Turner traditionally devotes February to its "31 Days of Oscar" bash (bleeding into March, of course). It's my least favorite Turner month because, frankly, I'm weary of encountering the usual suspects over and overagain.
Anyone for "Lawrence of Arabia" for the umpteenth time?
One surprise this year, however, is that "West Side Story," a film I find hugely resistible (I know, I know! - I'm in the minority), is missing from the schedule this year. That said, the line-up is golden.
You know, like Oscar himself... This year's Oscar marathon kicks off promisingly with Richard Brooks' superior 1962 film version of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" (Feb.1 @ 7:45 a.m., est) with two perennial Oscar nominees, Geraldine Page and Paul Newman as aging film actress Alexandra Del Lago and hustler Chance Wayne, respectively. Great names, terrific acting.
I suppose that John G. Avildsen's "Happy New Years" (Feb. 1 @ 4 p.m.) from 1987 makes the grade because Avildsen is an Oscar winner for "Rocky." It's an agreeably minor caper film about an ex-con who goes back into his "business" using clever disguises. Avildsen based his film on Claude Lelouch's French flick, "La bonne annee" (casting Lelouch in a walk-on) and directs Peter Falk and Australia's Wendy Hughes in the roles created by Lino Ventura and Françoise Fabian.
Like the original, it's charming.
Philadelphia earns an Oscar tribute (Feb. 1, starting @ 8 p.m.) with back-to-back screenings of Avildsen's "Rocky," George Cukor's "The Philadelphia Story," Frank Perry's "David and Lisa" and Vincent Sherman's "The Young Philadelphians."
One of the usual suspects, Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" (Feb. 1 @ 5:45 p.m.) from 1959, earned my favorite actor Jack Lemmon an Oscar nomination for the showiest performance in the film, but Tony Curtis turns in a much more diversified, nuanced acting exercise and Marilyn Monroe was never more accomplished as a comedienne than she is here. John Huston and Albert Finney collaborated on two memorable, if wildly dissimilar films - 1982's "Annie" and 1984's "Under the Volcano" (Feb. 2 @ 3 a.m.), a drama in which Finney turns in a tour de force performance as a British consul experiencing a mental meltdown. And Huston rings in later (Feb. 3 @ 9 a.m.) with his 1964 film version of T. Williams' "The Night of the Iguana."
Debbie Reynolds' Oscar-nominated performance is the only element that redeems Charles Walters' 1964 truncated version of Meredith Willson's originally acerbic "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (Feb. 3 @ 1:45 p.m.), which is followed immediately by a madly diverse selection of titles - Richard Brooks' "The Happy Ending," a dark drama about a middle-aged woman (Jean Simmons, Brooks' wife) whose consciousness is belatedly raised; Anthony Mann's "The Glenn Miller Story," with the always reliable Jimmy Stewart in the title role and two India-set epics - Richard Attenborough's "Ghandi" and David Lean's "A Passage to India."
"The Fallen Idol." From 1948. With Ralph Richardson. Directed by Carol Reed. Airs at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 4. Mark it down. The work of the irreplaceable Onna White (1922–2005), choreographer extraordinaire, is showcased this month with screening of Peter H. Hunt's "1776" (Feb.2 @ 6:30 a.m.) from 1972 and back-to-back screenings of George Sidney's 1963 "Bye Bye Birdie" and Morton Da Costa's 1962's "The Music Man" (Feb. 8 @ 9:45 p.m.). White won a special Oscar for her impressive work on Carol Reed's film of "Oliver!" (1968).
Early unsung auteur Jack Webb directs himself (and Janet Leigh, Edmund O'Brien and Peggy Lee, among others) in 1955's "Pete Kelly's Blues" (Feb. 9 @ 12:15 p.m.), followed immediately by two Vincente Minnelli gems, 1958's "Some Came Running" and 1944's "Meet Me In St. Louis," demonstrating the filmmaker's incredible versatility.
Two notable Westerns pop up on Feb. 10 - William A. Wellman's 1943 "The Ox-Bow Incident" (@ 6:30 p.m.), a vivid critique of America's lynch-mob mentality, and John Ford's autumnal "Cheyenne Autumn" (@ 10:30 p.m.) from 1964, featuring a cast of Ford stalwarts.
For guilty pleasure/camp fun, you can't go wrong with the best of Jean Negulesco's "three gal" films - 1959 "The Best of Everything" (Feb. 11 @ 5:30 p.m.), based on the Rona Jaffe novel. It stars Hope Lange, the ever underrated Suzy Parker and Diane Baker as three working women entrenched in the publishing business during the "Mad Men" era, with Joan Crawford as their awful boss, Stephen Boyd as a hunky colleague and Brian Aherne and Robert Evans as two cads of different ages.
If you stay up late on Feb. 11 and continue to watch Turner clear through the next day, you'll get to experience a relentless screening schedule - Sydney Pollack's
"Three Days of the Condor" (Feb. 11 @ 12:15 a.m.), followed by John Cassavetes' "Gloria," Robert Benton's "Kramer vs. Kramer," Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's "On the Town" and its unofficial sequel, "It's Always Fair Weather," George Cukor's "It Should Happen to You," Delbert Mann's "Lover Come Back," Two vaudeville titles, Melville Shavelson's "The Seven Little Foys" and Walter Lang's "There's No Business Like Show Business," Cukor's "Let's Make Love," William Wyler's "Funny Girl" and Joan Micklin Silver's "Hester Street." Whew! If you have time to watch only one Turner movie this month, by all means, make it 1959's "North by Northwest"(Feb. 13 @ 5:30 p.m), arguably Hitchcock's most entertaining film (and a title that has grown in stature belatedly). For years now, I've harbored the fantasy of a remake of "Born Free" starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Think about it: It could be the ultimate prestige family film (and it doesn't hurt that Roberts has empathy for animals). But until then, the classic 1966 original - starring the husband-wife team of Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna will do just fine.
It airs on Feb. 16 @ 4:15 p.m.
You can spend an entirely pleasant Sunday afternoon, Feb. 19, in a fantasy version of France, courtesy of star Leslie Caron, starting at 2 p.m. with Charles Walter's one-song 1953 musical, "Lili," followed by Vincente Minnelli's 1953 Oscar winner "An American in Paris." Later - much later - stay up for the real thing - Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu in Truffaut's "La Dernier Metro" from 1980 (Feb. 20 @ 3:30 a.m.) "I still think it would be wonderful to have a man love you so much he'd kill for you," Patricia Hitchcock says to Farley Granger in Alfred Hitchcock's sublime 1951 "Strangers on a Train" (Feb.22 @ 8 p.m.), unaware that a man indeed has killed for Granger - Robert Walker's sexually dubious Bruno Anthony, a screen villain of unparalleled charm.
The Scottish actor, Richard Todd, meanwhile, had his best role in Henry Koster's "A Man Called Peter" (Feb. 22 @ 3:45 p.m.), a 1955 audience hit. February 23rd brings us two of the versions of "Mutiny on the Bounty" - Frank Lloy's film of 1935 and Lewis Milestone's first remake of 1962, starting @ 10:30 a.m. A few hours later, there's John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy's film version of "Mister Roberts" with an all-male cast (plus Betsy Palmer). Inexplicably, Henry Fonda was not nominated for his title-role performance. The movie itself, however, was nominated and, of course, Jack Lemmon won his supporting Oscar for this popular film.
Fred Zinnemann's appealingly rough-edged Australian romance, 1960's "The Sundowners" (Feb. 24 @ 11 a.m.), offers Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum starred in one of their three films together, the two others being John Huston's "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" and Stanley Donen's "The Grass Is Greener." Peter Ustinov co-stars.
Turner cleverly pairs two depression-era dramas on Feb. 25, starting @ 8 p.m. - John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) and Hal Ashby's"Bound for Glory" (1976)- followed by Paul Mazursky's "Harry and Tonto" (1974) and Richard Rush's "The Stunt Man" (1980). And Hollywood itself is closely examined on Feb. 26, starting @ 6:45 a.m. with Robert Mulligan's "Inside Daisy Clover" (1965), George Cukor's "What Price Hollywood?" (1932) and its remake, William A. Wellman's "A Star IsBorn" (1937), Gene Kelly and Stanley Donene's "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952), Cukor's own remake of "A Star Is Born" (1954) and two with Bette Davis, Stuart Heisler's"The Star" (1952) and Robert Aldrich's "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962). Two views of the suddenly sexually free late '60s are presented in tandem on Feb. 27, starting @ 12:15 a.m. - Bud Yorkins' observant and hilarious "Divorce, American Style" and Mike Nichols' influential "The Graduate," both released in 1967. One of Luis Bunuel's least-seen, most haunting titles, 1970's "Tristana," screens on Feb.28 @ 6 a.m. A gently perverse (and yet not unpleasant) study of obsession, deformity and religious guilt, the film casts Catherine Deneuve as a young woman with a lame leg whose vulnerability attracts both her guardian Fernando Rey and a dashing Franco Nero.
And finally, yes, David Lean's luxuriant intellectual epic, "Lawrence of Arabia," will be showcased on Feb.28 @ 10:15 p.m.