I contemplated a few weeks back about knocking off two TCM picks and rebranding this column The TCM Top Ten. I’m going to give it a try for a few months, mostly just to keep things fresh and prevent me from picking titles just to fill a quota. 31 Days of Oscar wraps up in March, and so the regular slate of TCM content returns. I tried to find a mix of genres, and noticed a trend towards finding more movies from the 60s/70s which I know irks Golden Era fans but should provide more material for newer members of the classic film community. Please, feel free to let me know if you enjoy this new format with ten or if you desperately want those additional two choices.
**Times listed are Pacific time. The schedule of dates and time can change at TCM’s discretion**
Bette Davis and George Brent were a phenomenal screen pairing (there’s a couple to produce a film on), and yet Dark Victory is the only film of theirs I’ve seen. The Great Lie explores a battle between two women, one of whom is pregnant, over the baby when their significant other (played by Brent) is believed dead. Two women fighting over one man with a baby – in utero – on the way? Has the makings of a fine soaper to me. Mary Astor is also in the cast, and she’s hit or miss for me but should be elevated nicely amongst Brent and Davis. The Great Lie airs during an evening devoted Star of the Month (you guess it), Mary Astor on March 5th at 7pm.
Women in Love’s inclusion in this month’s list is school-related for me. I’m currently taking a D.H. Lawrence class, and one of the novels we’re reading is Women in Love. With all the hype I’ve heard about the salaciousness of the novel, I’m intrigued to watch how intense this movie is able to get. With a cast including Hollywood hedonist, Oliver Reed, I expect quite a bit of titillation. The story follows two women, living in the 1920s, as they exert their sexual independence. The movie isn’t for everyone, and is playing alongside several British based adaptations on March 7th at 11:30pm.
While reading a book about Ronald Reagan’s movie career the author kept bringing up That Hagen Girl as one of the weirdest movies Reagan worked on, especially in the plot’s dealing with a young girl (Shirley Temple) traveling with a lawyer (Reagan) she believes to be her father. Temple’s work as a teenager is varied, and some of her roles induce head-scratches; this is one of them. Because her movies are so bizarre, I generally enjoy Temple’s later work, but I can’t say Reagan, the actor, has wowed me in anything so far. Regardless, this is one I need to see to believe. That Hagen Girl airs March 10th at 1:15am.
Lucy and Desi and James Mason, oh my! That trio sounds odd but also freaking amazing. The movie is Forever Darling, and stars Lucy as a flighty woman whose guardian angel (Mason) has to save her marriage to Desi. Sounds like a more expensive I Love Lucy episode, on par with The Long, Long Trailer but if who better to be your guardian angel than Mason? That voice sounds like the voice of God! Forever Darling airs early on March 16th at 3:30am.
TCM is increasing the amount of 1970s movies, and I’m okay with that. The 1970s brought a new world of auteurism and studio independence, allowing for more freedom in filmmaking. I can’t say if all of those elements are in The Seven-Ups, but tell me a movie’s got Roy Scheider in it and I’ll watch it. The Seven-Ups focuses on a group of New York City cops who start a war against the criminal element when one of their own is killed. It’s certainly a generic premise, but for the 1970s it should be gritty and engaging enough to leave an impression. You can catch The Seven-Ups on March 17th at 7pm.
I can’t say I’ve watched any of William Powell’s films where he played detective Philo Vance, but the various mysteries look fascinating. Between this series and The Falcon mysteries (with the fantastic Tom Conway), I have a lot of movie sleuthing of my own to catch up on. In this mystery, which the TCM database calls the “definitive Philo Vance mystery,” our detective is tasked with investigating a murder tied to a society dog show. William Powell hobnobbing with the hoi polloi to solve a murder? Sounds good to me. The Kennel Murder Case airs March 19th at 8:15pm.
Director Robert Aldrich is immortalized as the director of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? A movie in love with Hollywood’s delusion and self-deception. But, did you know he directed other movies? I didn’t, and I immediately pounced on The Legend of Lylah Clare. The movie stars Kim Novak as a young starlet groomed by an obsessive movie director determined to recreate his deceased wife. Do I detect shades of Vertigo and The Last Tycoon in there? The movie came out in 1968, six years after Baby Jane, so I’m excited to see if Aldrich hasn’t lost his Grand Guignol by way of Hollywood aesthetic. The Legend of Lylah Clare airs March 20th at 2:45pm.
Other than The Big Sleep, I’ve skipped the other Philip Marlowe entries, so far. That isn’t to say they haven’t made appearances in this column before. Last month I included the 1970s interpretation of the character, played by James Garner, Marlowe. The Lady in the Lake receives the distinction for being a movie told almost entirely from the detective’s POV, which I fear would be annoying as all get-out. However, the side characters are enticing, particularly Audrey Totter, who I absolutely adored in Tension. Lady in the Lake airs March 23rd at 3am.
And Philip Marlowe returns in Murder, My Sweet, giving fans a two-fer with the detective this month with both airing a day apart. Murder, My Sweet came out five years before Lady in Lake, and originally starred Dick Powell as Marlowe; the actor using this as a means of breaking out of his song-and-dance image. The same blackmail, revenge, murder remains but I’m excited to watch Claire Trevor in this one, especially after being wowed by her in Stagecoach a few weeks ago. Murder, My Sweet airs March 24th at 9:15am.
I can’t say what compelled me to make Shock Corridor my final selection; maybe it was the eye-catching Criterion poster, or the premise involving murder in a mental asylum. Either way I took a chance on Samuel Fuller’s film and its exploration of sanity and delirium. Those who have seen it will let me know if I chose right? Shock Corridor airs March 29th at 7pm during an Essentials tribute to “getting the scoop.”
THE TCM TRIO
There’s no denying Mary Astor’s established her presence in some of the best movies of all time. And thus, three of her best roles take the spotlight during this month’s TCM Trio. The fun starts on March 26th at 5pm when Mary stars in a Technicolor adaptation of Little Women (1949); then, at 7:15pm, Mary plays the head of another large family in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); finally, at 9:30pm, a pre-motherhood Mary travels to Indochina to put a damper on the torrid romance between Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in Red Dust.
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.