Saturday, January 31, 2015

TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar Highlights

It's hard to believe that the first month of 2015 has already come to an end and it's now time for 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies!

As has been the case in years past, TCM has a special 31 Days of Oscar microsite filled with information on this month's offerings. The schedule is also available online.

This month's prime time schedule will highlight Oscar-nominated films chronologically, with films from the 1920s and early '30s airing the evening of February 1st and films from the last few years shown on March 3rd.

There are many outstanding movies airing this month, although I do miss the opportunity to explore lesser-known films during Oscar month. That said, February is a great time for those who are newer to classic movies to catch up on some wonderful titles.

Here are a few personal recommendations and notes of interest on the February schedule:

...I've never seen WINGS (1927), the very first Best Picture, and just learned that the cast includes Jobyna Ralston, who I have liked so much in Harold Lloyd films. WINGS, which was directed by William Wellman, airs Sunday evening, February 1st. Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper, and Clara Bow costar.

...I'm really delighted that LITTLE WOMEN (1933) is airing in prime time on Monday evening, February 2nd. This is a favorite film I'm long overdue to review here. With Frances Dee, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Parker, and Joan Bennett playing Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, the film is utter perfection.

...One of the earliest and best Astaire-Rogers films, TOP HAT (1933), airs on February 3rd.

...There's even more classic Fred and Ginger on the 4th, with SWING TIME (1936). If Victor Moore hadn't been in this it would be my favorite of their 10 films.

...I can't recommend THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) too many times. I consider it one of the greatest movies ever made, and it contains the best musical score of all time, composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. It airs February 5th.

...The film version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939) may be only part of the book, but what a movie! The ending never fails to make me cry. Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and David Niven star. The date is February 6th.

...It's great to see Anthony Mann's THE NAKED SPUR (1953) on the schedule February 7th. It was nominated for Best Story and Screenplay. James Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan star in an excellent Western.

...I haven't seen GASLIGHT (1944) since I was a teenager. I hope to rectify that this year! Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and Angela Lansbury star, on February 8th.

...Last weekend I reviewed the WWII film BOMBARDIER (1943) for the Randolph Scott blogathon. It's not a perfect film, but I'm always interested to see morale-boosting films made during the war. It's on February 9th. Later in the evening is one of the finest war films ever made, John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945), starring John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, and Donna Reed.

...As much as I enjoy it, I was a bit surprised to see JULIE (1956) on the schedule on February 10th. Turns out this Doris Day film was nominated for both Screenplay and Song. Doris Day stars along with Louis Jourdan and Frank Lovejoy. Love Doris having to pilot a passenger plane at the end of the movie!

...Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. top a perfect cast in one of the very best swashbucklers, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937), airing February 11th. Madeleine Carroll, David Niven, Mary Astor, and Raymond Massey costar. The film was nominated for Art Direction and Musical Score, but I bet there are many film fans besides myself who believe that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. should have rated a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He almost steals the film with his lively portrayal of Rupert of Hentzau.

...THE GUNFIGHTER (1950), starring Gregory Peck as a man who can't escape his quick-drawing reputation, airs on February 12th.

...I just saw LIBELED LADY (1936) on a big screen last night. For those not lucky enough to see it in a theater, it's on TCM on Valentine's Day! The stars are William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow. Perfection!

...On February 15th Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake strike sparks in THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946), based on a Raymond Chandler story, with a nicely depicted Southern California setting.

...Doris Day and Rock Hudson star in the classic romantic comedy PILLOW TALK (1959) on February 16th.

...The classic gangster film WHITE HEAT (1949) will be shown February 20th. James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, and Steve Cochran are especially outstanding. Edmond O'Brien costars as the G man the audience roots for.

...Fans of Rod Taylor who missed THE TIME MACHINE (1960) during his memorial tribute a couple of days ago will have another chance to see it on February 22nd.

...Warner Bros. filmed A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) with an all-star cast including James Cagney, Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Anita Louise, and Mickey Rooney. A unique bit of trivia is that Hal Mohr's shimmering cinematography was a write-in nomination -- and he won! The movie airs February 24th.

...Later on the 24th, Rene Clair's fantasy gem IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944) will be shown. Dick Powell stars as a man who receives newspapers with tomorrow's headlines today. Linda Darnell costars.

...CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981), about runners in the 1924 Olympics, is one of the films I like the most out of the "newer" titles airing on TCM this month. It will be shown February 26th.

...THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), nominated for Best Writing, is on February 28th. This noir gem has become one of my favorite films. Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, and Jacqueline White star.

...It's musicals day on March 1st, and you can't go wrong with GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), Fred and Ginger in SHALL WE DANCE (1937), or Fred and Rita in YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942). All are great favorites of mine, especially the latter film.

...The disaster classic SAN FRANCISCO (1936) will be shown March 2nd. Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy define star power in a wonderful movie.

For more on TCM in February, please consult the complete schedule.

In related news, Lou Lumenick has interviewed TCM head programmer Charlie Tabesh about 31 Days of Oscar; they also discuss the lack of enthusiasm of some fans for the newer films which air on TCM during the 31 Days of Oscar festival.

Previously: Quick Preview of TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar.


Blogger Amanda said...

Oscar month is usually my least favorite month on TCM. I find myself rarely watching it in February. The films seem to be too modern or films I've seem so many times I don't find them enjoyable any more, so I really appreciate when you point out the gems and films worth checking out.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much, Amanda! I'm the first to admit I'd love something like "31 Days of B Movies" or "31 Days of Pre-Codes," as the February titles are so familiar. Yet when I look closely at the schedule, there is so much worth watching! I hope you'll enjoy checking out some of the movies this month. :)

Thanks for taking the time to leave such nice feedback!

Best wishes,

9:25 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Your poster of Top Hat is the best I've seen, Laura. Thank you for posting it.

I wish some company would issue the movie in BluRay...

9:27 PM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

To your comment about Fairbanks Jr. deserving an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor for THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

7:31 AM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Yes this Fairbanks Jr. fan thirds that about Zenda. I always think I'll never find new things during Oscar month but from your post I just marked It Happened Tomorrow, looks great. San Francisco is a wonderful classic, you're right--I never ever get tired of watching it.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Movies and Oscars - we should all be in Heaven, but my movie buff sisters and I sigh at each other. It isn't that TCM doesn't fill the air with excellent films, it's just that there don't seem to be any surprises. Although lately I have been thinking that perhaps some of these great titles may be starting to be taken for granted. Time to pretend I'm watching for the first time.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Mel, I'm delighted you liked that poster. It was a nice large one!

Kevin and Kristina, so glad to hear you share my admiration for Fairbanks Jr. in this role!

Incidentally, Ben Burtt told me last summer he and Craig Barron were interested in preparing a presentation on ZENDA similar to what they've done for ROBIN HOOD and GUNGA DIN, looking at the special effects, which they can then present at festivals and revival theaters. I hope they do it!

Kristina, I suspect you will love IT HAPPENED TOMORROW. It is such a treat! Dick Powell is delightfully funny, and he and Linda Darnell were such a charming team I wished they had made more films together.

Caftan Woman, I agree with you on all counts. It's probably good to try to take a fresh look at some of the classics film fans like us have seen so many times. For instance, I had kind of avoided seeing IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for years because I'd seen it so many times, and when I finally saw it again at the TCM Fest it blew me away. And when I saw SAN FRANCISCO for the first time in years I was so impressed! It's a great idea to pick out a few titles from the schedule which it's similarly time to revisit and try to look at them with a fresh eye.

Best wishes,

4:34 PM  

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