The TCM Top Ten for February 2016
A blessing and a curse in the TCM world, February kicks off two months of the network’s 31 Days of Oscar series, also known as “Why are they showing modern movies?!” Thankfully, the mornings and afternoons throughout the month still yield those great pre-1970s titles and you’ll only see one post 1970s film on this list. The month may only have 29 days this year (Leap Year to boot!), but here are ten movies to fill up the days!
**All times are Eastern. Schedule subject to change at TCM’s discretion**
I could have sworn I put The Merry Widow (1952) on a previous TCM top ten, but maybe I’m just recalling Latin Lovers (1953) which made the list last month? Either way Lana Turner returns in a remake of a film Mae Murray originally starred in playing the titled “merry widow” with Fernando Lama as the prince courting her. Turner always seems stagy and dry to me – more of a clotheshorse than an actress – but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve watched Lamas in, and these 1950s Technicolor musicals are always fun, beautifully furnished and costumed. The Merry Widow airs February 1st at 8am.
Had did I miss an adaptation of Madame Bovary starring Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan, directed by Vincente Minnelli of all people? Gustave Flaubert’s story of the 19th-century heroine isn’t my favorite novel; I actually don’t believe I ever finished it. But knowing Minnelli directed this version – expect some gorgeous gowns and dare I dream for a dance sequence? – starring the fragile Jones intrigues me to no end. You can visit Madame Bovary (1949) on February 3rd at 6pm.
Long-term readers are aware of my antipathy for all things Leslie Howard. Sorry, but the man is the living embodiment of white bread to me. But that’s not to say some of his films don’t have intriguing storylines (look at Smilin’ Through for a great example) and a time travel plot involving a young man transported back to the American Revolution to meet his ancestors can certainly work, even with someone like Howard in the lead role. Berkeley Square airs at 3:30am on February 6th.
If you watch TCM as often as I do (and if you don’t then you should!) you’ll notice the network enjoys
tormenting replaying certain films several times in a given month. Showing how different February is, and I ain’t just talking about the lack of 30 days, is how many movies on this list were ones I’d never even heard of, starting with It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). This one has all the plot points needed to make a great movie: song and dance, reunions between old buddies, and gangsters. Directed by Gene Kelly and starring Cyd Charisse also makes it a Singin’ in the Rain (1952) reunion, of sorts! You can learn It’s Always Fair Weather on February 7th at 10pm.
So maybe you’ve heard of It’s Always Fair Weather, but I guarantee you haven’t heard of Cain and Mabel (1936). I know I’ve never heard of it! Marion Davies and Clark Gable star as a showgirl and a prize-fighter, respectively, pushed together into a showmance that turns legit. I’m all for Hollywood stories about fake love turning into the real thing – I can think of past examples currently – and my fondness for pre-Code Clark Gable (or, more like post-Code Clark Gable) is strong. I’ve only reviewed one Marion Davies film (the forgettable Blondie of the Follies) and I’m interested in watching more of Marion Davies’ work, if only to impress my friend Lara of Backlots!
Can you ever go wrong with a movie starring Miriam Hopkins and young Joel McCrea? The Richest Girl in the World (1934) sees Hopkins as an heiress engaging in a Prince(ss) and the Pauper swap with her secretary (Fay Wray; I’m assuming with less screaming on her part). The trio of Hopkins, McCrea and Wray sounds amazing and it’s nearly impossible making a film with such a well-tread narrative boring. Meet The Richest Girl in the World on February 12th at 9am.
Another Vincente Minnelli film with a super-star cast rivaling any of the films I have above? Sign me up! The Story of Three Loves (1953) is an omnibus tale of multiple passengers on a boat recounting their greatest loves. Just look at that cast: Kirk Douglas, the lovely Pier Angeli, Leslie Caron, James Mason, Agnes Moorehead, and the Red Shoes’ Moira Shearer. I doubt there’s a better movie to appeal to my tastes. The Story of Three Loves airs February 14th at 3:15am.
The one post-1960s concession I made this month is the Cinderella tale, The Slipper and the Rose (1976). Why, you ask? A) I’m a sucker for Cinderella stories of any make and model, and B) the film includes a score by the legendary brothers Sherman, Disney’s in-house composers. The biggest name in the cast is Richard Chamberlain, but it’s hard screwing up a story like this (I’m saying that a lot, I know). The Slipper and the Rose kicks off the primetime slate on February 21st at 8pm.
The sacrificial mother has been examined in several of its guises on this site (Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce, Confession, I Found Stella Parish), but many have said Helen Hayes perfected the film with The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931). Hayes plays a woman willing to do anything to help her illegitimate son get ahead. These soapers are all pretty generic in content, but I’ve yet to experience Hayes’ work, and after watching the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Kay Francis play these types of characters, I’m intrigued at how Hayes sets herself apart. The Sin of Madelon Claudet airs February 22nd at 9:30am.
Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) immediately jumped on the list because I saw its remake first; 1958’s The Girl Most Likely is a darling film with a luminous performance by Jane Powell, and starring my beloved Cliff Robertson. So, color me shocked when I learned the original film, directed by Garson Kanin (!), stars Ginger Rogers as the girl fielding marriage proposals from three very different men, although I doubt we’ll get the showy musical numbers the 1958 remake implemented. Tom, Dick and Harry airs February 23rd at 9am.
THE TCM TRIO
Spend Valentine’s Day with the stars you love starting at 4pm when Bill Holden and Judy Holliday realize they weren’t Born Yesterday (1950). Then, at 6pm, Audrey Hepburn finds herself torn between Humphrey Bogart and Holden in Sabrina (1954). Finally, the quintessential romance of all time sees Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman learn “a kiss is just a kiss” in Casablanca (1942) at 8pm.
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.
I was not a fan of Leslie Howard either until I watched a trio of his films; The Scarlet Pimpernel, It’s Love I’m After and Stand-In. Stand-In had Humphrey Bogart playing an unusual part as a producer who carried his little dog around.
I did enjoy Cain and Mabel as well as The Richest Girl in the World, but more because I love the actors involved than for the fact that the movies themselves were so great.
I’ll have to check out those Howard titles. I enjoy him more when he’s part of an ensemble, but maybe I just haven’t found the role that best suits him.
THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE is an surprising version of CINDERELLA. The story goes off on a different tangent after Charming finds the title heroine. The cast is always pleasing and I’m especially fond of the scene where Cinerella is transformed into a princess.
Haha, Cinderella is one of those stories that has countless version but I still watch and find something to enjoy.
I think you’ll find a lot of interest in “It’s Always Fair Weather”, particularly Dan Dailey’s outstanding work in what we might call “Mad Men: the Musical”.
Haha, “Mad Men: The Musical” sounds intriguing on its own!