Tough choices: My picks to see at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2019

The TCM Classic Film Festival schedule is like a maze for classic movie fans as we  weave our way through the massive list of more than 80 films, talks and special events spread over four days at six venues to create our individual viewing guides. It’s exciting and fun, but a bit frustrating all at the same time. (You want me to pick between what two films?!? Impossible.)

We circle movies, cross some off and put hearts or question marks next to others. Then we go back and do it all over again until we think we “have it right.”

But no matter how sure we are of our “final” choices, the only thing that’s really certain is that we’ll make more changes at the festival.

I base my choices off of three factors:

* How I feel about a film.

* Whether I’ve seen it on the big screen.

* Who is in attendance.

My only rule is that I will not see a film made in 1980 or later unless there is a very compelling reason. TCMFF is a chance for me to see films from a specific era (mostly pre-1960) that fit my definition of a classic movie. Since I was not able to see them in a theater on their initial release, I take advantage of being able to do so at the fest.

Here are my picks.

“Night World”

Thursday

I’m taking a chance with my opening night pick, “Night World,” a 1932 pre-code starring Boris Karloff and Mae Clarke. It runs from 6:45 to 8 p.m. in the much-too-small Chinese Multiplex House 6. I’ve never seen this film and since it’s introduced by Karloff’s daughter, Sara Karloff, it’s a no-brainer for me.

If I get shut out, I’ll head across the lobby to the much larger Chinese Multiplex House 1 for the 6:30 p.m. showing of “Dark Passage.” (You can never go wrong with Bogart and Bacall.)

Then I’m walking very fast to the Egyptian for the nitrate screening of “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer” at 9:30 p.m. This is a fun movie and who can resist Cary Grant and Myrna Loy?

But …. you could sway me to see the ultra-hip “Ocean’s 11” at 7:30 p.m. poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and their friends might be the coolest guys ever on film. Watching it with friends and a cocktail – with Angie Dickinson – might be too tempting to resist.

“Merrily We Go To Hell”

Friday

It’s up at dawn on Friday to get to the Chinese Multiplex House 1 by 7:45 a.m. or so to stand in line for “Merrily We Go to Hell” at 9 a.m. The 1932 pre-code (there’s that word again) stars Fredric March (swoon) and Sylvia Sydney. I can’t miss a chance to see March on the big screen plus he plays a newspaperman (hard-drinking, but still a journalist) so that’s close to my heart. It also has “actor” Cary Grant before he became “star” Cary Grant. If that’s not enough, it’s directed by Dorothy Arzner and introduced by Cari Beauchamp.

One of the many poetic images in F.W. Murnau’s masterful silent film “Sunrise.”

The rest of the day must be planned around seeing the exquisite silent beauty “Sunrise” at 3 p.m. at Chinese House 1. Although I’ve seen it before on the big screen, it is so haunting and poetic that I couldn’t pass up another chance to see it in a theater. (Look at the great photo at the top of this story.) For some reason, I have challenged myself to be No. 1 in line. I’ll need to arrive by 1:15-1:30 p.m. so that means I won’t be able to squeeze in anything else after “Merrily We Go to Hell.” I might just take that time to check out the Larry Edmunds book store.

It’s back to House 1 for the 6 p.m. showing of “Day for Night” where star Jacqueline Bisset will be interviewed by Eddie Muller. His excitement over this has been epic – and contagious.

From there, I might head to the Roosevelt for “The Opposite Sex” at 8 p.m. poolside. I’ll be a bit late, but there’s something about seeing this campy musical remake of “The Women” (for shame) poolside that sounds like too much fun to miss.

“When Worlds Collide”

Saturday

I must stay true to my B-movie heart and be at House 1 for “When Worlds Collide” at 9:15 a.m. Star Barbara Rush will be there and she’s a great storyteller as I’ve learned from seeing her previously at TCMFF.  Comedian Dennis Miller will be there, too.

Please don’t judge me, but I may have to run out a bit early for “Tarzan and His Mate.” It’s showing at teeny House 6 at 11:45 a.m. and it will be tough to get a seat. I’m so excited to see this on the big screen. Ben Burtt and Craig Barron will introduce it and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. (Don’t pass up a chance to see these two knowledgeable Oscar winners.)

Nora Ephron

Despite my no post-1980 movie credo, that probably won’t stop me from attending the “All About Nora” talk at 3 p.m. in Club TCM. I adore Nora Ephron, her movies and her love of classic film. She is truly missed. I’d love to hear those close to her – including her son Jacob Bernstein – tell us some stories.

I’ll end my night with “Samson and Delilah” in nitrate at 9:30 p.m. in the Egyptian Theatre. This Biblical epic reminds me of Easter as a kid when it was always on TV. I think it will look extraordinary in nitrate. I’m equally excited to hear Victoria Mature introduce her dad’s film.

“Yours, Mine and Ours”

Sunday

The last day of the fest starts with my toughest decision between three events: the comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours” at 11:30 a.m. at the Legion Theater at Post 43, the drama “Magnificent Obsession” at 11:45 a.m. at the Chinese Multiplex House 1 and “Hollywood Love Stories” at 12:30 p.m. in Club TCM.

So many choices!

If I was only considering the film, the choice would be “Magnificent Obsession” which will look magnificent in glorious Technicolor. (Plus it would be a blast to see the movie with Rock Hudson fans and yes, I’m looking at you, Fussy.) But “Yours, Mine and Ours” has a guest list including Mitch Vogel, the red-haired, freckled face crush of my childhood. “Hollywood Love Stories” sounds entertaining and Diane Baker, one of my faves, will be there.

If I’m at “Yours, Mine and Ours,” I’ll stick around the Legion Theater for the 2:30 p.m. showing of the 1971 comedy “Cold Turkey.” It’s such a great cast – Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Jean Stapleton and Vincent Gardenia among others – and it’s directed by some guy named Norman Lear who will be at the screening.

Another choice in that time frame is the 2:15 p.m. showing of sweet Ernest Borgnine romance “Marty,” but it’s at House 6. So this may be where I return to the bookstore before heading to the nearby Egyptian for two films. The Greta Garbo silent “A Woman of Affairs” is at 5:15 p.m. with film historian Kevin Brownlow and a live orchestra performing original music composed and conducted by Carl Davis. (It’s hard to believe I have the chance to be in a room with Brownlow and Davis – two icons of the film world!)

The plan is to get right back in line at the Egyptian for the nitrate screening of “The Dolly Sisters” at 8 p.m. to end the festival viewing.

This is my plan for now – but don’t hold me to it. You know how this goes.

* * * * *

Looking for more picks? Here are plenty more from other TCM fans:

Aurora, Once Upon a Screen

Chris Sturhann, Blog of the Darned

Danny, AKA  Pre-code.com

Emily, The Vintage Cameo

Jay Patrick, 30 Hertz Rumble

Joel Williams, Joel’s Classic Movie Passion

Kendahl, A Classic Movie Blog

Kristen, Journeys into Classic Film

Julia Ricci, Cinema Crossroads

Kellee Pratt of Outspoken and Freckled

Samantha, Musings of a Classic Film Addict

Stanford Clark, Movies Past and Present

** If I’m missing your list, let me know and I will add it.

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