December is gearing up to be one of the best months TCM’s had since I started showcasing the TCM Top 12. With that in mind I’ll be doing things a bit differently this month (not sure if this is the start of a trend). I’ll still have the standard twelve, but I’m also including two prime-time must-sees and one all day event worth discussing. Considering I’ll finally be out of school, and I’m due for some recuperating after surgery, I have to thank TCM for making this a great month for me to relax and catch up on some classic movie watching!
***Remember all times are changed to Pacific and the schedule can change at the discretion of TCM***
Returning this month is my featured documentary segment, and TCM gave me quite a selection. I originally had four documentaries listed which obviously had to be whittled down. Child stars fascinate me all the way back to the heyday of Hollywood starting with Baby Peggy. Baby Peggy aka Diana Serra Carey is a fascinating woman who has written several amazing books about herself and other child stars (I’d love to read her book on Jackie Coogan). I was unaware anyone had made a documentary about Baby Peggy and I expect it to be fantastic. TCM is showing Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room along with a slate of Baby Peggy films on December 3rd at 5pm.
Grand Hotel is one of those films that’s cited by film fans, AFI lists, top-tier critics as a must-see film. The cast is top-notch consisting of Greta Garbo (just another in the long line of Garbo films I have to watch), Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore just to name a couple. It’s a who’s who following the goings-on in a Berlin hotel, and with all that I look for scandal and hilarity. Catch Grand Hotel on December 10th at 5pm.
I took a gamble with Teresa. TCM gave it only two stars, and it appears to be an Italian melodrama. Why then did I tape it? You know I enjoy bizarre plots! Teresa tells the story of a young bride unable to deal with her husband’s possessive mother. That to me seems to possess a bevy of melodramatic, and creepy set-pieces all in Italian! It also has Pier Angeli as the titled Teresa whose work I haven’t seen, but considering I’ve watched so many James Dean biopics that mention her I’d like to see if she lives up to the hype. Teresa airs December 11th at 11:45am.
If I Were Free is another film I decided on simply based on the plot synopsis; not to mention its pre-Code! The movie tells of two people in loveless marriages who attempt to have an adulterous affair. It stars Irene Dunne and Clive Brooke. I’d love to see more of Dunne’s work, and tear-jerkers lend themselves to fun reviews. If I Were Free is on December 12th at 3:30am.
Oh yeah, TCM’s going all Lubitsch for December! I had to include two Lubitsch films, back to back, that I’ve been dying to see! The first is Trouble in Paradise. I saw about 30 minutes of this in my first college film class and was irritated we couldn’t watch the whole thing. I’m slowly turning into a Lubitsch lover, and the con artist/romance angle leads to a lot of humor from what I saw. If anything I’m hoping this is a more deceptive version of Sullivan’s Travels! Trouble in Paradise kicks off a slate of Lubitsch films starting at 5pm.
Right after Trouble in Paradise is Design for Living, a film I’ve wanted on Criterion for over a year. I haven’t actually seen it, but I’ve confused it with Easy Living for so long I figured it must be some type of divine providence. The TCM description says the film follows a woman deciding between two loves which is always fun. I’m not sold on Gary Cooper, nor have I seen any of Miriam Hopkins’ films if I can recall. Of course I have to see Frederic March in this, it’s a subtle nod to Ms. Veronica Lake for me! Design for Living airs right after Trouble in Paradise, December 14th at 6:30pm. Did I mention it’s one of a few nights to stay in this month?
The Star holds a lot of similarities to All About Eve if the plot synopsis means anything. It follows a fading film star trying to hold onto relevance, and it stars Bette Davis. None of that is bad since I love All About Eve, and Bette Davis, and it has Ms. Natalie Wood in it (maybe playing an Ann Baxter type?). The Star airs December 15th during a night devoted to fading stars at 7pm.
I Love You Again is part of one of the greatest days TCM has conjured up. This and Love Crazy are two films Myrna Loy and William Powell did that aren’t part of the Thin Man series. In a way I’m putting both here, but I Love You Again seems to have a funnier plot involving a married man discovering his past life as a con artist. There’s something so incredibly lovable about Loy and Powell. I’d watch them in anything! I Love You Again airs December 18th at 8:45am and Love Crazy airs at 12:15pm.
I love a good potboiler and Where Danger Lives has all the makings of one. The plot sounds fantastic, following a murderous female who draws her doctor into a murderous scheme, talk about femme fatale. It stars Robert Mitchum who I adore, Claude Rains, and Faith Domergue who you might know as one of Howard Hughes’ discoveries who I’d love to see in a film. Where Danger Lives runs December 19th at 5:30am.
I’d be remiss in not listing a film featuring the star of the month; especially when said star is Ms. Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck’s filmography is extensive, and TCM has quite a diverse grouping of her films throughout the month. I picked Sorry, Wrong Number because stories about wrong numbers have always made me uneasy. Maybe it’s the idea that a person can keep harassing you. Regardless, Stanwyck plays an invalid who overhears her own murder being planned which opens a wealth of suspenseful possibilities. Sorry, Wrong Number airs right after Double Indemnity on December 19th at 9pm.
With all the controversy (or hilarity) associated with the recent airing of Liz & Dick, I figured it’d be good to watch another Elizabeth Taylor film, one that won Taylor an Oscar. Butterfield 8 was apparently a film Taylor disliked, but the plot about a party girl falling for a married man seems interesting. Taylor always delivers, even in movies I don’t like, and she’s just so damn beautiful! Butterfield 8 airs December 26th at 3pm.
I took a break from horror films after October, but I couldn’t pass up the utter cheese that is TerrorVision. The film is a 1980s, sci-fi/horror film about a family’s satellite television being a gateway to an alien invasion. I doubt this movie will be a masterpiece, but the pictures I saw of it on Google look hilarious! TerrorVision airs December 29th at 1:30am.
Prime-Time Must See (And a Daytime Must-See)
- Les Miserable Night: TCM thinks of everything! I’m a huge Les Mis fan, and with the new movie coming out it makes sense that TCM would air all the classic versions back to back to back. Yes, none of the three versions airing are the musical adaptation, but you’ll be so well-versed on the story that the musical will be a three-hour delight (which fans already know it will be). TCM’s airing the 1935, 1952, and 1934 versions of Les Miserables December 13th from 5pm-1:45am (yes I know the 1934 version is like four hours).
- Thin Man Morning Marathon: I mentioned it a week or so ago, but I’m scheduled to have knee surgery on the 17th. You have no idea how happy it was that on December 18th, TCM is scheduling an entire marathon of all five Thin Man movies, with two additional Myrna Loy/William Powell movies (that I’ve detailed above) in between. I’m assuming the first day recuperating won’t be that eventful, so I’m more than happy to spend it with Nick and Nora. The Thin Man marathon starts at 3:30am-3:45pm on December 18th.
- The Essentials: The 1950s: I’ve reviewed a lot of 1950s, and for some reason 1950s films have great rewatch value. TCM is presenting a great assortment of 1950s films during their Essentials segment on December 22 including Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, a documentary Hidden Values: The Movies of the ’50s, Blackboard Jungle (which I haven’t seen), Anatomy of a Murder, and The Thing From Another World. It’s a veritable crash course in every genre and style of film from the 1950s starting at 5pm-2:30am.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.