L.A.'s famed Grauman's Chinese theater played host over the weekend to the first ever TCM Classic Film Festival, which turned out to be quite the old Hollywood affair: the fest spanned four days of over 50 screenings of classic films, panels, and special presentations held in the heart of iconic Hollywood, from the Judy Garland festival opener A Star is Born to a very special closing night screening of Fritz Lang's Metropolisfeaturing never before seen footage and live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.
Throughout the weekend festival goers were treated to a host of living legends, the likes of which would make any classic movie fan's head spin -- Eva Marie Saint, Tony Curtis, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Esther Williams, Ernest Borgnine, Stanley Donen, Norman Lloyd, Mel Brooks, Eli Wallach, and Peter Bogdanovich, to name a few -- not to mention the patron saint of classic movie-watching, film historian and TCM host Robert Osborne. But if you missed the first ever TCM Classic Film Festival this year, fear not: it's coming back in 2011!
Osborne himself made the announcement to fans packing the Grauman's Chinese Sunday night before the landmark screening of Metropolis, which made its North American debut at the fest. (The newly restored cut, featuring 25 additional minutes of recently found footage, will be released in New York, L.A., and at the Cleveland Museum of Art in May.)
"You know, we came into this not knowing if this was going to be a one-shot, or what was going to happen," the tuxedo-clad host said to a hushed full-capacity crowd. "And because you've been so gracious and you've been so enthusiastic and everything, they're making the announcement tomorrow that there is going to be one next year."
Given the fantastic debut of the inaugural TCM Classic Film Festival, how could a second go round go wrong? Held at the Grauman's Chinese, Mann's Chinese, and Egyptian theaters and headquartered conveniently across the street at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel -- the historic digs that hosted the first-ever Academy Awards -- the festival was an oasis tucked just behind the circus of tourists and costumed performers that litter the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard every day. As I stood in line Sunday to experience the restored print of Metropolis with a live score by the Alloy Orchestra, I saw a pair of tall, thin, blue-skinned Na'Vi cos-players walk by along with a Predator and an Indiana Jones and a Spider-Man and boasted to myself, "I'm going to see something you can't just see every day in Los Angeles! I'm going to see a cut of a film nobody's seen since it debuted in 1927 Berlin!"
Screenings at the TCM Film Festival seemed well-attended even through closing day, which is amazing considering that most of the classic films shown have been on DVD and VHS and/or television for years and have already been seen by many patrons already -- and you've got to credit much of the turnout to the amazing schedule of filmmakers in attendance. But you've also got to give love to folks like film critic Leonard Maltin, who sent a rush of excited whispers through the Mann's Chinese the minute he was spotted in the aisles at the Sunday screening of Hitchcock's Saboteur-- and he was there just to moderate the Q&A. It's heartening, to say the least, that the festival crowd here reveres not only movies and the stars we love, but the folks who've brought us closer to them over the years.
Which brings me to something else I don't witness every day: the cult of Robert Osborne. On TCM's television channel, he and other film historians introduce the films we're about to watch. But who are we kidding? Osborne's our fave! And at the TCM Classic Film Festival he's not only utterly and graciously accessible, he's the one everyone notices in the room. Case in point: as I left the closing night party on Sunday I happened upon Mr. Osborne holding court in the middle of the dance floor, intently chatting up a fan. Behind that fan stood a massive line of more fans, all Osbornites waiting patiently for their chance to meet the man. As one made his exit, the next stepped up and took Osborne's outreached hand and I had a sudden vision of Robert Osborne as the Pope of Movies, greeting his people with a kind smile and a handshake and nary a break for a complimentary cocktail or hors d'oeuvres.
If you also worship at the altar of Osborne and have a thing for septuagenarian celebrities and classic Hollywood movies, join me at the second annual TCM Classic Film Festival next year.