What’s on TCM: April 2017

Alfred Hitchcock Rear Window

Happy April, everyone! Looking at this month’s TCM lineup, I can honestly say there isn’t much here I don’t like. Instead of having just one star of the month, this month, the spotlight goes to character actors. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the prime-time lineup will be dedicated to highlighting some of film’s most memorable character actors. Since I’m a sucker for a good melodrama, I’m really looking forward to the spotlight on post-war melodramas every Friday. Plus there are lots of great birthday tributes throughout the month and the recently-launched Noir Alley feature on Sunday mornings to look forward to.

Now, onto my highlights for the month!

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My Choices for TCMFF 2017

TCMFF 2017

It’s hard to believe that in just a little over a week from now, I’ll be in Los Angeles for this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival. This will be my fourth year attending and I have yet to be disappointed by my experience. Every year, I eagerly anticipate the full schedule being announced so I can spend a week obsessing over the schedule in minute detail to plan my course of action.

Planning out my schedule is never easy and there are always plenty of timing conflicts to agonize over. This year was definitely no exception. In fact, my schedule is less firm this year than it has been in the past since there are lots of blocks where I could easily change my mind on the day of.

Everyone has their own unique method to figuring out what to see at TCMFF.  In the past, I’ve had years where I mostly watched old favorites and I’ve had years where virtually everything I saw was new to me. This year, it looks like I’ll have a nice combination of both. Generally speaking, here’s what I consider when planning my schedule:

  • Have I seen it on the big screen before, or is it very likely I’ll have a chance to go to a screening of it at home?
  • Is there a special guest I’d really like to see?
  • Is there anything else that makes this event/screening unique?
  • Will I have time to get to this from my previous event?

This year, several of the movies will be shown on nitrate prints and it’s my big goal to see at least one of those. Given the volatile nature of nitrate, very few theaters will screen them so I doubt I’ll ever have a chance to go to a screening of one near home. Other than that, two of my biggest must-sees are both Club TCM events: conversations with Dick Cavett and Peter Bogdanovich. But now, let’s get on to the rest of my plans.

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Simpson Sunday: Made It, Ma!

James Cagney White Heat

Season 10, Episode 2: The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace

After becoming fascinated with the life of Thomas Edison, Homer goes to the library to learn more. But after an incident at the regular library, he can only go to the library at Springfield Elementary, where he runs into Bart causing trouble. In this case, he’s playing around on a globe while paying homage to James Cagney’s famous line from White Heat.

Bart Simpson White Heat Parody

What’s on TCM: March 2017

Cleopatra Richard Burton Elizabeth Taylor

Happy March, everyone! It looks like March is going to be a pretty busy month on TCM. First of all, we have the final few days of the annual 31 Days of Oscar programming. On top of that, Richard Burton is the Star of the Month and his movies will be shown every night during the week of March 6. If you’re not into basketball and March Madness, perhaps TCM’s March Malice would be more up your alley. From March 20-25, TCM will be doing a spotlight of movies featuring very memorable villains. (It’s also perhaps my personal favorite name for a TCM spotlight of all time.) And, as the icing on the cake, TCM will be launching their brand new film noir series, Noir Alley, on March 5th with a screening of The Maltese Falcon at 10:00 AM. Noir Alley will be on every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the schedule.

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Simpson Sunday: Katharine Horse Trainer

Katharine Hepburn

Season 3, Episode 8: Lisa’s Pony

When Homer fails to bring Lisa a saxophone reed she needs on the night of the talent show, she’s humiliated in front the entire school. Determined to win her over again, Homer decides to make one of Lisa’s biggest dreams come true: to own a pony. Buying and caring for a pony quickly proves to be more expensive than Homer realized though, and he’s forced to work around the clock to earn the money for it. Homer buys the pony from a horse farm, run by a very proper woman. Tress MacNeille voiced this character and based the voice on Katharine Hepburn’s very distinct voice. When asked about the stable services she offers, the woman also offers to teach pronunciation to Lisa at no extra charge so that Lisa can also speak like Katharine Hepburn.

Lisa's Horse Trainer

What’s on TCM: February 2017

Vivien Leigh OscarHappy February, everyone! As any regular TCM viewer knows, February is traditionally TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar month. I’m well aware that this tends to be a love it or hate it type of month, and while I’m always disappointed that it means few silent films will be shown, there are always plenty of other movies to keep me entertained throughout the month.

This year, all the movies included in 31 Days of Oscar will be shown in alphabetical order. As if that weren’t enough, all the movies scheduled during prime time are grouped together by a common theme, which will also be in alphabetical order ranging from “addiction” to “zany.”

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the schedule.

 

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Book Review: Mary Astor’s Purple Diary

Mary Astor's Purple Diary by Edward SorelIf you’re a classic film fan who has spent any significant amount of time watching Turner Classic Movies, surely you have seen at least one movie starring Mary Astor. With starring roles in some of the greatest films ever made, including The Maltese FalconMeet Me in St. LouisDodsworthMidnight, and The Palm Beach Story, just to name a few, any classic film fan is bound to cross cinematic paths with Astor at some point.

While I’ve certainly seen plenty of her movies, I know little about Astor’s personal life or what she was like as a person. So when Edward Sorel recently published his book “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” and I heard it was about a major scandal from the 1930s that involved her, a bitter husband, and a diary in which she documented her affairs in great detail, I was definitely intrigued. Hollywood has seen more than its fair share of scandals over the years, but this was one I hadn’t heard about before.

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” is one of the most unusual but delightful books about old Hollywood I’ve ever read. Rather than being a straightforward recounting of the scandal, it’s part showbiz book and part personal recounting of how Sorel became acquainted with Astor. While replacing the floors in his New York apartment back in the 1960s, Sorel removed the existing flooring and found old newspapers underneath dating back to when this scandal was in all the papers. He found himself fascinated by the story and felt compelled to learn more about Astor. Over 50 years later, Sorel clearly still feels a great deal of affection for her.

If you’re hoping for a detailed, in-depth book about the scandal or about Mary Astor in general, this is not the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a quick, light, witty read with lots of great illustrations, “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” is well worth your time. While it’s hardly an exhaustive biography, it had enough information about Astor’s personal life to make me want to learn more about her. Before reading it, I had known nothing about her awful father, her affair with John Barrymore, her ill-fated first marriage, and of course, the big scandal that occurred when her second husband tried to use her diary as a pawn to get custody of their daughter. It sounds like she led a very fascinating life. It was like this book did for me what removing that old flooring did for Sorel: drew my attention to an interesting woman by revealing a now somewhat forgotten scandal.