Our Picks for TCM’s Annual Celebration–Volume One
Each year, Turner Classic Movies celebrates the Academy Awards with 31 Days of Oscar. From February 1 to March 3, every film shown on TCM will be an Oscar winner or nominee. Whether you’re an Oscars obsessive or just enjoy a good movie, the next month is a great time to discover classic films that you’ve never seen before. TCM’s programmers singled out each film on the schedule for excellence. So each one will have at least one thing to recommend it, whether it be a stand-out performance, brilliant script, or impressive score.
I’ve scoured the schedule for lesser-known gems, must-see essentials, and personal favorites and selected my top picks for all 31 days. Read on for my recommendations for February 1 – 10. We’ll publish next week’s picks…next week.
(All times listed Eastern Time)
8 PM – Sunrise (1927)
Let’s start the month with the very first Oscars, which honored films released between the seemingly arbitrary time period of August 1, 1927, and July 1, 1928. There were two categories for the best film: Outstanding Picture, awarded to Wings, and Unique & Artistic Picture, awarded to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. The words unique and artistic perfectly describe this dreamlike film. Director F.W. Murnau creates movie magic not only through experimental film techniques, but by transporting viewers to another world. The film also received nominations for art direction and cinematography. At the time, acting awards could be given for a specific performance or for someone’s eligible body of work. Thus, Janet Gaynor won Best Actress for Sunrise, Street Angel (showing at 10 PM), and 7th Heaven, though Sunrise is usually listed as the winning performance.
11:45 AM – Suspicion (1941)
1:30 PM – Strangers on a Train (1951)
3:30 PM – North by Northwest (1959)
6 PM – Wait Until Dark (1967)
It’s the weekend, so why not settle in and enjoy a day of suspenseful films? I recommend this block of three great ones by the master himself, Alfred Hitchcock, followed by a Hitchcockian thriller starring Audrey Hepburn. Wait Until Dark brought Hepburn her fifth and last Best Actress nomination for playing a blind woman terrorized in her home by criminals, including a wickedly-coiffed Alan Arkin.
7 AM – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 37th Oscars in 1964, the year it was released in France, Umbrellas lost out to that year’s Italian entry Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. However, Umbrellas received four more nominations for Writing, Song, Score, and the completely separate category of Scoring the following year, when the film was theatrically released in the United States. One of the most beautiful films you will ever have the pleasure to see and hear.
3:15 PM – Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
In this musical remake of the Oscar-winning 1939 film, Peter O’Toole stars as the shy school teacher, “Chips.” Despite not being much of a singer, O’Toole earned his fourth Best Actor nomination. The Academy would nominate him eight times in his long career, but he never won. You may be justifiably dubious of a musical remake of any classic film; however, this one is actually pretty fun, largely because of pop singer Petula Clark as O’Toole’s vibrant young wife. The score by Leslie Bricusse and John Williams also received a nomination.
8 PM – Viva Zapata! (1952)
10:15 PM – Lust for Life (1956)
Anthony Quinn won the Best Supporting Actor award twice in the Fifties, both times for portraying real historical figures who function on screen as the main character’s wild sidekick. His first win was as Eufemio, brother to Marlon Brando’s Emiliano Zapata. It was one of five nominations Viva Zapata! received, but the only win. Four years later, Quinn was honored for his performance as the artist Paul Gauguin in the Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life and once again it was the film’s only win among multiple nominations.
2 AM – An American in Paris (1951)
4:15 AM – Gigi (1958)
These two films have many things in common: leading lady Leslie Caron, picturesque Parisian settings, and memorable musical numbers. When it comes to awards, both films were nominated for nine Academy Awards and both won Best Picture. Also, neither film received any acting nominations, which is still fairly unusual for an eventual Best Picture winner.
8 PM – All About Eve (1950)
10 PM – A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Tonight’s double feature honors Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a back-to-back double winner for Writing and Direction of A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve. Both films make clever use of flashbacks and multiple POVs, and are filled with crackling dialogue. With 14 nominations, All About Eve still holds the record for most Oscar nominations, along with Titanic (1997) and La La Land (2016). However, the 1950s Oscars featured fewer categories, which makes All About Eve’s achievement even more impressive.
8 PM – Now, Voyager (1942)
Bette Davis shines in this romantic melodrama about a repressed woman coming into her own through the help of a good man and a good therapist. Davis and Gladys Cooper received acting nominations, but the film’s only win was for Max Steiner’s score. The Academy gave Davis her fifth Best Actress nomination in as many years, a feat matched only by Greer Garson, the actress whose performance in Mrs Miniver would beat out Davis that year.
11:15 AM – The Stratton Story (1949)
On a day of biopics, James Stewart and June Allyson star as major league pitcher Monte Stratton and his wife, Ethel. At the height of his baseball career Stratton tragically lost a leg. But through his own determination and with Ethel’s help, he eventually returned to the mound. A satisfying sports biography, The Stratton Story was a big hit for its stars and that year’s winner for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.
11:30 PM – Mrs. Miniver (1942)
2 AM – The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
William Wyler directed two Best Picture winners in the 1940s and in between, he shot films for the Army Air Force. Mrs. Miniver, made during the height of World War II, is an uplifting depiction of a British family on the homefront. Among the film’s six Oscars, Greer Garson won Best Actress for the title role and Teresa Wright won Best Supporting Actress. Wright had received Oscar nominations for her first three films. But I think voters should also have recognized her for the second Wyler film of the night, The Best Years of Our Lives.
Filmed shortly after the end of the war, The Best Years of Our Lives follows three servicemen returning home and readjusting to life with their families. The entire cast, including Wright, Myrna Loy, Cathy O’Donnell, and Dana Andrews, is excellent. However, Fredric March and Harold Russell received the film’s only acting nominations and were among the film’s seven total wins. The Academy presented Russell, a disabled veteran and first-time actor, with an honorary Oscar for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans” through his film appearance. His surprise win in the Best Supporting Actor category later that evening made Russell the only person to receive two Oscars for the same role.