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TCM Film Festival Invades Hollywood Armed with Legendary Pictures & Stars

By Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

What is that thing covering up the real street sign on Hollywood Boulevard?

"TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES WAY:" this is the sky blue new moniker for the venerable walk of fame installed for the four-day first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival, Hollywood 2010.

Hundreds of TCM fans have flocked from around the country -- Ohio, Iowa, Kansas -- to join thousands of locals to see TCM beloved host Robert Osborne, his The Essentials co-host Alec Baldwin, and a dazzling cast of stars and their families:

Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacqueline Bisset, Ann Rutherford, Cher, Esther Williams, Lorna Luft (Judy Garland's other daughter), Eva Marie Saint, Barbara Hershey, Jon Voigt, Tab Hunter, Norman Jewison, Frank Capra (the younger), Kate Flannery, John Carpenter, Tony Curtis, Danny Huston, Martin Landau, and powerhouse in his own right, Ben Mankiewicz (grandson of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz).

Opening Night on Thursday 22 April begins as a media blitz, despite light rain, for a star-studded TCM Classic Film Festival world premiere of the restored 1954 version of A STAR IS BORN, with Judy Garland and James Mason in their Oscar(r)-winning roles. And it doesn't disappoint.

Under a tented red carpet, surrounded by TCM fans and startled passersby, a couple generations of Hollywood Royalty saunter in with aplomb.

"This new festival will give those who love movies a way to connect with each other," Osborne said, adding that fans can "immerse themselves in a wide array of of classic films" during the festivities into the weekend.

Jean-Paul Belmondo is slated to introduce a 50th Anniversary restored version of Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS; Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS will be screened, featuring recently added original footage unearthed in Argentina in 2002; Mel Brook will appear for a Q&A during a screening of the 1968 classic THE PRODUCERS; and TCM's fest will also feature guest cameos by Luise Rainer (THE GOOD EARTH 1937) and Ernest Borgnine introducing JUBAL (1956).

But tonight, inside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, now dressed in TCM light blues, Alec Baldwin and Robert Osborne hold court to set the tone for the event by rolling out A STAR IS BORN in all its glory.

There's Lorna Luft, the Garland blonde daughter, seated with stars in her own eyes as mother Judy sings her heart out in all of her digitally restored finery, even Cher is impressed and you can't not be touched by the outpouring of respect for movies and movie history in the remarks whispered in the audience and in TCM's dedication to preserve the unmatchable legacy of cinema's classics.

A STAR IS BORN will also be released soon on DVD, restored and with lots of bells and whistles included, in BLU-RAY(tm) format on June 22. But for now, TCM brings it all alive and grand on the big screen.

The TCM debut fest itself is a throw-back to glamour when Hollywood was at its height, when the silver screen glowed, and when Rick's Cafe Americain wasn't just a dive in CASABLANCA -- it reflected visionary filmmaking that would become timeless -- and flickering again now in 2010.

You haven't seen CASABLANCA until you see it on wide screen, in a crowd, in its proper aspect ratio, with delectable tiny historic visual details writ large: the parrot, the piano, the marketplace... and Sam's powerful emotive hands that "Play it. Play it, I said," as Humphrey Bogart demands.

And that's why we love cinema's scholar/historian/legend Robert Osborne, without whom this festival would not exist. Because Mr. Osborne and company give films, and their domestic and international players, the props they so richly deserve for a life of service in the pictures.

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