Before descending into a death-of-print diatribe, I will say I miss my May issue of Now Playing very much. Frankly, as I sit down to write this I have as little an idea of what’s playing on Turner Classic Movies tomorrow as I do for May 31. We’re playing this preview by ear!
Without my copy of Now Playing I’m left with nothing to circle. No pages to dog ear or stick Post-its into the corners of. No center page to fall out mid-month.
So as we fly by the seat of my pants, my selections and recommendations made in an entirely linear fashion thanks to THIS page at TCM.com, I apologize in advance for any can’t misses I may miss or daytime themes that escape me. My mind doesn’t work the same online. With that little paper guide in my hand I can be precise. Set it down, look something up, proclaim Eureka! and tell you about the back-to-back Aline MacMahon movies running on May 3 (I do that anyway). Taking the process online some sort of ADD that I’d never been aware of kicks in and I become a scrolling zombie (though I don't fare too poorly below).
Thankfully though I know a good movie when I see it. I’ll do my best.
And to the folks at any magazine fulfillment house, guys, I’ll keep on renewing my paper subscription because the day I buy a Kindle is the day I lose all reading comprehension. Let’s just work on those processing times on your end. I’m assuming it’s not done by hand these days.
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.
TCM in May, Long Version
Wednesday, May 1 sees TCM daytime celebrate Glenn Ford’s birthday (1916-2006) with a marathon of 8 movies between 6:15 am and 8 pm. TCM continues to make oldies fans such as myself happy with a marathon of six Priscilla Lane movies beginning at 8 that same night.
The morning of May 2 includes a handful of movies featuring a few of my favorite stars including the excellent The Mystery of Mr. X (1934) featuring Elizabeth Allan with Robert Montgomery at 7:15 am, followed by a pair featuring Ricardo Cortez, I Am a Thief (1935) at 9 am and Ricardo’s Perry Mason entry, The Curse of the Black Cat (1936) at 10:15. An American Romance (1944) with Brian Donlevy looks intriguing late that night at 1:45 am.
I love TCM daytime for Friday, May 3. Most would be content to celebrate Bing Crosby’s birthday (1903-1977), and TCM does so with three titles in the afternoon. But where TCM excels is in inviting fans of Aline MacMahon (1899-1991), Beaulah Bondi (1889-1981) and Mary Astor (1906-1987), three others born May 3, to the party as well.
It’s Aline MacMahon’s day early—and I’m so happy she was remembered--with The Heart of New York (1932) and Side Streets (1934) set as candles. I briefly mentioned Side Streets featuring MacMahon with Paul Kelly and Ann Dvorak in a recent entry. Don’t forget to record it at 8:15 am. Up next, two with Beulah Bondi, Two Alone (1934), which sounds like a juicy youth pre-Code featuring Jean Parker and Tom Brown, at 9:30 am followed by The Captain Is A Lady (1940) at 11. Mary Astor is (under?) represented by A Successful Calamity (1932) at 12:15 and Man of Iron (1935) at 1:30. After that the Bing trio kicks off with Pennies from Heaven (1936) at 2:45 pm followed by a couple of his ‘50s classics. Lots of ‘30s titles playing on TCM that night as well with a rare showing of Paramount’s all-star Alice in Wonderland at 8 pm and, speaking of youth films, Columbia’s No Greater Glory (1934), a Frank Borzage title about German street gangs starring Andy Hardy’s Beezy, George P. Breakston, with site faves Frankie Darro and Jackie Searl.
Advice: Empty your DVR and have it ready to go on May 3!
The Falcon continues to roll on Saturday mornings with George Sanders in The Falcon Takes Over (1942) playing at 10:45 on May 4. That night TCM plays the three most popular Busby Berkeley pre-Code musicals beginning with Gold Diggers of 1933 at 8, followed by James Cagney in Footlight Parade at 10 and, the big one, 42nd Street at midnight. All from 1933, whatta year!
I thought TCM would short-shrift my favorite Fox stars, Tyrone Power (1914-1958) and Alice Faye (1915-1998), on their mutual May 5 birthday (Happy birthday to my Dad too!), but they pull out the okay Rose of Washington Square (1939), also starring Al Jolson, and plug it right into the prime 8 pm EST time slot. Well done!
Even though they were never co-stars Monday, May 6 features some big birthdays too with a pair of Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926) movies airing early, The Sheik (1921) at 6:45 am followed by Four Horsemen of the Apolocalypse (1921) at 8:15, and then two from Orson Welles (1915-1985), beginning at 11 with The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and then The Lady from Shanghai (1948). Then, and somebody at TCM must like him a lot more than I do, three starring Stewart Granger (1913-1993), who to this date remains the most puzzling selection I’ve ever experienced as a TCM Star of the Month—while the date of that honor escapes me the one positive is that the choice gave me hope for a bunch of my favorite lesser stars ever since! Boarding our time machine back to when these titles first ran I think the aging Valentino fan would be okay with seeing Rudy share his day with that whippersnapper Orson, but Stewart Granger? Agree with the selection or not, I should reiterate that it’s days like this that make TCM the best television channel ever. I’m sure there are some Granger fans that I’ve insulted shrugging their shoulders over my excitement about that Aline MacMahon double feature back on May 3!
Wrapping up the 6th, a couple of early ‘40s titles that I love air that night, Boom Town (1940) with Gable, Tracy at Claudette Colbert at 9:30 pm and Errol Flynn as Gentleman Jim (1942) at 2:15 am.
More Flynn on Tuesday, May 7 with Virginia City (1940) at 10 am and more Gable too, this time paired with Joan Crawford, following at noon in Strange Cargo (1940). Priscilla Lane fans who enjoyed Brother Rat at 8 back on May 1 can settle in for sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940) on the 7th at 5 pm. That’s followed by another title I’ve semi-recently covered, Little Men (1940) at 6:30 pm. The Tough Guys theme, which takes over in lieu of a Star of the Month, seems to ratchet up the film noir action that evening with The Asphalt Jungle (1950) at 8, followed by dark classics Crossfire (1947) and Out of the Past (1947).
On Wednesday, May 8 Judy Garland morning seems to segue into Dirk Bogarde afternoon with I Could Go On Singing (1963) the linking title at 12:45 pm. I know some think I love my Mickey Rooney more than I should, but I’ve got to point you to another Busby Berkeley musical, Babes on Broadway (1941), starring Judy and the Mick that morning at 9:15 am. Fun stuff!
International film fans will be happier than I am with TCM’s May 9 daytime marathon of movies starring Alain Delon - Six titles air between 6 am and 7:15 pm.
Big movies under the sun on Friday, May 10. A run, in fact, of Best Actor Oscar winning performances ranging from 1936-1942 and 6 am to 8 pm by my clock. Our winners, and thus the lineup as it begins at 6: Victor McLaglen in The Informer (1935); Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936); Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous (1937); Tracy again, back-to-back, as Father Flanagan with that Rooney character in Boys Town (1938); Robert Donat in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939); James Stewart in the Philadelphia Story (1940); and, capping the afternoon, Gary Cooper in High Noon (1941). I’ll trade you the entire month of February on TCM for this lineup every May 10!
Tom Conway crops up alongside real-life brother George Sanders in that Saturday’s Falcon entry, The Falcon’s Brother (1942). Conway takes over as series lead going forward. Set your DVR’s of Josef von Sternberg’s 1935 Dostoevsky adaptation, Crime and Punishment just prior to the Falcon at 9:15 am. Peter Lorre is fantastic in it and Marian Marsh arguably gives her best performance. Also with Edward Arnold. The TCM Essential that evening is How Green Was My Valley (1941), which I recently glowed over HERE.
Carole Lombard alert for Sunday morning, May 12, with Columbia’s Lady by Choice (1934) early on at 6 am. Two starring Barbara Stanwyck later that morning with the classic Stella Dallas (1937) at 9 am, followed by William Wellman’s So Big (1932) at 11. I highly recommend TCM’s 8 o’clock movie that night as they travel with Rosalind Russell, and later Jack Carson, through the first half of the 20th Century in Roughly Speaking (1945). The ups and downs and an independent minded woman between the wars, very entertaining! The Sunday night silents intrigue me: a group of 1916 Judex serial entries from Louis Feuillade. This will be my first encounter.
TCM airs nine Laurel and Hardy shorts on the morning of Monday, May 13, including several of the Spanish language versions they played a few months back. I’m excited to see TCM correct an oversight from their November political schedule when they air Washington Merry-Go-Round (1932) (Yeah, that one is bolded--finally someone will read it!) starring Lee Tracy at 2:15 pm - Definitely reminiscent of, if not an influence on, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1941). Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) alert that night at 10:15 pm.
Nice back-to-back opening the morning of Tuesday, May 14 with Richard Dix in the Oscar-winning Best Picture Cimarron (1931) at 6:15 am followed by George Stevens’ epic Giant (1956) at 8:30 running straight through til lunch time. Stevens picked up his own Academy Award directing that one which only seems to grow better with each passing year. Go behind the scenes with Broadway hopefuls Ginger, Lucy and Kate in Gregory La Cava’s classic Stage Door at 2:15 pm and then be entertained in grand style by the classic musical Show Boat (1936) after at 4 that afternoon. More tough guys that night.
An eight movie Joseph Cotten (1905-1994) birthday celebration takes over the daytime Wednesday, May 15 beginning with 1941’s Lydia at 6:30 am and working chronologically through to 1967’s Jack of Diamonds at 6 pm. With a stop for The Third Man (1949) included that morning at 9:30.
Well, this seems to be going pretty well so far. Maybe I won't renew my Now Playing subscription next Spring!
But I am going to cut it short for tonight. It’s getting late and there is no way I can get this to you by Wednesday’s breakfast if I work all the way through to the 31st. But I’ll be back in a day or two with either a second post or an alert that I’ve amended May 16-31 to the bottom of this post. Hope you don’t mind.
Also very sad to read reports that we've lost one of our few remaining major stars of classic Hollywood. The Deanna Durbin Society has announced that Deanna Durbin has recently died at age 91. More to come on that I’m sure, but for now here is the New York Times obituary followed by the best collectible image of Miss Durbin that I could find:
I'm sure TCM will soon announce a Deanna Durbin tribute. I'll also add that information to this page, if and when it comes.
Talk to you real soon!