December Highlights on TCM
CHRISTMAS CLASSICS (Saturdays & Sundays at 8pm and throughout the month)--As it is every year, December on TCM is filled with Christmas movies. For me, showing these pictures now feels like a celebration of not just Christmas itself but of the Christmas season as it was experienced and mass-marketed after the advent of television. From the late 40s when television really began, through the 80s when home video changed the nature of movie watching on TV, certain pictures became all but synonymous with the holiday season. Watching It's a Wonderful Life, to take the best-known example, became as much of a seasonal family ritual as trimming a Christmas tree. Remarkably, It's a Wonderful Life is one of the few Frank Capra pictures not being shown on TCM this month. But Meet Me in St. Louis by Vincente Minnelli will be shown no less than three times at the beginning, middle and end of the month. There will also be showings of the beautifully made 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's updated 1964 TV version, A Carol for Another Christmas, written by Rod Serling and starring Sterling Hayden (interestingly, it was intended to promote the United Nations); Jacques Tourneur's lovely Stars in My Crown, which was his personal favorite among his pictures; the beautiful Remember the Night, directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Preston Sturges; the film version of the Wynard Browne play The Holly and the Ivy with Ralph Richardson; Ernst Lubistch's The Shop Around the Corner, a great film; and, although it's not programmed under the Christmas Classics banner, Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander.
NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY (December 11, 8pm)--There is also a salute this month to the National Film Registry, with a program of five among the many selections that have been made since the program was initiated in 1988. It strikes me that this grouping of films gives you a little thumbnail history of Hollywood moviemaking from the silent era through the very end of the studio system. In chronological order, the titles are: the 1920 version of The Mark of Zorro with Douglas Fairbanks; John Ford's classic Stagecoach (1939), which was made independently with producer Walter Wanger; Michael Curtiz's version of James M. Cain's novel Mildred Pierce, made as a vehicle for Joan Crawford at Warner Bros.; Mike Nichols' first picture, an adaptation of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider, which was more or less the end of the "old" Hollywood and the beginning of the "new" one. These are five movies from five vastly different moments in time and sets of circumstances. Mildred Pierce might have been made only six years after Stagecoach, but they're separated by a cataclysmic world war and two vastly different ideas of what a movie actually should be. Similarly, the Nichols and Hopper pictures are only three years apart, but Virginia Woolf, no matter how rough or unusual the material, represented the very end of some kind of studio era decorum, while Easy Rider was made with a completely different set of priorities. Five different pictures, five different Americas.
by Martin Scorsese