Shadowy and Satiny Picks: What to Watch on TCM for March 2022

Beginning this month, I’m stepping into my Shadows and Satin past and resurrecting a series I used to have back in the day – serving up monthly recommendations for film noir and pre-Code features airing on TCM.

As part of its annual celebration of the Academy Awards, the March line-up on TCM focuses on Oscar winners in a wide variety of categories. My picks for the month feature a winner for Best Actress (Joan Crawford) and Best Story (a category that was eliminated in 1957 and replaced by Best Original Screenplay). Read on for my shadowy and satiny selections for the month of March!

Shadowy Pick: Mildred Pierce (1945)

Veda (Ann Blyth) may look sweet, but believe me. She ain’t.

The March pickings are slim on the noir side on TCM, so I’m recommending a tried and true favorite: Mildred Pierce (1945). Starring Joan Crawford in the title role, this feature tells the tale of a single mother and the lengths she’ll go to for her children (in particular her older daughter) – which may or may not include homicide. The film opens with the murder of Mildred’s second husband, Monty Beragon (Zachary Scott) – in a string of flashbacks, we get to know Mildred, who makes ends meet by working as a waitress and baking pies when her first husband, Bert (Bruce Bennett) flies the coop; Mildred’s daughters Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe), a delightful tomboy, and Veda (Ann Blyth), a self-absorbed, social-climbing snob; Mildred’s loyal pal, Ida (Eve Arden), who’s always quick with a quip or a sage word of advice; and Wally Fay (Jack Carson), Bert Pierce’s ex-partner and Mildred’s would-be boyfriend (if Wally had his way). For the Top 10 reasons why I’m simply mad about this film, click here.

Other stuff:

Barbara Stanwyck wore this same mink in another 1945 movie. Good thing she and Joanie were pals!

The striking mink coat that Joan Crawford wears in Mildred Pierce was also worn that same year by Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Similarly, the brooch Crawford wears in the scene where she proposes to Monty (“Sold – one Beragon.”) was worn by Ingrid Bergman in her first scene in Casablanca (1942) and by Ilka Chase in Now, Voyager (1942). All of these were Warner Bros. films. Talk about economizing!

The role of Mildred Pierce was initially offered to, and rejected by, Bette Davis. The next choice was Barbara Stanwyck, who was the front-runner for the part until director Michael Curtiz saw Joan Crawford’s screen test.

Michael Curtiz’s house doubled as Monty’s beach house.

Monty Beragon’s beach house, seen several times throughout the film, was actually owned by director Michael Curtiz. Built in 1929, the house was located in Malibu and was washed into the ocean following several days of heavy storms in early 1983.

Satin Pick: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

By happenstance, I watched Manhattan Melodrama (1934) just a few days before I started work on this post. It had been years since I’d seen this juicy melodrama, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first (and second, and third) time I saw it. The movie opens in the early 1900s, where a large group of families, men, women and children, are on their way to a picnic via a paddlewheel steamboat called the General Slocum. Among the young passengers are pint-size hooligan Blackie Gallagher (Mickey Rooney), and his bookish pal, Jim Wade (Jimmy Butler), who are taken in by the father of a school friend when the boat catches fire and their parents are killed.

These three.

The film goes on to follow these two friends for the next 30 years, as Blackie (Clark Gable) grows up to be a smooth-talking but ruthless gangster and Jim (William Powell), on the other side of the law, becomes a district attorney and then governor of the state. In addition to their friendship, the men also share their love for a good woman – Eleanor – played by Myrna Loy.

Other Stuff:

The General Slocum was an actual boat that suffered a real-life tragedy on June 15, 1904. On that day, a group of more than 1,000 people were on their way to an end-of-year church picnic on the North Shore of Long Island when the boat caught fire. A total of 1,021 souls were lost.

John Dillinger was killed by police in front of this Chicago theater after seeing Manhattan Melodrama.

Famed gangster John Dillinger had just seen this movie in Chicago when he was gunned down by police in front of the Biograph Theater. The Biograph was still a fully operational movie theater until 2004 – I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show there in the 1980s. It was renovated and reopened in 2006 for live performances.

Listen for a song in the film titled “The Bad in Every Man.” After the film’s release, lyricist Lorenz Hart was tapped to write words to the song that would be more commercially successful. The result was “Blue Moon.” Hart also wrote the lyrics to such standards as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Mildred Pierce airs on TCM on March 20th and Manhattan Melodrama can be seen on TCM on March 14th. Celebrate the Oscars and check ‘em out!

You only owe it to yourself.

~ by shadowsandsatin on March 3, 2022.

7 Responses to “Shadowy and Satiny Picks: What to Watch on TCM for March 2022”

  1. I like the stories about that fur coat! Amazing to think Joan was only the third choice for ‘Mildred’.
    I think Gable was also called ‘Blackie’ in “San Francisco”.

  2. Great choices… love them both. Manhattan Melodrama has been a fav for years!

    • Thank you, Russell! I’d really forgotten how good it was. I was surprised to see some not-so-favorable reviews on the internet, but it’s a winner for me!

  3. Good picks, Manhattan melodrama was one of the first pre-Codes I saw (not counting the Universal Horrors), thanks to the local video rental place’s spotty collection. How MGM is it for Mickey Rooney to grow up to look like Gable!

  4. […] for March: Manhattan Melodrama (1934) and Mildred Pierce (1945), and she writes about them over at shadowsandsatin. For those that can receive the channel, the films air on the 14th and 20th […]

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