Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has proven to be a phenomenon over the past 25 years, winning the hearts of film buffs everywhere by showing countless classic movies uncut and without airing ads. For the past 10 years, they’ve added to the magic by hosting the TCM Classic Film Festival from the heart of Hollywood, bringing together an eclectic array of films with appearances by legendary actors and filmmakers.
The cable network will be celebrating both anniversaries this weekend as the 2019 edition of the festival runs from Thursday through Sunday. With this year’s theme being “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies,” romantic dramas and comedies will compose most of the four days of cinematic classics – beginning with an epic screening of 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” complete with stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and director Rob Reiner in attendance on Thursday night.
“Love was a theme we hadn’t done yet in our first ten years, and ‘When Harry Met Sally’ is one of the best romantic comedies ever made,” says Charlie Tabesh, programming director for both the network and the festival. “Other great events include a ‘Nashville’ reunion with Lily Tomlin and Jeff Goldblum as just two of the several cast members in attendance, and we’re also paying tribute to Twentieth Century Fox as it is in essence going away.”
Indeed, the focus on Fox comes at a sad moment for film lovers, as Disney just recently gobbled up its competitor in a corporate merger that further solidifies its global dominance and the death of creative options in Hollywood. While numerous Fox classics will be screened, the spotlight will shine brightest on a screening of the “special edition” of “Star Wars: A New Hope” on the TCL Chinese Theatre’s IMAX screen.
Other major events include a 30th anniversary screening of “Do the Right Thing” and a 70 mm screening of “The Sound of Music” hosted by the current master of musicals, director Rob Marshall of “Chicago” and “Mary Poppins Returns” fame. A screening of the classic 1941 biopic “Sergeant York” will feature two of the real-life York’s descendants speaking about him and the film after a screening at a new yet historic venue for the fest: Legion Theatre at Post 43 of the American Legion. And 1960s-era femme fatale Angie Dickinson will appear with screenings of the original Frank Sinatra version of “Ocean’s 11” and noir classic “The Killers.”
“This year we’ve added the Post as a new venue, because it’s beautiful and tucked away, with a beautiful theater and a bar,” says Tabesh. “Most people will really love it. Like the channel, the fest has sort of stayed true to its beginnings. It’s not just about the film, or the conversations. It’s almost a convention for classic movie fans to gather. People get to know each other and reconnect each year. If you come from a small town you might be the only classic movie freak and you might feel a little lonely, but if you come to this you meet like minds and people really enjoy that.”
One of TCM’s top hosts, Alicia Malone, will be appearing at the festival, joining Tabesh and TCM’s main host, film critic Ben Mankiewicz, at the cinematic confab. A native of Australia, Malone moved to the US eight years ago and quickly made a mark as a film expert on CNN, “Access Hollywood,” E!, “Entertainment Tonight”, MTV, MSNBC and many other outlets before becoming host of the short-lived TCM-owned streaming platform FilmStruck and finally getting hired by TCM a year ago.
“I’m real excited because I get to do intros to two of my all-time favorites – ‘Magnificent Obsession’ and ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’” says Malone. “’Obsession’ is one of my favorite Douglas Sirk films, and ‘Blondes’ is one of the films I saw aa a kid that led to my love and obsession for classics. Seeing Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in all their glory led to my exploring and learning more about film.”
Ultimately, Malone finds that there’s a truly special mystique in presenting classic Hollywood films right in the heart of Tinseltown itself. And just like Tabesh notes, the wonder of the weekend comes from seeing cinephiles form lasting friendships that foster the film-loving community for future generations to enjoy the hallmarks of moviedom.
“The mission is still the same at TCM after all these years: invite new classic film fans in and maintain long-term ones,” says Malone. “We have a great network of kindred spirits who love these films with a passion and love hearing stories. I think it’s so special that on the closing night of the 10th film fest we’re marking the 25th anniversary of the channel. I’m looking forward to the closing night party toasting both achievements. “
The TCM Classic Film Fest takes place from today through Sunday at various venues in Hollywood. Festival passes range from $250 to $2,149. Individual tickets for screenings are $20, with the closing-night screening of “Gone With The Wind” costing $30. Visit filmfestival.tcm.com/attend.