Clear your DVRs oldies fans, this is our month. When February has you wondering just how many ‘60s and ‘70s movies TCM can wear you down with during their annual and unavoidable “31 Days of Oscar” feature, take a deep breath and remember January. Hopefully you can recall it somewhat tangibly with those home recordings, because TCM viewing is going to have to be a full time job if you hope to catch all of the good stuff from the ‘30s and ‘40s (and ‘20s too!) playing this month.
Much of this can be attributed to TCM’s Star of the Month for January, Joan Crawford. Crawford is featured in a whopping 63 movies this month, a number so large that I was inspired to do a mini-tally:
I wish every Star of the Month broke down just like that!
By the way, my favorite of the bunch is Sadie McKee (1934) which sees Joan fall for Gene Raymond, turn hard under Franchot Tone’s criticism and go completely mercenary after Edward Arnold, a relationship that eventually brings her full circle. Former silent star Esther Ralston is on the scene to cause romantic complications. Good stuff from Arnold as a drunk in a part where he stops just short of going over the top for me.
I’m perfectly open to having a new favorite by the end of the month, though I’d bet it comes during the first couple of weeks if I do.
But TCM January doesn’t win over us oldies fans by virtue of Joan Crawford alone. Daytime birthday schedules, which typically run from 6:00 am through 8:00 pm, feature the movies of Anita Louise on January 9, Kay Francis on January 13, J. Carrol Naish on January 21 and director Ernst Lubitsch on January 28. Additional daytime (non-birthday) marathons feature MGM director Charles Brabin’s later films (all 1930-1933) on January 2, early to mid-1930s movies featuring the work of cinematographer Gregg Toland on January 14, a Jean Hersholt marathon on January 23 (all 1928-1936), character actor Irving Bacon on January 27 (all 1942-1951) and a six-movie Philo Vance marathon on January 30. Additional themes touching on the 1930s and ‘40s include a 24-hour marathon celebrating Columbia’s 90th anniversary on January 7 and a Prime Time focus on Jane Withers on January 22.
Let’s take a closer look at each day on TCM’s January schedule, highlighting my recommendations and past reviews and other articles along the way.
The (Eastern) standard disclaimer:
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. When I recommend something at 12:00 am Saturday it is technically airing just as your calendar flips to Sunday.
January 2 - Nine movies from director Charles Brabin as mentioned above. Most of these are unfamiliar and feature some of my most wanted titles for the month. Amongst those, a Louis Wolheim movie I haven’t seen, The Ship from Shanghai (1930) at 6:30 am; Washington Masquerade (1932) with Lionel Barrymore and Karen Morley at 2:00 pm; Richard Dix, another favorite, starring in Day of Reckoning (1933), which I think I may have actually seen already, at 3:30 pm.
Beginning at 8 pm is the first 24 hours of Joan Crawford movies, including all silent titles and several early talkies. In fact, this group of 16 movies each date to between 1925 and 1931. Included amongst the early talkies is one title I’ve covered, Laughing Sinners (1931), also featuring Clark Gable. It plays on the 3rd at 5:00 pm EST.
Also January 3, TCM’s Friday Night Spotlight for January begins its focus on “Science in the Movies.” It’s a mixed bag of titles and themes throughout the month, but I’m particularly fond of the biopic that kicks it off, Madame Curie (1943) starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.
Saturday, January 4 — Fredric March takes on the title role in one I really dug into, The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944). It plays at 12 noon.
Later that night, more Garson and Pidgeon, plus a pretty startling performance against type by Errol Flynn in That Forsyte Woman (1949) at midnight. I went into this one blind when I originally wrote about it, and while I still haven’t read the Galsworthy books, I have viewed both the 1967 and 2002 Forsyte Saga mini-series since that time (multiple times on the former). This makes the 1949 movie underwhelming in many regards, but Flynn is still a revelation as Soames Forsyte.
January 5 - TCM slips an unadvertised mini-birthday tribute to George Reeves (1914-1959) in between 10 am and 2:30 pm.
January 6 - 8:00 pm sees the premiere of TCM’s Private Screenings: Robert Osborne. Osborne chats for an hour with Alec Baldwin about his career in what will likely be the most viewed bit of programming on TCM this month.January 7 - The 24-hour Columbia anniversary marathon begins at 7:00 am with May Robson and Warren William in Lady for a Day (1933). It’s followed by studio game changer It Happened One Night (1934) at 8:45 am, giving me yet another opportunity to ask if Clark Gable really killed the undershirt.
January 8 - It’s Elvis’ birthday (1935-1977), which I mention for the Elvis fans. My DVR rests between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm when the King takes over TCM.
Of interest in the evening is a six movie Dane Clark marathon beginning at 8:00 pm.
January 9 is a big day with a nine-movie Anita Louise (1915-1970) birthday marathon running from 6:15 am through 7:30 pm. The highlight is actually a Helen Twelvetrees movie, Millie (1931), playing at 9 am. The title is on my short list of 1931 movies to write about for the upcoming Classic Movie History Project blogathon and I may just move it ahead of my current post in-progress (City Streets) so you can read about Millie before TCM plays it. We’ll see how the week breaks. Millie, also featuring Joan Blondell, plays at 9:00 am. It’s followed by more mother-love in The Firebird (1934) at 10:30 am, a pretty entertaining murder mystery featuring Lionel Atwill, Verree Teasdale, Ricardo Cortez (smarmy as ever) and Louise. Also quite good is Errol Flynn again in Green Light (1937), another of his more serious roles, at 1:30 pm.
A second 24 hours of Joan Crawford begins at 8 pm with Joan stealing Grand Hotel (1932) from Garbo and most of the rest of the cast (though I love Lionel Barrymore here!). The fourteen movies playing during this portion of the Star of the Month feature all date between 1932 and 1936 and include my recommendation from up top, Sadie McKee, at 8:00 am Friday morning.
That evening, January 10, TCM opens their evening of “Science in the Movies” with the classic Bride of Frankenstein (1935) at 8 pm.
January 11 - Three from Frank Capra that evening give you another chance at It Happened One Night (8 pm) and Lady for a Day (12:15 am) in case they played too early for you during that Columbia celebration a few days back. Tucked in between you’ll find Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) at 10:00 pm.
January 13 - A somewhat strange overall selection for the Kay Francis (1905-1968) birthday marathon begins with Street of Women (1932) at 6 am before jumping in time to nine titles released between 1937 and 1945. Most of her earlier hits played on TCM back in August 2012 when Francis was featured during Summer Under the Stars.
January 14 - An earlier Kay Francis title, and one I’ve written about, plays at 9:45 am on Gregg Toland day: Man Wanted (1932). It is followed by two movies I especially love, Tugboat Annie (1933) with Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery. If you’re introduction to this pairing came through Min and Bill (1930) and you found that one a bit too stilted, give Tugboat Annie a chance. It lacks the dramatic high spots that the earlier movie can boast, but it’s a breezier paced title with more consistent performances throughout. Tugboat Annie plays at 11 am and is followed by Lee Tracy in what has become my favorite Lee Tracy movie of them all, The Nuisance (1933), at 12:30 pm. (How perfect is that for a Tracy title?) This time the motor-mouthed actor plays an ambulance chasing lawyer who falls for Madge Evans. Frank Morgan gives a good performance as Tracy’s alcoholic underling. A quick mention to Public Hero No. 1 (1935), only because I watched it just a couple of weeks ago. Chester Morris stars as an undercover G-Man who infiltrates Joseph Calleia’s mob. Jean Arthur, as Calleia’s sister, provides romantic complications for Morris in this very good entry to the G-Men cycle. The goodies keep coming on the 14th with Mad Love (1935) up next at 5:00 pm, followed by the romantic History Is Made at Night (1937), starring Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur, with a super intense Colin Clive, capping the Toland marathon.
Judging by the length of that paragraph January 14 may just be the highlight of the month (non-Crawford division, of course). I didn’t even mention pre-Codes starring Loretta Young, Ginger Rogers and Jean Parker that play that same day!
January 15 - A six-movie marathon celebrating Margaret O’Brien’s 77th birthday. Plus O’Brien and other child stars gab with Robert Osborne on a Private Screenings from 2006 at 8:30 am.
Another Helen Twelvetrees sighting late that night in State’s Attorney (1932) at 4:15 am (early Thursday morning). Twelvetrees doesn’t fare very well in this one, but neither does anyone else not named John Barrymore, who dominates.
January 16 - Be sure to catch William A. Wellman’s Westward the Women (1951) at 6:00 pm. Robert Taylor leads a pack of mail-order brides across the Western frontier in one of Wellman’s best movies.
Right after that the third 24-hour marathon of Joan Crawford movies begins with The Women (1939) at 8:00 pm. A total of twelve Crawford movies dated between 1939 and 1944 play that night straight on through to 8 pm on the 17th.
Saturday, January 18 features Lifeboat (1944) as the 8:00 pm Saturday night Essential and follows with two more with Tallulah Bankhead movies including the rare Tarnished Lady (1931), a George Cukor title from Paramount co-starring Clive Brook, a leading man at that studio during this period who is now too forgotten. Put a circle around this one, TCM doesn’t get to play a lot of the early Paramount titles because of rights issues. Clive Brook would be better remembered if they could.
January 20 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day opens with a pair of fondly recalled sports biopics, Coley Wallace in The Joe Louis Story (1953) at 6 am, followed by Jackie Robinson as himself as The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) at 7:30 am. Louise Beavers plays Robinson’s mother, affording me a chance to link to the biography I wrote about her awhile back.
A Sidney Poitier triple feature plays in the afternoon followed by five with Harry Belafonte on the Prime Time schedule beginning at 8 pm.
January 21 - I don’t know how long he’ll be in any of the nine movies playing this day, but J. Carrol Naish (1896-1973) at least appears in all of them during TCM’s birthday tribute. The first movie that morning, No Other Woman (1933), starring Irene Dunne and Charles Bickford, is especially good. It’s followed by two from 1936 that I’m excited to catch, Special Investigator with our pal Richard Dix at 7:00 am and murder mystery Absolute Quiet (1936) with Lionel Atwill at 8:15 am. I’ve been on an Atwill kick since before Halloween and it’s only continued with my overdue Christmas acquisition of TCM’s Universal Cult Horror Collection, so I’m looking forward to one I haven’t seen before. I figure that simply by virtue of being there Atwill is either going to be the murderer or ham it up as red herring.
January 21 - While I find it somewhat unthinkable that TCM skips celebrating Luise Rainer’s 104th birthday on January 12, the evening of the 21st goes a small way towards making up the oversight. The Good Earth (1937) plays at 12:30 am as Guest Programmer Judy Judy Scheindlin’s final pick and it is followed by Robert Osborne’s interview with Rainer at the 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival at 3:00 am and The Great Waltz (1938) at 3:45 am.
January 22 - Five featuring Jane Withers begin at 8:00 pm with Bright Eyes (1934) starring Shirley Temple. It’s followed by Withers’ own starring vehicle Paddy O’Day (1935) at 9:30 pm. It’s going to be a new one to me, but from what I’ve read this musical seems as though it should have been front and center at 8:00 pm over the better-known title! I’m sure Robert Osborne will mention this during his introduction, but Rita Cansino in this movie soon changes her name to Rita Hayworth. Another rare one plays after that in Pack Up Your Troubles (1939) starring Jane with the Ritz Brothers. This will likely be a fun one—at least if you like the Ritz Brothers! The strange, depressing and, for me, underwhelming The North Star (1943) plays next as 12:30 am with the epic Giant (1956) carrying you through the night from 2:30 am until the sun rises on —
Jean Hersholt at 6 am in The Battle of the Sexes (1928), the first of ten movies featuring Hersholt throughout the day, Thursday, January 23. The other nine are talkies with the seven playing between 7:45 am and 5:15 pm all dating to between 1929 and 1932. Private Lives (1931) and Emma (1932) appear to be the best known of the bunch but I’m pretty hyped for a new-to-me Helen Twelvetrees title, Unashamed (1932) at 3:45 pm and Henry King’s Hell Harbor (1930) with Lupe Velez and Greed’s Gibson Gowland earlier that day at 9:15 am.
That evening comes the fourth set of Joan Crawford 24-hour marathons. It begins with the classic Mildred Pierce (1945) at 8:00 pm and includes a total of 13 movies dating 1945-1957.
At 10:00 that same night (January 24) Robert Donat stars in The Magic Box (1951), one of my favorite movies of all-time. I wrote a little bit about this one quite a few years ago now (It could stand a re-write) with a stress on how inspiring I found it. I've watched it several times since then. Besides the entertaining story this Technicolor film features a Who’s Who of British film during this time period.
January 25 - A double shot of William Powell and Myrna Loy this Saturday morning with The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) at 6:30 am and Double Wedding (1937), which I find especially hilarious, following at 8:30 am.
Sunday, January 26 - The Pride of the Yankees (1942) still hasn’t been topped when it comes to baseball movies. It’s on at 12 noon. That evening TCM features a John Ford-Henry Fonda double feature with Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) at 8:00 pm and Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) at 10. I prefer the latter, even if I find Fonda and Claudette Colbert miscast in a Revolutionary War setting. I’ve yet to love any of the movies about Lincoln and yes, I’m including the most recent Spielberg film when I say that.
Monday, January 27 - Irving Bacon day. Juke Girl (1942), with Ann Sheridan, Ronald Reagan and Richard Whorf, is a favorite here. I usually pair this one with They Drive by Night (1940), as they have a similar working class feel to them. Probably not a shocker since They Drive by Night was adapted from a novel by A.I. Bezzerides, who later wrote the screenplay for Juke Girl.
Janet Gaynor and Robert Taylor star in William A. Wellman’s Small Town Girl (1936) with James Stewart. I wrote about this one a few years ago and didn’t seem very impressed. Going on memory I’d say it’s okay, no better.
January 28 - The Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) birthday marathon begins at 6:45 am and plays through until 8 pm. Strong stuff, even if TCM misses all of my favorite Paramount titles from the early ‘30s. Talkies on the schedule include The Merry Widow (1934) at 10:30 am, Ninotchka (1939) at 12:15 pm, The Shop Around the Corner (1940) at 2:15 pm and To Be or Not to Be (1942) at 5:30 pm.
Thursday, January 30 - Philo Vance Day with six movies playing between 8:15 am and 4:15 pm and. The featured Philos include one movie apiece from: Basil Rathbone, William Powell, Warren William, Paul Lukas, Edmund Lowe and James Stephenson. Fun fact, I’ve owned the domain name PhiloVance.com for several years now and still haven’t decided what, if anything, to do with it. (It currently forwards to a single post on my Warren William site, which is actually relevant to this paragraph).After the Philos there’s an interesting little Jim Bannon triple feature tucked into the afternoon: I Love a Mystery (1945) with Nina Foch and George Macready, The Devil’s Mask (1946) with Anita Louise and The Unknown (1946) starring Karen Morley. Each of these three “B” movies are from Columbia and directed by Henry Levin.
That same evening TCM plays the final round of Joan Crawford films. They couldn’t push it to 24 hours this time, but the evening includes later Crawford titles such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) at 10:15 pm. Eight movies in all, 1959-1970, play between 8:00 pm on the 30th through Friday morning, the 31st, at 11:00 am.
January 31 - The latter part of the final “Science in the Movies” spotlight is a biopic double feature starring Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) at 12 midnight and Edward G. Robinson in Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) at 1:45 am. Both are excellent.
“31 Days of Oscar” begins on February 1, but we do have Star of the Month Mary Astor to look forward to in March.
For a collection of recommendations for TCM in January from several other bloggers be sure to check out Kristina's January Classic Viewing Guide collection of links at the Speakeasy (Link at top right of that page once it is posted).