The TCM Top Twelve for December 2013
December is upon us which means we’re about to close the book on another year and introduce a new year of TCM classics! This month was particularly difficult to pick twelve movies (the original list was over twenty), mainly because this month the network is combining Christmas with gritty crime dramas and heartwarming musicals. I tried to get a pretty good mix of both, but just know that this list wasn’t the best, but the ones I wanted to watch the most. Thank goodness for the Watch TCM app, huh?
As with all my TCM Top Twelves, the times are Pacific and the schedule can change at TCM’s discretion
The Clock was recommended to me by a reader who felt I might enjoy this Vincente Minnelli classic considering my newfound love for Meet Me in St. Louis. The movie’s premise revolves around a whirlwind romance between a G.I. (Robert Walker) and a woman (Judy Garland) who only have two-days to spend. The brisk runtime is always welcome and it appears Garland is in capable hands with Minnelli (if Meet Me in St. Louis is any indication). This is one of several movies directed by Minnelli showing this month on TCM, alongside several of Garland’s films, as well. The Clock airs December 1st at 5:15am.
I’m a fan of director Norman Jewison, but I haven’t seen the film which cemented his name in Hollywood. 1967’s In the Heat of the Night was a landmark picture for race relations and actor Sidney Poitier as the Northern police detective butting up against bigoted Southern lawmen. The premise is intense and Poitier continues to astound me in every film I see him in, shaming me further for avoiding this. In the Heat of the Night airs during a block of films about prejudice, December 5th at 9pm.
Told you Judy Garland was being showcased a lot this month! In the Good Old Summertime is a musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, which I’ll be reposting during the Christmas season. I didn’t care for Shop so much, so fingers crossed this one does the trick. Remakes of movies set in musical locales are a dime a dozen, but pairing Garland with director Robert Z. Leonard (a man who never turned down a movie with “Girls” or “Dancing” in the title) should make for a better experience than I had with Jimmy Stewart. In the Good Old Summertime airs early in the morning, 7am, on December 8th.
I first heard about The Man Who Came to Dinner when I read Mary Wickes’ biography. Since then, I’ve been interested to watch the movie which Mary performed on both stage and screen. The film also stars Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Wooley, while telling the story of an acerbic critic who causes shenanigans after inviting himself to stay in the home of a midwestern family. The movie seems like a fun Christmas comedy, doubly appropriate considering this is playing during a night devoted to Christmas comedies. You can watch The Man Who Came to Dinner on December 15th at 5pm.
Putting Meet John Doe on this list is a confession for me as I’ve yet to watch Gary Cooper in any of his work with Frank Capra, in spite of owning the Frank Capra box set. Capra’s overly sentimental and moralistic work has yet to connect with me, but maybe I’m watching the wrong films? Meet John Doe is where Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper started a torrid relationship, which is saucy enough for me to watch. The plot involves a small-town yokel propelled to being the poster child for big business after a reporter turns him into a hero. I’m expecting a fairly overt moral, but if Barbara Stanwyck is on-screen how can you lose? Meet John Doe airs December 16th at 7pm in an evening looking at movies with the Christmas spirit. I’m not kidding, that’s the theme.
I placed Bachelor Mother on my TCM Top Twelve awhile back, and in mentioning musical remakes I figured this would be another worthy addition. The plot of both movies is the same: a girl has to assume responsibility for a baby leading to scandal. America’s sweetheart, at the time, Debbie Reynolds takes on the role originally portrayed by Ginger Rogers. Bundle of Joy’s claim to fame is being the first film made with America’s favorite couple, Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (and according to Carrie Fisher, this was the movie which created her). The premise appears fun and Reynolds is always delightful to watch. Bundle of Joy is on December 17th at 12:15am (due to TCM’s schedule it would technically be December 18th).
Love Affair has received the remake treatment countless times. Original director Leo McCarey went so far as to remake this into another beloved classic, An Affair to Remember, while Warren Beatty would remake this in the 1990s with wife Annette Bening. I figured it might be worth a look, although I’ve shied away from watching Affair to Remember and Irene Dunne isn’t a favorite leading lady of mine. Why am I bothering to watch it? It’s considered one of the preeminent romances of our time, and I maintain the Golden Era did romance right! Love Affair airs December 20th at 2pm.
I always try to review make my Christmas Day movie something I haven’t seen airing on TCM Christmas Eve. Last year’s film was Come to the Stable. This year’s movie is one I hadn’t heard of before: Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You. The plot involves a disturbed soldier falling in love with a woman on furlough from prison. It sounds utterly ridiculous but I have to see how Cotten and Rogers deal with the execution of the premise. The movie also stars Shirley Temple, in what I’m assuming is one of her older roles. The story sounds ludicrous, but Christmas Eve always puts me in a good mood so I’ll take a chance. I’ll Be Seeing You airs Christmas Eve, December 24th at 8:45pm during an evening looking at Robert Osborne’s Christmas Eve picks.
I recently watched Coming Home, and since then I need to watch more Jane Fonda movies. Klute was the film which nabbed her an Academy Award for Best Actress, and the premise sounds intense. A small-town detective (Donald Sutherland) is tasked with hunting down a man murdering prostitutes. It’s modern by TCM’s standards, being released in 1971, but the coupled with Fonda in her prime I need to check this out! Klute airs December 27th at 11pm.
We end this month on a somber note with my last choice, It Started With Eve. The movie features Deanna Durbin as a hatcheck girl hired by a wealthy man (Robert Cummings) to pose as his fiancee to please his dying father (Charles Laughton). Durbin is another actress I’m unfamiliar with, and I’m a fan of screwball comedies. The movie airs December 30th at 5pm in an evening paying tribute to stars we lost in 2013, in this case, Durbin.
THE TCM TRIO
December 15th is the day to make a cup of hot cocoa, turn on the Christmas tree lights (or whatever holiday you’re celebrating in December), and cuddle up with TCM as they celebrate holiday comedies – for the most part. The fun starts at 9:15am when Janet Leigh can’t get rid of Robert Mitchum in Holiday Affair; at 11am, Cary Grant is an angel sent down to help a put-upon David Niven in The Bishop’s Wife; finally, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn take care of a leopard in Bringing Up Baby at 1pm. If you want another reason to stay later, at 3pm Myrna Loy and William Powell debut Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man.
That’s what’s on TCM in December!
Kristen Lopez View All
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.
Hi Kristen, I really enjoyed your list!
I’ve found I’LL BE SEEING YOU to be a special film — the idea of Ginger having accidentally killed someone and being on furlough is odd but she totally sells the role, and the supporting cast of Temple, Spring Byington, and Tom Tully are all wonderful. Many wonderful little moments. I hope you enjoy it and would be interested to hear what you think after you catch it.
Jacqueline wrote a nice piece on the movie at Another Old Movie Blog.
A quirky classic film is still something compared to how quirky can backfire in mainstream films. Thanks for sending me the link to Jacqueline’s piece, I loved it!
Great choices this month! I’m a big fan of The Clock, which really deserves to be much better known than it is, and The Man Who Came to Dinner and Love Affair are both really great. I don’t know if you were just talking about the premise, but It Started with Eve is not somber at all! It’s a lot of fun, and I think one of Durbin’s best roles, so if this is your introduction to her, it’s a great one.
No, I was talking somber in terms of It Started with Eve airing during a night devoted to recently deceased celebrities (of which Durbin is one). Glad to know I picked some goodies!