TCM festival to kick off with 'Sound of Music'

'The Sound of Music' will kick off this year's TCM Classic Film Festival

The hottest ticket in Hollywood this week isn't for an anticipated new action film or a cutting-edge band — it's for a 50-year-old movie about a singing nun-to-be who takes a stressful baby-sitting job.

"The Sound of Music," a beloved title long available on home entertainment formats, will screen to a sell-out crowd Thursday night at the TCL Chinese Theater, on the opening night of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

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For the record

1:15 p.m. March 26: An earlier version of this post said there would be a screening of a newly restored print of the 1960 film “Spartacus.” That screening has been canceled. In addition, an incorrect year was given for the film “The Cincinnati Kid.” The movie came out in 1965, not 1973.

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In an era of solitary small-screen amusements, the 1965 musical endures for its multigenerational appeal, according to Julie Andrews, who will be attending the screening with "Sound of Music" costar Christopher Plummer.

"Every seven years, there's another generation that grows up to be told to see this movie by their parents or grandparents," Andrews said in a recent interview by phone from New York. "It has so much going for it — the beautiful scenery, the music is exquisite.

"The story line ain't bad, with it being an adventure and lots of danger, it's a great love story and it's something the entire family can enjoy and be engrossed by. It's one of those great Hollywood musicals that's meticulously done. It's one of the last that was done like that."

Now in its sixth year, the TCM Classic Film Festival draws 25,000 people to Hollywood for four days each spring in a celebration of the idea that they don't make 'em like that anymore. In the case of "The Sound of Music," it's hard to argue.

Painstakingly rehearsed and photographed on location in Salzburg, Austria, and at 20th Century Fox Studios in 1964, director Robert Wise's big-budget musical, among the last of the studio era, won five Academy Awards including best picture, and is the third-highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, after "Gone With the Wind" and "Star Wars."

"The Sound of Music" is one of 78 features the cable network will screen at various locations in Hollywood from March 26 to March 29. Although there are niche festivals of older films around the country, TCM's draws the widest audience and the biggest stars.

"We knew our fans wanted more interaction," said TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian, who helped conceive the festival in response to audience surveys. "Classic films bring a certain aura of emotion. You're attached to those movies."

The man who is traditionally the festival's biggest star, however, will be absent this year — TCM host Robert Osborne announced last week that he wouldn't be able to attend for medical reasons.

"I've been putting off a minor health procedure (as everyone tends to do now and then)," Osborne, 82, wrote in a message to fans posted on TCM's website. "I planned to take care of it as soon as the Festival was over, but my doctor said, 'Enough already, Osborne. Let's get this done now.' "

Among the many events Osborne was set to host was an interview with Sophia Loren scheduled to run on the network later this year. Instead, one of Loren's sons, director Edoardo Ponti, will step in.

One of the more anticipated premieres at this year's festival is "The Grim Game," a long-lost 1919 Harry Houdini film that preservationist Rick Schmidlin recovered last year from a retired, 95-year-old juggler living in Brooklyn and which contains a dramatic, real-life, midair collision between two airplanes.

TCM's loose organizing theme this year is "History According to Hollywood." A history-inspired title screening at the festival includes Ron Howard's 1995 docudrama about the aborted lunar mission "Apollo 13," with an appearance by NASA astronaut James Lovell.

The festival will also present world premiere restorations of 1939's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and the 1928 Buster Keaton comedy "Steamboat Bill, Jr.," featuring a live orchestra performing a new score by silent film composer Carl Davis.

A kind of Comic-Con for people who know their Crawford from their Stanwyck, the TCM festival draws fans paying up to $1,649 for passes that allow them to mingle with their screen idols and fellow film buffs, and see movies rarely shown on the big screen.

In addition to Andrews and Plummer, who will be getting his hands and feet enshrined in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theater, Spike Lee will be on hand to present his 1992 biopic "Malcolm X," Alec Baldwin will interview Dustin Hoffman about his 1974 performance as comedian Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's "Lenny," Ann-Margret will introduce a screening of 1965's "The Cincinnati Kid" and Shirley MacLaine will attend a tribute in her honor accompanying screenings of "The Apartment" (1960) and "The Children's Hour" (1961).

Peter Fonda will attend for a discussion of the career of his father, Henry, and to introduce screenings of "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939) and "My Darling Clementine" (1946).

British film editor Anne V. Coates, 89, will discuss her wide-ranging career, a remarkable span including 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia" and this year's "Fifty Shades of Grey."

After six years of organizing the festival, TCM Senior Vice President for Programming Charlie Tabesh said it had become easier to navigate the logistics of procuring prints, digging through studio archives and attracting talent.

Notes Tabesh: "The only thing that hasn't gotten easier is picking the films."

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rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

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2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

When: Thursday-Sunday

Where: Various locations in Hollywood

Tickets: $20 for most screenings and events

Info: http://filmfestival.tcm.com/attend/individual-tickets/

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