The ever-incorrigible Peter Sellers is the Star of the Month on Turner in January, but the pick of the month, moviewise, is "99 River Street." This satisfying little noir gem, airing at 8 p.m. on 14 January, may be the definitive Phil Karlson movie. John Payne, an underestimated, solid actor, stars as a washed-up boxer named Ernie Driscoll, who once lost a heavyweight championship match, is a has-been and drives a taxi for a living, much to the chagrin of his awful, unfaithful wife (Peggy Castle), who blames Eddie for her own failures. When his two-timing wife ends up dead, murdered by her paramour, Eddie is framed for her death and needs to prove his innocence. He gets off-beat assistance from a terrific Evelyn Keyes who plays a spunky actress who tricked Eddie with a scam of her own and now uses her wiles and creatively fertile mind to help prove that Eddie is part of a set-up and, inevitably, the two have to elude traps on their road to the truth.
"99 River Street" is terse, snappy and gorgeously photographed by the great Franz Planer (Audrey Hepburn's "house cinematographer," so to speak). It's followed immediately by another Karlson great - "Kansas City Confidential" (1952).
The rest of the month? Well, There's Joseph Pevney's Debbie Reynolds vehicle, "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957) which features Leslie Nielsen in his leading-made mode before he became a joke (a role Nielsen seemed to relish). It airs 12:15 a.m. on 2 January. Later, at 10 p.m., you might want to check out Ralph Nelson's forgotten "Fate Is the Hunter" (1964), one of those air-crash dramas, but this one smaller and more thoughtful and with a good cast - Glenn Ford, Nancy Kwan, Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette (fresh from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" from the year before).
Meanwhile, Jane Wyman and Van Johnson effectively stir up the suds and the tears in Rudolph Mate's "Miracle in the Rain" (1956), a moody, black-and-white soap airing at 4 p.m., on 4 January.
The Canadian actor Nick Mancuso, who promised to be the next Big Thing in the '80s, had an early role in Allan Eastman's relationship drama, "Snapshot" (1978), which Turner debuts at 2 a.m. on 8 January. Laurence Olivier coaxed an winsome performance out of Marilyn Monroe in his production of "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1957), based on Terrence Rattigan's play, "The Sleeping Prince," about a showgirl who awakens an uptight prince. It's on at 9:30 p.m. 8 January. The next day - 9 January - at 10:30 a.m., the adorable Betsy Drake, who made way too few films, delivers a ditheringly charming performance in Bretaigne Windust's "Pretty Baby" (1950). That's her above with co-stars Zachary Scott and Dennis Morgan.
Nunnally Johnson's version of the best-seller, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956) - the "Mad Men" of the '50s (or, if you will, the original "Mad Men") - stars Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones in a tale of a public relations man, his family and his memories. Screens at 8 p.m. 10 January.
Two intense political dramas, set in different eras, are showcased on 15 January, beginning at 10 p.m. - Costa-Gavras's "Missing" (1982), starring Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek and John Shea, and Volker Schlöndorff's "The Tin Drum" (1979), featuring the preternatural David Bennent.
William Wyler's final film, 1970's racial drama, "The Liberation of L. B. Jones," starring Roscoe Lee Brown (in a rare leading role), Anthony Zerbe, Lee J. Cobb and Lola Falana, airs at 10 p.m. on 16 January. Wyler died in 1981 at age 79. Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier (below) make fascinating adversaries in Richard Brooks' film of buried conflicts, "Something of Value" (1957), being shown at 11:15 a.m. on 17 January. Meanwhile, an evasive Leo McCarey title, "Tom and Jerry" (1955), starring Peter Lawford," airs at 8 p.m. on 19 January.
On 20 January, starting at 1:45 p.m., Patricia Neal stars in the double-bill of Alexander Singer's
"Psyche 59" (1964), with Curt Jurgens and Samantha Eggar, and Ulu Grosbard's "The Subject Was Roses" (1968), based on the Frank Gilroy play, in which she tood on the role created on stage by Irene Daily (Dan's sister). Original Broadway co-stars, Jack Albertson and Martin Sheen co-star.
Terry Moore, so cute, and Robert Wagner, such a hunk, are the leads of Robert D. Webb's '50s hit, "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef" (1953), scheduled for 6 p.m. on 21 Jaunuary. Later that night - at 2:15 a.m. on 22 January - Susan Strasberg and José Ferrer have fun in Ed Hunt in "Bloody Birthday" (1980). Otto Preminger had a huge popular hit with his film version of "The Cardinal" (1963), a three-hour consideration of a young Boston priest (Tom Tryon, right with Romy Schneider) as he is challenged by familial problems and church duties. Turner screens it at 1 p.m. pm 24 January. Take time to appreciate Leon Shamroy's cinematography and Saul Bass' commanding main titles footage.
The month winds down with Peter Sellers in arguably his last great performance in Hal Ashby's "Being There" (1979), 9:45 p.m. 27 January; Christopher George in William Girdler's grind classic, "Grizzly" (1976), 2 a.m. 29 January, and Jim Hutton and Dorothy Provine (with co-stars Walter Brennan and Bob Denver above) in Howard Morris' charming "Who's Minding the Mint?" (1967), 10 p.m. 30 January, about a treasury worker who inadvertently takes $50,000, destroys it and then has to come up with a plan to return it before his boss finds out and fires him. Irresistible.