TCM in October is highlighted by 52 films featuring Star of the Month Spencer Tracy plus a better than usual selection of 29 horror films to celebrate Halloween.
On Tuesdays throughout October TCM shows 20 movies under the theme of "A History of Disability in Film" and Friday evenings get you ready for Election Day in November with a slate of "American Politics on Film." That group of films is centered around the premiere of a new entry to TCM's "A Night at the Movies" series, Hollywood Goes to Washington.
While we'll touch upon each of those evening features in the preview to follow, it's the off hours I'm most interested in highlighting here. The titles you need to DVR whether it be 2 am or 2 pm. When you're either sleeping or working. I'll highlight Spencer Tracy as Star of the Month in a separate post over the weekend.
TCM in October, Quickie Edition
Most Exciting Day: Since October 31 goes almost without saying I'll point to both October 11 for 11 1936-1939 RKO features directed by Lew Landers as well as October 24 for 14 hours of W. Somerset Maugham adaptations. October 29 wins hands-down for the many George Sanders fans.
Top Pick: October 8: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), which should have made the cut for 10/31. Non-horror division: October 1: Dante's Inferno (1935); October 24: The Letter (1929).
Most Wanted: October 11, that Lew Landers RKO schedule mentioned above. As for a single title, perhaps The Showoff on the October 1, the one Spencer Tracy title which does not seem familiar to me at all.
Most Exciting Day is self-explanatory. If you want me to recommend a sick day from work, it'll be that day! Top Pick being those I have seen and would push you down on my couch and force you to watch if you even hint that you haven't seen it! Most Wanted being those I have to the best of my knowledge never seen but will be sure to check out this month.
These picks are based upon Turner Classic Movies' US schedule (most also air in Canada). Any times mentioned are all EST because that's what TCM uses inside my Now Playing Guide and that's what I use when I set the clocks here on Long Island. The days are TCM's own slightly screwy time periods, typically beginning at 6 am and working through to the following morning at the same time. If I say something airs at October 7 at 1 am, as I will below, your calendar will tell you that I'm technically referring to the very early morning hours of October 8.
TCM in October, Long Version
So despite what I wrote up above I have to begin the preview with mention of the October 1 Spencer Tracy schedule! TCM shows many of Tracy's lesser known films of the 30s to kick off their celebration of the actor including my must-see pick at 12:30 am EST, Dante's Inferno (1935). I don't care if Spencer Tracy is the star, this baby belongs up there with Madam Satan (1930) in any 30s camp celebration! From the unwieldy carnival setting to the strange retelling of the title story, Dante's Inferno has to stand as Tracy's weirdest flick. Don't blink or you'll miss young Rita Cansino dancing by!
The Tracy movies continue well into October 2nd, but as Marx Brothers' fans already know 10/2 is Groucho's birthday and so TCM has tucked A Night at the Opera (1937) and A Day at the Races (1937) into their mid-afternoon schedule beginning at 2:30 pm.
Have your breakfast with popular character actor James Gleason on Wednesday the 3rd as TCM kicks off the day with the racy sounding The Matrimonial Bed (1930) at 6:30 am followed by the original series entry Penguin Pool Murder (1932) teaming Gleason with Edna May Oliver at 7:45 am. Nope, not his birthday, so I don't know why.
Classic horror that evening on TCM with a Lionel Atwill quadruple feature: The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) at 8 pm followed by Doctor X (1932) with our old pal Lee Tracy (and Fay Wray in each of those first two), Mark of the Vampire (1935) and classic Universal entry House of Dracula (1945) wrapping up with a 12:15 am showing before some zombie-titled features take over the late, late hours.
I thought the evening schedule for October 4 looked pretty good, so I wasn't surprised to see it was a night of Robert Osborne's picks. I highly recommend Son of Fury (1942) starring Tyrone Power at 8:00 pm. This is a Fox title that TCM doesn't show very often. I'm not familiar with William Wellman's Thunder Birds (1942) following at 10 pm, but I'll watch anything with the gorgeous Gene Tierney in it (possibly because of Son of Fury!); then a personal long-time favorite, Honky Tonk (1941) with Clark Gable and Lana Turner (1941) airing at 11:30 pm--I've been watching this one over and over since first recording the colorized edition to VHS off of TBS in the 80s! Robert Osborne's fourth and final pick is the Bette Davis-Humphrey Bogart flick Marked Woman (1937), another goodie. Jeeze, Robert, I wish these were Saturday night Essentials!
The October 5 daytime theme is curses and despite opening with Wheeler and Woolsey in Mummy's Boys (1936), some of these titles could have just as easily been included in the main October horror celebration: Hammer Films' creepy The Reptile (1966) at 9 am and Dana Andrews in Curse of the Demon (1958) at 2:45 pm; tucked between those scares at 1:15 pm is Rene Clair's delightful, yet occasionally creepy, I Married A Witch (1942) starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake.
Don't miss Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse in Party Girl (1958) early Saturday, October 6 at 6 am. Later that morning it's time to see how the Whistler series is without Richard Dix when Michael Duane takes over for The Return of the Whistler (1948) at 10:45 am. I miss Dix already!
A double dose of early baseball for Silent Sunday fans beginning at midnight on Sunday the 7th with Charles Ray in The Busher (1919), also featuring better known co-stars Colleen Moore and John Gilbert, followed by the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth, starring in Headin' Home (1920) at 1:00 am. Don't expect the ole heavyset Bambino of lore in this one: the Babe is just 25 years old and in the prime of condition, just establishing his legend after his first year with the Yankees and swatting a then unprecedented 54 home runs. The movie, well, it ain't too good, but it's Babe Ruth for cryin' out loud!
For some reason TCM hides Fredric March's Oscar winning performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) at 6 am on Monday the 8th. That evening should prove popular as for night #2 of Spencer Tracy films TCM airs many of his best known and most popular 1930s and early 40s titles. A fantastic choice at 8 pm with Fritz Lang's Fury (1936) kicking the evening off.
Wednesday, October 10 gets off to a great start with William Powell in the very entertaining Lawyer Man (1933) at 6 am and Warren William in one of his Perry Masons, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1936), later at 8:30 am. Della Street is personal fave Claire Dodd in that Mason entry. The 10th is generally a law-themed day filled with interesting looking 30s and 40s titles that are going to light up my own DVR.
I find Thursday, October 11, personally, TCM's most intriguing day of programming. To the best of my knowledge I have not seen any of the eleven 1936-1939 RKO features directed by Lew Landers, but every single one looks like B-movie heaven headlined by a collection of stars including Chester Morris, Richard Dix, Joan Fontaine, Sally Eilers, Helen Mack and many other actors who aren't featured nearly as often as their MGM and Warner Brothers counterparts on our favorite channel. The marathon runs from 6:45 am through 8 pm and I'll be very curious to see what I think of it once it's over!
Speaking of Richard Dix, he kicks off Friday the 12th at 6:30 am in Lovin' the Ladies (1930). Next at 7:45 am is acquired taste Joe E. Brown ... which I have acquired ... starring in baseball movie Elmer the Great (1933) with the beautiful Patricia Ellis. 1938 RKO hit A Man to Remember (1938) airs at 10:30 am--I watched this one several times since TCM last aired it and have become a big fan of both the movie and star Ellis, who you might better remember for taking a ride out of prison with Paul Muni in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932). This may not mean much, but A Man to Remember is a remake of RKO's own One Man's Journey (1933), which starred Lionel Barrymore in the Ellis part. Nearly an exact remake, but a bit more polished this second time.
We'll skip most of the weekend to get to the next Sunday silent feature, Lon Chaney in The Unknown (1927) at 1:30 am Sunday, October 14. Also starring a young Joan Crawford this one, finding Chaney as an armless knife-thrower, only grows even more bizarre from that brief description. Enjoy!
Spencer Tracy's Oscar nominated films air on Monday, October 15 and I see that the "Disability in Films" feature settles Edward Arnold's blind detective Duncan Maclain in the 8 pm slot Tuesday night, the 16th. I wrote about this one, Eyes in the Night (1942), a looong while back, so I'll probably polish that article up a little before TCM airs it.
Wednesday morning, the 17th, starts out with a pair of Jimmy Stewart biggies, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) at 6 am, followed by You Can't Take It With You (1938) at 8:15, but be sure to hang around for the 10:30 am feature, Lucky Partners (1940), starring the somewhat odd sounding pair of Ronald Colman and Ginger Rogers. Very entertaining romantic comedy from Lewis Milestone that also features everybody's fave Jack Carson in a prominent role. Hammer horror that evening!
October 18 is Miriam Hopkins birthday (born 1902) and I can guarantee you I will do something special to honor her in the new Immortal Archives feature. TCM does so with a 6-film marathon between 6:30 am and 4:30 pm running, in order: Wise Girl (1937) with Ray Milland; Woman Chases Man (1937) with Joel McCrea; Miriam and Bette Davis in The Old Maid (1939); Lady with Red Hair (1940) with Claude Rains; Michael Curtiz' Western Virginia City with Errol Flynn AND Humphrey Bogart; and more Bette with Old Acquaintance (1943) wrapping up the celebration.
You can insert my usual moan about the lack of early Paramount titles here, though I feel more justified than usual since I've already made mention of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde airing earlier this month. Couldn't have sandwiched that one in here? And at least one of The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), Trouble in Paradise (1932) or Design for Living (1933) would have been appreciated. Or our old pal, The Story of Temple Drake (1933). Anyone know if Miriam Hopkins has ever been featured as Star of the Month? Might be one worth lobbying for.
Saturday, October 20 kicks off with the Gable-Harlow pre-code classic Red Dust (1932) at 6 am and then, forsaking the typical Saturday morning series format in favor of it being that time of year, TCM goes with a run of horror films throughout the rest of the morning.
TCM celebrates Joan Fontaine's 95th birthday on October 22 with a 9-movie marathon running from 6 am-8 pm. I'm looking forward to some of the lesser known titles as I'm much more familiar with sister Olivia de Havilland's output. Maybe I'll finally catch The Constant Nymph (1943) at 11:30 am, a title I haven't heard an unkind word spoken of! I'm sorry to say that my knowledge of Joan Fontaine doesn't extend much past Suspicion (1941) or, somewhat recently, Jane Eyre (1943), but I'm sure this site will have quite a bit to tell you about her around the 22nd!
Another fantastic day on October 24 when TCM runs 14 hours of W. Somerset Maugham adaptations, and they aren't the titles this Maugham fan would have expected! Major DVR alert for The Letter at 8:45 am--not Bette Davis, but a rare chance to see stage star Jeanne Eagels on film in a performance that might not be for your tastes but will stick in your memory! The role Eagels made famous on stage, Sadie Thompson, is taken over by Joan Crawford in the campy Rain (1932). I haven't seen Isle of Fury (1936), airing at 2:15 pm, but it's based on The Narrow Corner, which was previously adapted in 1933 in a version I really enjoyed. Maugham day is another all-day DVR event with several additional rarely shown titles airing as well.
Look for The Addams Family elsewhere! TCM runs a 4-film Jackie Coogan marathon on his date of birth, October the 26th (1914), between 6 am and 10:15 am. The titles: Charlie Chaplin's A Day's Pleasure (1919); Chaplin classic The Kid (1921); the title role for Jackie in Oliver Twist (1922) with Lon Chaney as Fagin; and comedy The Rag Man (1925) finishing things off at 9 am.
More Saturday morning (and afternoon) horror on October 27 with some 50s and 60s sci-fi airing Prime Time on Sunday the 28th--Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) remains my pick, whenever it airs! The Silent Sunday feature at 1 am that night is Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera (1925), in a film which still provides chills and includes a Technicolor sequence that is pure eye candy.
Monday, October 29 is the day George Sanders fans have been waiting for. TCM had scheduled a July 3 Sanders birthday celebration but it was preempted by their tribute to the late Ann Rutherford soon after the beloved actress passed away. Monday the 29th makes good for Sanders fans with an all-day 10 movie marathon including 3 each of Sanders' series entries in The Saint and The Falcon.
Tuesday evening, October 30, TCM wraps their focus on the history of disability in film by showing the strange Chaney tale The Unknown once more (armless knife thrower, remember?) and follows it with the always controversial Freaks (1932). It's a shame TCM doesn't show the documentary included on the Freaks DVD, The Sideshow Cinema, along with this because as I recall it really went into depth about each of the performers in the film. Certainly not for everybody. Too much for some and not enough for others, though I think even those in the latter crowd will feel some chills during the rainy climax.
TCM gives us a near perfect day of Halloween programming (finally!) this October 31! Rather than the usual marathon of Val Lewton or Vincent Price, and that stuff is spread throughout the month, the prime time hours are filled with the Halloween schedule I remember watching every year as a kid ... and every year on DVD as an adult!
The day kicks off with the 2002 reconstruction of one of the most famous lost movies of all time, London After Midnight (1927) starring Lon Chaney. Despite some of the most terrifying promotional photos in movie history, I found London After Midnight only okay. I'm sure it suffers quite a bit by how we're forced to watch it, but you can see the basic story in the comedy remake Mark of the Vampire (1935), which was mentioned way back on October 3 as part of Lionel Atwill night.
The major classics begin at 8 pm with James Whale's Frankenstein (1931). While there's no Bride of Frankenstein (1935) on TCM's schedule there is Son of Frankenstein (1939) following at 9:30. Besides Karloff as the monster Son of also features Bela Lugosi's fantastic supporting performance as Ygor.
What's developed into a TCM regular in recent times, The Wolf Man (1941), is next at 11:15 pm, followed by The Mummy (1932); the less impressive The Mummy's Hand (1940); one from Paramount slips in, Island of Lost Souls (1933), but fits just as well as the others; and a return to Universal for The Invisible Man (1933) starring Claude Rains wrapping Halloween and thus the month.
Besides Bride it's hard not to notice Lugosi missing as Dracula (1931), but I did say near perfect, didn't I? And this is pretty good!
Other October TCM Previews
- The Hollywood Revue
- Journeys in Classic Film where there is also a very ambitious horror blogging schedule set for October!
- Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
- Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
With apologies, I'm discontinuing "The Tally." I no longer think it has enough value in exchange for the time it takes to compile. Short story would be this, TCM shows an awful lot of movies from the 1930s-1960s with greatest emphasis on the '40s and '50s.
I'll be back with something on TCM Star of the Month Spencer Tracy sometime very soon!
Next month: Constance Bennett will be TCM Star of the Month for November.