Ten Movies Worth Screening at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival
Since TCM just announced yesterday a spate of new titles debuting at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival I couldn’t have picked the worst time to schedule this. But everyone has their “wish list” and there’s still plenty of time to get one of my ten choices on the list, so here goes! This year’s theme about movies that move us, and each of the films I included have the ability to inspire every emotion, from the deepest sorrow to the widest smiles and laughter. Feel free to leave your festival wish list in the comments below!
I’m really surprised TCM hasn’t scheduled Splendor in the Grass (1961) for previous festivals, but it certainly deserves a chance here. The tortured tale of an intense and passionate romance between two high-schoolers is relatable to anyone who’s ever experienced young love, and by the end you’ll be a sobbing mess. Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty have never been better – and don’t forget the superb, scene-stealing performance of Barbara Loden. The film is turning 55 this year, Beatty’s still with us and has attended the festival before, and Wood’s daughter recently teamed up with the network to auction off some of her mother’s things and could easily be invited to discuss her mother’s work. It’s a no-brainer for me, so let’s get the TCM folks on-board!
I’m gonna generalize my next suggestion: A film with Esther Williams! In scanning the list of past films screened I didn’t catch any films starring the million dollar mermaid, and that’s a shame because her films are pure escapist fun perfectly reminiscent of a studio system we’ll never witness again. Any of Williams’ aquatic films would work – I have a soft spot for Dangerous When Wet (1953) and On an Island With You (1948). Or they could choose Williams’ rare foray into noir territory with The Unguarded Moment (1956).
No stranger to the festival is Disney, who have had several works of their premiere even before their partnership with the network last year. And after screening works like The Parent Trap (1961), Pinocchio (1940), and Snow White (1937), it’s high time they show Disney’s saddest film of all time, Dumbo (1941). The sad tale of a little elephant with big ears, can you imagine a theater collectively sobbing during “Baby Mine?” I get teary eyed just thinking about it!
This is the screening I’d move heaven and Earth to make work! If you’ve read JCF for any length of time then you know one of my go-to films is Gidget (1959), the tale of a young girl surfer surfing the waves of boys and friendship. James Darren, who played Moondoggie, is still around and could certainly give some insight on the film, and would be a great film to screen next to the Roosevelt hotel pool! This would be such a fun screening, and who doesn’t love seeing Cliff Robertson on the big screen, even if he’s obviously sliding around in front of a screen.
Friday and Saturday night of the festival is taken up with midnight screenings, usually of cult or very off-beat films, and Xanadu (1980) might be a bit too well-known, but it’s always fun to watch. This is the perfect midnight movie with classic film roots, starring Gene Kelly (playing a continuation of his character in Cover Girl (1944)) and a take on Rita Hayworth’s Down to Earth (1947). The musical element would get people bouncing around and it’s beyond cheesy that people will be laughing endlessly.
TCM should really screen Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) simply so I can stop talking about how they should screen it! This was probably a better fit for last year’s theme, History According to Hollywood, but the story of beleaguered Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold) and her relationship with Henry VIII (Richard Burton) can fit any theme due to its tortured romance and tragic outcome. Bujold is still around and I’d die to hear her talk about making this film, itself filmed during the depths of the “Liz and Dick” years. Honestly, TCM, throw me a bone!
As the resident Veronica Lake expert (until someone contradicts me), TCM could help Veronica Lake’s image by screening more of her work. Unfortunately, much of it hasn’t been released – I know Cinecon screened something of her’s last year – and now would be the perfect time to let audiences revisit “the girl with the peekaboo bang.” I Married a Witch (1942) is Lake at her funniest, aided by a love/hate performance opposite Fredric March. It may not be Halloween, but the romance is sweet, there’s magic both on and off-screen, and, hey, I’m always available to introduce it!
I don’t often include movies I’ve yet to see in lists like this, but since I missed the last two Powell/Pressburger films to show at the festival (The Red Shoes (1948) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946)) I’d love to watch something from the duo. The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) has gotten rave reviews from people I know, and it’s currently unavailable to rent or watch (thankfully, I have a taped copy from a previous TCM telecast).
This is another midnight movie choice that everyone would love. Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958) could be a feminist call to arms wrapped up in cheesy sci-fi constraints. Either way, the cheesy sci-fi constraints make it worth watching.
And, finally, The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Another one I can’t believe hasn’t screened before, this film moves in a way that’s deeper than just laughter or tears. The story of an angel (Cary Grant) helping a put-upon preacher (David Niven) suffering through a personal and professional crisis of faith gives you hope for humanity. Considering the festival is screening another faith-based film, The Song of Bernadette (1943), this could be a great pair-up.
Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
“A film with Esther Williams! In scanning the list of past films screened I didn’t catch any films starring the million dollar mermaid,…”
I believe at one of the first festivals (maybe the first) writers mentioned “Neptune’s Daughter” being screened by a pool with both Esther and Betty Garrett in attendance. That could never be replicated, but there are plenty of more films with Esther waiting to be shared.
Yes, Patricia. Betty Garrett and Esther Williams were interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz at the very first pool screening in 2010 with “Neptune’s Daughter.” And Kristen, I would love to see Gidget as a pool screening! I believe Debbie Lynn Ellias reported a few years ago that James Darren might be a special guest at a festival. This would be the perfect film for him to introduce. “Moondoggie!”
I’d heard that as well! I’d definitely be there with bells on (and an “I Heart Kahuna” shirt!).
Aw, I’m incredibly sad now that I missed that opportunity! Oh, well, as you say there’s more Williams films and I’d be willing to watch any poolside!