The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival from the eyes of a newbie

The 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival has come and gone. I can’t believe it went by so quickly! I was immersed with nothing but classic film these past four days that I didn’t even know some of the headlines of the weekend including the passing of beloved comic Don Rickles. I found out about that on my way to a screening when I saw a memorial growing on his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Over the course of the festival I saw 13 films, red carpet arrivals, and two special presentations.

Turner Classic Movies does so much to keep classic films alive and make them accessible to audiences of all ages. I saw people of all races, genders, and ages bonding over their shared passion of film. This year’s theme was “Make ‘Em Laugh: A celebration of comedy in the movies” and the timing could not be any more perfect. As current events continue to anger and disappoint many of us with each passing day, this was a welcomed escape. Rare films were also screened during the festival from different genres and time periods including Lady Sings the Blues, Red Headed Woman, Panique, and of course, the nitrate prints! There are so many things to talk about but for now, I’d like to share some of my favorite memories of the weekend.

In the days leading up to the festival I prepared myself by packing snacks, a blanket, a poncho, and comfortable shoes, essentially the works for four days running on a lot of excitement but very little sleep. However, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional experience of sharing a theater with hundreds who love something you hold very close to your heart. I’ve written before on how I experienced bullying in my youth because of my love of classic movies. I often watch these films alone and I never thought about how isolating that can be. The first film I saw was the 1934 version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much on Thursday night. There was already excitement about this because it was being presented on nitrate film stock. But that’s not all. A few hours before the film was scheduled to start, it was announced that Martin Scorsese would be on hand to present. 10-year-old Diana’s heart burst in that moment. Before watching any of his films, I knew of Scorsese because of his film preservation work. He always appeared as the main talking head on this subject and his passion made me aware of the fact that so many films of cinema’s earliest years are lost and the importance of preserving them. I was so inspired by him that I, myself, seriously considered going to school for this only to find out programs didn’t exist at the time. Seeing him talk about nitrate in the same room made me well up. It was a full circle moment in a sense. I just could not believe I am at a place in my life where this is possible.

Seated for Black Narcissus with Patrick, Priscilla, Julia, and Kaci

During the screening of The Man Who Knew Too Much, people clapped when the film’s title appeared, when they saw the names of the cast, and of course Alfred Hitchcock. I wasn’t expecting this and didn’t know this is a common thing that happens at each screening. I’ve been at films where people have clapped at the end but that has been rare and in films I don’t believe deserve it. It actually happened during the wreck that was Jurassic World! But for an audience to show its appreciation for a lesser known Hitchcock classic, I WAS ALL ABOUT IT! I’m already an emotional person. Heck, Saul Bass’ end titles of West Side Story never fail to turn me into a puddle. It’s overwhelming to love something so much that brings this reaction out of you. But to know that hundreds of others feel the same way and you are united by this powerful force is just a beautiful show of the human condition. This is the power of film. The ability to get lost in art and connect with people you don’t even know.

One of my favorite screenings was The Palm Beach Story in the TCL IMAX Theater. The Palm Beach Story is one of my favorite films and I think Mary Astor steals it from everyone involved. The IMAX is one of the biggest theaters holding 1,125 people and a few of them were members of Astor’s own family. They were recognized by author Cari Beauchamp before the film. They stood up and we cheered and applauded. When Astor makes her first appearance in the film which happens more than 45 minutes in, the crowd roared with applause. During production of this film Astor did not feel comfortable with her fast-paced dialogue and snooty inflections but for anyone who has watched this film before knows, her hard work paid off in a comedic performance that I consider one of the best. To see so many people applaud her with members of her family there was such a sweet moment.

The TCMFF Backlot Trivia Tournament

Because this was my first festival, I was overly enthusiastic and wanted to experience as much of the festival as I could—that even included the Backlot Trivia Tournament. I love being a part of the TCM Backlot. Yacov Freedman has done a great job cultivating a community that adds more to the TCM fan experience. In the Facebook group, “Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival,” I put a call out to see if anyone I know or didn’t know was interested in forming a team. I was able to rally two bloggers I adore on Twitter and two people I’ve never met before. I had no idea what to expect but we instantly bonded.

The Holden Girls (and Dave)

Our trivia team’s name was The Holden Girls (and Dave) because we weren’t anticipating a male to join us but he was all in. I ended up making everyone special buttons and created a William Holden ‘fan’ (a photo of him on a stick with one side having him smiling for answers we got right and another photo of him upset for answers we got wrong).

We won the first round and went onto the semi-final where we ended up losing but there were no hard feelings as a good fight was put on. Even though our run in the tournament was over, each of us had four new friends. We all kept running into each other at various screenings and we might even reunite next year.

A triple feature of William Holden films

It felt like it was fate that my first TCMFF featured not one—but three William Holden films and ones I consider his best to boot. I was lucky enough to see each of the films: Born Yesterday, Stalag 17, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. I loved seeing these films on the big screen and feeling the love the audience has for Holden.

The William Holden ‘fan’ lasted the entire festival.

Peter Bogdanovich’s impressions

Legendary director Peter Bogdanovich is a master storyteller both with his camera and in person. At Club TCM, he shared stories about other legends Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles with impressive impersonations of both men. My favorite stories were the ones involving Welles. When Bogdanovich told Welles he didn’t like The Trial, he agreed but also said, “How dare you diminish my small treasure.” Another story involved the two men eating sandwiches in which Welles told Bogdanovich, “You don’t gain weight if nobody sees you eat.”

Sean Connery prancing around in a red mankini at midnight

For years I’ve been told if you ever go to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, make it to a midnight movie. I love all movies and don’t discriminate when it comes to ‘so bad it’s good’ films. This year’s midnight film was Zardoz, the Sean Connery film where he wears a red mankini. I’ve been aware of this meme-able image for quite some time but I never actually read up on the film. I had no idea what this film is about going into and after watching it I can honestly say I still don’t know what this film is about. There was a lot of excitement for this one that a group from San Diego made Zardoz-themed cookies for the screening.

The Zardoz cookies by #FilmGeeksSD

Watching the film started out with a lot of laughs but as it went on I think the weight of the day got to us because I could feel that everyone just wanted it to be over. It wasn’t the most pleasant train wreck to watch, in my opinion, it was just a train wreck. When the house lights came on, everyone in my row looked so confused and I still haven’t been able to make sense of it. However, I’m glad I went! I survived my first TCMFF midnight movie and feel like I earned some sort of right of passage here.

The Best in Show reunion

John Michael Higgins! Fred Willard! Bob Balaban! Jim Piddock!

All four lovely actors were on hand to introduce Best in Show, one of my favorite comedies. Best in Show was probably the most recent film shown at TCMFF. I thought it was a perfect choice as it has been so influential to comedy for its mockumentary style and wry humor. The cast was just as funny during a Q&A before the screening as they were in the film. There was a great sense of camaraderie between all four men and they shared some great stories about the film’s production.

Lady in the Dark or as I like to call it ‘Mansplaining: The Musical’ on NITRATE

The Major and the Minor starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland is one of my favorite comedies. Its plot is unbelievable and could never happen in real life but the charming chemistry between the two leads sells it. When I heard Lady in the Dark would be shown on nitrate, I knew I had to go to see this reunion. The film was made a few years after and I was excited to see if Rogers and Milland still had the magic. Unfortunately, Lady in the Dark is one of the most disappointing films I’ve ever seen. It starts off promising with Rogers as a successful head of a magazine. I originally thought, “Ginger Rogers is portraying a magazine executive in the 1940s and Ray Milland works for her, how progressive!” This film is actually one of the most insulting and misogynistic films I’ve ever sat through. Milland is a complete jerk as a lower level employee who desperately wants Rogers’ position because he feels he deserves it and shouldn’t have to work for a woman. Normally sentiment like this is implied in classic cinema but in this film, it’s blatantly stated through disturbing dialogue. Milland’s Welsh charm disappears completely and he has no redeeming qualities which makes it a difficult watch. However, this film was presented in nitrate for a reason: it’s beautifully photographed. A rich Technicolor palette gives way to some dazzling (albeit bizarre) dream sequences featuring some frightening bunnies and Milland in a sequined suit.


Ray Milland in a purple sequined suit must be seen to be believed.

I was disappointed that this film ended up being such a mess not making use of the chemistry Rogers and Milland so successfully displayed in The Major and the Minor but I’m glad I saw it because it is a very rare film and I can live to tell the tale.

I’ll have more coverage of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in the coming days so stay tuned!

Ready for their closeup: Fashion at the TCM Classic Movie Film Festival

One of the best parts of the TCM Classic Film Festival was the fashion! Fedoras, big hoop skirts, furs, hats, all made you feel like you were actually being transported to golden age Hollywood. Thanks to Instagram, retailers have taken note. Pinup fashion is making a comeback but the festival also brings out collectors of vintage fashion whose threads tell stories of a time gone by. Below are some of my favorite looks featuring quotes from the subjects telling me their memories of TCMFF 2017.

“My style icon is Rita Hayworth. She’s my favorite,” – Vanessa (@pinksewing on Instagram)

“I love this dress because I love polka dots. My favorite part of the festival is the people,” Bobbette Dorrigan Cockrell

“We love classic movies and dressing up. This festival is perfect for us.”

“A highlight for me was Laura on nitrate. You could really see the difference. Clifton Webb is amazing. Dana Andrews has the best fedora style. That opening line! It throws you off completely and you don’t know what to expect,” – Kristoffer Thompson (@attractionsales on Twitter)

“Who doesn’t want to feel like a glamorous star on Hollywood Boulevard?” – Maureen Lee Lenker (@themaureenlee on Twitter)

“Watching In the Heat of the Night in the same room as Sidney Poitier! I’ll never forget it.” – Nickie Dobison Saucedo

“I love William Powell. He’s so dapper and handsome. He makes everything cool. He can trip on the floor and it still seems so cool. Also, you can tell he loves women in a respectful way. You can’t beat that. That’s class,” – Lauren Cordero. Follow her William Powell Instagram account @class_act_williampowell

“After your first fest, these people become family. Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.” – Chris Sturhann

A close up of Chris’ amazing hat.

“When I’m here, I’m with my people,” – Karie Bible (@cemeterytourguide on Instagram pictured right with Beth Ann Gallagher @missbethg)

“Growing where you’re planted” and other lessons Robert Osborne taught us

As classic movie fans descended on Hollywood Boulevard for the 8th annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, feelings of excitement, love, and anticipation filled the air. The Hollywood Roosevelt, the main headquarters of the festival, is decked out in the warm hues of this year’s banner images claiming this section of Hollywood and Vine as “TCM town” for the weekend. It all adds to the anticipation of the next three days yet there is an empty feeling all of us are trying to shake: this is the first festival since the passing of Robert Osborne.

The first official TCMFF event I attended was “Remembering Robert” a panel featuring long-time colleagues sharing stories about the man all of us loved but many of us never even met. I’ll admit I was hesitant to attend simply for the fact that I did not want to be a sobbing mess but then I realized this was the chance to learn about the man Robert Osborne was by the work family who knew him best.

Remembering Robert panel

Sean Cameron, Vice President of production at Turner, Gary Freedman, a TCM producer, Ann Wilson, Osborne’s longtime director and producer, actress and longtime friend Diane Baker, and Charlie Tabesh, TCM’s head of programming who worked with Osborne for over 20 years. Each of them shared beautiful stories about Robert that humanized him in ways I didn’t expect. I learned the Robert Osborne you saw on tv was even more warm, thoughtful, and caring in real life. “He was always considering the other person, all the years I knew him, ” Diane Baker said. We learned Robert was in ill health in his final weeks of life but made a point to reach out to those he loved to say goodbye. One of the last things he told Baker was, “No sad songs for me. I’ve had a great life. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful life so don’t be sad.” It’s inspiring to hear Robert Osborne lived life on his terms and was able to fulfill his dreams, a sentiment he passed on to his friends, colleagues, and even us fans. Robert Osborne died the way he lived with the utmost dignity. He had control over his life and left on his terms. He took producer Gary Freedman under his wing and became a mentor. Freedman told us the best advice he ever received came from Robert when he told him, “Grow where you’re planted.”

As a colleague, Robert was a man who helped lift everyone up. He may have been the face of TCM but he didn’t act like it. Programmer Charlie Tabesh shared how he treated everyone with respect.

“Robert had a monthly ‘Bob’s Picks’ (block) that we worked with him every month to get his collections. For the most part, and really to his credit, he knew so much more about classic movies than we all did but he didn’t really interfere for programming. He took what was programmed and was respected it,” Tabesh said.

As TCM fans, we expect nothing less from Robert. On the channel you saw his compassion and interest in everyone he interviewed from Hollywood legends like Shirley MacLaine to even Kermit the Frog. We did learn that one person actually ‘intimidated’ him and it’s someone you may not expect. It was Judge Judy. Robert was a big fan of her show. And while interviewing Hollywood legends was his job, he was just a fan like the rest of us. Legendary French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was a guest at one of the earliest TCM Film Festivals. One of Robert’s colleagues told us that after the interview, Robert was giddy as a kid exclaiming, “I can’t believe we got Jean-Paul Belmondo!!” Classic movie historians, they’re just the rest of us!

I express my deepest condolences to Robert’s colleagues and Diane Baker. Despite this tragedy, it’s beautiful to see how they are following his example. Even during this difficult time, they are sharing their love of film and Robert with all of us this weekend. Every staffer I’ve spoken with has been unbelievably warm and friendly. Robert would be so proud.

For more TCMFF coverage, follow me on Twitter at @thedameupstairs and on Instagram at @flickin_out

What’s in my bag and other tips for TCMFF

I can’t believe the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival is only days away! I’m so excited for all the films and to visit California but mostly, I can’t wait to meet so many people I’ve connected with through this blog and on Twitter in real life. The other day I asked the good people of Twitter for tips on surviving TCMFF. As a newbie, who is also covering the event, my schedule is STACKED to say the least but it’s an exhilarating feeling. This feels like the Super Bowl and Comic-Con rolled into one.


Looking at the schedule of films there is one that jumps out at everyone when they scroll through it: when will I eat? A fun fact about me is that I don’t like popcorn. Yep, the most iconic food when it comes to going to the movies and I don’t like it. Another fun fact is that I actually don’t enjoy eating at the movies. When I’m at the movies, I like the film to transport me into its world and eating distracts me from that. However, I love food and I will definitely need some things to munch on waiting in line. TCM veterans have told me to pack snacks and also a water bottle to hydrate throughout the day. California is pretty pricy so I’m working ahead to try and save at the festival plus I don’t exactly know what’s in the vicinity of the event so I’d rather save myself an extra headache. Speaking of headaches, I think it’s important to have ibuprofen on hand, you never know where a headache will strike.

TCMFF veterans have told me the Hollywood and Highland Center across from where TCMFF is happening has a lot of restaurants and a Starbucks. I also heard there’s an In-N-Out burger a few blocks down. If you have some down time and want to eat but don’t have anyone to eat with, the lovely Kate Gabrielle has suggested using the hashtag  to find someone to dine with and make new friends. I’m a rather introverted person but this is a great idea. I want to meet so many of you in person and share our love of classic film.

Some other things on my packing list include:

  • sunscreen
  • antibac
  • a camera
  • sunglasses
  • a portable mobile phone charger
  • a blanket or jacket
  • hair tie
  • cash
  • umbrella or poncho (you never know)

Although the venues seem pretty close to each other, there’s going to be a lot of walking and standing in line which means…comfortable shoes are a must. There is a red carpet gala and closing night party where special occasion wear is recommended but perhaps instead of heels women can opt for wedges or the most comfortable heels they can find. I’ve packed comfortable clothes with a classic movie twist. I can’t wait to see people in vintage clothing and hopefully some classic movie cosplay. People are so creative and I love it.


A look at what will be in my Gone with the Wind themed tote I’ll be bringing to TCMFF

If you have any other tips that I’ve forgotten to mention, please add them in the comments. Here are some other survival guides that I hope will be very useful to you in planning for TCMFF.

Son of the TCMFF Survival Guide – Chris’ fantastic post has been my bible for TCMFF for the past few weeks as I get ready for the main event.

Will McKinley’s Obsessive Compulsive Guide to TCMFF – It’s from 2014 but it’s relevant today.

See you in Hollywood!



I’m headed off to Hollywood! My picks for TCMFF

It’s been a long time in the making but this time next week I will be in Hollywood for my first ever Turner Classic Movies Film Festival! To say I’m excited doesn’t even do all of the emotions I’m feeling justice. It’s been a dream of mine to attend ever since I heard the first one was announced. Not only will I be attending but I’ll be taking you along for the ride covering the event here on my blog and on social media. I’m really excited to meet so many people and geek out over classic cinema.


My plans laid out for the TCMFF

My journey will begin with some media events that include a press conference on the day preceding the event and the TCM classic movie locations tour bright and early on the first day of the festival. The festival begins Thursday, April 6th. It’s dedicated to the late Robert Osborne and TCM staffers will share their memories of him at a special event called Remembering Robert that will be sure to draw tears but more importantly allow fans to gather to celebrate the life of a man who gave us so much.

To pay homage to Cameron at Blonde at the Film, to the films!

Thursday will be a light day for me. I plan to attend either the 6 PM screening of the William Powell-Myrna Loy comedy Love Crazy or the nitrate presentation of Hitchcock’s 1939 The Man Who Knew Too Much. 

Here comes Friday, the first full day of films!


I expected all of the films to just be comedies so I was bracing for Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis films but to my delight TCM added musicals, dramas, and other titles with categories such as The Essentials, taking a nod from their popular franchise to mix up the lineup. I love this choice as I am someone who likes variety. I will start the day off with the John Huston cult classic Beat the Devil. This film has fascinated and eluded me for years. Finding it on some form of dvd that isn’t a terrible transfer is hard enough so I can’t pass up the opportunity to see it in a theater. The tough decision is that this forbids me to see one of the three William Holden films being shown at the festival. Yes, I am cheating on my classic movie husband with Jennifer Jones and Humphrey Bogart, two costars of his that famously did not get along with him during the productions of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing and Sabrina respectively. I think somewhere Bill will forgive me. After Beat the Devil, I will take in the Marx Brothers classic Monkey Business. I’ve never seen this film and I feel like at a festival honoring comedy, seeing a Marx Brothers film is a must. At 5 PM I have a makeup date with Bill at the screening of The Bridge on the River Kwai. I can not wait to see this David Lean epic the way it was meant to be seen! If you’ve been following news of the festival you know the evening of Friday has the toughest choices! A screening of High Anxiety with Mel Brooks in attendance, Laura on nitrate, Cat People, Twentieth Century and Those Redheads from Seattle. For me it comes down to High Anxiety and Laura. This is so tough because I’m a Mel Brooks fan but I also LOVE Laura. Laura, to me, is the definitive film that made me fall in love with classic cinema. It’s probably my favorite of all time and I’ve never seen it on the big screen! But I know there will be opportunities to see it some form on the big screen with Noir City festivals and the fact that I have resources to theaters that show classic films so I have to go with Mr. Brooks. Seeing him in person is something I know I won’t have the opportunity to do again so I must take the chance. After that, I’ll see Zardoz at midnight because how can anyone pass up the chance to watch Sean Connery in whatever this is below?


To Saturday! Saturday morning is another tough spot but I’m going with my love of William Holden and checking out Stalag 17. I’ve never seen this film on the big screen and have seen Arsenic and Old Lace. The other choice that I considered was This is Cinerama but unfortunately I don’t do very well with giant immersive screens so Bill it is. After that I’m headed to Club TCM to take in the presentation of The Art of Subtitling and then I’ll stay there for A Conversation with Lee Grant. I’ll round out the evening with Best in Show and Black Narcissus. I’ve never seen Black Narcissus ever so I am elated that my first time will be in nitrate.

And just like that the festival is almost over on Sunday. 😦 What? I thought we just got started?!?! A lot of Sunday is still up in the air due to TBA screenings. Who knows maybe they’ll bring Laura back? A girl can dream! I’m starting my Sunday a little bit later with A Conversation with Leonard Maltin at Club TCM. Maltin is one of my film heroes so I hope I’m able to snag a good seat for this presentation. After that I’ll head to The Palm Beach Story, one of my favorite comedies of all time. Then it’s off to a tribute to Debbie Reynolds with Singin’ in the Rain introduced by her son, Todd Fisher and then I’ll end TCMFF with The Lady in the Dark, a musical starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland on nitrate. The Major and the Minor is one of my favorite films so I look forward to seeing their second pairing.

And that’s a wrap! WOW! I can’t wait for my first TCM Film Festival experience. If you’ve been before and have any tips, please feel free to share them in the comments! I look forward to meet you all in Hollywood! Also, a few PSA’s, TCM has created a special app for the event that you can download on both iTunes and Google Play and if you want a printable version of the schedule, the fabulous Kate Gabrielle has created one here.

Want to see where your other favorite bloggers will be? Check out their picks below:

Journeys in Classic Film

Cinema Crossroads

Once Upon A Screen

Silents and Talkies’ guide to rarities at the TCM Film Festival

Silents and Talkies: My TCMFF Schedule

The Nitrate Diva’s picks via Periscope

Out of the Past

Joel’s Classic Film Passion


Christy’s Inkwells

Blog of the Darned

I See A Dark Theater

Thirty Hertz Rumble

The Hollywood Revue

The importance of the neighborhood arthouse cinema

Since graduating from college in 2008, I’ve lived in six different cities. Always for work. When researching a new city one of the first things I search for is the arthouse cinema. Okay, so maybe cost of living and crime are also up there but finding a community that also understands my love of film is very important to me. I currently live in Miami, Florida and I’m so grateful for Coral Gables Art Cinema.

Coral Gables Art Cinema makes me feel right at home. Not only do they play foreign and documentary films but they are also committed to showing classic movies. During my first week in Miami, the cinema was hosting a Preston Sturges week and I went to every screening. Not only did they show the films but they had an introduction by a passionate film fan. That’s nothing new but the man who introduced it was friendly, knowledgeable, and you could tell he wanted to be there. I love when passion for film just fills the room and it made being in a new city less scary.

Since then I’ve seen a 4K restoration of It Happened One Night and countless other classics, buzzed about Oscar worthy films that aren’t available in other theaters in my city, and even a Paul Henreid double feature that featured Casablanca on 35 mm where I had the opportunity to interview his daughter. There is always something interesting and unique happening at the bustling theater that’s in the heart of Miracle Mile. On March 21st, they will show a special 50th anniversary presentation of the romantic dramedy Two for the Road. This is a unique film in Audrey Hepburn’s oeuvre. Long gone is the ingenue, as Joanna Wallace, she’s an adult woman in a rocky 12-year-marriage with Albert Finney learning to cope with the growing indifferences between her and her husband.

This film is notable for its use of nonlinear storytelling. Before Pulp Fiction and Blue Valentine, Two for the Road is considered one of the first to use this method effectively. The film is directed by Stanley Donen, known for his work on numerous musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Face as well as the ‘Hitchcock film the master of suspense didn’t direct’ Charade.  Donen is the last of the great golden age Hollywood directors. He will celebrate his 93rd birthday this year. On the surface, the film seems like a departure for both Donen and Hepburn but their charms make it work. It’s one of my favorite Hepburn performances because of her honesty. She always had it but here she uses it to add humanity to a complex woman. This may be the only character she portrayed that is both likeable and unlikeable at the same time.

This special screening of Two for the Road is an example of why I love Coral Gables Art Cinema. They’ll have sold out screenings of Casablanca but they’ll also fit lesser known classics into their schedule. I spoke with Associate Director Javier Chavez about the theater’s mission and what he told me is why I will continue to be a loyal patron.

“The interesting thing about films from the 1930s and so on is, in the same way that we talk about how foreign films aren’t so dissimilar to what we’re experiencing here in the U.S. is that their struggles are not that dissimilar to what we’re experiencing here in the present day. Many, many of those films have themes that are universal and in keeping that perspective we’re going to connect and that’s really important. Beyond that —these films laid the foundation for modern cinema. They invented new styles of editing, shooting, and acting. To not be able to show them to an audience in 2017, to not experience that on the big screen, the way they’re meant to be seen would be a tragedy. We value them for what they can teach us and we pride ourselves on being able to show them to new audiences and to ones revisiting them.”

Îf you live in Miami, you can catch Two for the Road at 7:00 pm on March 21st. You can purchase tickets here.

A Women’s History Month Reading Guide for Classic Film Fans

March is Women’s History Month and the 8th of this month is International Women’s Day. While it’s important to watch films created by strong women, with strong female leads, it’s also important to read about them too. Feud, the miniseries currently on FX exploring the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, has been met with some resistance by members of the classic film community because of its revisit to a topic that’s been discussed over and over again. After I watched the first episode I was impressed by how it showcased the deep levels of sexism these respected actresses faced in their careers. Davis and Crawford are well known for breaking away from the expectations imposed on them because of their gender but they weren’t the only women to make a difference in classic Hollywood. Below are a list of books that tell the story of glass ceiling breakers in the classic era.


A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960


Jeanine Basinger examines the realm of the so-called “women’s pictures” of the classic era and the messages they sent to their audience. These pictures cross all genres from screwball comedies to even film noirs. I sometimes want to throw this book at people who claim that classic films never featured strong female leads. Um hello? Have you even seen a Barbara Stanwyck picture? The book focuses from the 1930’s to 1960 with a close examination of stars such as Kay Francis, Loretta Young, and Miriam Hopkins. I appreciate its attention to these secondary actresses because it goes to show that Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis, and Katharine Hepburn weren’t the only crop of leading ladies around portraying these characters. Basinger is also very effective at putting these films and tropes into historical context that makes you wonder why this debate is still going on in the first place. Oh Hollywood, will you ever learn?

Without Lying Down: Francis Marion and the Powerful women of Early Hollywood


Without Lying Down serves as both a biography of Francis Marion as well as a look at the formation of early Hollywood and its key players: Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, and Irving Thalberg. Marion was one of the most influential screenwriters in movie history. So much so that’s she often credited for being the one who gave Hollywood its voice. She wrote almost 200 produced films and won Academy Awards for writing The Big House and The Champ. Marion was Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter for almost three decades. Her background was in journalism. She even served in Europe as a combat correspondent during World War I. I think what most people will be surprised to learn is how well respected she was and how many women like her during this time actually more freedom than one might think when it came to her work. It was obviously much different for women in other parts of the country.

Pickford: The woman who made Hollywood 


Eileen Whitefield’s Pickford: The Woman who made Hollywood is, in my opinion, the best account of this pioneer’s life. Pickford led an extraordinary life. In addition to being an actress, she was also a writer, businesswoman and at 27 co-founded United Artists, the first independent film distribution company. Contrary to the adolescent women with fringy hair she portrayed onscreen, Pickford was a brilliant businesswoman. The impact she had on all aspects of cinema’s early era is inspiring. I left this book truly impressed by what one person accomplished in their life during the formation of an industry that no one had much hope for.

Women in Film Noir Revised Edition by E. Ann Kaplan


Women in Film Noir is a collection of essays examining the complex female characters brought to life in film noirs. I always loved the complex dames that populate the seedy underworld of noir. They’re often much more interested than the main plots. As a teenager when noir was everything I watched I found myself rooting for these women even if they turned out to be the villains in the end, they were just more fun to watch. These essays go beyond the femme fatale box by delving deeper into tropes and themes in such essential films like Gilda to more modern noirs like Klute and L.A. Confidential. Multiple editions exist so as long as noirs keep getting made, we can expect this book to grow.

Rita Moreno: A memoir 


Rita Moreno is an icon. The Puerto Rican trailblazer is one of the only 12 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony and she did it the fastest. She’s had a colorful life by all accounts and is still working. Her hit show One Day at a Time was just renewed for a second season by Netflix. As candid as she is in interviews, she gives us even more in her autobiography Rita Moreno: A Memoir. This is one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read. Moreno is such an engrossing storyteller. I felt like I was in her living room and she was telling all these amazing stories about life in Hollywood in the 50s and 60s. I also appreciated how Moreno didn’t water down some of the darker aspects of her life including racism, misogyny, and an attempted suicide. The book is incredibly revealing but always dignified. Moreno more than anything is a survivor who is still kicking it. A reina indeed.