Jetting in from locations around the world, throngs of besotted movie fans congregated in the bustling heart of Hollywood to celebrate this Spring’s sixth annual TCM Classic Film Festival - a unique cinematic love fest that is surely one of the happiest film gatherings to be had these days. This year’s roster of stellar participants included such bona fide screen legends as Ann-Margret, Sophia Loren, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Andrews, and Shirley MacLaine (among others), and yet there seemed to be a tangible hole at the center of the 2015 festival due to the unexpected absence of Mr. TCM himself … the irreplaceable and beloved Robert Osborne.
Having presided over the initial five memorable TCM fests (as well as the popular annual TCM Caribbean Cruise weekend), it came as a great surprise and disappointment that just eight days before this year’s festival, Osborne announced he was under doctor’s orders to stay home in New York to undergo a “minor” medical procedure. Robert Osborne has always been the kind, knowledgeable soul of this marvelous festival and his presence was sorely missed.
Despite his absence, the fest ran smoother than ever, with Osborne’s festival duties ably handled by his go-to group of TCM lieutenants, Ben Mankiewicz, Alec Baldwin, and Illeana Douglas primary among them. Despite their enthusiasm, professionalism, and droll wit, the experience felt different this year without its master of ceremonies, so here’s wishing Mr. Osborne a complete and speedy recovery as the TCM family needs him at its helm and cannot wait to welcome Robert back with open arms.
Every TCM Fest attendee’s experiences are unique each year – the many offerings almost invariably become too much of a good thing, the painful scheduling overlaps a cinephile’s Sophie’s Choice of sorts. (No classic Meryl Streep films this year … though Jennifer Lopez’s best made the cut!) Sadly, my heart was not completely there for the fest this outing, as I was simultaneously dealing with an ongoing personal family tragedy during the long festival weekend. Still, the escapism (particularly of classic Hollywood fare) that movies can provide when the theater lights go down, helped ease (or at least divert) some of the pain of the moment. It helps explain why going to the movies was rarely more popular than during the Great Depression (as Busby Berkeley well knew), so I was particularly excited to see that his 42nd Street was scheduled to be screened over the long weekend. Due to my personal situation this year, when settling on my preferred roster of films I gravitated toward escapist works (comedies when possible), so while the Opening Night gala screening of The Sound of Music charmed the packed Grauman’s Chinese audience, I bolted upstairs instead for one of the loopiest (and best) screwball comedies of the ’30s … the deliciously shimmering My Man Godfrey.