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.

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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!

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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?

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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

Pre-Code.com

Backlots

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

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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

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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 

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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

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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 

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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.

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Robert Osborne: The friend I never met

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Robert Osborne helped me fall in love with Gene Tierney, Betty Grable, William Holden, film noir, technicolor, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, and so many other icons of cinema.

Robert Osborne comforted me during times of sadness and unease.

Robert Osborne made a young girl who loved classic movies and was bullied for it feel less alone.

Robert Osborne explained that the movies were best seen on the big screen.

Robert Osborne was the best film history teacher I ever had.

Robert Osborne has had a profound impact on my life but I never got to tell him. I never met Robert Osborne but throughout the past 20 years of my life he was always there on my tv screen. Robert was my quintessential classic movie buddy. As a classic film scholar and fan, he was the link to a world that is now gone. When he introduced each film on TCM, not only was he passionate and respectful of Hollywood, he lived it. He knew the men and women he was talking about.

It’s hard to put into words just what Robert Osborne means to me. His work even inspired me to create this blog. I am so grateful that he and TCM were brought into my life. TCM isn’t just television, it’s a family and Robert is the grandfather gathering us around for story time sharing his wisdom. His gentle presence is what made him stand above all others. Robert wasn’t just a host, he was a storyteller. What I’ll miss so much is his respect for each and every movie he introduced. Robert understood each film’s place in history. No film was ever “beneath him.” He didn’t just know everything about movies, he cared about them and wanted to share that passion.

This afternoon when I heard the news of his passing I felt like I lost a family member. His absence has been felt in my life for the last year as his intros ceased on TCM due to his declining health. Despite hearing news of frequently canceled engagements, I hoped he’d be back in his rightful place on that chair in the TCM living room with his TCM bistro mug by his side. But it wasn’t meant to be. Having an interest in classic cinema I’m used to loss. When I discovered many of my favorite actors and actresses they were already dead some for over 30 years. Now there aren’t many left. It hurts but they’ll always be with us thanks to technology. It’s a comforting thought but the emptiness will remain.

I spent the day thinking about lonely nights that were made better with Robert’s presence on my tv screen and how so many of my favorite talents were introduced to me by him. A Robert Osborne bobblehead sits on my desk and fills me with the same comfort of his intros. The best thing I think we can all do during this time is to continue to watch the movies and be the Robert Osborne to people in our lives. The world is in a dark place and it’s important to find escape once in a while. Robert said it best in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning last year:

“I think we have to have dreams. We need a little Carmen Miranda with all her tutti frutti hats. We need to be taken into a fantasy world, and not be afraid to go there occasionally.”

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Rest in peace Robert. While you may not have been in my life physically, your presence was always felt.

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Interview with artist, entrepreneur, and classic movie fan Kate Gabrielle

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The artist herself Kate Gabrielle courtesy of Instagram @kategabrielle

Last Christmas I made a list of gift ideas for classic movie fans. There was one item on the list that stood out from the rest and it was a enamel pin of The Maltese Falcon. I love enamel pins, actually I’ve become a little obsessive over them. There are so many creative artists out there making great work that my pin game has exploded the last few months. Kate Gabrielle is one of my favorite artists. Her shop has a fun assortment of classic movie-related pins as well as art related to old Hollywood, contemporary film art, and feminist themed prints. Kate Gabrielle also runs a classic movie blog. We met on Twitter bonding over our love of classics. Her shop also include calendars, notecards, and other gifts.

For TCM fans attending TCMFF, Kate is the go-to girl for buttons. The festival is now a month away and this will be my first one. I noticed that many festival goers wear a myriad of buttons with their names or their favorite actors. I decided to reach out to Kate to not only learn more about her, her work and her process but what’s the deal with these buttons.

Check out our interview below:

1. For those who aren’t familiar with your fabulous shop and work, can you give me a short description of what types of art and products you create.

Most of the art I make falls into one of three categories—punny paintings, black and white line drawings of 1920’s flapper characters I created, or pop culture/classic movie inspired art. I sell art prints, but lately I’ve been concentrating more on my accessories like buttons, enamel pins, and patches.

2. When did you become a classic movie fan? Who are some of your favorite classic film stars and why?

It all started when AMC aired How to Steal a Million over the holiday break when I was 13 years old. I became instantly obsessed with classic movies and Audrey Hepburn! My dad took me to Hollywood Video (a Blockbuster-like chain) and I rented every single Audrey movie that they had. And the rest is history 😉

My favorite stars now are Barbara Stanwyck and Alain Delon. I love Stany because I think she was the most talented actress in Hollywood … she has such a natural, effortless way of acting that is so believable. When she’s in comedies she’s hilarious, and when she’s in dramas she can break your heart into a thousand pieces. She is just SO good. And Alain Delon… sigh… I just love looking at him, lol!

I also have to throw a shout out to some of my other favorites because, I’m sure any classic movie fan would agree with me, it’s VERY hard to narrow it down!! I also love Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Ronald Colman, Robert Montgomery, Joan Blondell, Chishū Ryū, Monica Vitti, Anna Karina, Emmanuelle Riva, and Charles Boyer.

3. A lot of people in the classic film community know you because of your awesome button sets for TCMFF. The button sets are so much fun. When did you start creating them?

Thank you 🙂 Last year, Raquel from Out of the Past suggested that I make a social media name-tag button so that people who know each other in the online film community could meet up at the festival, and I decided to expand that into a set of buttons.

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Classic movie bloggers Aurora, Kelle, and Theresa with their pins. Photo by Kelle Pratt via Instagram

4. For those of us who haven’t been to the festival, what’s the deal with pins? Is there a pin trading program or is it more of a grassroots way to meet other people?

I wish there was a pin trading program, that would be awesome! But it’s more of a way to connect with the people that you know online. There’s a group of festival-goers on Facebook who have had me make a special button three years in a row so they can all recognize each other in Hollywood. And then there’s my TCMFF set with the social media button. I personally love including the other buttons (one shows off how many years you’ve attended and the other seven highlight features at the festival) because they’re relevant even if you aren’t on social media. They’re fun souvenirs that are specific to the year you’re wearing them. Like this year’s set includes a 75th anniversary Casablanca button set. It won’t be available again next year, it’s exclusive to the 2017 festival 🙂

5. But these types of pins aren’t the only ones you do! I’m a big fan of your new lapel pin collection and my readers know this because I listed The Maltese Falcon pin as one of the must haves for a classic film fan last Christmas. I’m so happy that you moved into the lapel pin realm. Where do you get your inspiration?

Thank you so much! I get my inspiration from the things I love, so mostly classic movies, haha! My rule is I only design things I would want myself, so I tend to stick with movies, dinosaurs, cats, and feminism. I hired my brother to manage the “business” side of my business last year and he often has to reign in how many classic movie themed pins I produce since they aren’t quite as popular as my other designs. They probably account for 90% of my ideas but only like 10% of my finished pins. But I’m always trying to sneak more classic movie designs into my lapel pin production orders because honestly I just want to wear more of them myself 😉

6. You also have some great artwork and calendars. I really love how you give a modern twist to classic cinema. I’m always surprised to meet so many classic movie fans online, did it surprise you to see such a big response for your work? 

I think I might have a different perspective on the response to my work (I wouldn’t call it big, haha!) but I appreciate each and every person who likes my designs! 🙂 I will say though that I was also very surprised to see how many classic movie fans there are online! I was bullied in middle school for liking “dead actors” and was kind of a loner because of my interest in film. It wasn’t until I was already in my 20’s that I discovered that so many people (including young people!) shared my love of classic movies. It’s so heartwarming to me to know that teenagers getting interested in film history now have this enormous online community to welcome them with open arms.

7. I love your feminist artwork. Seeing these have really helped me cope with the tough times we’re dealing with currently. Are there certain actresses that you gravitate to as feminist heroes or certain films that have given you inspiration with everything that’s happening with the current political climate?

Absolutely! Barbara Stanwyck is someone I always turn to when I need a little feminist pick-me-up, especially her pre-codes. She’s so spunky! And while certain movies have always been political touchstones to me (like Meet John Doe) I’ve found myself revisiting movies that suddenly seem relevant when they hadn’t before… like Born Yesterday and The Great Dictator.

I recently revisited Ever in My Heart, a 1930’s film that takes place during WWI, and there’s a scene where anti-German-immigrant sentiment reaches a boiling point and a family dog gets murdered. I’ve seen the movie countless times and that scene always broke my heart, but suddenly it seemed so timely and poignant.

To quote Meet John Doe, I think movies are “lighthouses in a foggy world.”

8. For those of us who haven’t been to TCMFF what are some things we should pack or know about to prepare in advance?

The main thing I’d recommend is bringing something to keep you warm in the theaters. It can get SO COLD in there! I’ve seen people bring snuggies even! It’s usually warm outside in Hollywood in the spring, so I dress for the warm weather and pack a blanket in my tote bag.

Also, most people don’t eat. I’m only slightly kidding, haha! I personally take time to eat dinner every single day, even though it means missing movies. But most people don’t do that, so if you want to squeeze in as many films as possible make sure you stop at a grocery store and pick up healthy snacks to keep on hand so you can munch during the movies instead of taking a break. You don’t want to survive on popcorn alone, and you don’t want to go home sick, so preparing your food situation ahead of time is really important.

9. And finally for those who want to order a TCMFF pin set, how can we and what’s the cut off date to get them in time for the festival?

The button set is available in my shop here and my cut-off date is March 24th. I’d really advise ordering as soon as possible though (especially if you don’t live in the US) since I make the sets by hand and they need to travel through the mail to get to you. I don’t bring buttons or my button maker with me to the festival, so I won’t have them on me there. They’re only available on my website.

Many thanks to Kate Gabrielle for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Her shop is fabulous and her art will make any classic movie fan’s day.

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Be the Henry Fonda you wish to see in the world

I know I’m not alone in saying life after November 8th has been troubling and uneasy. One of the ways I’ve been coping with this onslaught of disturbing policy and tension is by watching classic movies—it’s my tried and true method but two films recently struck a cord with me in a greater magnitude than upon my initial viewing. Coincidentally both of them happen to star Henry Fonda.

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Henry Fonda is known as Hollywood’s quietest hero and I appreciate his work now more than ever. Fonda embodied the every man persona of America much like his contemporary (and best friend in real life) James Stewart. Fonda’s characters stood for justice, compassion, and honesty. Fonda’s inspiration for the brave men he created on screen stemmed from a traumatic incident in his youth when—at fourteen—he witnessed the lynching of a black man. That event stuck with him for the rest of his life as he stood up against prejudice. Fonda believed that by making film he could raise awareness and change perceptions in the world.

In the classic western, The Ox-Bow Incident, Fonda is at his best as the moral compass of the film. He plays Gil Carter, an outsider to a small Nevada town who gets caught up in a lynch mob. This film is one of the best examples of the dangers of mob mentality. I watched this film about a week ago and it has stuck with me since. It’s eerily familiar to the kind of mentality that has infiltrated us thanks to social media, that we’ve seen play out at its worst during this past election. After a rancher is murdered, the townspeople form a posse to find the murderer or murderers. With the sheriff out of town, a deputy decides he himself must be the leader, even though this is against the law. Gil joins the posse to avoid being a target.

This film is rife with tension as the paranoia and anger becomes stronger than the posse itself. Fonda gives a signature quiet performance standing up to the mob when they find men they suspect to be the murderers despite having any sort of proof. Fonda’s Gil believes in the law and justice and won’t stand for the mockery being made. The posse made of large group of men and one women proves it’s not one that it easily persuaded which makes Gil’s fight all the more powerful. He couldn’t shake his conscience and had to speak up.

The film reminds me of 12 Angry Men in many ways. But in 12 Angry Men justice prevails, here a travesty is made of it. Gil, much like Juror #8, represents all the qualities that Fonda believed in. After the lynching occurs, the men find out that the man they believed was murdered is still alive and that they killed three innocent men. When they return to the town, Gil reads a letter written by one of the suspected men in a saloon. The character of Martin, played by Dana Andrews, wrote the letter for his wife. Fonda reads the words in a quiet, honest cadence. In the scene, you only see his lips move not his entire face. The letter reads as follows:

“My dear wife, Mr. Davies will tell you what’s happening here tonight. He’s a good man and has done everything he can for me. I suppose there are some other good men here, too, only they don’t seem to realize what they’re doing. They’re the ones I feel sorry for. ‘Cause it’ll be over for me in a little while, but they’ll have to go on remembering for the rest of their lives. A man just naturally can’t take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin’ everybody in the world, ’cause then he’s just not breaking one law but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people ever have found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. There can’t be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that ever lived? I guess that’s all I’ve got to say except kiss the babies for me and God bless you. Your husband, Donald.”

The letter’s words resonate so much to the current state of affairs. When I watched this moment I began to sob. The Ox-Bow Incident is a cautionary tale that I think everyone needs to see. The same with 12 Angry Men. While both have different outcomes, the meat of their stories is timeless.

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In 12 Angry Men,  the jury has to decide the fate of a seemingly clear cut case about a young man who has been accused of killing his father in a fit of anger. At first it seems the jury is ready to hand over a guilty verdict except for one juror, Fonda’s Juror #8. Fonda can’t seem to shake his doubts and stands up to the men who are fueled by personal prejudices, impatience, and the worst trait of all—apathy. Juror #8 is able to rise above the group of jurors because of his belief in the justice system. His integrity drives him to challenge the men as the deliberations ensue.

Juror #8 isn’t a perfect man. He’s a flawed character who has some pompous moments of his own but he emerges as the hero of the film because of his honesty. That allows him to gain the trust of the rest of the group as they begin to sway their decision. Like The Ox-Bow Incident before it, 12 Angry Men is another fascinating examination of humanity in all of its ugly forms. Fonda was never a flashy actor. He made it look so easy with a stern look that stood for integrity and justice. Both films serve as reminders of standing up for what you believe in no matter how difficult it is.

It’s what Henry Fonda—the actor stood for. Although a quiet man who didn’t believe in being preachy, Fonda didn’t stand for prejudice and injustice. During World War II, he joined the Navy, famously saying “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” Fonda was a man of his word and it showed in his work. It’s people like him whether it be characters or the people behind them that remind us that we too need to rise and stand up for what’s right. Let his films as old as they may be be a reminder for whatever lies ahead.

12 Angry Men is airing on Turner Classic Movies February 28th at 4:30 AM ET.

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Now that you’ve seen ‘La La Land,’ go see these classic movies immediately

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I recently fell under the spell of La La Land when I saw it in the theater. I had a lot of expectations as I enjoyed Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash immensely in 2014. I’ll admit the beginning didn’t really wow me, it reminded me of those GAP commercials from the late 90s that sold khakis using swing dancing and West Side Story numbers. However, as the film went on its charms hooked me completely thanks to Chazelle’s direction and its two leads. La La Land has become a critical darling and recently won 7 Golden Globe Awards, the most of any film in the history of the award. I’m sure you are feeling the La La Land hype or are over it yourself but channel that energy into a classic movie marathon! Here’s a watchlist of films to compliment this film.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Dir. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen)

Let’s just start with the obvious, the one many call the greatest American musical ever, Singin’ in the Rain. This iconic film is the benchmark for what an enjoyable musical adventure should be. Not only does it have impressive numbers but the dialogue is hilarious and Jean Hagan as the silent screen star Lina Lamont steals the show. The film is being screened at participating AMC theaters nationwide on Wednesday, January 18th as part of TCM and Fathom Events’ screen classics series. For tickets and showtimes in your area, click here.

Sunset Boulevard (1950, Dir. Billy Wilder)

Switching gears to a much darker film, Sunset Boulevard is one of the definitive films about Hollywood and the film industry. While La La Land celebrates dreamers, Sunset Boulevard shows you what happens when those dreams die and paved the way for some of cinema’s most celebrated one-liners. It’s easy to simplify this film to a story about a hack screenwriter who works with a former silent screen star to put her dream project on the page but it’s also a tale of ageism and an exploration of the decay of the silent era. The film was William Holden’s breakthrough role but it’s Gloria Swanson who created an icon in the complex role of Norma Desmond, one of the most grotesque and compelling female characters in the history of film. Sunset Boulevard is available to stream on Netflix.

Rebel without a Cause (1955, Dir. Nicholas Ray)

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Nicholas Ray’s classic film about teen angst spoke to an entire generation of confused, middle class youth in suburban Los Angeles. James Dean’s Jim Stark is sensitive, sweet, and desperate to be loved and understood by his parents. He connects with fellow classmates Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo) who are also undergoing the same feelings of withdrawal and isolation. In La La Land, Griffith Observatory which is an important site in Rebel, is featured and Sebastian invites Mia to a screening of Rebel as “research” for a role she’s auditioning for. An added bonus is Gosling’s attempt at a James Dean impression when he utters the iconic line, “I got the bullets!” Rebel without a Cause is airing at 3:45 AM January 19th on Turner Classic Movies.

Notorious (1946, Dir. Alfred Hithcock)

There is a recurring character seen throughout La La Land but you never hear from her directly and that’s actress Ingrid Bergman. Emma Stone’s character Mia appears to be a big fan of the legendary Swedish actress. Mia’s room has a giant poster of one of Bergman’s films that features her face prominently in her bedroom, Mia makes reference to both Casablanca and Notorious and then you later see another poster of Bergman overlooking Los Angeles in the third act of the film. When Gosling’s character Sebastian asks Mia how she fell in love with acting and filmmaking, Notorious is one of the films she mentions that her aunt introduced her to when she was younger. Notorious is one of Bergman’s best. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy who is recruited by a U.S. agent to infiltrate the Nazis. Alicia is Hitchcock’s most feminist female character. When you listen to the way Mia talks about the projects she’s auditioning for in La La Land, you get the sense she’s yearning for strong, compelling characters like Huberman so it makes complete sense that Bergman would be one of her favorites especially when we learn more about her aunt who introduced her to this film. I appreciate that the screenwriter put this film in her list of films she grew up on versus the obvious choice of Casablanca because it shows a deep love for “golden age” classic films even if her character hasn’t seen Rebel without a Cause. 

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, Dir. Jacques Demy)

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg heavily inspired La La Land and has been brought up in almost every piece I’ve seen written about the film. This French musical film is known for using music throughout the film. The dialogue in this is sung during the entire production, even if that isn’t your thing, don’t let it deter you because this film is beautiful. Catherine Deneuve stars in this story about star crossed lovers who commit to loving each other until their final day but that is ultimately tested by war. The film is beautiful and vibrant but just like La La Land will break your heart. Unlike the schmaltzy Hollywood musicals of golden era, Demy challenges the traditional approach with a New Wave style that packs a gut punch. The film is airing on Turner Classic Movies January 18th at 10 PM as part of a selection of films handpicked by La La Land director Damien Chazelle. Click here to see the full lineup.

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