TCM Week spotlights a highly subjective selection of the week’s essential or undiscovered films on the Turner Classic Movies channel to help plan movie viewing, DVR scheduling or TCM Party attendance. All times are EST.
Monday, January 16 — Before Spike (Lee)
For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, TCM is featuring a day of films related to how Americans dealt with race and racial issues. My top choice is The Defiant Ones (1958) at 6:15 p.m. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier play two men—one white, the other black— who escape from prison in the South. They despise each other, but they are literally chained together and have to learn to cooperate if they’re going to survive. At the time, American films hardly ever addressed racial inequity and almost never starred African-Americans. Neither actor was afraid to play against their usual likability; both Curtis and Poitier were nominated for Best Actor Oscars. The film also received nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Theodore Bikel), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Cara Williams), Best Director (Stanley Kramer), Best Film Editing (Frederic Knudtson), and Best Picture. It won Best Black-and-White Cinematography and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen. There’s no question that it’s an old-fashioned movie; Spike Lee felt that Poitier’s character was the prototype of the “Magical Negro.” But it does propose that if we don’t get to know those who are different from us, we’ll never respect or like each other either…something that as a society we still need to work on.
Tuesday, January 17
6:15 p.m. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend…especially Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney), a rebellious young Brit who works in a factory all week and just wants to unwind with a few pints and his best friend’s wife on his days off. Based on Alan Sillitoe’s novel of the same name, both book and film were part of the Angry Young Man movement in literature and cinema trending in Britain from the mid-’50s to the early-’60s. Saturday Night shares the same sensibility as Look Back in Anger, Room at the Top, A Taste of Honey, Billy Liar and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. They’re a bit melodramatic, but these were the first British films to focus on the working class and portray their everyday lives. You might find the mood or some of the dialogue in Saturday Night familiar…this film and its movement have been an enduring influence on British (and thus, eventually, American) popular culture. For example, Morrissey of The Smiths borrowed lines directly from Saturday Night and generally made the AYM attitude a lifestyle; both the Stranglers and the Arctic Monkeys have albums named after this film.
1:30 a.m. (Wed.) Diary of a Chambermaid (1946)
Paulette Goddard plays a maid who records her impressions of the houses where she works. A rare chance to see Jean Renoir’s version of a novel of the same name by French writer Octave Mirbeau. Remade in 1964 by Luis Buñuel.
Wednesday, January 18 — Happy Birthday, Cary Grant
TCM honors the birthday of one of my favorite actors of all time with 12 hours of movies beginning at 6:15 a.m. If you can only watch one or two of these, my personal advice would be to choose from those in which sparks fly between Grant and his female co-stars, all great talents in their own right.
8:15 a.m. Topper (Constance Bennett)
10:00 a.m. Holiday (Katharine Hepburn)
noon In Name Only (Carole Lombard)
1:45 p.m. My Favorite Wife (Irene Dunne)
Happy birthday to all you hardworking, stylish Capricorns out there as well. Take some time for you and watch your knees. Love you guys.
8:00 p.m. The World of Harry Orient
Last night I saw a clip on TCM of Star of the Month Angela Lansbury describing her character in this as less than intelligent and not very nice. Sounds like a departure from type for her (although she wasn’t very pleasant in State of the Nation). She also said that she and co-star Peter Sellers improvised most of their dialogue, so this should be pretty interesting. Find us on Twitter with #TCMParty…watch and tweet along!
Thursday, January 19
Though his best-known films were done with Powell & Pressburger, cinematographer-director-genius Jack Cardiff had a lot of career outside of that collaboration. Tonight TCM has four films in which Cardiff worked with other directors, and while they might not be the greatest in terms of direction, acting, or writing, they certainly have effective and beautiful cinematography. If Faber & Faber are reading this, please bring out another edition of Cardiff’s book Magic Hour…the cheapest copy I can find is around $100!
8:00 p.m. Under Capricorn I see what you did there TCM
10:15 p.m. The Master of Ballantrae Roger Livesey Alert
midnight The Prince and the Showgirl The making of this film was apparently fraught with tension between stage-trained Laurence Olivier and Method proponent Marilyn Monroe. It formed the basis for the book and the film My Week with Marilyn.
2:00 a.m. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Friday, January 20
Bright Leaf (11:15 a.m.) caught my eye. I’ve never seen it but the cast includes Gary Cooper and Lauren Bacall, although she is apparently not the female lead; Patricia Neal is. It was directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). Also of note is tonight’s Essential, A Letter to Three Wives. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer) wrote and directed this soapy look at three different crumbling marriages.
Saturday, January 21
midnight The Letter (1940)
Ms. Bette Davis is at her best as a woman claiming it was self-defense when she shot and killed a man one night in Malaysia. My favorite Bette Davis movie.
Sunday, January 22
8:00 p.m. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
One of three films tonight starring Bela Lugosi, who along with Boris Karloff, provided many of Universal’s thrills and chills during the early ’30s.
2:00 a.m. (Mon.) Night of Cabiria
I’m not really all that familiar with Federico Fellini’s work, having only seen La Dolce Vita, but I wanted to give those who are a heads up.
So TCM fans…what are you watching this week? Any favorite Cary Grant movies? Leave me a comment!