Carl Reiner has a theory about why, amid a sea of new movies and TV shows, people still gravitate toward the old ones.
"Reminiscing is one of the great pleasures of life," said the 94-year-old writer, director and comedian, who will be the subject of a tribute at the TCL Chinese Theater Saturday when his 1982 film noir comedy, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," screens at the TCM Classic Film Festival. "It's part of the history of your life, like looking at old photo albums."
"Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," which intercuts black and white footage of Steve Martin as a private investigator with clips of vintage film stars like Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, is one of more than 80 movies the cable network will screen at various locations in Hollywood from April 28 to May 1. Now in its seventh year, the festival draws 25,000 people each spring, most of them out-of-towners, to an event that celebrates looking back on the big screen.
This year's event will open with a special 40th anniversary screening of "All the President's Men," with filmmakers from another newspaper-set drama, this year's best picture winner, "Spotlight" in attendance, part of a theme that includes highlighting other journalism movies like "Network" (1976) and "Ace in the Hole" (1951).
The lineup will include a conversation with Elliot Gould along with screenings of his movies "M*A*S*H*" (1970) and "The Long Goodbye" (1973) and an appearance by director John Singleton along with a 25th anniversary screening of his 1991 coming-of-age film "Boyz in the Hood."
Francis Ford Coppola, in town to get his hands and feet enshrined in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theater, will appear at a screening of his 1974 thriller "The Conversation" and Angela Lansbury will participate in a discussion with Alec Baldwin around a screening of her 1962 Cold War classic "The Manchurian Candidate."
The festival will also incorporate the kind of live events that have lured TCM viewers to pay up to $1649 for weekend passes, such as a screening of the 1928 silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" accompanied by live orchestra, a Smell-O-Vision presentation of the 1960 travelogue' "Holiday in Spain," in which various odors like roses and wine will be pumped into the Cineramadome and a panel on classic film dogs like "Lassie" and "Rin Tin Tin" attended by canine celebrity guests.
There will also be lesser-known films, like "One Potato, Two Potato," an obscure, independent 1964 drama about an interracial marriage, and the LA premiere of "Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood love story," a 2015 documentary about that great rarity, a happy Hollywood marriage.
For the second year in a row the festival will be missing TCM's biggest in-house star, as network host Robert Osborne will not attend for undisclosed health reasons.
TCM vice president of programming Charlie Tabesh said Osborne had planned to attend until a few weeks ago.
"I talked to him yesterday," Tabesh said in an interview Tuesday. "He's doing well. He's getting the treatment he needs and doing better."
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz – the Robin to Osborne's Batman – will assume many of the emceeing duties at the festival, including a conversation with Faye Dunaway that will be taped to air on the network at a future date. Mankiewicz said he plans to focus on key films the actress made in the late 1960s and 1970s including "Bonnie & Clyde," "Chinatown" and "Network."
The festival takes place at a variety of screening venues in Hollywood, including the TCL Chinese Theater, the Egyptian Theater, the ArcLight's Cineramadome and even poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel.
As the programming has developed over the last seven years, it has been accompanied by a dramatic change in the way film distributors are handling their catalogs, as more and more studios digitize their collections. In the festival's first year, Tabesh estimates 20% of the films he screened were from digital sources; now about 60% are, a change that has implications for where TCM chooses to screen which films.
One thing that hasn't changed is the intense sense of connection classic film audiences bring to the event, according to Mankiewicz. The TCM host was preparing for the festival Monday by reading books and watching movies on his iPad, after finishing taping a "Game of Thrones" episode for his side-job on online review show 'What the Flick?!"
"I love 'Game of Thrones,' but it doesn't make anyone feel connected to their past or their family's past," Mankiewicz said. "It does not connect you to the past or to a period of your life. There is a form of generational connection that classic movies foster that you don't get from other content."
How to catch a screening
The TCM Classic Film Festival will be held Thursday through May 1 at various venues in Hollywood.