TCM Classic Film Festival: Rediscovering Treasure

Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand conduct business under the table. Image: pilgrimakimbo

When we (as in, yours truly) were a child, we were invited to frequent sleepovers at a friend’s house.

The Rules, as outlined by the parents, were: (1) Sleep must be had, which meant (2) No Television After Bedtime.

Oddly, the parents assigned us to a guest bedroom that had a television(!), a temptation against which, as you know, any kid is powerless.

One midnight, we discovered an utterly fabulous movie. It was the 1972 comedy, What’s Up Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, about a mix-up involving four identical travel bags and the ensuing mayhem.

We were enthralled. We felt this was the kind of movie a Sophisticated Grown-Up would watch, a glimpse into the world of chic urbanites.

That was many years ago. The next time we saw the film was at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival. We were curious to see (A) how the film would compare to our childhood memory, and (B) what it would be like to watch it guilt-free, i.e. without the threat of angry parents storming in and demanding Why Weren’t We Sleeping!

The Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood Boulevard, TCMFF 2017.

The theme of this year’s TCMFF was “Make ’em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies”.

We went to the festival to cram as many comedies as possible into each day. Pre-Codes, screwballs, “modern” comedies – you got ’em? We’ll watch ’em!

Here are a few of the films we saw:

  • Maurice Chevalier tries not to be unfaithful to Jeanette MacDonald in One Hour with You (1932).
  • Irene Dunne divorces Cary Grant and becomes involved with Ralph Bellamy (?!?) in The Awful Truth (1937).
  • Ginger Rogers learns to sell refrigerators in Rafter Romance (1933).
  • Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray become egg marketing experts in The Egg and I (1947).

Not all the films we screened were comedies. For the first time, we saw John Wayne on the big screen in Red River (1948), and went to an outdoor poolside screening of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

One of the many highlights was the Marx Brothers film, Monkey Business (1931). According to Dick Cavett – yes, that Dick Cavett – who introduced the film, Monkey Business was the first Marx Brothers movie made in Hollywood.

Cavett also cleared up something that we (as in, yours truly) had often wondered about Marx Bros. movies: Timing.

“Sometimes the timing seems off,” said Cavett. “In their movies, they held off the action to wait for laughs.”

He’s right. A film that may fall flat when you view it at home is brilliant when seen with an audience. The Marx Bros. were playing to large movie houses, and they adjusted their pace accordingly.

Director Peter Bogdanovich at TCMFF 2017. Image: Zimbio

Here’s one thing we love about TCMFF: The clapping.

Audiences clap when a movie starts, and when it ends. They clap for the title of the film, the lead actors and the director. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s a surprisingly moving experience. It’s rare to witness such depth of appreciation for decades-old films.

We also love the conversations you have with people next to you in line. We met saucy librarians, stylish hipsters, and actual Los Angelenos, all of whom love classic film.

The chance to see celebs like Dick Cavett is another thrill. But guess who else we saw? Why, none other the director of What’s Up Doc?, Peter Bogdanovich, who appeared In Conversation before the film’s screening.

Bogdanovich is as fascinating as you might expect, and naturally he had interesting stories about the film. There is a fabulous car chase, for example, that ate up one-quarter of the entire budget. Also, the script contains no contemporary references to give it a timeless feel – it is a film in the tradition of the screwball comedies.

“I wanted to make a G-rated movie with no socially-redeeming value,” Bogdanovich dryly remarked.

Then the conversation was over and the lights were dimmed and the movie began.

We held our breath, hoping it would not be an epic Disappointment.

And it wasn’t.

It was glorious. All 94 minutes of it.

What’s Up Doc? remains, for us, the treasured film we discovered in our childhood. We think you might like it, being the Sophisticated Person you are.



  1. I’ve seen a few of these movies – what a great way for you to see them all! I agree that seeing movies in a theater vs on television changes the whole perception and mood. Looks like a fun day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t seen that film in ages, but it’s one I also remember loving! Thanks for the write-up. How cool that you got to hear Peter Bogdanovich in person.

    Watching movies in a theater is a whole different experience than watching at home. And when the audience applauds, it’s thrilling, isn’t it? 🙂

    I once attended a screening of The French Connection where director William Friedkin was interviewed before the movie by local crime author George Pelecanos. That was fun!

    Now, I want to watch What’s Up Doc? again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – seeing films in a theatre is such a different experience than seeing them at home. Sometimes it’s like seeing them for the first time!

      Now THAT would be a great experience, to see director William Friedkin being interviewed before a screening. I bet that was fascinating.


  3. I absolutely love WHAT’S UP DOC? – I first saw it as a kid as well and have never grown tired of it. I never realized it until you pointed it out that it indeed contains no contemporary references. It sounds like the audiences at TCMFF and Noir City are very similar in their appreciation of films and those in and behind them. Will have to try to make it to TCMFF someday. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I’ll have to try to catch Noir City someday! I’ve heard great things about that festival.

      I was delightfully surprised by how charming What’s Up Doc? is. Plus, Madeline Kahn! How on earth could they film her scenes with a straight face?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Must’ve gone through multiple takes for Kahn’s scenes! I’ve always wondered how many takes it took for the chase scenes, especially the guys moving the pane of glass, the guy on the ladder, etc. LOVE that stuff! And Liam Dunn as the judge is priceless!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It all sounds fabulous, I just wish I could have been there.
    What’s up Doc? completely caught me off guard on my first viewing and I loved every minute of it. I was totally carried away by the considerable charm of the two leads and several brilliant pratfalls.
    Peter Bogdanovich obviously made it out of love for the genre, I just wish he’d done more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I wish Bogdanovich had done more screwball comedies. This one is sheer delight, isn’t it?

      I hope you can make it to the festival next year or soon after. With your knowledge & appreciation of film, it would be a fabulous time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your parents put you in a room with a TV, and expected you to sleep!!! I wish I had your parents!! Ha!!
    Love ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ (1972) Watched this near excellent comedy a few times in my teens. And Barbra Streisand was at her fashionably best, in her 70’s chic.
    You are so lucky, you actually saw Peter Bogdanovich!! He must be around/close to 80, by now!!
    Watching Classic films on the Big Screen, pool side screenings, I wish I could attend TCM Film Festival. I live on the wrong side of the planet. And definitely in the wrong country, especially for a lover of the aesthetics, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – Barbra Steisand was at her fashionable and glamorous best in the 1970s. She looks stunning in this film!

      It was terrific to see Peter Bogdanovich at TCMFF. He seems like a truly smart and interesting person. I really hope one day you’ll be able to attend. With your film background, it would be an amazing experience. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the beginning of this post so much. Such a sweet and fun memory. Sounds like a wonderful trip. And you went to an outdoor poolside screening again!!! I recall being envious of that last year. 😉 So interesting about the Marx Bros. I’d noticed but very cool to imagine a packed house and waiting out the laughs. Also, the clapping. It really does sound weird at first but it’s moving. Ask me if I can remember when I experienced that. (I can’t.) What’s Up Doc going on the TBW list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “What’s Up Doc?” Is such a fun movie. Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal are beautiful and glamorous, and Madeline Kahn is hysterical.

      Yes, the poolside screening was PACKED. It was fabulous to see a film in the night LA air…and the presence of a police helicopter flying overhead made it just a bit more exciting.

      Had a really great time at TCMFF this year. I was very lucky to be able to attend.

      Liked by 1 person

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