With the close of Summer Under the Stars we move into the final months of the year, which means Kristen has a harder time every month narrowing down the slate to ten films. September marks my birthday, so many of the films I picked this month connect to things I really enjoy. (Then again, personal preference dictates this column every month, so go figure.) Anyway, here are the ten films I’ll be watching on TCM this month. Which films, either on this list or not, will you be making time for?
*All times are Eastern. TCM can change the schedule at their discretion.*
I don’t believe I’ve documented my newfound love for all things Esther Williams! After watching her in the delightful Dangerous When Wet (1953), I started bingeing all things Esther! (Stay tuned for my review of Williams’ autobiography next Monday). Before all this, I’d heard of Fiesta (1947) from author/documentarian Joan Kramer, who considered it one of her favorite classic films. Fiesta sees Williams play the twin sister of Ricardo Montalban, himself a famous bullfighter. Kramer said the plot and movie were crazy – the film also stars my favorite dancing maven, Cyd Charisse – so it seems the stars are aligning for a picture that might be crazy enough to work. Fiesta airs September 3rd at 2pm.
In the same vein as Esther Williams I’ve been on a Technicolor musical kick of late. I’ve mentioned I’m not keen on Fred Astaire – even after watching and enjoying his films with Ginger Rogers – but the man could dance! Royal Wedding (1951) follows a brother and sister dance team finding love on a tour of London. Royal Wedding boasts the distinction of being the film where Astaire dances on the ceiling of a room. I’ve heard this film skewered for its weird brother/sister plot device, but I figure dancing and jolly ‘ole England can’t quite lead to disaster. You can dance with Fred Astaire during Royal Wedding on September 5th at 3:15pm.
Get used to seeing Esther Williams on this list because she’s my unofficial star of the month for September. Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), according to Williams, was the apotheosis of her persona as it cemented her identity while giving her a film both about her and about someone else. The story of aquatic star Annette Kellerman, Million Dollar Mermaid boasts amazing swim routines choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Williams says one of this film’s stunts nearly left her paralyzed! Esther Williams films take over The Essentials on September 6th, with Million Dollar Mermaid airing at 6pm.
We’re going back to musicals – I swear we’ll have other genres this month…. – and Good News (1947) sprung from my reading Charles Walters’ biography. Starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford, Good News tells the story of a “football hero [who] falls in love with his French tutor.” A film professor of mine showed the “Pass That Peace Pipe” segment from this, but that’s all I’ve seen. I’m not big on Allyson, but Walters’ biography painted him as such a great guy I have to watch more of his work. Good News airs September 9th at 1pm.
We’re not out of the musical woods yet. This is the first Eleanor Powell film I have on my list, and I don’t believe I’ve watched any of her work previously. Born to Dance (1936) pairs Powell with Jimmy Stewart as a young dancer trying to make it on Broadway. The plot has been done in countless other musicals, but I’ve heard Powell is a phenomenal dancer. Born to Dance begins the afternoon on September 11th at 12:30pm.
The 14th of September had a lot of good romantic comedies listed, so it was hard narrowing it down to The Strawberry Blonde (1941), and I really only picked it because it boasted some serious talent: James Cagney, Olivia De Havilland, and Rita Hayworth. Cagney plays a man torn between his wife (De Havilland) and the titled “strawberry blonde,” Hayworth. Having only watched Cagney in serious fare, I’m not sure how to respond to his lighter work. Hayworth and De Havilland are always solid in my book. Catch The Strawberry Blonde on September 14th at 2:45pm.
Speaking of actors going outside their comfort zone, Never Say Goodbye (1946) pairs Errol Flynn with Eleanor Parker – aka “the other Eleanor” – in a romantic comedy! Flynn plays a husband trying to win back his wife before she procures a divorce. It sounds a bit like The Awful Truth (1937) if Cary Grant wanted to cut Irene Dunne off at the past. I’m used to watching Flynn play rough and tumble opposite Olivia De Havilland, so I’m unsure how to respond to this softer, lighter side of Flynn. I’ve also yet to watch Parker play a lighter character; she’s either a jailbird or the Baroness to me. Never Say Goodbye starts at 10:30am on September 16th.
It’s not Halloween yet, but that’s no reason to discount spooky murder mysteries. The Phantom of Crestwood (1933) sees five men having to prove their innocence after a blackmailer turns up dead. Sounds a bit like Clue, doesn’t it? The names here aren’t big to the casual film fan, but Ricardo Cortez and Karen Morley are often solid performers. The Phantom of Crestwood airs September 21st at 1:45pm.
And the lovely Esther is back! Williams and Busby Berkeley are paired again for Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), only this time they brought Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra along. Williams plays the new owner of a baseball team which, I’m sure, was beyond wacky in 1949! I can’t fathom how Williams’ love of swimming will be incorporated here, but I have no doubt it will be. You can go out with Take Me Out to the Ball Game on September 27th at 2pm.
We end the month with a consolation, a Consolation Marriage (1931), that is! Starring Irene Dunne and Pat O’Brien, the film follows two people who marry each other after being jilted by their respective lovers. Hijinks ensue when their lovers return! Irene Dunne was the mistress of the wacky resurrection of people. Just take a look at her own return from the dead in My Favorite Wife (1940), one of the reasons I added it to the list. Consolation Marriage is my late night choice for the month, playing at 6:15am on September 29th.
The TCM Trio
Celebrate the life and career of actor Omar Sharif on September 21st with TCM. Watch Sharif plays an idealistic doctor struggling through the Russian Revolution in the David Lean epic, Doctor Zhivago (1965) at 8pm. Then, Sharif stars opposite Barbra Streisand in the Fanny Brice biopic, Funny Girl (1968) at 11:30pm. And later, Sharif returns as Nick Arnstein to create more drama for Barbra Streisand in the Funny Girl sequel, Funny Lady (1975) at 2:30am.