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Classics Lure Young and Old to L.A.'s TCM Classic Film Festival

Thompson on Hollywood By Cari Beauchamp | Thompson on Hollywood May 3, 2011 at 4:02AM

Cari Beauchamp reports from her busy weekend at the TCM Classic Film Festival:Hollywood Boulevard was even more packed than usual this weekend with thousands of people who could have passed for casually dressed conventioneers, but were actually visitors from all 50 states except for West Virginia, in town to attend the second annual Turner Classic Movies film festival.
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Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood

Cari Beauchamp reports from her busy weekend at the TCM Classic Film Festival:


Hollywood Boulevard was even more packed than usual this weekend with thousands of people who could have passed for casually dressed conventioneers, but were actually visitors from all 50 states except for West Virginia, in town to attend the second annual Turner Classic Movies film festival.

One might assume the festival would look like a AARP gathering, but there was a large youthful contingent. The common dominator seemed to be a profound loyalty to TCM, a love of classic films and an interest in seeing favorite stars up close and personal. There was Angela Lansbury introducing Gas Light, Peter O'Toole getting his hand and foot prints in the Grauman's forecourt, Eva Marie Saint talking about Elizabeth Taylor, Leslie Caron introducing American in Paris, Kirk Douglas discussing Spartacus and Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler introducing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? TCM on-camera host Robert Osborne parted seas of crowds every time he walked by; the line to have Debbie Reynolds sign DVDs was longer than the one to see The Godfather.

Based at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel ("Club TCM" is set up in the Blossom Room, the site of the first Academy Awards), the films were screened at Hollywood Boulevard's Grauman's Chinese and the Egyptian. With almost 100 movies to chose from, starting at 9 in the morning, it began to feel like a marathon by Sunday, but the closing night party was packed. Sampling conversations with some of the attendees produced some laugh-provoking responses. Sarah from Fort Worth, in her mid-thirties and a first-time pass holder, said she had told her husband: "Nothing personal, but this is better than our wedding day."

Joan from Toronto left her husband at home and brought her daughter for the second year in a row. Jamie from New Jersey, 65, came by herself "so I wouldn't have to think about what anyone else wants to see"; the highlight for her was Buster Keaton's The Cameraman: it was the first time in her life that she had seen a silent accompanied by live music on the big screen.

With passes hanging around their necks, conversations were easy and comfortable among people who had never met before. Two young women, one from Alberta and another from Minnesota, met at last year's festival, stayed in touch, "saved our money," and came together again this year. Couples used celebrating birthdays and anniversaries as a reason to come to Hollywood -- that lure is still alive and well -- but the best story was passed on by Gene Kelly's widow, Patricia. She told of meeting a couple who had met at last year's festival, and got engaged this year when the young man went down on one knee following the opening night screening of American in Paris. Awww.

Real pros, the TCM organizers made mounting so much activity within a relatively small space look easy; few complaints were heard. And on Sunday night, they announced plans for another festival next year--to cheers from the crowd--and hinted that it might be held in mid-April: great news for those who also want to attend the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which is also held the last weekend in April.

Peter O'Toole was also honored on April 30 during the TCM fest at Grauman's Chinese Theatre by being inducted into a select group of industry luminaries (his hand and footprints being marked in the courtyard). Check out a clip from the ceremony below:

[Photos courtesy TCM Classic Film Festival: TCM host Robert Osborne interviews Drew Barrymore; Hayley Mills.]

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Classics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.