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165: TCM Classic Film Festival, Part One

April 11, 2019 2:47 a.m.

Episode 165:TCM Classic Film Festival, Part One

TCM Classic Film Festival is a four-day event held in Hollywood and showcasing films from the silents on up into the 1980s. In part one of this week's podcast I speak with TCM Film Festival programmer Charles Tabesh about what it takes to put on the festival and about the special Fox Appreciation presentation. In part two, I will speak with Fox archivist Schawn Belston about the studio's past and the challenges of restoring films.

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Related Story: Podcast Episode 165: TCM Film Festival 2019

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Welcome back to another edition of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast. I'm deaf. I down.

Okay. We're trying out some new yeah,

things here at KPBS with our podcast. So bear with us as we grow and change episodes will now be 30 minutes in length so we can get them included in the NPR one app to reach a larger audience and soon there'll be some short spots running inside each podcast. So this week's preview podcast of the TCM classic film festival will come to you in two parts in part one today I speak with TCM classic film festival Programmer Charles Tabish about what this year's festival we'll offer in part two I speak with Sean Belston, the archivist at 20th century Fox will be hosting a presentation at the festival dedicated to looking back on the history of the Fox studio as its future is a little bit uncertain with major changes coming under its new owner of Disney TCM classic film festival is one of my annual joys. And if you love movies, you'll love listening to these guys. Talk about film. The festival starts April 11th and runs through April 14th in Hollywood. You can buy individual tickets to some shows, especially the midnight ones. And if you can't attend, you can search out some of these titles on your own or on the TCM network. I began my interview with Charles Tabish by asking him if there was anything he was particularly excited about for this year's festival.

There's a lot as always and I'm excited about our team is, is love, which is great. It's been 10 years. We still haven't done that as a theme and given it's our 10th anniversary, it seemed like a, a nice, a nice theme to explore and they're obviously great love stories running throughout the film festival. But another thing that we're doing that I would like to mention is that we are, we're celebrating 20th century Fox and given that they were just taken over by Disney and they're going through a lot of changes and, and who knows what's going to happen with their studio, their history is being celebrated and um, I'm excited about that. And so we're playing a lot of films that were really important in the history of the studio, including Shirley temple and the little colonel and sunrise, uh, you know, one of the great late silent films all the way up through and including star wars and, and uh, I'm, I'm happy that we're, that we're able to do that because it's such an important part of Hollywood history and I, I think it's really worthy of a, of a tribute at, uh, at the TCM film festival.

And part of that Trivia, it's going to involve bringing a Fox archivists to do a presentation.

Yes. Sean Belston who is the archivist and who, you know, knows that history may be better than anybody and has done so much work to preserve those films is doing a special show on their history. And I've seen a, a written copy of what he plans to talk about in the clip that he plans to show. And I really think it's going to be great. And I, and I think after watching it, you're going to want to see all the fox films that he references because he really puts them into a, an important context and a, and of course, you know we're all about context and going deep. So more than just showing the films. I'm, I'm really glad we're able to highlight this bit of history.

I had a chance to speak with Sean and he's part of not just archiving stuff but also helping to restore films. And one of the things that I've really appreciated about the TCM film festival is that you guys take so much care in what you're presenting in terms of getting the best material, whether it be a nitrate print or a new 35 or a good DCP. And can you just talk a little bit about, you know, how you go about getting these materials and, and the kind of challenges you face.

Thank you. Yes, actually that is a huge part of the, of putting together the film festival and I appreciate that you've, you've noticed that we start with the films that we want to play and we approached usually approach the studios first and ask them what material they might have. And often they might have a new restoration or they might have a high quality print, but uh, but many times they don't. From there, we might go to the various archives that we've worked with over the years. So, uh, archives like Ucla or the academy or Library of Congress or George Eastman House or Moma or the big ones, or Bfi even, or even other international archives. And we'll see what they might have. And if they don't have what we want, then we might, uh, see if there's a way for us to create a print or, or even to create a new DCP and we'll, we'll, we'll cover that cost.

There's a limited budget. We can't do that for everything, but we do it for quite a bit. If we feel like the film is important. And even until the last minute, we are maybe, I wouldn't not know scrambling is the right word, but doing everything we can to make sure that we have the best version possible. And there are times, there are films that we want to play that we can't play because, uh, there's, there isn't a good version that's playable. So, so that is a challenge and that's something that we, we take seriously and that we put a lot of work into.

And this year, I know in past years I remember seeing the, uh, the film cock of the air, which the academy had restored. And that was such a delight. Are there any films this year that were particular challenges are that you're particularly happy that you got a good or a new copy of?

Well, there. So there are a couple of 'em restorations that had been done by different archives that like, there's a film called open secret that Ucla restored in partnership with the Fillmore foundation that I'm, I'm really excited about. Uh, and we've worked on a couple of films that might not, you know, like a father goose, which is such a charming Cary grant, Lesley Carone movie and indiscreet. We've paramount has created a DCP for that. So we're excited. Another Cary grant movie.

Now just try to follow this. Let's just take a, well, the usual case. A man meets a woman. He's attracted to her. He caught, so they're old enough and she, uh, favors him. Eventually she'd like to get married. He then says, I am not the marrying kind. I do admire such a man. No, I don't put gone, gone. I do don't care to be married. On the other hand, I don't care to give out. Women understand that, oh, since I have no intention of getting married, I feel honored, bound to declare myself in the beginning. The fall, the favors they father favors. That's where the honor comes in. How do I declare myself by saying I will never marry? The woman really believes that. If anything is a challenge to them, well, what do you do? And I say, I am married. I'm married and I can't get a divorce, no opposition.

This care, they can't be any misunderstanding later. Sounds reasonable. But it is reasonable. I think NATO has got you in the wrong job. I know there's a big hole in your argument. I haven't come to it yet, but they must be, they must be biomass there. But you've got it all wrong. You're the exception. You know, most people do get married. Am I doing resent that? That's very tolerant of him. I made the ask them to respect mine difference. You're just against marriage for yourself. No, indeed I am. And whether you believe it or not, I love Atlanta. I love Atlanta is I've never loved before. I wouldn't marry any woman if you held a gun to my head. I haven't haven't gotten any gun.

So we're excited about, you know, films like that and we've, oh, we created a new DCP of withering heights, um, because there was no good print available for that, which is, you know, one of the greatest love stories of all time. So, yeah, there, there are several out there that, that I think are, are important films that we've been able to get through working either with the archives, with the studios, and kind of putting our own resources into, into creating a good version.

Now, a couple of years ago, the Egyptian upgraded their projection booth to be able to project nitrate, which is a format that is potentially combustible. Uh, so you guys have made a commitment to bringing nitrate back every year. Uh, what are the films that are going to be shown on nitrate this year?

Yeah, I mean, not only that, we actually helped fund the nitrate booth at the Egyptian. We were partners with them in that as well as the film foundation with the idea that we could then showcase night trade at the film festival. The films that we're doing, our bachelor, the Bobby socks or a road house, not the Patrick Swayze version of the 1948, um, film. Samson and Delilah and the Dolly sisters are the floor. So I do, I mix of bigger, better known films with a couple of obscurities in there as well.

I imagine Samson and Delilah will probably be epic.

I think that's well put.

No relu the colossal drama on the mightiest colossus that never live. Samson and Delilah via mortal story of the strongest man in all history, a masterpiece of big screen entertainment, Samsung Oh alone and unafraid, challenged and defeated the most dreaded army of his time is daring exploits have become legit. What's Samson was ensnared by the seductive beauty of the liner is lust became a trap that led to his downfall and capture social media mills, Samson and Delilah. Yeah. You mentioned that

the theme this year is love, but uh, are there other kinds of sidebars that you'd like to highlight?

Well, we always have, uh, various other tributes. So we're attributing the, the producer and casting director, Fred Roos were paying tribute to Juliet Taylor, the also casting director. And then I think what's really special is we are, we, we have our second annual Robert Osborne Award and um, the, the recipient this years, Kevin Brownlow, who is such an important, uh, person, uh, in, in terms of bringing films to people and rediscovering films and, and making them available, whether it be through his own research or restoration work or, or creating versions that are, that that had been lost [inaudible] you bring him to people that, um, they can rediscover them as well as he's a director himself too. So playing it happen here, which is a film that he directed in the mid sixties as sort of an alternative history of what had happened, what would have happened had the Nazis one and World War II and in Britain. And then a woman of affairs is a film that he brought to the public that had sort of been forgotten about. And so we've got a live orchestra with that. We're not the dus special on the closing day on Sunday. Kevin will be at both of those and he'll be receiving the award in front of it happened here.

Well, a lot of these films are classics and people remember them for being great works of art. You also have some fun with the midnight shows.

[inaudible] yes. Uh, so this year, two midnights, so Santo versus the evil brain of Santo was, uh, uh, a hugely popular series of films. He was a Mexican wrestler and in Mexico made a series of films that were very popular there for many years and he's got kind of a cult folate following here among hardcore Phil found film Fan. And the student nurses is an exploitation film by made by one of Roger Corman's, sort of a, I guess disciples. She was one of the few women who was an early director in, uh, uh, making films in the 70s. Her name is Stephanie Rothman and she'll be there to introduce the film,

the student nurses for girls on the road. Once you've met them, you will never forget that the students, nurses and they're learning fast. The student nurses, maybe they can teach you a thing or two about what's happening today. So yes,

they're both kind of not the kind of thing.

So you might see in the regular daytime programming, but they're perfect for midnight shows.

Well you mentioned that the director is going to be present and part of what you do at the TCM film festival is that you make discussion of the film's a very key part or key element of the programming

for sure. And then I that's very much like we do it on, on the channel itself, that we have a host, we put things into context, we want people there to talk about why this film is important. W uh, what are the interesting things about it to appreciate. We never just show a film, we always have somebody there to, to introduce it. And when possible we will have people that worked on the film or that were in the film or, or filmmakers themselves. And we're about film history. And so much of that is, uh, the stories behind the films and not just the films themselves.

And one of the discussions you have looks to be very interesting, which is the complicated legacy of gone with the wind. So what are you hoping that this discussion is going to be about or kind of the conversations that'll create?

Yeah, well I think that, uh, that will be very interesting because it's both a, one of the most popular films of all time. It might've had more, more a greater attendance in any film in history, in terms of theatrical, um, audience at the same time. It's problematic. I mean, it's, you've got the happy slaves, you've got the south, it being heroic, you've got things that are, are very questionable and offensive, even, uh, to a lot of people. And I think, um, there are a lot of people that don't understand that history or that the offense may be, or the difficulty that some people have when they watch it. And I, and we want to bring up that discussion and talk about why it's problematic. What are the, how to different audiences see the film, how to African American audiences see this film. But you know, I was having a conversation with a colleague about it and he was saying, I don't understand the controversy.

It's, you know, they're, they're, they're part of the family. The slaves are part of the family. And I was explaining that, but they have no choice there. They are don't, it's not their choice to be part of the family. They're forced into it. And, and I think that it, we have to look at a movie history sometimes from a, uh, from a different perspective. And there are some people that think that film should be banned outright. There are that think that it's not a problem at all. And we just want to delve into that and, and talk through some of those issues. I mean, we're playing the film at the festival, so we're certainly not in the camp of, of a, of never showing it. But we do think it's an important conversation and were eager to have that at the festival.

Well, I really appreciate that because I think, you know, trying to erase the homes or, you know, yeah, keep them, it doesn't do us any good. Like, we can't learn from it if we don't go back and look at it and consider when it was made, why it was made, how it was made and, and how we view things differently. And I just feel like trying to erase those things is not the best kind of course of action.

Yeah, I agree. And I think we agree as well. And having said that though, I do think it's important to bring different perspectives to it and understand also important to understand that did certain films maybe less gone with the wind than others, but other, other films, I mean, to take an extreme example, birth of a nation. I mean, it's hurtful sometimes when you play those films. And it's not that we would never played it on TCM, we have, but it, the context has to be just right. And it, you have to, like you said, it has to be a teaching a moment as well as, you know, showing the film. We don't want to ignore it. We don't pretend like it's never been made. But I do think a lot of these films have an impact beyond what you might first think, um, when you, when you watch them. And, and, and I think that's important to bring out

as well. Well, I want to tell you that the attending the TCM film festival with my partner in crime, which is Miguel Rodriguez, we run a group called film Geek San Diego and we run year long programs here, but attending your festival and experiencing a lot of the pre code films that you bring back inspired us to do a whole year of pre-code films here in San Diego. And I just love that you bring some of these movies up and they're just such wonderful surprises cause a lot of them aren't screened that often. And um, I don't know which ones you might want to. I know that I don't think you have a specific pre code section, but I know a couple of them like Tarzan and has made our films that were made during the pre code era and they're just so amazing to watch sometimes.

Yes, they're great. And, and what's so great too is the, we get such great feedback or suggestions both from our audience or from the studios themselves are from the archives. So, um, there are movies like blood money, which is a, you know, a crime, a gangster film or night world, which was suggested by a TCM fan that we, you know, sort of look into that and said, Oh wow, that would be fantastic. Or merely would go to hell directed by Dorothy ours. Ner So yeah, we're, we love, uh, not only showing them at the film festival and letting other people discover them, but for us it's always a discovery because we take suggestions from the people that are really involved in, in preserving these films in the first place and they give us a lot of direction and help guide us in that. That's terrific.

This year you've added a new venue. Can you talk about that?

Yes. The American Legion started building a new theater in and it's called the posts and it's gorgeous. It's brand new. We've been tracking it as they've been building it and going doing site visits and just making sure that it, you know, it serves a purpose for us and for the film festival and then we've had our technical consultants, Boston light and sound involved as well and installing their equipment and making sure that everything works. The projection is proper that the prince that we play are gonna are gonna look good there and everything is looking terrific and it's a beautiful big theater. You wouldn't expect it to be there, you have no idea if it's there. A few driving by, it's in the American Legion and it's got a bar, it's got food, it's got, you know, just the incredible screen it can, it can accommodate 70 millimeter digital, 35 millimeter. It's, I think that at first people might be annoyed that it's not right in the middle of the action where it like where the Chinese is, but once they get there they're going to love it and want to camp out there because it's a, it's a great venue.

Now, you mentioned your theme is love and one of the films that your screening, I'm curious if which category it may fall into. Cause in my twisted world I would probably consider it love is the godfather part two.

So that's a tribute to part of the tribute there Fred Reuss. Um, yeah, but it is because he produced it and uh, and it's of course one of his better films because it's one of the greatest films of all time I suppose. I mean there is loving it, although it doesn't, it doesn't. Yeah. It's a twisted ways that's really come across as a love story. But that's not why we're playing it. But it is an incredible movie. And, um, I'm, I'm eager myself, I'm trying to carve out the time to see at least some of it at the film festival because it's, it's so great.

And are there any, I know this is probably like asking you what's your favorite child is, but um, are there any films in particular that you're really excited to be showcasing this year?

Well, this is gonna sound kind of Kooky, I think. But, well, I'm excited about is my daughter and it comes to the film festival and uh, and this year, well especially this year because it lines up with her spring break. So my wife is going to take her to yours, mine and ours and I'm really excited about that. And she's going to take her to father goose and the sound of music, the 70 millimeter frantic sounding music is playing at the post. So, um, I'm especially, that's what excites me this year is taking her to these films. We show our films at home. But it's really fun when we can get her to see classic movie in a theater. Beyond that, I think having the, the world premiere restoration of Nashville and having people like Goldblum and Lily Tomlin, there are, and Keith Carradine is really special. I love the movie holiday, which I don't think you've seen a lot.

Cary grant and Katharine Hepburn and there's a new restoration from Sony that, uh, I'm very excited about. Um, and then the 30th anniversary of do the right thing, which, um, which is a great and important film and I'm glad that that's going to be part of sort of the Turner classic movie collection and, and part of our, our, our programming this year. So that's what jumps out to me, I guess. I'm sure there are more godfather two for sure. I mean, I, you know, in and star wars because that's not shown very much in theaters. And so, uh, I'm glad we're able to do that.

Well, you mentioned bringing your daughter and I know that I spoke to at San Diego Comic Fest, William Stout deal straight or was there and he said that he wants to take his grandson to see King Kong, but he made it very clear that the first time his, his grandson sees it, it has to be on a big screen like that. And so I think that like passing on that love of film from one generation to the next is really important.

Well, you know, well here. Okay, here's something kind of funny to me anyway. My W I was home, had TCM on I, it was a Saturday or Sunday, uh, and ocean's 11 was on and, and my eight year old daughter just stumbled into the living room. And, and about halfway through started watching it and I had to get up and walk the dog and I came home and she wa she watched it all the way to the end and now she really wants to see her at the film festival too. And we're playing it by the pool on opening night. So, um, it is email and it just makes you feel good when you, when you can pass that, you know, that love of movies onto the your kids. It's terrific.

Do you have any advice for somebody who might be attending the festival for the first time in terms of like, what's a good way to tackle it or to, you know, try and get the best out of the festival if you've never gone?

Um, well I think one thing is food is a big issue. So uh, have food that you can eat in line. And also I would say enjoy the lines because that's where you meet a lot of people and make a lot of connections, make a lot of new friends. And I think that that's great. And then it does pose, I think difficult choices for people because a lot of events are going on against each other, but really dive into whatever it is you decided to go to and, and, and I, I think that's what usually happens. You kind of think, oh, I'm going to miss this if I go to that. But whatever you ended up going to, it ends up being a great experience. And, and so I'm, I'm hopeful that that continues to happen, but it's for practical sort of advice. The biggest thing I can think of is this, have food available that you can, you can eat in line.

That way you can get the maximum number of films screened in a day. Well that's right. It's a little bit like the comic con experience in the sense of waiting in line as part of it. But you're going to be in line with people who have the same kind of passion and interest that you do. And so that line waiting can really be quite enjoyable.

Yeah. I haven't been to comic con, but I, I have, I've experienced that, um, you know, just talking to people that have been in line or, or the Times I've gone to film festivals and been in mind myself and write you, you meet like minded people and you make new connections and it's it. And that's one of the actually best things. And it was something we actually had thought about when we first decided to do at film festivals. We didn't want it to just be the movies. We wanted it to be a, a community experience. And, and I think that that's what's happened, that it's become almost like a convention for classic movie fans and, and that's really terrific.

And do you see anything looking forward in terms of where the festival might go or, uh, you know, anything that's kind of on the horizon for TCM?

Uh, not real. We've talked about where it might go. Do we want to make it bigger? Do we want to change locations? But to be honest, we don't. Um, as of now, I mean not that of course anything can change, but we, you know, we, we like it. We like, we like it's contained, it's manageable, it's still big, but it's, uh, it's, it's not crazy and, um, and Hollywood is, you know, not only has the, the theaters but has the history and people coming from out of town, uh, I think really like, like it as much as it's not, you know, um, classic Hollywood anymore. It's still, it's still is such an important, important part of film history. So as of now, there are no real plans to make major changes. We always try to add something new this year. The Post is kind of the biggest thing that we're adding that, that new venue. But, um, but fundamentally I think just like the channel itself, we, we, we kind of want to keep it the same.

All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for taking some time to preview the festival and I look forward to seeing you there.

Oh, thanks a lot and I'll talk to you soon

and I'll have some treats for the midnight movies.

Yeah, good dude. Do you go to the midnight movie and then get up for the 9:00 AM movie?

Yes.

Good for you.

Yes. Well, you know, you can do anything for a fixed amount of time. Like you know, if you know, it's only four days and you have to go with just a few hours of sleep, it's okay.

Yeah, you could do it. It just sometimes really, you know, rolling out of bed at Eh, you know, it, you got to really push yourself. But I've done it myself. I do it. I do it here. I got you. I have to get up even earlier for meetings at seven in the morning. So, um, you know, I know you can be done, but yeah, it's a, it makes it, I think anything kind of fun. It's a challenge.

Oh yeah. We got up, I remember, I think we did a midnight and then got up super early because my friend is a huge Godzilla fan. And when you screen it was I think the first film in the morning at the Egyptian or something. And he wanted to get the number one tickets are like, I think we were over there by seven o'clock or something.

Oh, that's great. And that was a great presentation. And Bruce Goldstein did his like, you know, special history of film that was really new. Great.

Oh yeah. And then you also have, oh, I, I always forget their names, but Ben Burtt and Craig,

Darren, yeah. They're doing two films this year. They are so fabulous. Which ones are they doing? They're doing cars at and his mate and the Raiders of the lost Ark. Um, and we've played Raiders before actually, but this year they wanted to do a and do that specific film and we want to decided to bring it back because they are so great and they're going to bring so much, um, context and history, uh, to both of those. And they are just, everyone loves them. There's such a terrific, uh, part of the film festival and we're really lucky that they've been coming every year.

Yeah, they're fabulous. They, they're, they're witty, they're knowledgeable, they like give you insights into things that you didn't expect and they just have make it so much fun to watch and learn about these movies.

100%. Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, thank you very much. Thank you, Beth.

That was Charles Tabish, senior vice president of programming and production at TCM. Listen to part two of my TCM classic film festival preview. When I speak with Fox archivist, Sean Belston about his presentation at the festival and about the crazy detective work and archivist has to do to keep film history alive. Thanks for listening until our next film fixed. I'm Beth like Amando your residents in a junkie.