Hal Roach Studios Introduction
January 4 is devoted to Our Gang comedies, with an incredible lineup of 53 shorts, all of them TCM premieres, ranging from 1929's Bouncing Babies to 1931's Helping Grandma. January 11 is a 24-hour salute to Laurel and Hardy, with 40 shorts (16 of which are TCM premieres) and three feature films.
January 18 brings another rare treat -- a collection of 10 Screen Directors Playhouse episodes not seen on television since the original screening of the series on NBC-TV during the 1955-56 season. The series features A-list movie directors and stars creating 30-minute dramas and comedies.
The highlight of the TCM showings, all in new digital video transfers, is Rookie of the Year (1955), which marked a rare foray into television for director John Ford and the television debut of star John Wayne in a hard-hitting baseball drama about an unemployed sportswriter who uncovers a scoop about a hot young pitcher. Ford and Wayne were working on their classic The Searchers during this period and are joined by three other cast members from that film: Vera Miles, Ward Bond and Wayne's son Patrick.
Among other distinguished directors spotlighted in the series are Leo McCarey, H.C. Potter, George Marshall, Ida Lupino, David Butler, Fred Zinnemann and Allan Dwan. Stars include Peter Lawford, Robert Ryan, Buster Keaton, Peter Lorre, Jeanette MacDonald, Errol Flynn, Ray Milland, Rod Steiger, Angela Lansbury and Dennis Hopper.
The Screen Directors Playhouse episodes are followed by another amazing series of 38 Roach shorts from the 1920s and '30s, 28 of which are TCM premieres. The featured performers include Harry Langdon, Our Gang, Charley Chase, "Taxi Boys," "The Boy Friends," Thelma Todd, Zasu Pitts, Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti.
January 25 brings the series to a close with a 24 hour marathon of 17 Roach feature films, ranging from the Laurel and Hardy adventure Sons of the Desert (1933) to the TCM premiere of Taxi, Mister (1943), the final entry in a comedy series starring William Bendix and Joe Sawyer as two guys from Brooklyn. Also included are Topper (1937), Topper Takes a Trip (1939) and Topper Returns (1941), a delightful comedy trilogy starring Roland Young as the lovably stuffy banker haunted by madcap ghosts variously and charmingly played by Constance Bennett, Cary Grant and Joan Blondell.