Ben Mankiewicz Previews TCM’s 12th Annual Classic Film Festival

west side story cast
Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images

In 2020, the pandemic dimmed the lights on an in-person edition of the cinematic celebration of TCM’s Classic Film Festival. But after a successful pivot to a virtual format, TCM was determined to do it again somehow…someday…somewhere. And the beloved Hollywood musical West Side Story turning 60 proved to be the picture-perfect centerpiece for what will be the 12th annual fest.

Running fully virtual again (and in collaboration with HBO Max), the four-day event opens May 6 at 8/7c with a reunion chat featuring the film’s stars Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn with TCM Primetime host Ben Mankiewicz. Also on the slate: tributes to popular actors Danny Glover and Ali MacGraw; guest presenters ranging from Rob Reiner to Steve McQueen; a “table read” of Ed Wood’s classic 1959 clunker Plan 9 From Outer Space (May 7, 8/7c); and plenty of great movies. Here’s the reel deal.

The West Side-rs Get Along Beautifully

Even with the challenges of an online chat, Moreno, Chakiris, and Tamblyn embrace their conversation like treasured old friends. “It was pretty damn magical,” Mankiewicz says of talking to the lighthearted octogenarian trio. “They laughed at each other’s jokes and gave each other the business. They were honest about the things they don’t agree on and they were kind and genuine. George and Russ are very respectful of Rita’s passion for [Steven] Spielberg’s reimagining of the film [out December 10] with Latino and Latina actors. It was all very moving.”

What’s in a Name?

Mankiewicz hits Glover with some ’80s trivia in their chat. “I reminded him that in Places in the Heart [May 9, 2:30/1:30c] he played Moze. He was McFee in Witness, Mal in Silverado, Mister in The Color Purple, and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. I said, ‘What’s up with that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, what is up with that?’”

danny glover lethal weapon

Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon (Credit: ©Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)

Celebrating Trebek

TCM replays the late Jeopardy! host’s 2008 intro to 1939’s Wuthering Heights (May 7, 2/1c) as a tribute to this friend of the network. “Alex was on four [TCM] cruises,” Mankiewicz says. “He loved talking about movies. He always asked me questions I could not answer, which drove me insane!”

TCM Classic Film Festival, Thursday–Sunday, May 6–9, TCM and HBO Max