She has plenty of diva cred to satisfy gay men, and for the ladies, well, she's still gorgeous at 80. Her son Eduardo Ponti will interview her at the Montalban Theatre, in a two-hour conversation that will be taped to air on TCM later. We can't wait to hear what she has to say about working with Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Marcello Mastroianni, and more. The event takes place Saturday at 2 p.m.; line up early! Then Sunday at 7:30 p.m., she'll speak at the screening of Marriage Italian Style at the Chinese. She received an Oscar nomination for this 1964 film, costarring Mastroianni and directed by Vittorio De Sica, who also directed Loren's Oscar-winning performance in Two Women (1960).

Below: Trailer for Marriage Italian Style.

No big names are scheduled to attend this screening, but at midnight Friday at the Chinese multiplex, it promises to be the mother of all midnight movies. Starring the then-married Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in a screenplay that Tennessee Williams adapted from his Broadway flop The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, it was panned upon its release in 1968, but Williams thought it the best film version of any of his plays. John Waters, on the other hand, has called it "beyond bad ... the other side of camp." Well, see it and decide for yourself. It features stunning Mediterranean locations, elaborate sets and costumes, and Noel Coward as a character called the Witch of Capri. The story -- if it really matters -- has Burton as a poet who preys on wealthy women with one foot in the grave and Taylor as his latest target, although she's still healthy and exquisitely beautiful.

Below: Trailer for Boom!

Dean_mineox633_0But Wait, There's More
Homoerotic undercurrents between James Dean and Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause. Judith Anderson as a delicious lesbian villain in Hitchcock's Rebecca (it's OK to portray us as villains if it's done well). The gorgeous and possibly bisexual Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk, and a conversation with his daughter Rory, who's just published a memoir. The also-gorgeous Peter O'Toole as the possibly gay T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, costarring the equally breathtaking Omar Sharif. Greta Garbo as the butch Queen Christina. The recently deceased Lizabeth Scott, the subject of lesbian rumors during her life, in the just-restored film noir Too Late for Tears. Bisexual actor Anthony Perkins as the scariest nice young man ever in Psycho. Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate in 3-D. The pre-Code classic backstage musical 42nd Street -- there's at least one scene that will make your gaydar go off. The gay-beloved musical Grease, screening poolside at the Roosevelt, and the gay-beloved Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life. Are you convinced yet? If you're not going this year, keep the festival in mind for your travel and leisure spending in 2016 -- there will undoubtedly be just as many goodies then. And for classic movies at sea, there's the TCM Classic Cruise, coming up in November.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.