The four-day TCM Classic Film Festival opens in Hollywood Thursday with a gala screening of the newly restored musical “Oklahoma!”
On hand will be one of its stars, Shirley Jones, who made her film debut in the 1955 movie directed by Fred Zinnemann.
Jones, who just turned 80, was chosen personally by composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to play the role of Laurey, the Oklahoma farm girl wooed by cowboy Curly (Gordon MacRae). The musical, originally staged in 1943, includes such classic numbers as “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and the title song.
Transferred to the big screen, it was the first movie shot in Todd-AO, Mike Todd’s patented wide-screen process. This allowed Zinnemann to capture the wide expanse of the West as well as corn as high as an elephant’s eye — some 16 feet tall.
Ironically, none of the film was actually shot in Oklahoma; parts of Arizona and soundstages in Culver City filled the role.
The 4K restored version will be screened at 30 frames per second — the same rate as when the film was released in 1955. The original six-track soundtrack also has been restored.
This is the fifth year for the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, and for any true movie lover, it’s a dream event. This month also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Turner Classic Movies network, but despite TCM’s popularity, nothing ultimately replaces seeing a classic movie on the big screen in the company of like-minded fans.
Another restoration at this year’s festival is “Sorcerer,” from William Friedkin (“The Exorcist,” “The French Connection”). The 1977 action-adventure is the director’s favorite film. The adaptation of Georges Arnaud’s novel, which also inspired the 1953 classic “The Wages of Fear,” was something of a box-office failure, though — it competed for audiences with “Star Wars.”
The digitally restored “Sorcerer,” starring Roy Scheider as one of group of men transporting unstable dynamite through the South American jungle, is now seen as a forgotten masterpiece of the 1970s, a taut existential thriller.
The Oscar-winning director Friedkin will be on hand for the screening and after that will be interviewed at the festival’s Club TCM at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the first Academy Awards banquet. Others who will be at the festival include Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss — there for “The Goodbye Girl” (1977) and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995) — composer Quincy Jones, film editor Thelma Schoonmaker (“Raging Bull,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed”), songwriter Richard Sherman (“Mary Poppins”), Kim Novak, Ryan O’Neal and legendary documentarian Albert Maysles for a screening of his masterpiece, “Grey Gardens” (1975).
Comic legend Jerry Lewis also will be honored. The actor, filmmaker and humanitarian will have his hand and footprints enshrined in concrete in front of the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. He also will be on hand for a screening for his 1963 comedy “The Nutty Professor.”
Three films celebrating their 75th anniversaries this year — “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Stagecoach,” which made John Wayne a star — will be presented. The festival also will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” Mel Brooks will appear for the 40th anniversary of his comedy classic “Blazing Saddles,” and 93-year-old Maureen O’Hara will be on hand for the world premiere restoration of John Ford’s Oscar-winning “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).
Margaret O’Brien will be there for Vincente Minnelli’s classic musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944).
There also will be screening of Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” (1944), Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958); William Wyler’s Best Picture Oscar winner “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946); Richard Lester’s Beatles’ hit “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964); the Frank Capra comedy-drama “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936), “Godzilla: The Japanese Original” (1954); and the Lena Horne musical “Stormy Weather” (1943).
There are plenty of other terrific films that are part of the festival, but if you have never seen Robert Aldrich’s 1962 “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” there is nothing creepier than seeing Bette Davis’ twisted face as demented Jane, a former child vaudeville star tormenting her paraplegic sister (Joan Crawford), on the big screen.
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL
When: Various screening times Thursday through April 13 in Hollywood.
Where: TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, 6925 Hollywood Blvd.; TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.; Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.; Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd.; El Capitan Theatre, 6838 Hollywood Blvd.; Montalban Theatre, 1615 N. Vine St.; The Hollywood Museum, 1660 N. Highland Ave.
Tickets: $14 for most films.
Follow Rob Lowman on Twitter: @roblowman1