February may be the month of love, but for TCM devotees it’s all about Oscar! 31 Days of Oscar returns and there’s a great movie to watch every month! Literally, I have a movie listed playing almost every day, albeit I easily found twelve this month with little difficulty. With that being said, I’m contemplating downgrading to the TCM Top Ten just because I’m concerned about running out of movies (although what are the odds?). Do you think we should stick with 12 or lose two a month? Comments appreciated.
**Times are listed in Pacific. As always the schedule can be changed at TCM’s discretion**
31 Days of Oscar wouldn’t be complete without actually exploring the allure of the awards themselves. At the beginning of the year, TCM touted the creation of the documentary And the Oscar Goes To… directed by Jeffrey Friedman and Robert Epstein, which would feature the history of the awards themselves. The fantastic Lara over at Backlots was lucky enough to watch an early premiere of the doc at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which you should read if you want to know what to expect. You can read here review here. And the Oscar Goes To… kicks off 31 Days of Oscar, February 1st at 5pm. You actually should stay in because the best year in movies, 1939, is being spotlighted to kick-off the month.
I could have sworn Bette Davis’ The Letter was featured in a prior Top Twelve but looking back at the history yielded nothing. After concluding last week’s William Wyler book I wanted to go back and explore some of Wyler’s titles I hadn’t watched, and The Letter is one. Previously filmed in 1929, Davis plays a woman scorned who ends up killing her lover and being put on trial. I watched a few minutes in a class several years back but never completed it. Davis is always at the top of her game in dramas and while I’m sure they’ll soften her character somehow, the journey sounds fun. The Letter airs at 3am on February 2nd.
There’s a lot of debate raging over TCM’s redefinition of the word “classic,” and much of it stems from their airing of post 1970s films. In this case, it’s understandable that movies younger than the perceived Golden Era are airing because February is about the history of the Oscars which obviously endure to this day. I’m an English major, so literary adaptations are a way of life for me. I’ve read Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and watched several adaptations but appear to have skipped Roman Polanski’s take for some reason. I have nothing against Polanski’s work, and am interested in seeing how he interprets Hardy’s dated tale of an innocent girl led astray. The movie also stars Nastassja Kinski, who I hopefully like more than I did in the remake of Cat People. You can catch Tess on February 3rd at 11:30am.
With the recent death of Joan Fontaine I’ve softened a bit to her work, and decided to watch a few of her smaller titles (although I doubt fans of hers would say The Constant Nymph is lesser Fontaine). The movie follows a composer (Charles Boyer) who falls for his wife’s cousin who I’m assuming is Fontaine. Boyer is an actor I can take or leave, and I’ve only watched Alexis Smith in one other movie (the mediocre The Two Mrs. Carrolls), so I’m watching for Fontaine herself. With the nymph imagery, am I wrong in assuming we’ll see Fontaine put on some Esther Williams moves? The Constant Nymph airs February 6th at 6:30am.
I picked Night Must Fall based on the plot, which sounds awkward against the starring of Rosalind Russell. No disrespect to Ms. Russell, but she’s always been a comedienne to me and not the star of dramatic fare. The plot involves a wealthy woman (Russell) discovering a visitor is a notorious murderer. It has the makings of a serious thriller, but I can’t ignore Russell who also comes off as showy in her roles, or maybe I’m just watching the wrong movies. You can watch Night Must Fall on February 7th at 3:30am.
I’ve tried to read Robert Penn Warren’s story of backwoods political corruption and for some reason it never struck a chord with me. Maybe a filmed adaptation with an all-star cast might help! All the King’s Men received a four-star review on TCM’s website, and I wasn’t kidding about the cast: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge and John Derek are a few of the names mention, and political thrillers can easily feel dated but the themes will hopefully be universal. All the King’s Men airs February 8th at 7pm during an evening devoted to the 1949 Best Picture Nominees.
One of two movies I chose airing on February 10th, Three Smart Girls is another Deanna Durbin vehicle, and probably her most famous. The film is a Parent Trap precursor involving three (smart, obviously) young ladies attempting to prevent their father’s remarriage. The premise is cute and it’s also directed by Henry Koster who certainly knew the meaning of sentimental directing The Bishop’s Wife, My Man Godfrey and The Unfinished Dance. Three Smart Girls starts your morning on February 10th at 9:30am.
When I reviewed The Miracle at Morgan’s Creek I noted the return of characters based on a past Preston Sturges-directed feature, The Great McGinty. Well, Sturges’ work is airing quite a bit this month, so it makes sense The Great McGinty is on this list. In this Sturges comedy a hobo (Brian Donlevy) becomes town mayor and hilarity ensues. Sturges’ wit is also razor sharp when he’s taking on the politics of something, whether it’s small-town life (in the aforementioned Miracle at Morgan’s Creek) or Hollywood itself (Sullivan’s Travels). He loves the common man, and after Donlevy surprised me in The Glass Key I wanted to see him in a comedy. The Great McGinty is on February 10th at 5pm when TCM explores the 1940 Best Original Screenplay nominees.
If there’s fun to be had you can bet Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine knew where it was at. I enjoyed Martin and MacLaine when they paired up for All in a Night’s Work, and now it’s time to see what happens when Sinatra is added to the mix. Some Came Running follows a veteran returning home to a series of scandals involving his town, friends and family. If you need more than that, it’s directed by my love/hate director, Vincente Minnelli. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a Minnelli picture on every twelve for the last few months and the man certainly played in every genre, didn’t he? Some Came Running airs February 12th at 8:15am.
I reviewed the 1950s version of A Star is Born a few months ago, and I immediately got told I should watch the 1930s original with Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. I believe a commenter also mentioned this when I discussed my lack of love for Gaynor in my Sunrise review. The basic gist of the movie remains the same: a rising star (Gaynor) goes through a tempestuous relationship with a drunken fading star (March), but the tone could be wildly different with these two stars at the helm. We’ll all see which version is better when A Star is Born (1937) airs February 14th at 7:15am. The perfect Valentine’s Day movie!
Lost Horizon caught my eye due to its troubled production history and discussions about it being one of the most incomprehensible films ever made; I had to check that out. The film sounds like a take on Brigadoon, with a group of fugitives discovering a mysterious world of peace and harmony. Obviously, looks can, and will, be deceiving. I’ve heard it said the ending is haunting and the imagery is beautiful. Frank Capra is a director known for his sentimentality, and it’s been claimed Lost Horizon was one of his most ambitious, and esoteric films. You can also check out Lost Horizon when it airs February 19th at 11pm during an evening spent looking at the 1937 Best Supporting Actor nominees.
Another recurring director is Douglas Sirk, whose created films I’ve either enjoyed or just found blah. Much like Minnelli, I find style trumps substance with him every now and then. The plot of this certainly sounds problematic for a modern-day audience but Sirkian melodrama reaps its own rewards. The story tells of a playboy (played by Rock Hudson) who becomes a doctor to rectify a wrong committed against a sightless widow (Jane Wyman). Hudson and Wyman have failed to excite me in previous movies, but that title just sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Magnificent Obsession kicks off TCM’s afternoon, February 20th at 12:30pm.
February 16th is a great day to stay in and watch a bunch of convoluted couples! At 10:30am, Kim Novak and William Holden sizzle in Picnic, followed by Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter at 12:30pm. Then wrap it up with Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at 3pm, followed by Taylor seducing Montgomery Clift into murder in A Place in the Sun at 5pm.
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.