The Classic Film & TV Guide to Comic-Con 2014

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San Diego Comic-Con has grown over the years from a sleepy exchange of comic books in a hotel basement to a massive pop culture Event, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the San Diego area. There’s a lot beyond the blockbuster movie panels that seem to grab most of the headlines nowadays, including an expansive show floor of exhibitors and a bustling array of smaller panels, including many that will be particularly enticing to fans of classic film and television. Check below for some of Comic-Con’s highlights in classic film and TV, from panels to parties… and also note that I’ve temporarily adjusted my definition of “vintage” to just being outside the past 30 years, to allow for a little more wiggle room.

Honolulu (1939)

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When you settle in to watch a film called “Honolulu,” you might expect to see a lush, expansive musical with plenty of opulent sets and numbers, perhaps a sequence or two in Technicolor to highlight the natural beauty of the island and to wow the viewer’s imagination. But, lest you start to think that all of 1939’s films were big epics, that’s really not the case for MGM’s 1939 Honolulu—it’s a very small-scale movie, set mostly in the interiors of passenger ships and homes instead of tropical jungles and pristine beaches. Instead, we’re treated to some fun trick photography and several Eleanor Powell dance numbers, which may be a fair enough trade for some people.

James Stewart in Born to Dance (1936)

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Before Vertigo, before The Philadelphia Story, and before Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, James Stewart was, like so many actors of the time, an MGM contract player, toiling away in quickly churned-out comedies and romances for $350 a week.  Though he’d ultimately garner more acclaim for his later dramatic roles, Stewart also appeared in a handful of musicals in these early days—sometimes in smaller supporting roles, like as the fugitive brother in Rose Marie—but MGM was also testing him out as a leading man, harnessing his talents in musical features like Born to Dance. It’s a bit of a strange situation seeing Stewart hoofing it and belting out Cole Porter tunes, but with a cast that also includes Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel, and Buddy Ebsen, it’s a fun flick—albeit, perhaps, indicative of why Stewart didn’t ultimately pan out as a musical star.

TCM Fest Diary: The Big Picture

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Well, I’m sadly back in the “real world” after four days of classic films and fun, thanks to the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood, California. This was the fifth year of the festival, which celebrates all things classic, and was leading up to the 20th anniversary of the channel, so there were a lot of fun surprises and celebrations to be had. Throughout (hopefully) today/this week, I’ll be posting my “diary” entries for each day of the fest. They’re a bit late, perhaps to the point that they’re no longer relevant… but I’m doing them anyway! I’m starting here with my general impressions of the festival, to give some background if you’ve never been to the festival, as well as some feelings and tips for myself to remember should I be able to return in coming years.

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