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Podcast Episode 114: TCM Film Festival 2017 Focuses On Comedy

Screwball comedies, pre-code discoveries and films on nitrate among this year’s highlights

Donald O'Connor's song and dance,

Credit: MGM

Above: Donald O'Connor's song and dance, "Make 'Em Laugh" in the movie "Singin' in the Rain" provides the name for this year's focus at the TCM Film Festival.

Episode 114: TCM Film Festival 2017 Focuses on Comedy

TCM senior vice president of programming and production Charles Tabesh previews the 2017 TCM Film Festival and talks about building a nitrate projection booth.

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TCM Film Festival Schedule

TCM Film Festival Schedule

The program schedule for this year's TCM Film Festival.

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It is that time of year for classic film zealots to make the pilgrimage to the mecca known as the TCM Film Festival, running April 6 through 9 in Los Angeles.

As a cable network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has won a devout following of cinephiles that includes Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino among its fans.

But eight years ago, the network decided to expand the classic film experience to an actual film festival centered around classic and mostly American films. Each year, festival organizers led by Charles Tabesh pick a theme of focus, and this year, it is Make 'Em Laugh.

“A day without laughter is a day wasted,” actor and filmmaker Charles Chaplin once said.

And TCM concurs. The festival will highlight a broad range of film comedies ranging from the screwball antics of the 1930s to the dark political comedy of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

The films are divided into different tracts of programming to help attendees decide on what to see. So you can choose from Dark Comedy, Movie Spoofs, Divorce/Remorse as well as Hey That's Not Funny (films featuring comedians in serious roles).

One of the highlights that Tabesh discusses with me on the podcast is the addition of film screening on the old, volatile format of nitrate.

Kodak states on its website, "Nitrate base, the pioneer of motion picture film bases, retired from our cameras and laboratories about 1951-52. Still, its very long shadow of distinguished commercial motion pictures and film records haunts many film vaults. Nitrate base films must be handled with informed care. Cellulose nitrate base film is relatively unstable. If you store it in large quantities of about 5,000 feet or more and in non-approved storage cabinets without proper ventilation, it becomes a fire hazard. Admittedly, it takes a bit of pushing to cause it to burst into flames spontaneously."

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Dana Andrews stars as a detective investigating the murder of a beautiful woman in "Laura," one of the films screening on nitrate at this year's TCM Film Festival.

That fire hazard is why a special nitrate projection booth was built at the venue of The Egyptian Theatre for this year's festival so that "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Black Narcissus," "Laura" and "Lady in the Dark" could be screened.

Tabesh said that the festival wanted to provide attendees the chance to see film projected on nitrate, which is supposed to serve up a glorious visual image.

For this podcast, I geek out with Tabesh about all the difficult choices an attendee of the TCM Film Festival must face when deciding which of 80 films to view at the five venues. As someone who has been attending for three years, I can confirm that it is pure agony to have to choose between films you love and films that you have never seen. But every film you see will be a transcendent experience because TCM takes care to present each film in the most pristine quality possible, sometimes striking brand new 35mm prints specifically for its festival.

New this year for the Spotlight passholders is the chance to have Hollywood beauty experts get you ready for the red carpet with a complimentary hairstyling and makeup appointment, to take place in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Penthouse. Appointment times are available on April 6 and 7 so get ready for your close up on the red carpet.

If you love classic cinema, TCM Film Festival is something you need to experience.

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