What on earth is on television? It’s an age old question. 900 channels and yet a lot of times, there is nothing on. I’ve been pouring over the TCM schedule this week and luckily, this won’t be a problem at all.
As February marches on, we see the network continuing its tribute to John Garfield. At the same time, TCM is handing us the undeniable allure of fantastic A-List star power top-lining some truly great movies. There is something for everyone this week, encompassing not only high powered studio glitz, but also a number of deeper cuts and unsung treasures, sure to enrich any Letterboxd account.
Without further ado, let’s get to the picks!
Rage in Heaven (1941)
Rage in Heaven was a bit of a deep-cut when I first watched it a few years ago. With a cast that includes Robert Montgomery, George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman, I’m not really sure how it isn’t better known. I’m sure most would agree that anything with George Sanders is a must-see.
The film follows Sanders and Montgomery as two friends who fall for the same girl (Bergman). When she decides to marry one (gasp!) drama and misunderstandings abound.
The performances in this picture and beyond that, the chemistry between the leads is top notch. Each are functioning at their peak and truly bring out the best in each other.
Rage in Heaven airs February 15th at 3:30pm PST.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a relatively new addition to my life, and I can’t believe I waited as long as I did.
The legendary Tennessee Williams story features a cast of legendary renown, including Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives. While Newman and Taylor enjoyed long and storied careers, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof features both at the top of their powers.
The film follows a young married couple struggling to find their way through personal and family struggles, as well as feelings of inadequacy and alcoholism. Nothing is out of bounds in this sweaty and sultry character drama, which is helped all the more by Richard Brook‘s fascinating direction.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof airs February 15th at 10:15pm PST.
As February continues, we get lots more of Star of the Month John Garfield. While any of the actor’s movies are worth a look, I had to name drop Humoresque. The film partners Garfield opposite the always fierce Joan Crawford, as a society lady who falls in love with a classical violinist. Humoresque also packs dynamic talent behind the camera, including a script by the legendary Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold. Jean Negulesco is credited as the director.
I haven’t sat down to watch this one in a while, so I might as well call this a first time watch. However, I found myself pulled in by the combined power of Garfield and Crawford. These are two such powerful personalities that the thought of their pairing is absolutely dynamic. Be sure to check this one out.
Humoresque airs February 16th at 5:00pm PST.
Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)
First time watch alert! Those who follow my work on social media know that I have a fondness for all things Robert Walker. He was a delight and it’s one of the greatest Hollywood tragedies that we didn’t get to see where he was going in his career.
While Robert Walker is only credited on 23 movies before his passing at the age of 32, he brought so much life to each of his roles. He was truly a unique figure when he was on camera, and I’d recommend his each and every film as a pick.
Her Highness and the Bellboy airs February 17th at 11:00am PST.
Stage Door (1937)
I was amazed how long it took me to stumble onto Stage Door. The 1937 dramedy is a marvel, especially considering a cast which includes Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Gail Patrick, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller. Has there ever been a more delightfully fierce squad of leading ladies on screen at the same time? Remember, Stage Door does pre-date The Women.
The movie features a fairly simple plot, following a group of performers living in a boarding house while they struggle to find work as actresses. There’s life, love and drama as these dynamic women move through this world. The chemistry between the leads is refreshing (particularly Hepburn and Rogers) and the work of stars-in-the-making Lucille Ball and Ann Miller make this an important and essential watch.
Stage Door airs February 18th at 1:30pm PST.
The Front Page (1931)
The Front Page is a story many of you have undoubedtly watched on screen at least once. Perhaps it was the 1974 version starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Or maybe it was the 1940 classic His Girl Friday. It’s all the same story.
While the film began life as a Broadway play in 1928 (starring Lee Tracy, for you Pre-Code fans out there), it first came to the big screen in 1931. The movie is a delightfully snappy comedy, starring Pat O’Brien and Adolphe Menjou, with appearances by extraordinary character actors like Edward Everett Horton and Frank McHugh. While it might not pack quite the punch of His Girl Friday, it’s an entertaining viewing and a must-see for fans of the Pre-Code era.
The Front Page airs February 18th at 3:15pm PST.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Singin’ in the Rain is legendary. Heck, it is one of the greatest works in Hollywood history. Can you see where I’m coming from here? Singin’ in the Rain is the film responsible for my love of classic Hollywood. And yes, I consider it a perfect movie. There, I said it.
Singin’ in the Rain spotlights Hollywood during the tricky era of transition from silent film to synched sound through the eyes of the performers. Gene Kelly takes the lead as Don Lockwood, a Douglas Fairbanks like swashbuckler. The cast behind Kelly though is equally legendary, featuring Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen in luminous performances.
Above all, Singin’ in the Rain is a musical. The songs and dances are truly the stuff dreams are made of. While this is one a lot of you out there in the dark may have seen, why not take some time to revisit it?
Singin’ in the Rain airs February 18th at 7:00pm PST.
Gun Crazy (1950)
I did it again! I found a way to work a film noir into this list. TCM keeps serving up gems for those of us who are fans of the movement, this time the must-see is Gun Crazy.
While Gun Crazy most definitely classifies as an essential of film noir, it is, at the same time, a bit of a deeper cut. It can be a bit harder to find, especially for those just getting their feet wet. So, that being said, if this is a first time, or even a repeat viewing, why don’t you pop on over to TCM and watch Gun Crazy.
Gun Crazy airs February 19th at 5:00pm PST.
This pick is a super last minute addition (having just “first-time-watched” the film myself this week!). Yours truly is in the midst of a celebration of birthday boy Kevin McCarthy and this Joe Dante horror flick is one of the later works in McCarthy’s filmography, as well as one of a number of times he paired with the now legendary director.
Piranha stars the unsung (but delightful) Bradford Dillman as a man who finds himself pulled in when a skip tracer (Heather Menzies-Urich) contacts him about finding a young couple who disappeared while skinny dipping near a mysterious government facility. One thing leads to another and over the course of the investigation, hoards of mutant piranhas end up swimming down a local river.
The 1978 film is a take-off on Jaws, which hit theaters a few years before. However, Piranha is also a study in classic, low-budget horror. The movie brings truly solid performances and infuses the right mix of cinematic innovation and gore to tell an entertaining story.
Piranha airs February 19th at 11:00pm PST.
Mad Love (1935)
I came to Mad Love for Colin Clive and stayed for the absolutely stunning Peter Lorre performance. However, this work is another in the seemingly never-ending line of films that doesn’t get the love it deserves. If you’re a fan of horror, particularly works like Dracula and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, why not stop by and check this one out?
The film follows Frances Drake as an actress struggling to save the life and livelihood of her concert pianist husband (Colin Clive) after his hands are smashed in a train derailment. However, the doctor she takes him to is more of the mad surgeon variety (Peter Lorre). The good news is, he is able to operate and pull off a successful hand transplant. The bad news… the hands belong to a serial killer.
Mad Love is truly a work of art, coming from director Karl Freund who is best known to contemporary audiences thanks to his cinematography on classics like Dracula and Metropolis.
Mad Love airs February 20th at 9:00am PST.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt is one of my top five favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies. That’s a tall claim, but I’m sticking by it. It’s a bit of a deep cut when it comes to the legendary director’s work, but it is oh-so-important.
The film follows Teresa Wright as a young woman living in small town California. She’s over-the-moon when her favorite uncle (Joseph Cotten) comes to visit the family. However, things get appropriately…Hitchcockian… when evidence begins to surface pointing to the charismatic man being a serial killer.
While most people look to Hitchcock’s work in the late 1950s as his best period, it’s impossible to ignore what the legend was doing in the 1940s and early 1950s. His work during the time is colorful, interesting, and shows more than a hint to the ground Hitchcock was breaking, even at a relatively young age. Hitchcock and classic film fans alike should check this one out.
Shadow of a Doubt airs February 20th at 10:15am PST.
In a few other notes, there’s a lot of Adolphe Menjou programmed into the schedule this week (including a mini-marathon on February 18th). Fans of MGM musicals should definitely keep the evening of the 18th open as well, thanks to a night full of essentials. Meanwhile, fans of westerns should swing by on February 19th for a day full of deep-cut programming.
There’s so, so, much good stuff to watch this week! There’s alot to get excited about, from essential gems like Singin’ in the Rain to deeper cuts like Piranha and Rage in Heaven. There’s truly something for everyone airing this week.
Stay tuned, and have fun watching!
Podcaster, film historian, and general lover of all things classic film and television. Studying the contributions of women behind the camera in classic television.
You can find me on Twitter @kpierce624!