I tell everyone that if I was ever stranded on a desert island and could bring along only one television station, it would be Turner Classic Movies (TCM). They offer consistently great programming for a movie buff, and they do it with class and sophistication. At times, especially when they run their evenings featuring a certain star or director, I may watch as many as 5 movies in a row. Over the years, TCM has significantly enriched my life as I’ve watched everything from the “Birth of a Nation” (1915) to “Shampoo” (1975) and even more recent films.
Robert Osborne, a great film historian, not only introduces the movies in the prime time hours, but interviews great stars such as Betty Hutton, Anthony Quinn, Jane Fonda, Liza Minelli and Mickey Rooney. His questions and knowledge illuminate so much about the history, craft and personality of Hollywood film. Tonight, for instance, Osborne treated us with a recent interview of Louse Rainer, the 100-year old German actress (and oldest living Oscar winner) who contracted with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. The outspoken actress didn’t care much for Paul Muni, and said Louis B. Meyer wanted her to sit on his lap.
Sometimes, I don’t intend to watch a movie on TCM, but Osborne’s opening presentation intrigues me so much that I end up watching it anyway. The station also continues to premier new titles. I wrote my master’s thesis about Billy Wilder, but although I watched almost every Billy Wilder film, I still could not locate “Five Graves to Cairo,” which Wilder directed in 1943. This taut and interesting war story, starring Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, and Erich von Stroheim — while not available on DVD — showed last year on TCM. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I finally saw it and loved it.