If you haven’t discovered this already, one of my favorite pastimes is going through the TCM schedule. It’s like mining for gold, classic film style.
Diving into this week, the schedule had a bit of a different feel than much of the previous month. The stars the network put in focus are less familiar to me. The movies are deeper cuts and played more to my cinematic blindspots. I’ll admit it! However, this doesn’t mean that these features aren’t intriguing. So, I’m still providing some picks, but a lot of these are first-time-watches. They’re new to me. They might be new to you, and hopefully we can dive in and find some good stuff.
So, without further ado, let’s get to this week’s picks.
The Letter (1940)
First time watch alert! Like I said, there’s going to be a lot of those this week. The Letter is perhaps best described as yet another example of Bette Davis awesomeness. For an actress who is known for being fierce, I’ve heard this is one of her best. The crime drama made an impressive showing in the lead up to the 1941 Academy Awards, landing seven nominations (including Best Picture). Rebecca would eventually take home the top prize.
The movie is described as a thriller following the wife of a rubber plantation administrator (Davis) who shoots a man in self-defense. However, will “the letter” of the title prove to be her undoing?
The Letter is a WatchTCM airing. It played January 25th at 6:45am PST.
Death of a Scoundrel (1956)
First time watch alert! And truth be told, this is a feature I actually wasn’t familiar with until I started doing the research for this piece. Do you know what the clincher was? George fricken’ Sanders. A George Sanders film noir? I’m there. The film features an equally delightful cast supporting Sanders, including Tom Conway, Yvonne DeCarlo and Zsa Zsa Gabor to name a few.
The movie is described as a crime drama revolving around the murder investigation following the death of Czech immigrant (Sanders) where the untoward nature of his life, and everyone who wants him dead, is gradually unearthed.
Death of a Scoundrel plays January 25th at 6:45pm PST.
The Crooked Way (1949)
First time watch alert! John Payne (check!). Film noir (check). This is another deep cut that in truth wasn’t on my radar until I prepped these picks. I’m fascinated. The Crooked Way looks like a gritty film noir and reportedly follows a war hero with amnesia (Payne) who is suddenly faced with the unpleasant reality of his criminal life before the war.
The Crooked Way is a WatchTCM airing for most. It airs January 26th at 3:00am PST.
Buck Privates (1941)
Okay! I’ve seen this one! Abbott and Costello are involved in some of my earliest film history memories. I have a long history with the legendary comedy duo’s movies, and they have always been some of my favorites.
Buck Privates is one of Abbott and Costello’s earliest pairings and is considered their first starring role. The movie follows them (in their fairly standard formula) as two salesmen who enlist in the army in order to avoid finding themselves in jail. There is plenty of humor, hijinks and always a few comedic misunderstandings along the way.
The movie features an added bonus of including one of the few cinematic appearances of the Andrews Sisters singing their iconic song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.
Buck Privates airs January 26th at 10:00am PST.
It Started with Eve (1941)
I’ve seen this one too! TCM shows precious little Deanna Durbin in their line-up, so it is always a thrill when one of the delightful and talented actress’ movies receives some well-deserved love.
It Started with Eve partners the talented Durbin opposite the always adorable Robert Cummings, Charles Laughton and Guy Kibbee. The feature follows a young man (Cummings) who asks a hat check girl (Durbin) to impersonate his fiancée in order to appease his dying father (Laughton). However, there’s just one problem… what if dad gets better?
What immediately stands out about this feature is its incredibly talented cast. Laughton and Kibbee are always dynamic in supporting roles and the two legends are always worth a watch whenever they’re on screen. Meanwhile, Durbin is delightful and cute-as-a-button in her pairing opposite the always talented Cummings. Fans of musicals should definitely tick this rarity off their lists when it airs on TCM this week.
It Started with Eve plays January 26th at 1:30pm PST.
The Blue Dahlia (1946)
First time watch alert! There’s one cinematic pairing who have always fascinated the heck out of me, while somehow remaining an embarrassing blindspot for yours truly: Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. Talk about not only an iconic looking pair, but very few screen duos embody the era out of which they emerged quite so clearly. These two are the 1940s. Everything about them screams film noir.
The Blue Dahlia features Ladd as a man who returns home from the war only to be framed for the murder of his unfaithful wife. Fans of film noir take note, the film is also written by the legend himself, Raymond Chandler.
The Blue Dahlia airs January 26th at 10:30pm PST.
The Heiress (1949)
Bow to the Queen. Olivia de Havilland is a legend, a titan, and we didn’t deserve her. Thinking about it, her work in The Heiress is probably my favorite of de Havilland’s roles. She appears opposite Montgomery Clift, Miriam Hopkins and Ralph Richardson in the romantic period drama.
What pulled me into this movie was the depth of de Havilland’s arc as she learns not only who she is, but what she needs, as she rises above not only problems with her father (Richardson), but a questionable romantic entanglement with a potential social climber (Clift). As the final credits rolled, I found myself completely invested in her beautifully crafted story… and I may have been ugly crying. This one is definitely a must-see.
The Heiress airs January 28th at 5:00pm PST.
The Late Show (1977)
First time watch alert! Art Carney is one of the quieter legends of this era of entertainment, beginning with his work in The Honeymooners. His performance in the ground breaking show is well-remembered, and he influenced so much. However, society has by and large remembered him as Ralph Kramden’s (Jackie Gleason) little buddy Ed Norton. Every time I see Carney venture outside of this iconic role, I’m always stunned by his versatility. He was so much more than The Honeymooners. This is why I want to sit down and watch The Late Show.
According to the plot synopsis, the movie features Carney as a private investigator who partners with a client (Lily Tomlin) to solve his partner’s murder. It sounds a little “neo-noir”, which was always an interesting sub-genre in the fascinating and complex cinema of the late 1970s.
The Late Show airs January 30th at 11:30pm PST.
A Man Called Adam (1966)
Here’s one last, first time watch alert to bring the week (and the month!) to a close. A Man Called Adam stars the great Sammy Davis Jr., entertainer, musician, performer, artist and actor extrodinaire, who I don’t see cross my screen nearly enough. In fact, it was the presence of Davis Jr. which pulled me into checking out this movie.
The feature is described as a character drama about a jazz musician (Davis Jr) struggling to cope with everyday life. While the film does sound heavy, I often see Sammy Davis Jr. shining in lighter, more comedic roles. Dramatic parts for the actor were few and far between. So, this one is definitely a must see for fans of Sammy Davis Jr. It’s always great to see a favorite flex some rarely seen dramatic muscles.
A Man Called Adam plays January 31st at 7:00pm PST.
So, that brings us to a close! As I was trudging through the schedule, the network is giving some love to Yvonne DeCarlo in the form of a mini-marathon on Monday. Meanwhile, Whodunit Wednesday is giving some love to the great literature detectives (lots of fun stuff here!). Be sure to take a look! There’s lots of diverse and interesting content playing this week, so be sure to enjoy a first-time-watch or two!
We’re about ready to start a new month, so let’s see what TCM has in store for us in February. Stay tuned!
Podcaster at Hollywood and Wine, historian and filmmaker studying contributions of women in Classic TV. Film critic for Geek Girl Authority. Classic film lover for Ticklish Business.
You can find me on Twitter @kpierce624!