How are we already to the last week of February? As the month comes to an end, TCM brings another week of incredibly varied programing, ranging from essential, “Film Studies 101” viewing to delightful deeper cuts just waiting to be discovered.
Without further ado, here are this week’s picks!
East of Eden (1955)
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched this one, so I suppose I should call this a firs-time-watch. James Dean is a figure who has been transcendent since his pre-mature death in 1955, immortalizing the young actor at his peak.
Dean made only three movies in his short career, the first of which is East of Eden. The epic drama comes from director Elia Kazan and features Dean opposite Julie Harris, Raymond Massey and Jo Van Fleet.
East of Eden is a supersized drama. You know the type. The 1950s and early 1960s brimmed with so many movies featuring beautiful Technicolor photography, lavish scale and far-reaching scope. Thinking about it, these films really feel at home in this cinematic period.
Meanwhile, it’s difficult to ignore the strength of Kazan behind the camera. Add in the combination of Dean, Harris and Van Fleet, and you have one of the most raw, naturalistically talented casts of the era. We’ve been talking about The Actors Studio in a number of recent articles and this is another of the many important works to come out of this influential scene.
East of Eden airs at 7:30pm PST on February 22nd.
First time watch alert! TCM is spotlighting the work of actor Dirk Bogarde throughout the day on Tuesday February 23rd and this is one of many picks worthy of checking out. There will at least be one more on this list!
Victim teams Bogarde with legendary director Basil Dearden and follows a closeted attorney fighting off a blackmail attempt in 1960s London. The film is a groundbreaking one thanks to not only its treatment of homosexuality on screen, but also Bogarde’s sensitive and courageous portrayal.
Victim airs at 8:45am PST on February 23rd.
Death in Venice (1971)
First time watch alert! This is my second pick from the Dirk Bogarde marathon on Tuesday. The film spotlights Bogarde as a man who, while convalescing in Venice, becomes fixated on a teenage boy he comes into contact with (Björn Andrésen). Death in Venice comes from the legendary director Luchino Visconti.
Truth be told, this is a movie I wasn’t familiar with until recently. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival featured a documentary, The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, which tells the tragic story of Andrésen’s life. Death in Venice is used heavily in the story and showcases the opulent and picturesque looking film in a way that certainly piqued my curiosity.
Death in Venice airs at 2:45pm on February 23rd.
The Affairs of Martha (1942)
First time watch alert! The previous three films on this list have been heady, emotional films. It’s time to take a break and revel in some good, old-fashioned studio fair. The Affairs of Martha features everyone’s favorite 104 year old first lady of TCM, Marsha Hunt, Spring Byington, Marjorie Main, Frances Drake, Barry Nelson and… yes… Richard Carlson. I won’t pass up an opportunity to sing the praises of Richard Carlson. The film comes from the (oft mentioned on Ticklish Business) Jules Dassin.
The plot revolves around a small town which is thrown into a tizzy, when it seems a local maid just might be writing a tell all book. There’s very little juicier than a tell-all-novel wrecking havoc in a small town. So much delightful drama!
The Affairs of Martha airs during a marathon celebrating Marjorie Main at 3:45pm PST on February 24th.
The Red Shoes (1948)
There are few words to describe The Red Shoes. None would do the feature justice. Admittedly, I only ticked this off my first-time-watch list in the last year and I’m here to convince you, don’t wait as long as I did to experience this picturesque masterpiece.
The film comes from the legendary British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and follows a young ballerina (Moira Shearer) fighting the age old battle between love, life and career. No spoilers! It really isn’t this simple. Trust me.
Powell and Pressburger craft a picture which manages to be part fairytale, part drama and part musical. It captures a sense of whimsy on screen thanks to the iconic look of this beautiful film. In fact, the movie received an Academy Award for its set decoration.
The Red Shoes airs at 10:45am on February 25th.
The Mad Magician (1954)
First time watch alert! I discovered this film when I was prepping this piece, but how can you ignore this one? With a cast that includes Vincent Price and the equally delightful Eva Gabor, add in a plot spotlighting Price as a magician who is driven to the point of murder… everything about this screams pulpy must-see.
Vincent Price was one of a kind. Very few actors during their career were quite so versatile with filmographies covering quite so much ground. While his work drifted from studio faire into horror films of varying quality, Price never gave anything but his best and always seemed to be having a great time. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say, his mere presence has the ability to elevate any movie into something special.
The Mad Magician airs at 2:00pm PST on February 26th.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Up until last week, this would have been a first time watch alert. I’ll admit it. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m prepared to call from the rooftops about the amazingness that is 12 Angry Men.
The film follows the jury deliberations in the wake of a murder trial. The cast includes names like: Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam and E.G. Marshall. 12 Angry Men comes from legendary director Sidney Lumet.
At its roots, 12 Angry Men is almost theatrical in nature. It is a claustrophobic, sweaty character drama. The audience is (like these men) trapped in this stuffy jury room with no chance of escape. However, each of these characters thrive in the tension thanks to some of the brightest acting talent during this era of cinema giving award worthy performances. While most know Henry Fonda’s brilliant work in this movie, The Odd Couple star Jack Klugman shines in a very early role as does E.G. Marshall.
12 Angry Men airs at 10:45am PST on February 27th.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
There’s a James Dean double feature hitting TCM this week and if you can only watch one, make sure it is Rebel Without a Cause. The film stars Dean opposite Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo in a simmering portrayal of teenage angst in the 1950s.
The movie can be a bit of a challenge. I first watched Rebel Without a Cause as a teenager and it really didn’t work for me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it and I really didn’t like it. However, I revisited the film into my college years and fell head-over-heels in love with the powerful drama.
Rebel Without a Cause really is an essential. This isn’t just due to the presence of James Dean. The movie is a hallmark example of 1950s cinema, thanks to the picture it paints of the era. In the hands of director Nicholas Ray, the clean and calm exterior of the decade is ripped off exposing everything simmering beneath the surface. Let’s just say, the rebellion of the 1960s didn’t just happen over night.
Rebel without a Cause airs at 10:45am PST February 28th.
The Front (1976)
Coming in 1976, The Front is a bit newer than a great deal of our picks. However, this movie, from the hey day of independent cinema, brings a true sense of old Hollywood nostalgia which makes it worthy of checking out.
The film stars Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi and Michael Murphy under the direction of Martin Ritt. The story follows a cashier (Allen) who finds himself a celebrity when he begins “fronting” for blacklisted writers during the 1950s.
There have been so many works examining the McCarthy era in the entertainment industry; however, this one impressed me with its humanity. The Front is a Woody Allen vehicle (so do with that what you will), but the characters behind him are beautifully defined in this narrative examination of one of the industries darkest periods. The Front manages to be funny and nostalgic, but it is also very human.
The Front airs at 7:00pm PST on February 28th.
After wading through the schedule, here are some more general highlights:
- TCM has a lengthy marathon celebrating Dirk Bogarde on February 23rd before the network moves into the final night of John Garfield’s ‘Star of the Month’ celebration.
- February 24th brings a daytime tribute to legendary character actress Marjorie Main.
- February 25th shows the network spotlighting works of fairy tale fantasy.
- Horror fans should tune in on February 26th during the day for lots of pulpy, mid-century works.
- Two of James Dean’s three films are also airing at different times this week for those interested in the legendary actor.
Stay tuned for more as we figure out the lay of the land in March and the network turns its focus to ‘Star of the Month’ Doris Day. Happy viewing!
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!