The TCM Top 12 for May 2017
Summer is arriving guys, and with the spike in the temperature comes a desire to beat the heat and watch movies. TCM isn’t slacking in the month of May, with star of the month Clark Gable, a birthday tribute to Margaret O’Brien and more being presented for our viewing pleasure. In fact, there was so much watching this month I couldn’t stick to just ten. Yep, we went for a full top 12 this month. Feel free to leave me your own recommendations in the comments!
**All times listed as Eastern. TCM can change the schedule at their discretion.**
It’s been awhile since I had a documentary on here and when the star of the month is a man like Clark Gable, you gotta have a documentary! I’m a big fan of TCM re-airing the docs they used to produce for TNT back in the ’90s, like the one they did on Harlow a few months back. Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome (1996) is narrated by Liam Neeson and sounds like an actual documentary with talking head interviews with past Gable co-stars and people influenced by him. It sounds like a nice contrast from the Harlow doc which was more a biography narrated by an actor. Either way if you want a nice, succinct overview of Gable this should fit the bill. Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome kicks off the month’s tribute to the star on May 3rd at 2am.
TCM knows me too well as you’ll see after reading my selections this month. I’m a sucker for creature features, but, most especially, I’m a sucker for Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954). I don’t know the exact reason, but the story of the Gill Man is such fun that I tend to cite it in my top three favorite Universal horror films (Frankenstein  and Bride of Frankenstein  being #2 and #1, respectively). And yet, for all my love of Creature From the Black Lagoon, I’ve yet to watch either of its sequels. Maybe for fear of diminishing returns? Revenge of the Creature (1955) sees the Gill Man captured and turned into an aquarium attraction. Sounds like they missed an opportunity to have him perform in the Universal Studios theme park! The film stars John Agar, Lori Nelson and a pre-fame Clint Eastwood. You can witness the Revenge of the Creature on May 4th at 9:30pm.
If you’re a long-time reader of the site there are a few universal truths about me: I love Gidget (1959), musicals, and Margaret O’Brien. Well color me surprised when I saw May 9th TCM was honoring the pint-sized O’Brien with an entire morning and afternoon of her films (though they did miss an opportunity to show my favorite O’Brien feature, The Unfinished Dance ). They aren’t showing many I haven’t seen, but one I did pick out is Three Wise Fools (1946). Like a few other O’Brien films she plays an orphan who melts the hearts of three old men – played by Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone and Edward Arnold – and teaches them to grow up. This was familiar territory for O’Brien but I’m anticipating a sweet, mindless adventure where her cuteness overwhelms me. Meet Three Wise Fools on May 9th at 11am.
So maybe you know about Clark Gable and want to watch one of his films? I’d be remiss not to include one of his many pairings with Joan Crawford on this month’s TCM Top 12 because….I haven’t seen many of them! I know; they’re the apotheosis of my (booming voice) pre-Code Clark Gable (end booming voice) obsession. Dancing Lady (1933) stars Crawford as a musical star torn between two men: Gable and Franchot Tone. Yeah, my distaste for Franchot Tone is up there with Leslie Howard, and based on the fact he’s not on the above poster, I think we know who Joanie is choosing. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Crawford and Gable separately, why not put them together? Dancing Lady dances her way onto the screen May 10th at 1am.
My favorite Disney character is Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989) so I’ve always been a fan of mermaid films. Hey, this could explain my love for Esther Williams! Hollywood had an obsession with aquatic maidens, so there are several movies about them and the men who tried to ensnare them in the proverbial net. Miranda (1948) is the eponymous mermaid played by Glynis Johns, caught by a doctor on holiday. Hijinks, reasonably, ensue. I don’t know much about this British production short of Glynis Johns plays a mermaid and that’s really all I need. Johns has great comedic timing, especially if you saw her in The Court Jester (1955). Meet Miranda on May 11th at 11:30am.
Hollywood loves remakes. This isn’t a new development and has been a concept prominent since the medium’s inception. I always enjoy watching the original film and its subsequent remake, especially during the golden era because differing directors and casts can make for a wholly unique film experience. An American Tragedy (1931) was Josef von Sternberg’s attempt to adapt Theodore Dreiser’s novel of the same name. The film would be more famously known through its glittering, A-list remake A Place in the Sun (1950). Where that film had Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters, this film’s biggest names are Sylvia Sidney and Frances Dee. The plot remains the same – guy wants to climb the social ladder, falls for the boss’ daughter but knocks up another girl…mayhem ensues. Watch An American Tragedy unfold on May 17th at 9:30pm.
Let’s throw out some more creature features, shall we? It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) tells you everything you need to know about the film, really. There’s a monster, it comes up from the depths and wreaks havoc. I’m perfectly fine with this synopsis. Add in C-level horror queen Faith Domergue and you got a movie I’m more than willing to indulge in for 90-minutes. It Came From Beneath the Sea airs May 18th at 11:30pm.
Alongside my tendency to get snookered into watching creature features, I also enjoy the occasional B mystery film. What’s funny is I had this film’s predecessor, I Love a Mystery (1945) on the shortlist for inclusion in this month’s list but went with its remake, The Unknown (1946) because of its cast. The film follows an amnesiac woman trying to gain an inheritance. She hires two detectives to keep her alive long enough to claim it. Why can’t more horror movie ladies do this? Paulette Goddard might have been terrorized less in those Bob Hope movies if she had bodyguards. The Unknown captured my attention for star Karen Morley. Morley caught my eye in The Phantom of Crestwood (1932) where she played the villainous Jenny Wren. She’d eventually be blacklisted in the ’50s by HUAC. Enter The Unknown on May 19th at 6pm.
TCM gets into the art of “hagsploitation” or more nicely put “grande dame Guignol” with a series of films starring aging actresses in horror features. I’ve seen several of the films they’re going to play but have been eager to watch Die! Die! My Darling (1962) for awhile. It combines elements of hagsploitation with both the religious zealotry films we’d see throughout the ’70s and the fiancee thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s. Talk about progressive! Tallulah Bankhand is the Grande Dame of the film whose religious upbringing sees her imprisoning her son’s presumably sinful fiancee. Stefanie Power and Peter Vaughan are also here?! Sign me up. Die! Die! My Darling – gotta love those exclamation points – airs May 22nd at 10:30pm.
Frank Sinatra isn’t my favorite actor in the world, but you can’t deny he got some amazing leading ladies to star opposite him. Pal Joey (1957) is one of the crooner’s more legendary films because it pairs him with the Love Goddess herself, Rita Hayworth and glamour girl Kim Novak. Sinatra is the playboy at the center of it all, wooing a widow to help his flagging career. I’ve watched some of the musical sequences and loved them, and this has some of Sinatra’s biggest hits in there. Meet Pal Joey on May 24th at 8pm.
How did I not know The Fly (1958) had a sequel? Better question, why didn’t I assume The Fly had a sequel? Vincent Price returns for this follow-up to the story of a man who fuses himself to a fly. In this case the film lifts its plot from Son of Frankenstein (1939) with its “like father, like son” story of a scientific offspring trying to recreate his father’s failed experiment. The original Fly is dated but such a fun movie and I expect nothing less from this follow-up. Return of the Fly airs May 25th at 9:30pm.
Our final film of the list takes us right back where we started: Clark Gable. And why did no one tell me he starred opposite Gene Tierney!!!! One of my favorite actresses starred opposite Gable and I didn’t know? I fail as a movie fan. Never Let Me Go (1953) sees Gable and Tierney as an American and a Russian, respectively. The two end up separated by Communism and I’m assume they both realize they’re unwilling to let the other go? Just a guess. Did I mention Tierney plays a Russian ballerina? Give me this movie now. Never Let Me Go airs May 31st at 7:45am.
THE TCM TRIO
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow get together in a trio of deliciously fun and romantic titles on May 16th. First, Gable and Harlow fight off pirates on the rough China Seas (1935) at 8pm. Then, poor Harlow is the woman standing between Gable and Myrna Loy in Wife vs. Secretary (1936) at 9:30pm. And later Gable and Harlow get steamy on a rubber plantation in Red Dust (1932) at 11pm.
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.
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