TCM is feature packed throughout September, but perhaps their most eye-popping moment occurs not on the screen, but the printed page with September’s unveiling of the new and improved TCM Now Playing Guide.
September's TCM programming will be previewed below, but first a better look at the new Now Playing.
Now Playing Guide: Review
If you’ve yet to subscribe to Now Playing I heartily recommend it as the best $13.99 I spend on an annual basis. It is not yet packed enough to recommend as anything more than a companion piece to the television channel, but it’s getting there!
I noticed something different about my Now Playing guide the day I retrieved it from my mailbox: Extra heft. Sure enough Now Playing now claims to carry 33% more pages including four new pages of editorial content to add some punch to the larger font used throughout.More attention is drawn to the feature articles, including the monthly columns by Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz and Martin Scorsese. For fans of Ben he seems to make the biggest gains (as he does in all things TCM these days) by moving from a half-page formerly hidden inside the television listings to a full page smack dab between the two elder statesmen.
A major change comes in TCM now naming their daytime programming themes. Heck, some bloggers have made these mysteries their monthly focus in the past and now the guide gives us that info daily, minus the detective work.
The only improvement I saw as an overall negative was the change in color to the names of actors and directors in the “Movie Listings” section. Now Playing says, “we’ve set the actor and director names in a different color so you can easily spot your favorites.” Unfortunately that different color matches the stripe of color accenting the top of the pages. For September this is a rather light purple, which made for pretty difficult reading by my eyes. I'm not sure if the type is blending with the accent or if it is just harder to read, but the old bolded black was much better here.
Low light and reading glasses recommended.It’s interesting to see that the current changes come largely in response to the survey TCM conducted in 2011. I recall responding to said survey, but cannot remember what I pushed for. Probably making that damn center-spread more secure! While the staples appear to be the same, Now Playing even seems to have addressed this complaint by moving the now super-sized “At a Glance” calendar away from the center of the magazine, placing it directly after editorial content.
I’m sure some will miss the simpler two-page calendar in the middle, but I’m willing to give this a shot.
Overall I’d grade the new Now Playing guide a B+. It’s everything I could have asked for except that faintly colored font. If the calendar situation turns out to be more of an inconvenience than an enhancement that grade could go down a notch or two.
But I'm very happy with most changes and say great job on the whole.
If you'd like to subscribe to Now Playing, here's the place to go.
TCM September 2013 Highlights
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.
You’re receiving this a little late for me to point out that (Yay, finished on time!) TCM is showing Alfred Hitchcock movies all day, Sunday, September 1, but you’ll be happy to know that this is only the first of five Sundays that TCM is devoting to Hitchcock during September’s “Sundays with Hitch” weekly feature.
Monday, September 2 features TCM’s annual 24 -hour tribute to the Telluride Film Festival. This marathon crosses paths with the debut of The Story of Film: An Odyssey, a highly recommended documentary that premiered at Telluride 2011 and is best described through its title. And so, fans of Alice Guy Blache will be happy late that night with three titles, each of which is a TCM premeire, and the real night owls will be treated to a D.W. Griffith double feature with The Birth of a Nation (1915) at 2 am EST followed by Orphans of the Storm (1921) at 5:15 am.
In case you missed the note above I should clarify that those Griffith titles actually air after the calendar has flipped to September 3 here on the East Coast.
Thanks to the revamped Now Playing there is no mystery for me to unravel on Tuesday, September 3, when movies featuring Gilbert Roland play throughout the day. I like Juarez (1939), though if you actively dislike Paul Muni you’ll want to stay away. He’s plastered in make-up doing everything he’s best known for.
TCM’s features built around The Story of Film documentary continue the evening of the third with two more Griffith classics, Intolerance (1916) at 8 pm and, one of my own first silent film favorites, Way Down East (1920) following at 11:30 pm.
That marathon actually wraps up early on Wednesday, September 4, with Victor Seastrom’s masterpiece The Wind (1928) starring Lillian Gish at 7:15 am.Thursday, September 5 features a daytime birthday tribute to Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), highlighted here by his early Warner Brothers output: The Jazz Singer (1927) at 6 am; The Doorway to Hell (1930) at 7:45 am; Little Caesar (1930) at 9:15 am; The Office Wife (1930) at 10:45 am; Illicit (1931) at 12 noon.
The evening of the fifth is the first night of programming dedicated to September Star of the Month Kim Novak. While Robert Osborne elevates her far beyond a level I had ever associated her with in his Now Playing introduction I should point out that Vertigo (1958)—a movie currently elevated far beyond a level I’d ever associated it with—plays at 10pm EST.
I wonder how many hours it would have taken me to figure out that daytime, Friday, September 6, featured movies with screenplays by Isabel Lennart? I’ll tell you, none, because I wouldn’t have even spotted a theme! So, thank you new Now Playing! I probably would have just been left wondering how Holiday Affair (1949) had leaked off the December schedule.Metropolis (1927) plays at 8 pm on the 6th ushering in TCM’s September Future Shock focus on Friday evenings. After the always disappointing Things to Come (1936), immediately following at 10:45 pm, the Future Shock series comes too far into the future for me to appreciate being on TCM.
With the return of a standard month comes the return of Saturday morning series. Walter Pidgeon is Nick Carter in Phantom Raiders (1940) at 10:45 am, followed by 1963’s Flipper kicking off a run of underwater themed films in place of the Lassie-thon that finished up in July.
Giant (1956) is the Essential that evening at 8. I get a kick out of seeing The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) on later that night, at 2 am. It’s followed by Bride of Frankenstein (1935) at 3:30 am, a nice reward for making it this far into the night.
More Sundays with Hitch on September 8.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) alert at 12:45 pm, Monday, September 9, part of an Arthur Freed (1894-1973) birthday tribute, but a far more interesting evening as The Story of Film continues with its second installment and movies from the three most celebrated silent clowns, Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd, running through until 5:30 in the morning.
The following evening, September 10, The Story of Film focus goes on some of the greatest silent films ever made featuring Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad (1924) at 9:15 pm; Maria Falconetti in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) at midnight; King Vidor’s The Crowd (1928) at 2 am; and then, after a replay of Chapter 2 of the documentary, Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (1924) at 5 am, early on the morning of the 11th.
Thursday, September 12, brings a few pre-Codes along with some later 1930s titles to celebrate the birthday of child star Dickie Moore (1925 - ). Highlights include early Kay Francis in Passion Flower (1930) at 6 am; William A. Wellman’s Star Witness (1931) starring Walter Huston at 7:30 am; more Huston in Gregory LaCava’s pre-Code classic Gabriel Over the White House (1933) at 8:45 am; the wonderful This Side of Heaven (1934) from director William K. Howard at 10:15 am; I’m a fan of Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), which plays at 11:45 am; and I look forward to catching John Farrow’s My Bill (1938) at 3 pm because how could it not be a winner with Kay Francis, Bonita Granville and Anita Louise in the cast? The Dickie Moore marathon concludes with film noir favorite Out of the Past (1947) at 5:30 that afternoon.
Prison movies all day Friday, September 13, give me a chance to once again point you to Richard Dix in Hell’s Highway (1932) at 10:30 am: TCM gives you the opportunity to compare it directly to I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) later that day. Chain Gang plays at 6 pm. Others airing that day include Wallace Beery’s talkie break-out in The Big House (1930) at 11:45 am, followed by Cagney and Raft in Each Dawn I Die (1939) and Barbara Stanwyck in Ladies They Talk About (1933). My own DVR will light up for a Lew Landers women-in-prison title, Condemned Women (1938), at 9 that morning. Sally Eilers and Anne Shirley appear to be the top two prisoners.
Another major alert comes the evening Saturday, September 14, when TCM finally plays Abandon Ship! (1957) again, this time right after 8 pm Saturday night Essential Lifeboat (1944), which should open up debate to comparison.
Pretty good early morning double feature Sunday, September 15, before the Sundays with Hitch features begin: Viva Villa! (1934) at 6 am, followed by King Kong (1933) at 8 am.
An Alexander Korda (1893-1956) birthday marathon begins with a favorite, Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) at 6 am on Monday the 16th. F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) opens The Story of Film that Monday evening, immediately followed by Chapter 3 of the documentary. Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potempkin (1925) follows at 11:15 pm.
Tuesday, September 17 daytime features Joan Crawford in the 1930s. Five pre-Code titles open the marathon with Our Blushing Brides (1930) on at 6 am; Montana Moon (1930) at 7:45 am; This Modern Age (1931) at 9:15 am; Today We Live (1933) at 10:30 am; and Dancing Lady (1933) at 12:30 pm.Jumping ahead to TCM’s Norman Z. McLeod (1895-1964) birthday tribute during the daytime, Friday, September 20, we get a fun marathon of titles all released within the tight time frame of 1937-1940 running between 6:30 am and 2:30 pm: Topper (1937) at 6:30; Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne in Merrily We Live (1938) at 8:15 am; Fredric March and Virginia Bruce in There Goes My Heart (1938) at 10 am; Robert Taylor and Greer Garson in Remember? (1939) at 11:30 am, those previous three romantic comedies all having a very similar feel, and; Little Men (1940) at 1 pm, which I’ve previously covered HERE.
Monday, September 24, The Story of Film goes pre-Code big with its features: Love Me Tonight (1932) at 8 pm; The Public Enemy (1931) at 11:15 pm; Frankenstein (1931) at 12:45 am; Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) at 2 am; Twentieth Century (1934) at 3:45 am. Chapter 4 plays at 10 pm and is about “The Great American Movie Genres,” covered here, “and the Brilliance of European Film,” which is taken care of on Tuesday night.
“Ginger without Fred” daytime Tuesday, September 24, unfortunately sticks mostly to the ‘50s, but do be sure to check out Ginger as Roxie Hart (1942) at 6:45 pm if you’ve yet to see it.
Highlight of divorce day on TCM, Wednesday, September 25, is a chance to see two faves, Edward Arnold and Karen Morley, in RKO’s Wednesday’s Child (1934). That evening is King Vidor night, and while I would have spotlighted some different selections the night begins extremely well with The Big Parade (1925) at 8 pm followed by Street Scene (1931) at 10:15 pm. (Reminder: Vidor's The Crowd plays back on September 10 as part of The Story of Film).
The next few days don’t do much for me, though I’ll check out Wheeler and Woolsey in Girl Crazy (1932) kicking off the George Gershwin (1898-1937) birthday celebration on Thursday the 26th at 6:30 am. Friday, September 27, features Joel McCrea Westerns all day and Saturday, September 28, features Peggy Cummins movies during Prime Time. Hitch on Sundays wraps up on the 29th.
Monday, September 30, includes Random Harvest (1942) at 8 am and Leave Her to Heaven (1945) a 4 pm amongst a daytime schedule of films fitting under the wide banner, “What Else Could Go Wrong?” Chapter 5 of The Story of Film plays that night at 10, just after John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) and prior to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941).
A wonderful month of programming from Turner Classic Movies, though the wealth of earlier titles is likely to dry up during the evenings throughout October and November as The Story of Film continues on towards present day over its next ten entries. TCM usually balances out such potential inequities though, so perhaps we're in for some other early treats in those coming months. I hope!
For other views of September on TCM be sure to check out the link at the top of the page over at Kristina's Speakeasy (August still posted as of this writing, but it will be updated soon).
On Immortal Ephemera in September I’ll be wrapping up some Summer Under the Stars research that I haven't had time to put together yet. There will be a brief biography of Glenda Farrell some time this week and I hope to have my lengthier biography of Wallace Beery finished before the month is out.
There will also be the usual fair share of spur-of-the-moment reviews and classic collectible galleries, plus I’ve signed on to take part in a Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon being hosted by Lindsay’s Movie Musings and Comet Over Hollywood on September 21-22. My selection for that Blogathon will be Lee Tracy in Clear All Wires! (1933), which I hope to use as a starting point to talk about other movies featuring Tracy as a newsman. There are quite a few.
TCM’s Star of the Month for October will be Vincent Price.
Hope you have a great Labor Day Weekend. Back soon!