Wednesday, February 01, 2017

TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar Highlights

It's now February 1st, and that means it's time for 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies!

31 DAYS OF OSCAR runs through March 3rd. This year the schedule is arranged alphabetically, from ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1940) all the way up to Z (1969).

As has been noted here in the past, by its nature the February TCM schedule is short of lesser-known films; indeed, in Robert Osborne's column in this month's Now Playing guide he notes "...the one thing you won't find on TCM this month is any...B-budget quickie made in the 1940s or '50s...nor any of the...B-budget sleuths as The Falcon, the Saint, and Philo Vance."

I'm personally ready for TCM to try something fresh in a future February, allowing for greater variety in the month's schedule, but for now, it must be said there's a great many outstanding films airing this month. It's a wonderful time for those new to classic films to check out some of the "Essentials," and it's also a month when longtime fans can revisit old favorites or catch up on previously unseen classics.

Here are a just a few of the highlights from this month's packed schedule! This month I've place a special emphasis on musicals, as so many favorites are being shown. Click any hyperlinked title to read the related review.

...The first-day schedule includes a prime time showing of the MGM Best Picture AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) tonight, February 1st. Fun fact: The film's Best Cinematography Oscar was shared by Alfred Gilks, who filmed most of the movie, and John Alton, who filmed the concluding ballet. Alton is greatly admired for his shadowy black and white cinematography in what we now call film noir; remarkably, his Oscar-winning work on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS was the first time he'd shot in color.

...Sticking in an MGM mode, you can't go wrong with THE BAND WAGON (1953), which like AN AMERICAN IN PARIS was directed by Vincente Minnelli. Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (seen above) star. Fans of LA LA LAND (2016) will doubtless recognize a dance sequence which provided inspiration for the newer movie. The air date is February 2nd.

...On February 3rd, my top pick is William Wyler's THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), which has one of the all-time great movie scores. I'll never be able to believe Jerome Moross was merely nominated for Best Score, losing to Dimitri Tiomkin for THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1958). The all-star cast includes Gregory Peck (seen at right), Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Carroll Baker, and Charles Bickford.

...There are a number of good musicals airing this month! CALAMITY JANE (1953), shown on February 5th, is such a delight, with Doris Day introducing the year's Best Song, "Secret Love." Howard Keel costars.

...One of Joan Fontaine's finest performances was in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943) opposite Charles Boyer. She was nominated for Best Actress, losing to Jennifer Jones for THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943). That year's other nominees were also stellar: Jean Arthur in THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), Greer Garson in MADAME CURIE (1943), and Ingrid Bergman in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943). THE CONSTANT NYMPH will be shown on February 6th.

...Norma Shearer won the Oscar as THE DIVORCEE (1930), a key pre-Code title, airing on February 7th. Chester Morris and Robert Montgomery costar.

...Musicals with Busby Berkeley choreography fall in prime time on back-to-back evenings, with 42ND STREET on February 8th and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933) on the 9th. Both films are must-sees. (And after GOLD DIGGERS, viewers can stick around for the next film in alphabetical order, a little something called GONE WITH THE WIND...)

...One of Olivia de Havilland's finest performances was in HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941), for which she received a Best Actress nomination. It's shown on February 12th. Interestingly, she stars opposite Charles Boyer, who would later costar with her sister Joan Fontaine in THE CONSTANT NYMPH, mentioned above.

...Two different versions of IMITATION OF LIFE are shown on February 13th. First up is the 1934 Claudette Colbert version, a Best Picture nominee, and then the 1959 Lana Turner edition, which received a pair of acting nominations.

...There are more great MGM musicals on Valentine's Day, KISS ME KATE (1953) with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, and later LILI (1953) starring Leslie Caron. And overnight there are back-to-back versions of LITTLE WOMEN, first the superb 1933 version with Katharine Hepburn as Jo, followed by MGM's beautiful Technicolor remake starring June Allyson. Both films have marvelous casts.

...As is clear from this post, MGM was magic when it came to musicals; I suspect I could write a lengthy Oscar month post focusing only on their films! One of the greatest MGM titles, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944), airs late on February 16th. This is one of the all-time great movies as far as I'm concerned. Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien lead a splendid cast; each actor is perfection, including young Joan Carroll, who recently passed away.

...William Wyler's WWII classic MRS. MINIVER (1942) airs on February 18th. I've had the pleasure of meeting Christopher Severn, who played Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon's youngest son; you can read about that here. A lovely gentleman with a wonderful family!

...Another day, another MGM musical directed by Vincente Minnelli: THE PIRATE (1948) starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland will be shown February 20th. Amazing Technicolor!

...One of Alfred Hitchcock's most-loved films, REAR WINDOW (1954), is on February 21st. James Stewart and Grace Kelly star, along with Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey. Plus Raymond Burr as the villain!

...The MGM musical SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954) is my favorite movie, alongside MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). Howard Keel and Jane Powell star -- alongside Michael Kidd's fantastic choreography and a great dancing cast -- on February 23rd.

...The late Debbie Reynolds charms alongside Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Jean Hagen in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), airing February 24th. Then on the 25th catch Debbie opposite Frank Sinatra in THE TENDER TRAP (1955), and on the 27th see her small breakout role as Helen Kane in the Fred Astaire film THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950). For those who missed TCM's tribute last week, watching these films is a great way to honor a wonderful performer.

...On February 28th TCM will be showing the excellent 20th Century-Fox film A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), which I reviewed after seeing it at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival. Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, and Oscar winners James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner lead a strong cast.

...On the same day, TCM will be showing TORTILLA FLAT (1942), which I reviewed in January. Hedy Lamarr was the film's highlight for me; the cast also includes John Garfield, Spencer Tracy, and Oscar-nominated Frank Morgan.

...TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR (1944) is one of my favorite June Allyson films. It costars Gloria DeHaven, who passed on last summer, along with Van Johnson and Tom Drake. It will be shown March 1st.

...One of the very last movies being shown on the festival's final day, March 3rd, is Jacques Demy's THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967), with Catherine Deneuve, George Chakiris, and Gene Kelly. After seeing that, be sure to check out Demy and Deneuve's earlier THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964), which I recently reviewed.

For more on TCM in February, please visit TCM's special 31 Days of Oscar microsite or the complete schedule.

Additionally, TCM's 31 Days of Oscar reel may be found on YouTube.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

You are a brave woman. I don't think I could watch A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in a theatre because it never fails to bring tears - great, messy tears.

My Caftan Woman's Choice for February is a Roach Studios screwball comedy. I hope you will check out 1938s Merrily We Live starring Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne and supporting actress nominee Billie Burke. I truly think it is a movie you will enjoy.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

TREE is definitely a movie which leads to a serious misty-eye problem...or more! LOL.

I'm so glad you mentioned MERRILY WE LIVE and hope readers will check out your post on it here. It's been a good decade since the one time I saw it, and I don't recall much about it, but I do remember enjoying it! Definitely time for a revisit as I love the cast. Thanks for recommending it!

Best wishes,

10:11 PM  

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