film festival tourism

TCM Classic Film Festival

2011 festival billboard

Why go: to see vintage Hollywood fare and mingle with old-time stars and fellow fans

Festival Website:

Dates: Four days in April.

Festival Description: Launched in 2010 by Turner Classic Movies, this event was an immediate hit, attracting fans of all ages to watch classic Hollywood films in optimal surroundings. TCM’s  Ben Mankiewicz and Leonard Maltin are much in evidence, introducing films and interviewing celebrities from yesteryear. Many social events encourage attendees to interact with one another as well as with the visiting stars.

Ben Mankiewicz with Buck Henry at the 2017 Fest

Programming: The program focuses on classic titles from the TCM archives. Silent films feature live musical accompaniment. As many as six films may be screened concurrently.

Filmmaker turnout: Excellent, though the emphasis is on old-time stars rather than directors or screenwriters.

Tickets: The festival organizers encourage attendees to purchase passes online at $300 and up, but you can buy tickets to individual films at the door for $20 cash. Films do sell out, however, and there are usually long lines.

Location: The heart of Hollywood.

The crowds outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater during the festival

Venues: Grauman’s Chinese multiplex and the Egyptian Theater. The two theaters are in close proximity near the Hollywood/Hyland intersection. For descriptions, see sections on AFI Fest and Cinecon, which use the same venues.

Lodging and Restaurants: See information in sections on AFI Fest and CineCon.

The Festival Year by Year


Best Film I Saw: Royal Wedding. Alan Jay Lerner’s witty script, Fred Astaire’s dancing and Jane Powell’s pert impression of Adele Astaire were highlights of this diverting riff on Queen Elizabeth’s II wedding.

Royal Wedding

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Fred Astaire’s broad parody of Gene Kelly in the “How Could I believe You…” number in Royal Wedding (pictured above).
  • Mickey Rooney’s shtick as a rabid radio announcer in Girl Crazy.

Girl Crazy

  • The Festival’s stylish promo reel.


Festivalgoers outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Best Film I Saw: Girl Shy. Harold Lloyd’s inventive 1924 romantic comedy builds to a mind-boggling ride to the rescue, at the climax of which the star dangles from the cable of one of the long-gone LA trolleys. Robert Israel’s rollicking orchestral score, performed live, added to the excitement.

Harold Lloyd in Girl Shy

Robert Israel’s orchestra performing during Girl Shy

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Saul Bass’s stylish credit sequence for Bonjour Tristesse.

A Saul Bass graphic for Bonjour Tristesse

  • A knockout performance from Leo Penn (billed as Clifford Penn) in 1947’s Fall Guy.

Leo Penn in Fall Guy

  • The fest’s dreamy, evocative promo reel.
  • The script for the low-budget noir thriller Cry Danger, crammed full of cynical wisecracks.
  • A trio of brassy, fast-talking blondes who steal the show in Cry Danger (Jean Porter), Bonjour Tristesse (Mylene Demongeot), and Isabel Jewell (Counsellor at Law) .

Jean Porter in Cry Danger

David Niven, Mylene Demongeot and Jean Seberg in Bonjour Tristesse

Isabel Jewell in Counsellor at Law

  • Two transvestites performing a number called “Working as Chambermaids” in the 1932 Clara Bow vehicle Call Her Savage.

Call Her Savage

  • Robert Towne affably skewering his former collaborator Roman Polanski, who insisted on back-seat driving in Beverly Hills even though Towne had grown up there. Towne also managed to mention Polanski’s embarrassing What?, which the director had made just before Chinatown (and which contains, among other things, a “humorous” rape of a young girl).



2014 Festival Poster

Best Film I Saw: How Green Was My Valley. This 1941 tearjerker, which beat out Citizen Kane for the Oscar,  now appears prescient in terms of environmental awareness and issues of worker safety. John Ford took over the direction from William Wyler late in the game, adding several of his signature touches, including much affecting choral music.

How Green Was My Valley

Best Live Musical Accompaniments


    • Why Worry? Carl Davis, composer of many notable silent film scores, conducted the TCM Festival orchestra in a lively accompaniment to Harold Lloyd’s 1923 madcap farce.  Directed by Fred Newmeyer.



Why Worry?

  • The Lodger. The screening of Hitchock’s first thriller got worthy support from the Monte Alban Orchestra.

The Lodger

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Thirteen-year-old Roddy McDowall’s  magnificent performance as the central controlling consciousness in How Green Was My Valley.

Roddy McDowall in How Green Was My Valley

  • John Aasen stealing every scene as a a gigantic lout who is at once both terrifying and  oddly winsome in Why Worry?

john Aasen and Harold Lloyd in Why Worry?


Best Film I Saw: Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. Daniel Raim’s affectionate documentary portrait of the personal and professional partnership of storyboard artist Harold and his wife researcher Lillian Michaelson honors two of the legion of under-appreciated artisans who help bring  Hollywood movies to life. If the film sometimes veers into saccharinity, it is redeemed by the consistently witty commentary of Lillian, the surviving spouse, whose sharp, self-abnegating insights are peppered throughout to give credence to the adage that making an absorbing documentary is mostly a matter of finding a worthy subject.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story


2017 Festival Poster

Best Film I Saw: Panique. Julian Duvivier’s masterly 1946 thriller gives iconic French star Michel Simon a signature role.


Unexpected Pleasures

  • The Magic Box, a moving portrait of British inventor William Friese-Greene, who lost out to Edison for the patent on the new medium of moving pictures John Boulton directed an all-star cast led by Robert Donat from a screenplay co-written by Eric Ambler. Originally released in 1951.

The Magic Box

  • The Nickelodeon Picture Show. Russell Merritt’s staging of what movie-going might have been like at the turn of the 20th Century has become more elaborate–and entertaining since I first saw it at Pordenone some years back, with professional performers and varied, evocative programming. A unique, inimitable experience.

The Nickelodeon Show

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