Oscar madness means more classics

Critic's choices: Television, Theater

March 12, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach

Once again this year, cable's Turner Classic Movies is devoting its March schedule to Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated films. Sometimes, that's not a good thing -- for God's sake, how many more times can you watch "Ben-Hur?"

But examine the schedule closely, and there are some unexpected gems to be found. This year, TCM's added a twist: each film is somehow related to the next, sharing a common actor, director or writer. Trying to figure out how the films are connected can become something of a parlor game, so give it a try.

Here are a few of this week's more noteworthy offerings:

* Judy Garland stars in director George Cukor's 1950 remake of "A Star Is Born" (7:30 a.m. Monday). It's one of the strongest performances of Garland's career. James Mason also shines as the hard-drinking, hard-falling Norman Maine.

* Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Delores Del Rio and some notoriously over-the-top dance numbers make 1933's "Flying Down to Rio" (6 p.m. Tuesday) a must-see. Long-time Oscar fans are still cringing at the memory of Teri Garr parodying the infamous chorines-strapped-to-airplane-wings number to open the 1986 ceremonies.

* For a backstage look at show business life that's nearly on a par with the revered "All About Eve," don't miss Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball and Eve Arden in 1937's "Stage Door" (11:15 a.m. Wednesday).

* Since Warren Beatty is getting a special Oscar nod this year, check out "Splendor in the Grass" (10 p.m. Thursday), director Elia Kazan's 1961 look at sexual repression and teen-age lust. Beatty, in his first movie role, stars alongside the luminous Natalie Wood, who was never better.

* John Garfield became a star with 1938's "Four Daughters" (4:30 p.m. Friday). He's the cynical, street-smart big-city refugee who adds some some necessary weight to this fluffy tale of four sisters all in love with the same boarder at their father's home.

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