The canonization of film is a strange, sometimes dubious affair. Among the various groups who do so in one way or another – AFI and the Criterion Collection spring to mind – Turner Classic Movies seems to me the least inhibited. Where others are list- and catalogue-restrained by design, TCM need only broadcast a movie on television to deem it worthy. Still, the channel is not without biases of its own: most, though certainly not all, of the films seen on TCM were produced by a small handful of studios between the ’30s and ’60s. (As I write, hours after the festival’s end, an exception to both rules is playing: Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage.) Its library nonetheless includes several thousand titles spanning any number of genres, directors, and stars, and it’s this inclusivity, this celebratory spirit of all things cinematic, that grants the network such wide appeal.
In what is very much a fan-oriented affair, TCM transposed this televised celebration of film onto the silver screens of Hollywood for the second time from April 28 to May 1 of this year. The main appeal of a festival composed almost entirely of films readily available for home viewing is, naturally, to see such classics and rarities as The Godfather and The Devil is a Woman on the big screen. And though not necessarily geared toward older audiences – I’d like to think that cinephilia is ageless – the festival certainly ended up serving a predominantly middle-aged-and-older crowd; my frequent screening partner (Not Coming’s own Glenn Heath, Jr.) and I were the youngest attendees at several of the films we saw together. Fittingly, the inherent nostalgia of a film festival whose newest movie was released in 1981 lent the proceedings a decidedly youthful, even wistful air. There’s something refreshing about a cinematic event whose most anticipated guests (both on the red carpet and as presenters) include the likes of Kirk Douglas and Angela Lansbury.
I was further struck by the ways in which the intent of TCM (and, by extension, this year’s incarnation of the festival) aligns with that of this website. This, from an interview with host Robert Osborne from 2008:
We hope that someone who never saw our channel will watch Lord of the Rings and come back and discover John Garfield. I was at an event the other night and Lauren Bacall was talking and she said, ‘If you’ve never seen Topaze starring John Barrymore from 1933, then to you that’s not an old film—it’s a new film.’
In a manner befitting this championing of cinematic discovery, the TCM Classic Film Festival (said out loud, the full title – Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival – is unforgivably redundant) programmed a ‘Discoveries’ sidebar devoted entirely to hard-to-find or otherwise-obscure movies. It was here in particular that I felt as though TCM were doing something important – as well as living up to its name – and several of the reviews to follow are of films from this category.
The Outlaw Josey Wales1976
A Place in the Sun1951
Went the Day Well?1942
Whistle Down the Wind1961
The Constant Nymph1943
The Third Man1949