It all began with It Happened One Night. After catching the now classic 1934 film with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, Bronx-born Tiffany Vazquez was hooked. She felt immediately drawn to this early black-and-white romantic comedy, which felt like a template for so many other movies she’d grown up enjoying. By the time she stumbled onto a Katharine Hepburn marathon on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) where she caught Little Women, Adam’s Rib and Philadelphia Story, Vazquez was smitten. Those were movies she knew she’d be obsessed with for the rest of her life. That’s when her TCM obsession began in earnest. And where for others that fanning adoration would’ve been a mere personal quirk, Vazquez made it a professional goal. A goal she accomplished when, in 2016 she joined the TCM family as the Saturday daytime host of Turner Classic Movies.
It was a hire that was years in the making. You see, Vazquez was such a big fan of the classic movies channel that when the network celebrated its 20th anniversary, she became one of the lucky fans to win a nationwide contest. Her submission—a video introduction to Jules Dassin’s 1948 noir The Naked City that she filmed in her lunch hour—earned her a visit to the TCM studios where she sat down with none other than the late Robert Osborne and got to introduce the film alongside him. More thrillingly, she got to explain further why Dassin’s movie so spoke to her. Unlike other New York City-set films this one ventured far beyond Manhattan. You actually get to see Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) head home on the train to Queens, she explained, and even get to see the Bronx courthouse.
Meeting Osborne, who’d been synonymous with the network since its inception, was quite literally a dream come true. “When I first started watching TCM it was definitely for the movies,” she shared with Remezcla. “But a huge part of that was because of Robert and his introductions. He had this way of making me feel informed but he wasn’t condescending at all. He was very endearing and incredibly passionate,” she shared. “He was so knowledgeable and he’s the reason I wanted to go to grad school. I did one grad degree and then I went to do a Film Studies degree at NYU because of TCM!”
From that first interaction onward, Vazquez fostered a great relationship with the TCM staff who first saw the potential in her as a host. And after a guest hosting gig in December 2015 they offered the Saturday host position. That move made her only the third host hired in the network’s history and the first Latina host ever. Beyond it being a dream job, it has also made Vazquez an integral part of the TCM family which was readying, as we spoke with her, to host the 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival. This year’s theme? All things comedy, a topic that cannot help but feel especially attuned to today’s political climate. “I just think we need to laugh a lot more, especially now,” she said. “There are a lot of serious things that we need to address in the world, but also, for our own sanity, we need to take a break, laugh together and have this release. It’s going to be such a great vibe.”
Screening classics like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (celebrating its 50th anniversary!) next to sillier flicks like Zardoz (featuring a scantily-clad Sean Connery) and Bye Bye Birdie (soon to be remade for live TV with J.Lo herself), the “Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy In The Movies” program at this year’s fest promises to have something for everyone. In fact, the fest’s ability to attract people of all ages is what Vazquez most enjoys about it. “That speaks to the ability of classic movies to appeal to everyone. These are films that you can show to anybody.”
That desire to reach as many old and new fans of classic cinema actually dovetails quite nicely with Vazquez’s other job. She’s a Senior Editor at GIPHY. Yes, the place where you can find GIFs of everything and anything that you can ever imagine. “It’s kind of weird that you work at GIPHY and at TCM,” she’s told, “because one is very startup-y and new, the other completely classic. How does that even work together?” But it all makes perfect sense to her. One need only look around Twitter to find many a TGIF or Happy Hour tweet adorned with a GIF of Cary Grant being forced to drink in North by Northwest. After all, classic movies – especially those pre-sound pictures from Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton – make for perfect GIFs. “They’re derived from vaudeville-like performances. They’re so physical and they’re so entertaining.” They’re ready-made for our social media-driven language, while also, in a way, archiving and letting people become curious about these older movies.
And what better place to learn about those films featuring Gene Tierney or James Dean than Turner Classic Movies? It all really does come full circle with Vazquez, who’s pushing her love of cinema into the 21st century with one foot planted deeply in its storied past.
The 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival takes place April 6 – 9, 2017 in Hollywood.