A TCM Viewer's Guide for the Week of March 21, 2016

Easter Parade (1948), starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, is one of the old Hollywood favorites airing on TCM this week.

This week, TCM is featuring great movies based on comic books and classic literature. Plus, they are celebrating Easter  and the 106th birthday of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. So, without further ado, let's jump right in to this week's offerings. Just a note: the highlighted text has links to full length articles.

I'll go in-depth a little further down in the article, but first here's a quick rundown.

Birthday tributes: Karl Malden on Tuesday; Akira Kurosawa on Wednesday; Steve McQueen on Thursday. 

The Essentials pick (airs Saturday nights at 8): Actor and director Buster Keaton's classic movie about a man and his train, The General (1927).

Sunday Prime Time: The classic musical  Easter Parade (1948) at 8 p.m.

Silent Sunday Nights: Director Cecil B. DeMille's classic biopic about Jesus Christ, King of Kings (1927).

TCM Imports: Persona from director Ingmar Bergman at 3 a.m.

Best Day to DVR: Sunday evening, which features two great forties musicals.

This is a great week for . . .: comic book/fantasy fans. The Wednesday evening lineup features dozens of great serials from the 1930's and 1940's with classic comic book characters like Batman, Superman, and The Green Hornet, while Friday daytime has several animated fantasy films, including Ralph Bakshi's version of The Lord of the Rings (1978).

Monday, March 21

Daytime Theme: Movies directed by Nick Grinde and William Clemens, who were two of the best low-budget directors of the 1930's. TCM viewers can start the morning off with one of Grinde's entries in the popular Philo Vance movie series. The Bishop Murder Case (1930) at 6 a.m. stars Basil Rathbone as the high society sleuth who investigates a series of murders inspired by nursery rhymes. Shopworn (1932) at 8:45 a.m. finds Barbara Stanwyck as a waitress whose romance with a rich young man (Regis Toomey) is opposed by his domineering mother (ZaSu Pitts). Public Wedding (1937) at 12:15 p.m. is a fun comedy, starring Jane Wyman and William Hopper, about an out-of-work theater troupe who gins up publicity through a fake wedding. 
Primetime Lineup: TCM is featuring movies about artists each Monday in March. This week's selections are all about villainous artists kicking off with The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)  at 8 p.m., which is about a deranged painter (Humphrey Bogart) who may be planning to kill his second wife (Stanwyck).  The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) at 10 p.m. is a great horror film about a seemingly ageless artist (Hurd Hatfield) with a very strange secret in his attic.
 Late Night Pick: The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) at 1:15 a.m. is a great pre-code horror film about an artist (Lionel Atwill) who turns his murder victims into wax statues. This movie includes a great turn from scream queen Fay Wray.

Tuesday, March 22

 Daytime Theme: A birthday tribute to Karl Malden, who was born Mladen Sekulovich on March 22, 1912, in Chicago. To a certain generation of Americans Malden will always be Lt. Michael Stone on the detective series, The Streets of San Franciso, but he was one of the best character actors of the 1950's. First up is the 3-D horror film, Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954) at 12:15 p.m., which is based on Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale about a series of suspicious murders in 19th century Paris. Malden won a best supporting actor Academy Award for playing a shy Southerner who courts Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) at 3:45 p.m. Finally, Malden gives a great performance as an activist priest in On the Waterfront (1954) at 6 p.m., which, in my opinion, is the best American film of the 1950's.
Primetime Lineup: TCM March guest programmer is actor Richard Kind, best known for his roles on the nineties sitcoms Mad About You and Spin City. Kind's first choice is writer and director Billy Wilder's caustic satire, The Apartment (1960), at 8 p.m. about a spineless middle manager (Jack Lemmon) who is manipulated by his amoral boss (Fred MacMurray). Kind's next choice is the comedy-drama, Soldier in the Rain (1963), about the unlikely bond between a sergeant (Jackie Gleason) and a raw recruit (Steve McQueen). Admittedly, Gleason and McQueen are an odd couple, but this underrated movie still has enough good moments to make it a classic buddy film.
Late Night Pick: If you've never seen director David Lean's desert epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962), set your DVR. It's on at 2:15 a.m.

Wednesday, March 23

 Daytime Theme: A birthday tribute to director Akira Kurosawa, who was born March 23, 1910, in Tokyo. His extensive body of work made him one of the great auteurs of Japanese cinema, and he is widely considered to be among the greatest directors who ever lived. Wednesday's lineup features many of Kurosawa's best films with star Toshiro Mifune, including the detective saga, Stray Dogs (1949), at 8 a.m., the all-time classic, The Seven Samurai (1954), at 10:30 a.m., and the revenge drama, The Bad Sleep Well (1960), at 2:15 p.m.
Primetime Lineup: Serial movies based on comic books were popular in the 1930's and 1940's, especially with youngsters, and TCM is airing several of the best of these overlooked gems on Wednesday night. First up are two Batman serials at 8 and 9 p.m. and then a Superman serial at 10 p.m.
 Late Night Pick: The Green Hornet serials were extremely popular in the 1940's. TCM is airing two  serials starring the masked crime fighter and his sidekick Kato at 11:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 24

Daytime theme: A birthday tribute to the "King of Cool," Steve McQueen, who was born March 24, 1930, in Beech Grove, Ind. McQueen was one of the most dependable actors in TV and B movies during the 1950's, but he became one of the top stars of the 1960's after his breakout role in The Great Escape (1963). McQueen steals virtually every scene in the classic Western, The Magnificent Seven (1960) at 11:45 a.m., as a laconic gunfighter who backs up group leader, Yul Brynner. Bullitt (1968), at 4 p.m., is a great police procedural that features McQueen as a loner detective who embarks on a series classic car chases through the streets of San Francisco. Le Mans (1971), which was McQueen's pet project about a long-distance auto race, is hard to find these days. It's on at 6 p.m.
Primetime lineup: TCM is featuring movies condemned by the National Legion of Decency each Thursday night in March. First up is The Carey Treatment (1972) at 8 p.m. This movie, from director Blake Edwards, is about a doctor (James Coburn) who investigates illegal abortions at a Boston hospital. The Competition (1980) at 10 p.m. ran afoul of the movie ratings board for its somewhat inexplicable nude scenes (the movie, starring Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss, is about concert pianists. One of the musicians (Ty Henderson) likes to practice in the buff).
Late Night Pick: The classic figure-skating weepie, Ice Castles (1978), is on at 4 a.m.

Friday, March 25

Daytime theme: Animated movies. TCM viewers will be treated to some of the best old Hollywood animated movies that weren't made by Disney.My three picks start with Gulliver's Travels (1939) at 12:30 p.m., which is still the best screen version of Irish author Jonathan's Swift's classic tale. Fantasy fans won't want to miss Ralph Bakshi's hard-to-find adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1978) at 3:30 p.m. followed by the classic saga of rabbits on the run in Watership Down (1978) at 6 p.m.
Primetime lineup: TCM continues its star of the month celebration of Merle Oberon with some of her best late-career movies. In Desiree (1954) at 8 p.m. Oberon plays the secret love of Napoleon Bonaparte (Marlon Brando). Hotel (1960) at 10 p.m. features Oberon as one of the colorful guests at New Orleans establishment that is struggling to stay open.
Late Night Pick: Berlin Express (1948) at 2:30 a.m. is an underrated drama about postwar Germany stars Oberon and Robert Ryan as a French woman and American who are thrown together after the mysterious death of a German doctor (Paul Lukas). This film is beautifully directed by Jacques Tourneur on location in Berlin and Frankfurt.

Saturday, March 26

TCM's primetime lineup is all about classic movie stunts. The night begins with this week's The Essentials pick, The General (1927) at 8 p.m. followed by the TCM premiere of the heist movie, The Driver (1978) at 9:30 p.m. The night winds up with director John Ford's seminal Western, Stagecoach (1939) at 11:15 p.m. followed by the silent film thrill-ride Safety Last! (1925) at 1 a.m.

Sunday, March 20

The Sunday Night Feature celebrates Easter with two joyous forties musicals. Easter Parade (1948) at 8 p.m. features Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performing classic Irving Berlin songs like the title tune and "A Couple of Swells." The Oscar-winning Going My Way (1944) stars Bing Crosby as a rookie priest who revitalizes a rundown parish with a mixture of laid back charm and sentimental crooning.