TCM Top 10: December 2021
It’s beginning to look a lot like… December… holy moly. Well, here we are again, kids. It’s the holiday, festive season and there’s lots of goodness to weed through on the TCM schedule. Believe it or not, there’s much more than just Christmas movies to talk about (though, there are a ton of those, too!). Plus, who am I to lie… I love a good Christmas movie.
Without further ado, let’s get to the picks!
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Marathon (1933-1949)
More often than not, Fred and Ginger usually shove their way in when I do a picks piece. My love for these movies is shameless and TCM has tapped into this early in December with not just one movie, but all of them! That’s right cats and kittens, TCM is doing a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers marathon. Everything. Get ready to settle on in for the duration.
The marathon includes every film the duo made together from their earliest pairing in Flying Down to Rio to their final effort in The Barkley’s of Broadway. It’s true that some certainly are better than others, but this is a perfect way to dive into the iconic work of these legendary performers. So many of these movies are foundational to the history of the Hollywood musical and as such are a great place to jump in for fans of the genre.
The marathon airs between 3:00 am and 3:00 pm PST on December 1st.
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Dance, Girl, Dance has remained a bit of a deep-cut in the history of Hollywood cinema and I’m still not sure why. The movie comes from legendary director Dorthy Arzner, one of the best filmmakers you might not know about. She was, after all, one of the only (and for a long time, the only) woman directing motion pictures in Hollywood.
The movie features a cast that includes last month’s ‘Star of the Month’ Lucille Ball and Maureen O’Hara in a truly fierce story about burlesque dancers. The film is an early example of how behind-the-camera representation (in the handling of O’Hara’s story) can change the course of a story.
Dance, Girl, Dance airs at 7:00 pm on December 4th.
Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955)
This movie was (surprisingly) a first-time watch for me during the year 2021. This is a major shocker… especially thanks to my status as not only a longtime Martin Milner fangirl but an even longer-standing Jack Webb fangirl. Did I mention, this is also a period picture?
Pete Kelly’s Blues features a fascinating cast, including Janet Leigh, Edmond O’Brien, a very young Lee Marvin, and a relatively rare on-screen appearance from the iconic Peggy Lee. The story is a captivating one about jazz music, racketeering, and gangsters in the 1920s, and of course, Jack Webb is always Jack Webb.
The movie is a bit of a relic in the way that early Dragnet episodes are. It’s fun to watch Webb in his early years especially when considering just how typecast he became as Joe Friday in his later years.
Pete Kelly’s Blues airs on December 8th at 6:15 pm PST.
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
The theme of this entry… like the last one… is recent first-time watches I intend to spread the good word about. Full disclosure, I watched Christmas in Connecticut for the first time during the 2020 holiday season and I absolutely fell in love. So, pleeeeaaase don’t make the same mistake I did.
The holiday-themed romantic comedy stars the legend that is Barbara Stanwyck and the utterly adorable Dennis Morgan (a performer who I really need to watch more of). The story is one which I’m surprised Hallmark hasn’t done a flashy remake. The movie follows a writer (Stanwyck) posing in the media as the perfect housewife. However, her charade is in danger of being exposed when she must actually adopt this persona for a returning veteran (Morgan) who is invited to her house.
This movie is stinkingly cute. If you’re looking for a fun holiday viewing, make sure to add this one to your list.
Christmas in Connecticut airs on December 12th at 4:15 pm PST.
Susan Slept Here (1954)
I had to take an opportunity to call this one out… after all, we’re devoting an entire episode of Ticklish Business (premiering tomorrow!) to Susan Slept Here. The Frank Tashlin directed picture is a fascinating, candy-colored delight and there’s no way I couldn’t take some time to talk about this one.
Susan Slept Here follows the…slightly cringeworthy… story as a screenwriter (Dick Powell) who finds himself with a teenage juvenile delinquent (Debbie Reynolds) spending Christmas at his apartment. After all, the police don’t want her to spend Christmas in jail! However, everyone gets more than they bargained for when this April/October couple ends up getting married. Will these two crazy… kids… make it work?
If our discussion (keep an eye out for this episode on December 1st!) intrigues you, add this one to your lists.
Susan Slept Here airs December 18th at 2:15 pm PST
Holiday Affair (1949)
If there’s one actor who doesn’t make me think “happy-go-lucky” Christmas movie, it is Robert Mitchum. As a performer, he is largely synonymous with gangster movies and film noir. So, when I first time watched Holiday Affair last year, I was pleasantly surprised. Like, really shocked.
The movie follows a young woman (Janet Leigh) who finds herself caught in the middle of a romantic “rock and a hard place” in the form of a n’er-do-well (Robert Mitchum) and her stoic and ever-so-slightly boring boyfriend (Wendell Corey). Will she follow her head or her heart? (Do you really have to ask?).
This was a bit of a deep cut for me and was a Christmas movie I hadn’t heard of before my first-time watch in 2020. It’s an adorable Christmas movie and if this sounds right up your alley, it probably is.
Holiday Affair airs at 6:15 pm PST on December 18th.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Chances are, this is one that most people reading have already watched. Meet Me in St. Louis is classified as essential for a reason.
The story follows the Smith family led by patriarch Alonzo (Leon Ames), wife Anna (Mary Astor), and their children as the family is unsettled by the news they might be moving from their home in St. Louis to the biggest city of them all, Manhattan.
The movie is a musical essential of the highest order. Judy Garland is functioning at the peak of her powers. Tom Drake is adorable (I said it!)… heck all the performances are top-notch. Most of these musical numbers are legendary on their own, so if you’re a fan of classic musicals, you can’t go wrong with Meet Me in St. Louis.
Meet Me in St. Louis airs at 8:00 pm PST on December 21st.
The Apartment (1960)
The Apartment is a Christmas movie in disguise. Up until the last year, I don’t think I ever heard the Billy Wilder classic called a Christmas movie. It is rightly called an essential, but I still think of other holiday movies first.
The Apartment follows a young insurance clerk (Jack Lemmon) trying to get ahead at work through any means necessary. However romantic complications ensue when he falls for a young elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) who herself caught up in the drama.
The movie shows comedy icon Billy Wilder functioning at the peak of his skill. The movie is certainly remembered as one of the all-time classic comedies, but it is also incredibly heartfelt and grounded. The Apartment shows Billy Wilder wasn’t only adept at making you laugh, but also making you feel.
The Apartment is a WatchTCM airing for many, showing December 22nd at 1:45am PST.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
I’m hitting you with the motherload this month! I keep saying this, but it’s true… Your’s truly first-time-watched a lot of Christmas movies in 2020, many of which I should have seen a heck of a lot earlier. I was an embarrassing latecomer, but fear not! This doesn’t have to be you!
It Happened on Fifth Avenue is an adorable little movie starring Don DeFore and Victor Moore as two men who make their home in the abandoned mansions of Fifth Avenue during the winter off-season. However, things become complicated when one of the residents (Gale Storm) returns home early. As usual, romantic and mistaken identity entanglements ensue as everyone remembers the meaning of Christmas.
This is a sweet, simple holiday movie came out of left-field for me. I loved the cast (particularly Charles Ruggles) and found myself surprisingly captivated by the whole thing.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue airs on December 23rd at 8:00 pm.
Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
I have been more than public in my struggle with Frank Capra. As a director, he and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship. We don’t always speak the same language. However, in this little Christmas gem, we’re definitely on the same wavelength.
Pocketful of Miracles is a few stories put together, but the primary action revolves around a gangster (Glenn Ford) helping a beggar (Bette Davis) make herself over in hope of protecting her long-lost daughter (Ann-Margret) from embarrassment when she marries into a wealthy family.
Pocketful of Miracles is a delightful little movie that makes this list on the shoulders of the amazingly talented, colorful cast. Aside from the supersized talent of the three performers mentioned above, Peter Falk, Hope Lange, Edward Everett Horton, and Sheldon Leonard steal scenes with amazing frequency. It’s a must-see for fans of Capra, comedy, holiday movies, and this dynamite cast.
Pocketful of Miracles airs on December 24th at 9:45 am PST.
This of course doesn’t even do justice to the line-up of programming hitting the station throughout the month of December. There is of course a plethora of Christmas programming, but one can’t forget not only New Years, but also an ongoing series entitled “Fireside Favorites” as each of the hosts sit down and discuss some of their favorite films. The series will be happening every Saturday in December.
What movies are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.
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