It’s that time again! Time for TCMFF (TCM Classic Film Festival)!!!
Last year I decided to make an official film guides to assist in examining the program and schedule and use that data to do a format breakdown. Using my skills as a film archivist and preservationist, I thought that these things would be useful for fans and attendees to have.
This year I think this is an ESPECIALLY useful tool since we have an all new item to add for our viewing pleasure: 35MM NITRATE!!!
So first of all, let’s get a few rumors settled: nitrate is not OMGZFIRECAUSING and it will not blow up if you simply touch it. The chemicals that are released when the film begins to deteriorate (called “off-gassing”) can lead to some nasty toxicity though and the more you pack nitrate in…the more likely you are to cause a fire. Nitrate doesn’t like close quarters and it doesn’t like to to be under pressure. Think of Nitrate as the hippie film base- it just wants to chill, man. But if it gets a bad dose (ie, starts to deteriorate) or is put under bad pressure/circumstances, it could really blow.
BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A 35MM NITRATE PRINT??????????
Don’t miss the chance to do it this year.
PART I: PREPARATION & PLANNING
Listed below, in the alphabetized spreadsheet, is all the films that are playing as of Friday, March 31, 2017. The spreadsheet moves down and also moves to the right and includes notes, theaters, times, formats and all kinds of details!!
If you want to download the spreadsheet and organize it according to your own wants (format, notes, theater, day/time, etc.) that link is here:
This (obviously) is the way that the formats broke down this year. The wonderful thing to notice is that we still have a thick chunk of rare kinds of films to see, including different kinds of formats. While there is no 16mm or 8mm (except digitized in the Hollywood Home Movies program which usually occurs on Saturday afternoon in Club TCM), the Cinerama and 35mm nitrate is pretty nifty stuff. We’re pretty spoiled on basic technicals.
Last year’s stats looked like this:
So I think we’re doing pretty well for 2017!!! Analogue has gotten a more diverse face this year, which is definitely a plus. That is, of course, thanks to the Egyptian Theater/American Cinematheque for taking that risk and refitting their projection booth with all the necessary items for the projection of nitrate. Not every theater is able to project nitrate. We’re exceptionally blessed that they were able to do that in time to work with wonderful people like the UCLA Film and Television Archive and access prints from their MASSIVE nitrate collection.
I can personally assure all of you that UCLA FTVA’s nitrate collection is brilliant. I helped move their archive from where it used to be in Westwood and Hollywood to where it resides now, in a glorious archival palace in Santa Clarita. Their collection is beyond compare.
A film I’ve seen a gazillion times but it’s also one of my FAVORITE FILM IN THE UNIVERSE EVERZ, The Court Jester.
Last year I saw Larry Peerce’s One Potato, Two Potato at TCMFF and it was a revelation. This year I plan on seeing The Incident, come hell or high water.
I missed the screenings & talks for the restoration of The Front Page this year. But I won’t miss it at TCMFF!!! Especially with one of my favorite professors and awesome people from archiving school giving the intro!
There are plennnnnttttyyyyyy more that I’m thinking about & considering but that’s all I’m committing to on blog right now.
We’re heading into the final stretch, guys and gals. So many plans and schedules have already been posted (mine is forthcoming, I swear)! The slow trickle of #TCMFF pals into my Hollywood hometown and everyone’s excitement is (as usual) giving me such joy. I’m just giddy with Classic Film Craziness!
So aside from the Print Resource Guide that I posted a few days back, I have something else very special to add to my “preservation and restoration stream.” As one of the TCMFF Social Producers, my focus is to increase knowledge about preservation, restoration & film archiving through social media platforms. As a working archivist, I wish to showcase why I truly believe that TCMFF is one of the strongest film festival venues dedicated to these critical procedures.
One of my favorite parts from TCMFF 2015 – an entire booth dedicated to cinephilia and why we, as film lovers, “heart movies”! So great!
For this blog, I got a wonderful and in-depthpre-TCMFF interviewfrom the knowledgeable Bob Furmanek of the 3D Film Archive about the restoration of GOG (Herbert L. Strock, 1954), which will be playing as the midnight show on Saturday night, April 30th at the festival! Bob will be there in person with his restoration colleague Greg Kintz, so that will be extra cool!!
Hope all of you enjoy this interview and perhaps learn a bit more about 3D preservation!
1) Can you give a short history on your relationship to this film and why it’s such a unique opportunity for TCMFF fans to be seeing it this year?
When I was living in Los Angeles and working for Jerry Lewis in the mid-1980’s, I spent a lot of time doing work in the old Technicolor building in Hollywood. Director Herbert L. Strock was still active at the time and maintained an office on the first floor. I used to visit with him quite often and naturally, we discussed GOG. At that time, it was lost in 3-D (the studio only had material on the right side) and he lamented the fact that nobody would ever see it again. For that reason, I made it a top priority to try to find the missing left side.
I eventually discovered the lost 35mm left side print in 2001 and carefully matched it to a new 35mm right side print from MGM. We screened the dual-35mm polarized 3-D prints in 2003 at the World 3-D Film Expo at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Mr. Strock got to see it again with a sold-out audience of 700 fans and it was a wonderful moment. Sadly, he passed away in 2005.
We spent five tedious months restoring the film last year for 3-D Blu-ray release through Kino-Lorber. Our new digital master has extensive color restoration and shot by shot 3-D alignment and left/right panel-matching. As a result, the audience at TCMFF will be seeing GOG in a better presentation than was technically possible in 1954. Mr. Strock would have loved it!
TRULY exquisite examples of the restored L/R eye work can be found by clicking on this picture. It will take you to the AMAZING “before & afters”!
2) You head up the 3D Archive. Why is it important to have a 3D Archive? Isn’t 3D still coming out?
Nearly every 3-D feature from the first forty years of stereoscopic cinema (1922 – 1962) was photographed and printed on dual-strips of 35mm film with one print representing the left side and the other representing the right. They were projected theatrically on two 35mm machines in precise synchronization. Polaroid filters in each projection port – and the corresponding polarized glasses worn by the audience – insured that each eye only saw the intended side in order to create a 3-D image. If either the left or right elements are missing, you have lost the film in 3-D. Since the early 1980’s, the Archive has worked very hard to ensure that most of them survive.
There were fifty Golden Age (1952-1955) domestic 3-D features and thankfully, forty-eight survive in their complete stereoscopic versions. The only lost 3-D features from that period are TOP BANANA with Phil Silvers and one half of SOUTHWEST PASSAGE with Rod Cameron.
A lobby card for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a partially lost 3-D film…
We are doing our very best to get as many released onto 3-D Blu-ray as possible so that people can see these films as they were originally intended. It’s been quite an obstacle and uphill battle securing licenses from the copyright holders but we don’t give up easily.
3) What is the most difficult thing about restoring a 3D film? What was the most difficult part of restoring GOG?
Right out of the gate, the workload is doubled and that presents many challenges with respect to time and financial resources. You basically have to restore the film twice. The most challenging aspect is ensuring that both left/right sides are perfectly aligned and panel-matched in order to present the best possible viewing experience. That means going through the film and making adjustments on every single shot. It’s very time-consuming and labor intensive but it’s absolutely crucial that both the left and right sides are matched.
On the average, we can restore a 3-D feature in three months: GOG took five. It was an enormous challenge because the left side was completely faded with no yellow or cyan information whatsoever. In addition, every single shot in the film required up to seven levels of correction including color restoration, left/right panel matching, flicker reduction, image stabilization, detail extraction from the superior right side element, stereoscopic vertical alignment and dirt/damage clean-up. Greg Kintz has literally worked a restoration miracle in bringing this 3-D gem back to life.
4) GOG is a Eastman color film, a stock that is known to fade if not cared for correctly. Can you talk a little bit about the process of the color restoration and why color restoration and 3D film preservation might be especially challenging (if it is)?
GOG had a rather complicated history so far as lab work and processing. It was filmed on Eastman color negative 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and processed by the Color Corporation of America laboratory – formerly SuperCinecolor/Cinecolor – in Burbank. By time it was edited and ready for theatrical release in May 1954, the lab was in financial trouble and had been sold to Benjamin Smith and Associates, owners of the Houston Fearless Corp. As a result, the 35mm release prints of GOG were made by Pathé Laboratories in Hollywood. While some early Eastman color negative stock holds up pretty well if it has been stored properly, the 1954 Pathé color release prints were already faded within a few years after it was released.
Thankfully, the right side element used in the restoration (a 35mm inter-positive struck from the original camera negative) still had quite a bit of color. With a little finesse, we were able to tweak it digitally to bring back its original palette. The biggest challenge was then matching the faded left side with the right.
5) Without any spoilers, can you give us a scene to look for that was *especially* challenging in the process but your team thinks came out particularly well?
To be honest, there wasn’t one particular scene that was more difficult than others. The entire film was an incredible challenge! When Greg Kintz was doing his work and sending me 3-D Blu-ray test discs, I was constantly amazed at the restoration and how the image kept improving with each new level of correction. Additional dirt and damage clean-up was then done by Thad Komorowski and that helped immensely.
To give you an idea of what we achieved on a shoestring budget, Warner Bros. spent close to $300K restoring HOUSE OF WAX. We brought in the 3-D and color restoration of GOG for $10K.
After suffering through flat, black and white 16mm open-matte full-frame transfers on TV for decades, I never expected GOG to look as good as it does today. We’re very proud of the final result in bringing this lost 3-D classic back to life.
6) What are you particularly looking forward to seeing at the TCMFF?
Boy, that’s a tough question. The entire schedule is wonderful and there are many cinematic treasures to be enjoyed.
For me personally, the new restoration from the 35mm nitrate camera negative of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Roy William Neill, 1943) is going to be quite a treat. That’s been a favorite of mine since I was a young Monster Kid in the 1960’s and watched New York TV’s Chiller Theater on Saturday nights. I even had the three-minute Castle Films 8mm fifty-foot home movie edition. It’s going to be great fun seeing it fully restored on the big screen!
Thanks again so much, Bob!!! Can’t wait for this screening!
I have been since last year when TCMFF2015 ended. I live for this film festival. My experience has shown me that TCMFF is one of the most organized and best staffed film festivals that I have ever attended and the content is truly the most dynamic and rare. For a film archivist and preservationist to say this is no small feat.
The films are sometimes familiar, many times obscure, always challenging and enjoyable. The festival welcomes audience members from all over the world and gives them access to films that they would not normally be able to see, especially not in the environment that they were designed to be seen in: a theatrical setting. This annually growing community of passionate film-goers and classic film fans that TCM has created is what I have termed “Classic Film Summer Camp.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time waiting in line for a film as I have at TCMFF. I’ve met people from everywhere and learned about so many different lives, experiences and classic film star fandoms. Y’all can have Christmas- this is MY most wonderful time of the year!
For the second year in a row I have been asked to be a member of the wonderful TCMFF Social Producers’ Team. As Social Producers, we are a group of fabulous and intelligent classic film advocates and cineastes working with the TCMFF social media team to advance the goals of the festival and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved! Each of us has our own “theme” or line of “promotion” and we can be found under the hashtags #TCMFF and #TCMFFSP. Whether or not you are in attendance, you want to follow these hashtags! These folks are some heavy hitters!
So my theme this year? Well, nothing’s changed. Leopard and spots and all. I’ll be Tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming on my most beloved subjects: film archiving, preservation and restoration.
So, for my first intro post, I have created a resource for everyone who may be currently planning their TCMFF schedules. I designed a spreadsheet that has cataloged the 35mm prints, DCPs, noted the restoration and preservations, and did my best to signify notes on World Premiere or North American Premiere, etc.
OF NOTE: the TCMFF schedule, while extremely reliable, is always subject to change. As a preservationist, projectionist and film series programmer myself, I can tell you that there are innumerable variables that can cause variations in guests, film format or program itself. This is just your garden variety disclaimer, folks, but it has to be said. You know it does. And since you’re reading this blog, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but it’s a necessary statement. Additionally, if I have not written it here, that does not mean it is NOT a premiere/restoration/etc. I have based this upon as much information as I could get. If there is something in need of correction, please contact me immediately! I would be pleased as punch to change it!
So let’s get down to business, shall we?
PART I: RESOURCES & PLANNING
So. Now that the disclaimers have been said, here is your 2016 TCMFF Format & Preservation Resource guide. Get to scheduling!
It’s alphabetical, and if anyone has any questions or problems reading it (or understanding the manner in which it has been broken down) please let me know. I will actively pay attention to any and all comments as they come in, and will be ABSOLUTELY ready to alter something if needs be.
If you would rather have it in a link form rather than embedded, go here.
It is critical for attendees to have this kind of format map. It may have taken some time to put together, but I know how important this resource is. Being able to access a full report of what has been restored, what has been preserved, what has been digitally reconstructed and how to identify each of these pieces in order to put together the fabulous puzzle that will eventually be your TCMFF experience is just invaluable.
Before moving into Part II, I briefly mention a remark about formats and preservation. Please consider the curatorial dedication and labor that has gone into the maintenance of all the films that you will watch this festival season, no matter what format they are in. Whatever your sensibilities or thoughts about format (analogue/digital, etc), every person with whom I have personally come into contact in my archival career who is involved in classic film preservation takes their job very seriously. Whether moving towards the creation of a Digital Cinema Package or striking a new 35mm print, my classic film archival colleagues work really hard to make sure that these materials see another generation and that another generation sees them. So let us be certain that if we downplay a digital format in favor of analogue, we do not forget that the digitization and digital work had to have an incredible amount of analogue preparation work done to it first. There are no classic films that were “born digitally” and thus you cannot have digital without analogue attention. Let us not forget that aspect of the workflow.
PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN
I compiled some data based upon what we have this year, print-wise. So if you want to get nerdy with me, here’s what we have…
From a preservation standpoint, I noted that the vast amount of 35mm was made up of rare works and, quite simply, the films that rarely make it out of the vaults. These films are the very reason that I continually attend TCMFF, religiously watch the channel until stupid o’clock in the morning (just…one…more…movie….), and truly appreciate educated colleagues like Will McKinley‘s continued updates on TCM as we move forward into various streaming and cable variations.
These are the films that caused me to become a preservationist. But we can get back to that.
The analytics – 33% of the films appearing at TCMFF this year will be shown in 35mm. These are films like One Potato, Two Potato (Larry Peerce, 1964) a film about interracial marriage that came out BEFORE the more socially palatable Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967). Or a bewilderingly unheard-of feature like Double Harness (John Cromwell, 1933), a pre-code film that has been, quite literally, sitting in a vault until TCM bought the rights to it in 2006. These films catalyzed my film archival career and have subsequently reignited my film passion every year at the TCMFF. They are the “lost” or “forgotten” children of classic cinema.
While it’s beyond incredible to watch an old favorite on the big screen with a crowd, I would highly recommend that folks try to make it to at least ONE “rare pick” at TCMFF. Try the Film Noir Foundation/UCLA Film & Television Archive Restoration of Repeat Performance (Alfred L. Werker, 1947) or the rarely screened Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Roy Del Ruth, 1934). This is your opportunity!
So here are my “5 Points to Consider When Making Your TCMFF Schedule and Beyond.”
Restoration costs a GREAT deal of money. A LOT. Many grants, volunteer labor and insane hard work is involved just to get to the point of being able to approach the physical restoration. This relates to 35mm *and* DCP. Love your restoration folks and the restorations!
Lesser known films are riskier and have less potential for “return investment” in many people’s eyes. When you get the opportunity to investigate rare works at TCMFF or at a home repertory theater, you can be part of a new kind of “return investment.”
Supporting restorations & preservations (in 35mm *and* DCP) and making your voice heard through social media & online makes a difference. Boutique labels do exist for DVD/Blu distribution and we do have wonderful companies like Warner Archives, Flicker Alley and others who make it a mission to serve our community.
TCM (and TCMFF) serves the classic film community in a positive way by their continual & consistent showcasing of “forgotten films” or unusual materials — there is the possibility that, with more exposure, viewing more rarities on 35mm may lead to more preservation and restoration!
TCM also showcases incredible panels like the Academy Home Movies presentation (something that I will be livetweeting for the second year in a row) with the wonderful Lynne Kirste and Randy Haberkamp. What was previously a closed circuit of “35mm features” is now open to different formats and narratives (Super8, 8mm, 16mm – all transferred of course, but that IS what we get to see). If you have not attended this panel, DO IT. It is one of my favorite parts of TCMFF every year.
PART III: SAY HELLO!!! I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU! 🙂
When you see me walking around during #TCMFF, I will have my badge on and it will look like this:
Look for the blue and burgundy 16mm reels and the red circled SP on the badge.
My social media platforms that you can follow are…
And once again, check out the hashtags this year – #TCMFF, #TCMFFSP and follow @tcm on Twitter!
I will be returning with another post soon letting you know what my schedule will possibly be so that you can stalk…er…find me during TCMFF if you wish. But for now, enjoy!
The full schedule is up and we are only a few days away.
Yes, THAT schedule. The one that we have been impatiently waiting for with bated breath since our teary goodbyes and final hugs of “see you next year” last spring.
TCM FILM FESTIVAL IS ON LIKE TRON.
Last week, just before I left my house to join my colleagues and do some work for the Film Noir Foundation, I was alerted to the fact that the full schedule was up online and mine for the perusal. Getting that alert was Hell. On. Earth. There I was, rushing out the door, pushing my cats out of the way so that I could get on public transportation and make it to the lab on time, all the while knowing that the FULL LIST of films awaited me after my work was completed. But I love what I do and get completely entranced by it, whatever the particular job may be- print consultation, database research, repairing one of my own personal 16mm prints- so I almost forgot about it for that brief sliver of the day.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that film preservation isn’t an amazing gig. It’s the dream of a lifetime, especially working with the Film Noir Foundation. My gig with them is tops. So I got home and opened my computer. A multitude of Facebook “TCMFF 2015-what-I-am-seeing-lists” exploded after the schedule announcement. Some of them full of hard and fast absolutes, and others flexible but still completely booked-up in their calendars and planning their eating methods and what theaters they would be running back and forth from. All within less than 36 hours of the schedule being up online. My good pal (and excellent writer) Mr. Peel of Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquor asked the reasonable question: “How can you all be so sure so fast?” The short answer for me was that I’m wasn’t. And, I’m still not. So this post, while a rumination on the schedule and a brainstorming, will also serve as a recommendation list. I am going to go through this year’s schedule selectively. I am only going to mention certain films. But I will likely mention more than I will be able to watch during the festival. And I’m going to look at them in a very particular manner. And here is why:
Along with several other worthy film fans and professionals, I have been asked by the TCM Film Festival to be part of a new program called the “Social Producers Team.” Each member of the team will be specializing in their own social media-thread or theme based on an aspect of the TCM Film Festival that they have proposed or that they are best at. For example: my theme/thread centers on film restoration, preservation, and rare films/discoveries. I made this my raison d’etre because (duh) I’m a film archivist and my aim (in life as well as at #TCMFF) is to raise more awareness, interest and understanding about film preservation.I hope to “stock up” those TCM social media channels with a better understanding and a great passion for this important part of the film world in addition to fun tidbits of specialized information that I can provide.
Due to my career specialization, my film interests and choices may seem a little “off,” even for a classic film fan. While many TCM-ites will jump at the chance to see a movie on its anniversary or a silent picture based upon a live orchestral arrangement (superfragalistically cool, no doubt), I feel that it’s actually my job to see the restorations that are programmed. And that is across the board- on every format, 35mm or DCP. And yes, sometimes that may include a more modern festival presentation like Apollo 13 (I haven’t decided on that though). This is one of the ways I am able to keep myself up to date on what my colleagues are doing, how technology is evolving and what works are being preserved and why. Watching a modern restoration and the work that has been done can assist an archivist’s work in any number of classic film preservations.
Eartha Kitten asks, “Why can’t I go to the Film Festival tooooo?”
My work as the Nancy Mysel Legacy Project Recipient at the Film Noir Foundation has allowed and given me special training and insight into the restoration and preservation processes of these films as well as a unique advantage as to the discussion of film noir and its cast of characters (both fiction and non-fiction) itself. So in the discussion of these films and recommendations, I will definitely use that training to guide (and suggest) audiences see these films. It is a huge chunk of my life.
So now that we’ve gotten all of that out-of-the-way and you, my lovely reading public, know how I’m going to be recommending and dealing with these films, let’s get on with it, shall we? I’m gonna go by the TCM Festival Schedule if you wish to open that in a separate tab and follow along, and list day by day.
OH! Before I forget! I want to give a few shout-outs to my #TCMFF homies! So my TCMFF bestie is Dennis Cozzalio and if you don’t know him, well you should. His primary writing zone is Sergio Leone & The Infield-Fly Rule but he also has a fab new column called Fear of the Velvet Curtainover at one of my favorite sites ever invented, Trailers From Hell. While he’s not part of the Social Producers Team, I always get super-stoked to get to go to the movies with him every year.
My pal Peter Avellino- mentioned in the very beginning? Check out Mr. Peel. You won’t be sorry.
Señor Dan Schindel. He makes amazing desserts, kicks ass at Cards Against Humanity, is one of the nicest & smartest humans, and I’m hoping that we can see some movies in the same vicinity. I know he writes for various publications. He tweets at @danschindel.
There’s more, but let’s get on to the movies, eh?
3:00pm: The awesome and fantastic Bruce Goldstein from Film Forum in NYC is doing Trivia. If you are unaware, this man is really pretty rad. Guaranteed, he knows more than you do. I’ve seen him at my film archiving conferences and he’s a genuine badass. The time I got to hang out & chat with Norman Lloyd was when we were all at an event together. Am I gonna do trivia because I think I will win? OH HELL NO. I am positive that there are some of you out there who have memorized people’s entire filmographies much more thoroughly than I have. Do I wanna do it because it’s gonna be a hellovalotta fun? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT. Now accepting offers for teammates…..
5:00pm: TCM PARTY – schmooze! Wheeee!
6:45pm: TOO LATE FOR TEARS: even if I am not there seeing it, watch out for my thread- I will be posting allllll about it. The restoration and the story behind it is MINDBLOWING. If you like film noir and you miss this film, I will question your commitment to sparkle motion. I have seen it 5 times now, never get sick of it. The restoration was nothing short of a miracle and the film content itself is just thrilling. Even my MOM loved it. She said, “I wanna see more films like that!” when I took her to the LA Restoration premiere. DO NOT MISS.
“Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart. “
10:00pm: MY MAN GODFREYPure and simple on this one, I’m a sucker for Powell and Lombard. I highly recommend BREAKER MORANThowever, as Beresford is fantastic and seeing it on 35mm is going to be great. Plus, going with the historical theme, I don’t think you could get much better. So I may end up there. But for now, I’m thinking GODFREY.
First up- THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLORDavid Pierce has done a great deal of writing on film preservation, silent film and archival topics. There is NO way I’m missing this. Technicolor is pretty much the coolest thing. You KNOW when you’re seeing Technicolor. This is one of the most thrilling things on the whole weekend for a n3rd like me. And in 35mm *and* HD? DUDE. I’m gonna be in a FRENZY when I get outta there…
Alternative to g33k lecture of amazingness? THE SMILING LIEUTENANT Ok, so if I wasn’t going to go do some Technicolor dorking out? I’d go and hang out with Ernst Lubitsch. I programmed this film in grad school as part of the film series I did at the New Beverly Cinema that celebrated archiving and 35mm. It played amazingly well and people loved it. This falls under “rarities and discoveries” and is a fabulous way to start your day. Highly recommend!
Miriam Hopkins is a goddess.
The next section is a doozy:
Probably hitting THE PROUDEST REBEL. This world-premiere restoration of a very rarely discussed Michael Curtiz film seems to hit a whole bunch of things I wanna check out. I’d like to see how Warner Bros did with this restoration and will be interested to hear David Ladd talk about his dad, Alan. For those of you not joining me there, I will make sure to set up a few notes to go out about REIGN OF TERRORbecause director Anthony Mann is The MAN. And you just can’t miss Norman Lloyd or John Alton’s cinematography. If you haven’t checked this out before…this is big screen French Revolution Noir. And yes- that *is* a thing.
I’m going to try to hit CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, although I feel it may be packed and difficult to get into. I have been wanting to see this since I was in my late teens-ish. So 20 years or so? The main draw for me, of course, aside from Welles, is to look at it critically and see what the visual quality is of this restoration is and perhaps look a little deeper into what elements were used to create this new digital version we are to see. If I do not get into CAM, I’ll go see THE CINCINNATI KIDbecause I’ve never seen it and my grandma’s in it. No-brainer.
I will stomp Hollywood-Blvd-Superhero-people out of my way to make certain that I get to DON’T BET ON WOMEN. It’s a restoration (points!!), it’s a rarity (major points!!) annnnnd it has Roland Young in it (OMGZ MAJOR POINTS!!!). It also has Anne Morra from MoMA in New York coming to talk and she’s a rock star curator. Great lady to hear.
Film Noir Alternative: RIFIFI – if you have not see this film, and you are looking for something to see during this time slot GO SEE RIFIFI. JUST TRUST ME. You will not be sorry. It needs to be seen on a big screen. It is delicious and exciting and everything that you could possibly want a film to be. It may be one of my very very very very favorite heist films of ever. And that’s saying….A LOT.
I’m going to see THE WAR GAME. I went to University in Kent, England and I would very much like to see how this banned doc looks at the place I went to school in, many years later. Also, my own personal work in 16mm educational films really made this one peak my curiosity as well, considering all the nominations and the subject matter. I think this film is going to be a “TCMFF Sleeper Success.”
And there ain’t NOTHING NO HOW that’s keeping me away from the midnight screening of BOOM!. I mean, come ON!!!
You can’t keep me away from a film that has a hairpiece like this. NO WAY.
I am going to WHY BE GOOD?because I want to see the film of course but also because I *love* the Vitaphone Project and I want to see their restoration work on this! Can you imagine that this film, with Jean Harlow, Andy Devine and Colleen Moore may have never been found let alone restored? *shiver*
I highly recommend that folks go to the World Premiere of Warner Bros’ Restoration of 42ND STREET. I love that film, Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler. But I will be likely trying to go for the rarity, SO DEAR TO MY HEARTdue to a love for Burl Ives, an obsession with Beulah Bondi and a serious interest in seeing what looks like it could be a very unusual work for Disney, even live-action/animation mixed.
John Ford. AIR MAIL. This was a rough choice due to the fact that I really wanted to go to MALCOLM Xin 35mm or what I believe will be an absolutely REMARKABLE restoration of1776 done by Sony. I mean, they’re using unseen footage and the restoration is done from the original negative…I’ve always had such a great experience from Sony’s restorations. They really care about the FILM side of things even if it’s a 4K, so I’m a little bummed that the John Ford is up against 1776. But what can you do? Maybe I will change my mind.
Think of me like a doctor and that is my prescription. I have my own 16mm print of it and a poster of it from Hungary. It’s a GREAT movie. Those of you who do go, FIND ME DURING TCMFF and let me know what you think, okay?
It is at this point that I do a “wacky weird archivist thing” again- I highly advise that any/all/as many of you as possible go and check out the Hollywood Home Movies over at Club TCM at 6:00pm on Saturday. Lynne Kirste, one of the most amazing women that I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the years in preservation, will be there showing you GREAT stuff. Ever thought about what Alfred Hitchcock did at home with the family? Ever considered what your fave stars might have been filming on vacation or when they had a BBQ? THIS AMAZING SESSION IS FOR YOU. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. And if you meet Lynne or Randy Haberkamp (also a SUPER rockstar!!) tell ’em I sent ya!!
During this next block on Saturday night, TCMFF decided to play three of my very favorite films right up against each other. And not just a teensy bit favorite, take-to-a-desert-island favorite.
So, what I’m saying is…if you wanna just go check out a movie, you can’t go wrong with FRENCH CONNECTION, ADAM’S RIB or THE LOVED ONE. But one a scale of 1 to rare? Go for THE LOVED ONE. You can just never see it enough and it’s goddamn brilliant. Gets more brilliant every time.
But you wanna get SUPER RARE? Like still moo-ing? Like ordering your steak blue??? Then I suggest where I’m going.
I will be smashing myself into a seat to watch hand-cranked films from the early 1900s. If you remember my writing series that I haven’t worked on in a while, I mentioned Lois Weber? They’re playing one of her films. I am SO excited about this one. The theme of history this year is just mind-blowing for me. Every year at #TCMFF has been good, but this one…wow. So yeah. I’ll be at the RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE: HAND-CRANKED FILMS FROM 1902-1913if you need me.
One of the most awesome people I know in archiving & preservation: Dino Everett, hand-cranking some film!!!
I’ve seen NOTHING LASTS FOREVER on a big screen. But that’s exactly why Imna see it again. See y’all at midnight on Saturday, eh?
So there’s a bunch of TBAs on here.
My basic plan is pretty stable. I have to see Pattonbecause, well, 70mm and George C. Scott and I ain’t never seen the dang thing before and I’m a Scott-a-holic. Ever since FIRESTARTER. Yes, you read that correctly. The film I started loving him in was FIRESTARTER. Still like that film.
I plan on providing PLENTY OF INFORMATION for everyone about NIGHTMARE ALLEY, in my role as Social Producer. I’ve seen that film somewhere between 7-12 times in the theater and it’s one of my top 5 film noirs. If you have not seen it, but feel safe going into a movie blind, I highly recommend that. Tyrone Power has never been like that and the lady-love of my everything, Joan Blondell, is….well, you just gotta see it.
I’m an information specialist. If I don’t go see DESK SET, I feel like the data management system gods will strike me dead the next time I try to call on them for help. Plus? I REALLY LOVE THAT FILM SO DAMN MUCH. Why are there no good movies about archivists or librarians anymore? Enough Said with James Gandolfini was pretty good but where are the rest? Representation, man!
Then its magic time. I’m a carnival and magic junkie. I’m hitting up the discovery, HOUDINI with Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh and then, the film I have been waiting for ever since it was announced, it’ll be time for THE GRIM GAME restoration. I am SUPREMELY excited about being able to report on the details, especially noting that this film’s restoration was a combined effort between a private collector and studio efforts. These are very interesting elements in any case but the fact that the film and its restoration became the thing of primary importance is fabulous.
See you in the seats! Check you on the Internetz!
Really excited to be going to TCMFF again this year and even more thrilled to be part of the Social Producers Team.
This is going to be a great year and I’m looking forward to celebrating film preservation, restoration and classic film with all you guys! Check you on the Blvd!
If you want to follow my TCMFF adventures and my Social Producer documentation, you can find me in the following places:
Welcome back to Common Careers! I know that it’s been a minute since we visited with Bryher and Lois, but…Film noir festivals must be attended and attended to. And what fun they are! Now, after exploring the dark streets of desperation and criminality, I am back to showcase the lives and work of the unique and creative women in film history. My hope is to try to post this column on a more regular basis than I have been primarily since locating these women’s stories and their critical influence on the world and film industry can be somewhat difficult. This is a necessary task and I am more than willing to take on some of the responsibility, so let’s get back to business.
Unlike previous profiles, this entry is geared specifically to an upcoming event. I am an annual participant in the TCM Film Festival and have been so for five years: the entirety of its existence. Due to this fact, I thought it might be nice to write-up one of the women who has made a contribution to one of this year’s films. Since I always find it more exciting to look into the slightly more obscure characters in film history, I thought this would be a great opportunity to shed some light on another fascinating female figure in film and allow folks at the festival to watch her creative work a bit differently. So here we go, down the way of cinema’s path, to find one of the women who helped forge some of the more beloved roles and stories in Hollywood: Fannie Hurst.
Fannie Hurst was born in Hamilton, Ohio in 1889 to an immigrant Jewish family. Her parents, Rose Koppel Hurst and Samuel Hurst, were never the kind of parents to support their daughter in her writing ambitions or any kind of creative intent. Raised in St Louis, Missouri, Fannie discovered her love for the written word early and submitted short stories and articles to magazines all during high school but didn’t get anything published until college. Indeed, her intense passion for writing got her into some trouble before she was even able to make it to higher education. In high school, Fannie had no qualms about writing term papers in exchange for math answers from high school classmates. This little “swap” almost caused Fannie’s expulsion!
Hurst had many jobs in her lifetime aside from her most famous one as a writer- salesgirl, waitress, actress, night court attendee, factory worker (to study coworkers, of course!) and television talk show/public affairs program host. Fannie Hurst was no regular gal. Aside from being a woman who knew how to make ends meet, by 1925, she and Booth Tarkington were the highest paid writers in the United States.
Of course, Fannie Hurst’s writing was not everyone’s cuppa. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Other Side of Paradise, one of his characters makes a statement that lists various authors (naming our heroine as one) as “not producing among ‘em one story or novel that will last 10 years.” People felt her literature was too “corny” and she was referred to as the Queen of the Sob Sisters (although not in an altogether unfriendly way). Almost to disprove Fitzgerald’s theory of course, here we are, 100 years later and although almost all of Hurst’s books are tragically out of print, we are indeed still discussing her work. And to add to this, the films that were borne from her writing have most certainly not been forgotten. In fact, they play remarkably well and some are treasured cinematic classics. What a curious point about adaptation and media. It does strike a peculiar point about Fannie Hurst’s gift for the dramatic: did Hurst’s ability to comprehend pure emotional resonance in characters work better for visual media than for the written word? It is a conundrum and perhaps we will never know, but we might consider the possibility.
Fannie Hurst was heavily critiqued for her prose, grammar and style. Yet she was also immensely popular. Over a career that spanned more than fifty years, she wrote seventeen novels, nine volumes of short stories, three plays, numerous articles, and had 33 filmic adaptations of her written works. Everyone from Doris Day and Frank Sinatra to John Garfield and Joan Crawford starred in those films, and a few of them did more than just entertain, much like Fannie Hurst herself.
The work that has been made and remade the most is her novel Imitation of Life, originally published in 1933. The first film version made in 1934, due to show at the TCM Film Festival this upcoming week, features the lustrous Claudette Colbert and the deeply talented Louise Beavers. The two actresses play single mothers raising their children together, learning how to become entrepreneurs and end up facing the ugly and distasteful world of racism. The film also confronts rare issues of skin color and topics like “passing” at a time when absolutely no film script was.
Before this film, Louise Beavers was a well-known African American actress in Hollywood, but generally known for playing the “mammy” stereotype. In Imitation of Life, Beavers became the first African American actress to give a “non-Mammy” role. By playing the part of Delilah alongside Colbert’s Bea, they created an interracial female team of womanly strength in this film, unlike anything that had been seen before. One of the more potent assets of this film directed by John M. Stahl is Louise Beavers’ portrayal of Delilah. In 1934, just the concept of giving an African American woman a part this dynamic and rich that was on par to a Hollywood starlet such as Colbert was unheard of.
Imitation of Life deals with several topics that were not considered “Hollywood safe” at the time- racial relations, single women, and the idea of racial “passing.” Chief of the Production Code Administration Joseph Breen was extremely suspicious of this film, rejecting the original script and calling out “miscegenation.” However, at the end of the day, what was released did contain more of the original story. While both films are based on the same novel, more original Hurst-written Imitation is contained in the 1934 version than in the later 1959 version (starring Lana Turner and Juanita Moore).
The film has been remade several times over, turned into a television series and remained popular the world over. It is the one Hurst work that has genuinely changed the landscape of cinema. The National Film Registry selected the 1934 version for preservation in 2005 and it continues to be a valuable piece of moving image history when it comes to African American representation and strong examples of rich female characters in film. This is not the only thing that has established Fannie Hurst in the halls of greatness but if this had been the only thing she had done, it would have been enough.
Fannie Hurst’s life was as unusual as her writing was prolific. Convincing her parents that she was going to go to graduate school in New York after graduating from Washington University in 1909, she moved there and never attended Columbia as promised. Although she never made it to graduate school, her work in politics and feminism more than made up for any advanced degree. Marrying Russian pianist Jacques Danielson in 1915, the couple maintained separate dwellings, told no one of the wedding until 1920, and had an arrangement with one another to renew their vows every five years…but only if both parties agreed.
Although it has been well documented that she had at least one affair with Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Hurst was most dedicated to her husband. Married for 37 years, Danielson passed away in 1952. Upon Hurst’s death in 1968, 16 years worth of letters were discovered in her house, all of which were written to her long-gone life partner after his death. There’s something sadly romantic about that. It certainly matches the tone of her fiction.
But Fannie Hurst was more than the Lucy Stone League. She became great friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, supporting the New Deal and chairing a national housing committee from 1936-1937. She raised funds for WWII refugees and was a member on the board of the New York Urban League. A delegate to the World Health Organization in 1952, she was also part of a group called the Friendly Visitors, women who regularly volunteered in a New York women’s prison. When Fannie became entangled with Justice Arthur Goldberg in 1962 and he stated, “that it is time that we evaluated Women on merit and fitness for a job,” her quick response was, “Time sir! You are a half century too late.”
Eleanor Roosevelt and Fannie Hurst: fast friends!
Her contribution to the moving image media world was not solely made through the adaptation of literary works. Beginning in 1958, Hurst hosted a talk show called Showcase that featured public affairs panels and social issue-based interviews. Showcase was one of the first television forums in which the gay and lesbian community was invited to speak on their own behalf instead of being given the third degree or being treated as though they were a science project. Most previous television appearances of homosexual men or women featured them being studied or questioned as though they existed within a fishbowl or were a group to be “dealt with” by a panel of specialists.
Hurst’s breakthrough show was not as popular as one might have hoped. While Fannie Hurst’s support of the gay and lesbian community was unfailing (and had been so for years), the television stations were not all game for this content. While her fame certainly had some cache, it didn’t outweigh rampant homophobia. Showcase was cancelled several times by more than one station, finally ending for good after a year. As Steven Capsuto writes, “Hurst had contentious disagreements with station managers over her insistence on presenting panel discussions about homosexuality, and these broadcasts may have contributed to the cancellations. When the second station, New York’s Channel 13, axed the show definitively in 1959, Hurst had begun devoting one show a week to the subject of homosexuality. The final Showcase broadcast focused on same-sex desire among teenagers.”
While Fannie Hurst may have been called Queen of the Sob Sisters and criticized for her writerly techniques, her success is undeniable. Films like Young at Heart (Gordon Douglas, 1954), Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1946), and both versions of Imitation of Life (John M. Stahl, 1934, Douglas Sirk, 1959) show the way in which her written word had the ability to be converted to graceful, touching and enjoyable film work. Although modern temperance for melodrama may have lessened in the last 75 years, Hurst’s ability to catalyze real emotion and make an audience feel for a character remain altogether genuine. And in an environment where the vast majority of filmic content produced has a certain level of smarminess or “ironic nudging” there is something very fresh and real about a woman who just wanted to tell a good old-fashioned tearjerker tale.
Fannie Hurst’s life and everything she managed to do with it makes her a marvel. What a treasure it is that we can say that she is part of our history of women in film.
Fannie Hurst with her Yorkshire Terrier, Orphan Annie.