TCM Picks: March 15th- 21st
Welcome! Join us! Sit down for a spell. It’s Monday and you know what time it is… the TCM Picks are upon us.
It is another hefty week, so without further ado, feast your eyes on all the goodness hitting the small screen.
First time watch alert! Doris Day is a performer who quickly found herself saddled with a very specific image. Even today, the singer’s memory still faces an uphill battle, often remembered by audiences as simply a blonde, prudish… heck, even virginal music star. So, it’s always fascinating to see Day have an opportunity to stretch her wings beyond her usual parts.
Day stars in Julie opposite Louis Jourdan, Barry Sullivan and Frank Lovejoy in a plot that sounds decidedly un-Doris Day. The film steps away from musical territory and enters into melodramatic thriller-ville with Day as a woman trying to escape a violent and jealous husband (Jourdan).
This is a million miles away from the usual “type” played by both Day and Jourdan and as such, Julie sounds like a powerful and must-see watch, especially for fans of both performers.
Julie airs March 15th at 9:30pm PST.
Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
This week is a juicy one for Doris Day programming and each of these Monday night films are a must see for fans of the talented actress. One more jumped out to me as a first time watch. Day stars in Love Me or Leave Me as singer Ruth Etting opposite James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell and Robert Keith. The story is a dramatized retelling of Etting’s rise to stardom. There’s fame, showbiz, alcohol and the mafia. All the usual stuff.
The drama received a new level of awards recognition, placing Day in a brand new spotlight. The actress had been active in the movie industry for a little more than five years by this point and while her earlier films had received awards consideration, more often than not, it was in music categories. While Day herself wasn’t nominated for Love Me or Leave Me, the movie received five Academy Award nominations and took home the award for Best Writing. While the film isn’t as well known as classics like Pillow Talk, Love Me or Leave Me is an important Doris Day pick as her time as ‘Star of the Month’ continues.
Love Me or Leave Me airs at 11:15pm PST on March 15th.
The Last Flight (1931)
First time watch alert! The Last Flight is one of those picks I stumbled onto when looking over the schedule, and it just sounded interesting. The pre-code drama features an impressive cast, including: Richard Barthelmess, David Manners, Johnny Mack Brown and Helen Chandler. The story is one which we could only see in the pre-code era, following as a number of young World War I veterans roam around Paris.
We’re so removed historically from World War One, so a plot like this is all at once fascinating and challenging. In fact, this is one of the many reasons I hope to continue my study of pre-code films. World War II was such an all-encompassing, dramatic event, that it’s difficult to remember what happened just a few years before. Hollywood was changing, America was a different place and we can’t allow ourselves forget this important history.
The Last Flight airs March 16th at 10:45am PST.
Today We Live (1933)
First time watch alert! As I mentioned last week, I’m currently working my way through Franchot Tone‘s filmography, so this is first and foremost why this movie makes the picks. Of course, the cast that includes Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper and Robert Young doesn’t hurt either. (Truthfully, I always get a kick out of seeing a pre-Father Knows Best Robert Young).
Today We Live is another World War I pre-code. Coming from the soon-to-be legendary director Howard Hawks, the movie is a romantic drama following soldiers who fall in love with the same girl. In a moment of reality and film blending adorably (for a while at least), Crawford and Tone would marry two years later.
Today We Live airs at 3:00pm PST on March 16th.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
What can I say? This movie. This movie. I first checked out Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf during a quarantine deep-dive into all things Mike Nichols and I was blown away.
The drama is a tour-de-force starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis. Surprisingly, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is Nichols’ directorial debut. I can hardly work out in my head how the 35 year old baby director stepped behind the camera with a cast this terrifyingly legendary and managed to not show fear. It’s a marvel.
The film is definitely a challenging viewing, but it’s an acting feast. Taylor and Burton are at their meaty, dramatic best and it’s a joy to watch. The movie follows a young Professor and his wife (Segal and Dennis) who visit his university peers and things get…dramatic.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf airs at 11:15pm PST on March 16th.
Little Nellie Kelly (1940)
First time watch alert! The mere fact that Judy Garland appears in Little Nellie Kelly should be enough for most to add this to their lists. This deeper cut comes in 1940 while Garland was hard at work on the seemingly unending series of MGM musicals she starred in with Mickey Rooney. While Little Nellie Kelly isn’t as well known as Garland’s other work during the time, many of the music numbers in this film are essential… most notably Garland’s performance of “Singing in the Rain”.
Little Nellie Kelly features Garland opposite George Murphy, Charles Winninger and Douglas McPhail. The plot looks to have equal parts comedy, forbidden romance and tragedy mixed in, following Garland and Murphy as a young couple who fall in love, despite the objections of their parents.
Little Nellie Kelly airs March 17th at 8:30am PST.
The Quiet Man (1952)
This is one of those essentials I’ve somehow managed to miss over the years. So, first time watch alert! The Quiet Man is one of the many legendary pairings between star John Wayne and the equally legendary director John Ford. Heck, co-star Maureen O’Hara was also responsible for these memorable movies. O’Hara worked with Wayne in five films.
The Quiet Man features Wayne and O’Hara with a supporting cast that includes Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen. The story follows Wayne as an American boxer who moves to Ireland and falls for a “spirited redhead”. Is there any other kind?
The Quiet Man airs at 5:00pm PST on March 17th.
Nanook of the North (1922)
As soon as I saw Nanook of the North on this schedule, I knew this work had to make the list. Like The Jazz Singer last week, this is one of those ‘Film School 101’ essentials. It’s also a bit of a rarity from a cable screening standpoint.
Coming in 1922, Nanook of the North is often billed as a silent documentary. Now, this is a bit of an oversimplification, especially coming so early in the industry. Reading into the film often lends itself to complicated discussions of controversy, artistic license and staged realism. However, Nanook of the North is still an important experiment in documentary film form and as such, is definitely worth a watch for cinephiles out there.
Nanook of the North is a WatchTCM airing for most, playing at 3:15am PST on March 18th.
The Chase (1966)
This is a movie I’ve been trying to check out for a while since I stumbled onto it during some Jane Fonda light reading. Luckily, TCM appears to have given me an opening this week. The Chase features a super-sized cast, including Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Miriam Hopkins, Martha Hyer and Robert Duvall (to name a few). The film comes from director Arthur Penn.
The synopsis is a surprisingly small one for a movie with such a mighty cast. The plot is described as following how one man’s escape from prison affects the residents of a small southern town.
The Chase airs at 6:30pm PST on March 19th.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Bad Day at Black Rock is yet another giant of the crime genre, featuring a mighty cast with names like Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine and Walter Brennan. If I haven’t made it clear before, I’m a sucker for a big, all-star cast and this certainly fits the bill. And those who really know me will know that I first-time-watched Honey West earlier this year, and the prospect of Anne Francis and John Ericson working together has me giddy. This is yet another first time watch.
Bad Day at Black Rock is described as a fascinating blend of western and noir, a particularly powerful genre for filmmakers who get it right. The plot description (like The Chase, above) leaves things tantalizingly vague, telling about a stranger who arrives in a small southwestern town in pursuit of a man. Where could it go from here? The possibilities are endless.
Bad Day at Black Rock airs March 20th at 10:30am PST.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Anatomy of a Murder is one of those classics that manages to stay just beneath the radar. That being said, this is yet another first-time-watch for your’s truly. The feature continues the powerful crime block which includes the last film on this list and follows the trial of man who reportedly murdered his wife’s rapist.
The movie features a cast that includes Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, George C. Scott, Murray Hamilton and Orson Bean (once again, to name a few). The Otto Preminger directed film received seven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Unfortunately, its competition that year was the more than formidable Ben-Hur.
Anatomy of a Murder airs at 2:00pm PST on March 20th.
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
I came by The Caine Mutiny in a strange way… backwards, I suppose. Just Google Rich Little’s Humphrey Bogart impression from this movie. I’ve seen Little do this monologue more times than I can count, but it took me another few years before I finally saw the movie. And I will admit, I wasn’t disappointed.
The Caine Mutiny stars Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis and José Ferrer in a story following the crew of a navy cruiser during World War II. They find themselves struggling when their old Captain is replaced by a man (Bogart) who seems to be struggling with his sanity. How will the sailors react when their lives are in the hands of a skipper they just don’t trust?
The Caine Mutiny airs March 21st at 12:30pm PST.
My Favorite Year (1982)
My Favorite Year is one of our newer picks on the list. Never fear though. The movie stars Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Bill Macy and Lainie Kazan. The story is set in the early days of TV and follows a young writer on a Sid Cesar like television series (Linn-Baker). He’s over the moon when a popular, Errol Flynn-like actor (O’Toole) agrees to appear on the series. However, the man is Errol Flynn-like and it’s the 1950s… you know what they say, never meet your idols.
The period drama is a simple and idealistic examination of the early 1950s. It taps into a beautiful sense of nostalgia for the period and it’s a great choice for TCM viewing. The film is guilty of over-simplifying some elements in the story (namely the role of women); however, its a fun movie, especially for fans of the era.
My Favorite Year airs March 21st at 3:00pm PST.
Here’s a breakdown of the week as I see it:
- Monday features a line-up of fantastic, fairytale films before transitioning into night three of Doris Day’s ‘Star of the Month’ line-up.
- Tuesday sees the network turn the spotlight to World War I pre-codes before focusing on Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowell for the ‘Growing Up on Screen’ feature.
- Wednesday places movies with an Irish theme into an all day marathon. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
- Thursday finds TCM spotlighting movies about snow and wilderness before the ‘Reframing’ series continues in the evening.
- Betty Compson receives a daytime tribute on Friday.
- Saturday night features a marathon of movies about ‘spring’.
Overall, there’s lots of variety happening on the schedule this week! From musicals, to heady dramas, studio classics and pre-codes. I’m betting there is something there for everyone, so dive on in and happy viewing!
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