May 2, 2018

TCM Classic Film Festival 2018: Another Year of Movie Mania

I’m back from my fifth year covering the TCM Classic Film Festival! 

This event gets better every year. I always learn how to navigate the festival a little more efficiently each time I attend, the friendships I have made over the years deepen, and I meet even more fantastic movie fans in line, seated next to me at screenings, and at the elegant Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel.


I planted feet in Hollywood on Wednesday afternoon. It’s become a new tradition for me to take the Flyaway bus from LAX, because it drops me at the Montalban Theater, in front of which is this most important star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

It’s become especially meaningful to have a chance to pay tribute to Mr. Osborne the moment I get to town. Then I headed across the street to Trader Joe’s to pick up snacks for the festival. Couldn’t be more convenient!

I spent the day catching up with friends and adjusting once again to the chaos of Hollywood Boulevard (it seems to get weirder every year). That meant lunch at 25 Degrees Diner in the Hollywood Roosevelt with my festival roommate Laura and her husband (got to load those calories before the crazy movie-watching schedule begins and they have great burgers and fries) and checking out the TCMFF decorations in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. 

Great promotional art this year
The hallway of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where clearly TCM has taken over
This multimedia Filmstruck display in the lobby of the Roosevelt fascinated festivalgoers
Next I checked out the TCM Festival Boutique which sits between theater locations in the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Center:

The rest of the year this space is part of the massive Sweet candy store
I finished the afternoon chatting with fellow members of the media at a reception in Club TCM which replaced the press conference this year.

Mural in Club TCM part one

Mural in Club TCM part two
Enjoying Chaplin wine with @ClassicMovieHub and @CitizenScreen
A lot of people complain about frequently-played TCM Wine Club ads, but really, I've had a few varieties and this is good wine
Club TCM is such a relaxing place to hang out. Wish I could go there year-round Photo: Doug Grieve
@CitizenScreen pulled me into a pic with Ben Mankiewicz and I was impressed by the expert way he adjusted his position to get a perfect shot. You'd think he maybe did this kind of thing a lot.

Then on to dinner at the yummy Kitchen 24 with a mob of classic film bloggers and movie fanatics:

That's me on the right. I promise I was having fun. My face just does that. Photo: Doug Grieve

I finished the night at the social media influencer mixer at Teddy’s in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. I loved this intimate little bar. It reminded me a lot of some of the cave-like tapas places I went to when I visited Barcelona, Spain. The historic Roosevelt is full of interesting places like this. It’s well worth it to wander around and check it all out.

Teddy's in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Having an attack of severe introversion at Teddy's with @sabinastent and @thephantomasthmatic. Major people exhaustion! Photo: Doug Grieve
And here I am two glasses of wine later. Blurry and back in the groove.

Thursday, Festival Day One

On the first day of the festival, movies don’t start until the evening, so there’s lots of time to relax and be a tourist before the cinematic rollercoaster begins. I continued my pre-fest calorie load with a big breakfast at Mel’s Drive-in, a popular restaurant for festival attendees because of its long hours, a huge menu with all-day breakfast, and a location near the Egyptian and Chinese Multiplex. This was another great chance to catch up with friends.

Then, full of bacon and hash browns, I made my annual trip to Larry Edmunds Bookshop to load up on books and photos. TCMFF weekend is like Black Friday for this Hollywood institution and I am always delighted to do my part in keeping them going!

Tempted, but I have no wall space.
Goodies part one
Goodies part two
For festivals past I have often checked out the opening night red carpet from the bleachers, but this year I was determined to get into the entertaining pre-code Finishing School (1934). I had reviewed the film on DVD over the past year and wanted to experience this by turns funny and dramatic flick with a crowd. Frances Dee is so moving as the film's heroine and Ginger Rogers nearly steals the whole thing with the kind of wisecracks that make you snort. It's also full of sharply-written female friendships you can only find in classic films.

I also wanted to see Wyatt McCrea, the grandson of the Dee (and Joel McCrea) introduce the screening, because I’d heard he was a great storyteller and ambassador for his grandparent’s legacy.

Finishing School was scheduled for the Chinese Multiplex theater four, which is notorious for filling up quickly as it is the smallest festival venue. Most of the TBD rescreenings scheduled for Sunday come from films shown at this theater.

So it was not shocking to see people already lining up when we arrived at the theater over two hours before the screening (as expected, it was screened again on Sunday). I know it sounds crazy to wait in a line longer than it takes to see the film, but this is where you can have some of the best times at the festival. It’s a line full of people who love classic movies! We all had a great time catching up with friends and meeting new people.

Jeremy Arnold and Wyatt McCrea
TCM writer and film historian Jeremy Arnold interviewed Wyatt McCrea and it was one of my favorite introductions of the festival. There was such a pleasant, easygoing flow to their conversation and McCrea shared fascinating memories of his grandmother. I had the chance to thank them after the screening and both men said they could have gone on for twenty more minutes. I could have listened for much longer.

I’d considered catching Throne of Blood (1957) next, because I don’t usually see many foreign films at TCMFF, but seeing Stage Door (1937) at the Egyptian Theater turned the night into a perfect girlfriend double feature. It also gave me the opportunity to see Ginger Rogers steal scenes and crack wise for another two hours. 

Back in the magical forecourt of my favorite theater
The cast of this film is amazing in itself: Ginger Rogers, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and Katherine Hepburn just for starters, but it’s also great because of where many of these actresses were in their careers. Rogers is reaching her peak, impeccably funny, lively and light-footed, while stars like Arden and Ball are just getting their start, but already immensely appealing with their casual slacks and easy way with a quip. Amazingly, just about all the women in this massive cast get a chance to shine, perfectly demonstrating the turbulent beauty of female friendships.

I’ve had many a film archivist tell me that there is nothing special about nitrate film, but I continue to wonder about that. In the rush of changing schedules and getting to the theater, I’d forgotten that this was a nitrate screening. At some point I realized how much I was enjoying the look of the film and and how different it seemed from Finishing School. It was then that I remembered the format. Of course there are other elements that contribute to what I experienced, such as the condition of the print and the fact that I was watching it in a much bigger theater. Still, I feel like there is something about nitrate.

Bill Morrison and Anne Morra
Before Stage Door, MoMA curator Anne Morra introduced The Letter (2018), a new short by filmmaker Bill Morrison, whose Dawson City: Frozen in Time (2016) played at TCMFF 2017. The film has more in common with the director’s 2002 film Decasia than Dawson City, telling a silent story with decaying film, which through its self-destruction takes on another meaning.

Morrison’s films are a mesmerizing experience, with emotionally potent images and intense musical soundtracks. As The Letter played, the theater was the most quiet of any screening during the festival.

With the first day of the festival a blur of activity behind me, I braced myself for the most thrilling, but also most exhausting days of TCMFF to come. 

Come back tomorrow for part two of my fest report, where I watch eleven films in two days, including two midnight screenings, and manage drag myself to a morning screening the next day.

All photos are property of A Classic Movie Blog unless credited otherwise. 


  1. this was WONDEERFUL! I'm a local yokel who only came for "None Shall Escape" Thanks for the most interesting update!

  2. Aw thanks! Hope you enjoyed seeing Marsha Hunt and "None Shall Escape"--it was hard for me to pass that one up.

  3. It looks like you and Laura had a lot of fun! I am looking forward to part two of your report.

  4. I was very pleased to get a lot of Laura time this year Terry!