It’s almost time for the TCM Classic Film Festival and you’re a bit out of sorts because you don’t have Turner Classic Movies to watch the festival at home. Maybe you just moved, switched services or cut the cord: the bottom line is that you need to watch TCM fast!
Relax – you’ve got options and they are quicker and easier than you think.
First off: you can’t get TCM for free. Sorry. Nor is there a standalone app you can buy. The Watch TCM app is linked to paid accounts with a cable provider or streaming service that provides TCM.
Basically here are your choices to watch TCM:
An account with either a cable or satellite provider.
A Live TV streaming service.
What’s the difference? A cable or satellite provider – think Spectrum, Comcast, X-Finity, DirecTV or Dish – is the traditional way to watch live television through a cable box or satellite dish. You can find TCM on most of these services, although it often comes on a higher tier at a higher price.
A Live TV streaming service is an app that lets you watch live television like you would with cable. It is not, however the same as an on-demand streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Apple TV+ where you pick what you want to watch from a library without the option for live TV. (This is where it should be noted that additional programming for the TCM Classic Film Festival will also be available to watch on the streaming service HBO Max, although you won’t be able to watch TCM live.)
The bonus: you don’t need to rent equipment. Instead, you most likely already have everything you need to get started: an internet connection plus a Smart TV or a device like Roku, Amazon Firestick or Apple TV. If you can use Netflix, you can use this.
Live TV streaming services that offer TCM include AT&T TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and Youtube TV. Full channel lineups, packages and prices are on all of their websites. As soon as you sign up online, you have service. Service is month-to-month so if you don’t like it, you can switch to another without penalty. If local channels are important to you, be sure to see what these services offer in your area.
If you have cable or a dish but don’t get TCM, call to see if you can get it on another package. Most providers let you change tiers without an extra fee and they can do it on the phone for instant TCM. If you want to get cable or satellite, do an internet search to see what is available in your area. I won’t list prices because services and packages vary greatly depending on where you live and if you package TV with other services.
This may be the easiest way to get TCM. Here are four available services.
Sling TV is the least expensive service that offers TCM. First you have to purchase one of Sling’s two basic packages: Orange Sling (recommended for sports/entertainment) or Blue (entertainment/news). Each is $35 regularly. This is important: To get TCM, you’ll need to add the “Hollywood Extra” package for $6 a month. (It has eight channels including SundanceTV, Reelz, StartTV, GRIT, Cinemoi.) The total cost, then, for Sling Blue and “Hollywood Extra” would be $41 with 50 hours of free DVR storage. Look for free trials and discounts. (If you’re lucky, you may still be able to get the $10 for the first month special.) Sling almost always offers free gifts by prepaying for two or more months such as getting a free TV antenna.
AT&T TVis the new live TV streaming service from AT&T (it replaces ATT U-Verse). TCM is available on all three packages starting with the “Entertainment” package that comes with more than 65 channels and 20 hours of free Cloud DVR service to record that late-night programming. Cost starts at $69.99 a month.
Hulu + Live TV. Packages start at $64.99 with TCM and 50 hours of free Cloud DVR storage. Current offer is a free one-week trial. Be sure to look at this live streaming option, not the regular Hulu streaming service.
YouTube TV.Packages start at $64.99 with TCM and come with unlimited DVR storage.
All of these options are constantly changing but this will give you a start. I’m not a tech expert, but I’ve done a lot of research looking for options for myself. I hope this is helpful.
The TCM Classic Film Festival starts at 8 p.m. May 6 on both TCM and HBO Max.
The sublime beauty of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” can fill your heart and break it at the same time.
It’s in the faces of the equally lovely Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney, perfectly paired as the title characters. It’s in the Oscar-nominated cinematography by Charles Lang who paints the screen with hauntingly beautiful shades of shadow and light. And it’s in voices often so tender that a hushed utterance of a single word like “Lucia” can send goosebumps up your arms.
We’re drawn into this universally beloved film even before the opening credits roll. In an unusual move, the 20th Century Fox logo is not accompanied by the stately Fox fanfare, but by music from Bernard Herrmann that starts with a deep, swirling rumble and opens into an almost painfully sweet crescendo. It will repeat throughout the film, never losing its emotional power.
Everywhere you look or listen, this 1947 supernatural romance from director Joseph L. Mankiewicz wraps itself around you in a comforting cocoon.
That’s why “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” always felt like it existed only in movie form to me – and one that was nearly as perfect as any could be. The film about a sheltered widow moving into a British seaside cottage inhabited by the ghost of its owner holds a magic all its own. Somehow, I kept skipping over the opening credit that read “From the Novel by R.A. Dick.” I’ll blame that on the fact that I was too wrapped up in the splendor of Herrmann’s music and the scenery to read the credits.
It wasn’t until a few years back that I stumbled on “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” by R.A. Dick while looking for books adapted into classic movies to read on a cross-country trip to the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” is one of the offerings in the very cool Vintage Movie Classics book series launched in 2014 by Random House under its Vintage Books imprint. (“The Night of the Hunter,” “Back Street” and “Cimarron” are among others.)
Because of this embarrassing gap in my film history knowledge, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” seemed a good choice for me to explore for the Classic Literature on Film Blogathon hosted by Paul Batters of Silver Screen Classics. It’s not Great Classic Literature with capital letters in the sense of Bronte, Austen, Dickens or Twain, yet this slim novel deserves credit as the basis for one of the most universally beloved classic films.
Often with classic movies based on literature we have either read the original novel – “Frankenstein,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Rebecca,” “A Tale of Two Cities” – or at least have a CliffsNotes familiarity with it. You may not have read “Wuthering Heights,” but you know Heathcliff and Catherine.
But, I knew nothing about the book form of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” or its author so there was a lot to be excited about: Tierney and Harrison were perfect on screen, but did they fit the author’s original vision? How did the romance – so chaste in the movie – develop in the book? Would there be deep words of love between them or would it be hidden behind a softly uttered “Me, dear” as in the movie? Were R.A. Dick’s other stories equally mesmerizing?
The answers were surprising.
“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” was published in 1945 under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick by Irish author Josephine Leslie. There’s not much out there about her other than she wrote two, possibly three other books over 20 years or so including “The Devil and Mrs. Devine.” She wrote barely any description of the lead characters other than their size (“Little Lucy Muir” and that the Captain was tall with broad shoulders) and there were no additional proclamations of love.
Think of the book this way: If it was published today, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” would be on a summer reading list or labeled a beach read – those easy-to-read books that sweep you away for a relaxing few hours. It is a slim novel written with an economy of words that speak volumes. Leslie (as we’ll call the author from here) also has a way with descriptive, poetic dialogue. “The wallpaper had gone past fading into death,” is a wonderful visual of Gull Cottage. Lucy’s words in trying to make sense of unexplained happenings could be a poem: “There aren’t any ghosts really. They always turn out to be the wind in the chimney, or shadows on the wall, or branches tapping on the window.” The best of Leslie’s dialogue is used in the movie.
* * * *
As the novel opens, the author helps the reader understand in only a page that Lucy Muir has led an oppressed life, and that the young widow and mother is yearning for a life that is her own – not her late husband’s, nor his family’s.
She has finally found the courage to leave the house she lives in with her husband’s mother and sister for a fresh start by the sea. Arriving in Whitecliff, she fixates on the one property the house agent doesn’t want to show her: Gull Cottage. Very inexpensive, fully furnished and with a gorgeous sea view, Gull Cottage has been uninhabitable for the 10 years it has been on the market. Previous tenants haven’t lasted 24 hours, yet Lucy stubbornly insists on seeing it. The twinkling of the eyes in a portrait, the discarded lunch in the kitchen of someone was “called away in a hurry” and Lucy’s delight in seeing the clean telescope in the otherwise dusty house are the first signs that the house is haunted.
“Haunted! How perfectly fascinating,” she says with a big smile in the film and we know this haunted house story veers from traditional ghostly encounters. It is not interested in terrifying its audience, but rather wants to explore a woman’s fight for her independence as well as as the deepening relationship based on mutual respect of two characters that grows in the most unexpected way.
The ghostly inhabitant is Captain Daniel Gregg whose much talked about suicide was really an accident caused when he kicked over the gas heater as he slept.
Though it’s easy to assume Lucy fell under a ghostly spell, it worked both ways as our ornery sea captain was no match for the newly independent and determined Lucy Muir. Their bond formed almost immediately. Formalities are dropped – they become Lucy and Daniel to each other – and they make peace. She’ll take care of the cottage he built and he’ll stop his ghostly shenanigans (as long as no one messes with his “Lucia,” the swoon-worthy name he gives her). The story is sprinkled with light moments of humor such as when Lucy picks up the captain’s salty language such as “blasted.”
When she gets into financial difficulty and fears she’ll have to leave Gull Cottage, Daniel has her write out his life stories in a book on the “unvarnished life of a sea captain.” It’s a success.
Coming into their comfortable existence is the handsome and charming Miles Fairley Blane who sweeps her off her feet while hiding his own secrets. Though his portrayal in the book is different than the movie, the final effect is the same.
Adapting a book into film
Screenwiter Philip Dunne was brought in to turn Leslie’s efficient novel into a film. He had previously adapted such works as “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1934), “Magnificent Obsession” (1935), “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936) and “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).
In her forward to the Vintage Books edition of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” author and filmmaker Adriana Trigiani does a wonderful job in explaining Dunne’s talents. “Mr. Dunne was a master dramatist, keen and spare in his process. He would take apart a novel, pulling threads from it like a lacemaker. Mr. Dunne would hold on to some characters, discard others, restructure timelines, winnow down scenes, remove some altogether, and add new ones to create the most powerful screen narrative from the source material.”
That’s what Dunne did here. Let’s take Miles as an example.
In the novel, Lucy meets Miles after he moves into a nearby cottage and saves her dog (with the “help” of the Daniel). He doesn’t have an occupation but he does a bit of “this and that.” For the film, Dunne turns Miles into a popular author of children’s books (he writes under the pen name of Uncle Neddy) who meets Lucy at the publisher’s office where she is trying to sell “Blood and Swash” by Captain X. Clearly attracted to her, Miles gets Lucy in to meet the publisher. Her gratitude and naivety combine to make her gullible and she falls for Miles, who is played with an unsettling mix of charm and scoundrel by George Sanders.
Another change by Dunne that works in the film’s favor is that Lucy has one child, not two as in the book. It was a good choice to focus on Anna (played by an adorable 8-year-old Natalie Wood), and thereby also focusing on Lucy instead of splitting attention with another child.
The big change, and one I am eternally grateful for, is that while Lucy never sees Daniel in the book – he comes to her only in her thoughts, like a voice in her head – he is a commanding presence in the film as played by Rex Harrison. Can you imagine the film without him? No, you can’t.
Through it all, there is a question of how a relationship caught between two worlds can be played out. We get a hint early watching Daniel’s reaction when Lucy asks “What is to become of us, you and me?” with a mix of yearning and pain in her voice. His subtle facial expressions help us understand he will do what he needs for her, whatever the sacrifice.
Dunne answers Lucy’s questions by adding one of the most romantically heartbreaking scenes on film as Daniel realizes he needs to allow his Lucia to live her human life. Visiting her as she sleeps with dawn pouring in the windows, he speaks to her with great tenderness of making her life among the living. “It’s been a dream, Lucia. In the morning and the years after, you’ll only remember it as a dream.”
He has kept his composure to this point but then his grief can’t be held back anymore. “What we missed, Lucia. What we’ve both missed,” he says with inescapable pain in his voice.
In another book or film, that could be the end, but not here. Instead, it starts another chapter. There is still more life for both Lucy Muir and Captain Daniel Gregg to live.
Other adaptations beyond the movie
Radio plays: About seven months after the film’s release in 1947, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” became an hour-long radio play for Lux Radio Theatre starring Charles Boyer (yes, with his heavy French accent) and Madeleine Carroll.
A 1951 production from Screen Directors Playhouse also starred Boyer, this time playing opposite Jane Wyatt. The opening statement credits Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the director.
Television: For the 1968 family comedy series, the story was moved to Maine and Lucy’s name was changed to Carolyn Muir. Carolyn was played by Hope Lang who won two Emmy Awards for Lead Actress in a Comedy. Edward Mulhare starred as Captain Daniel Gregg.
For an idea of how light a touch they were going for in the series, it also starred Reta Shaw as the housekeeper and comedian Charles Nelson Reilly as the captain’s great-nephew.
NBC ran the first season before canceling the series which was then picked up by ABC for its second and final season.
More aboutthe Classic Literature on Film Blogathon
Those four movies and many others in the book will be shown on TCM in October including “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” “Them!” and “The Wolf Man.”
TCM’s Star of the Month (#sotm) is horror great Peter Cushing, whose films will be featured in prime-time every Monday night in October. Though the first two weeks (Oct. 5 and 12) focus on Cushing’s early roles and non-horror work, Oct. 19 is devoted to his Hammer films – including three Frankenstein movies – and Oct. 26 is all horror including two Dracula films.
Oct. 14 is Tod Browning Day with seven of his films programmed including three with Lon Chaney. The month culminates in around-the-clock horror films on Oct. 30 and 31.
Though a word isn’t spoken in it, much is communicated. A small circular light pierces the dark screen as a young man in World War II Germany is looking for his love. Another light appears, and the circles meet, like “two moons.” The two young lovers, tears in their eyes, finally see each other, but then hastily shut off their lights in fear of approaching soldiers.
The scene is from “We Were Young,” a 1961 film by Bulgarian director Binka Zhelyazkova and it’s so captivating I wrote down the title and circled it multiple times as a reminder that I must see this film.
I’ve since watched the two-minute clip multiple times and remain entranced.
There are countless moments like that throughout the 14-part film by Mark Cousins, the filmmaker, author and former film critic who previously made the epic 2011 documentary “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.”
Like that extensive documentary, “Women Make Film” is well worth your time especially as it’s presented in a three-month immersive programming initiative by Turner Classic Movies focusing on female filmmakers.
If the film title “The Sin of Nora Moran” is familiar to you, chances are that you know it from the exquisite poster by Alberto Vargas, not necessarily from seeing the movie.
The 1933 Pre-Code film hasn’t been as easy to see as the famous poster that is often lauded as one the greatest in film history (it ranked No. 2 on a Premiere magazine list).
So when “The Sin of Nora Moran” premiered on Turner Classic Movies in May as part of an evening of Pre-Code films, it blew up the classic movie Twitterverse with praise, awe and bewilderment. (It was to be shown at the canceled 2020 TCM Film Festival and I can only imagine how extraordinary it would have looked on the big screen.)
Now we can watch this Poverty Row film in a new 4K restoration on DVD and limited-edition Blu-ray from The Film Detective. (Both have the Vargas artwork on the cover.) The restoration is by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and it looks and sounds great, unlike the generally fuzzy public domain copies and clips previously available online.
The Blu-ray comes with a mini booklet that includes a short written appreciation by film historian and producer Samuel M. Sherman, who played a key role in getting this film in the public eye.
Sherman narrates a 17-minute featurette that includes rare photos and film clips as he tells how he was introduced to the film in the 1960s, “traded” for a rare 16mm print of it (he doesn’t remember what he traded, saying “It’s lost in antiquities”) and ultimately obtained a 35mm camera negative that helped with the restoration. He also secured a television deal for the film in the 1980s by renaming it “Voice from the Grave” (a fitting title) and packaging it with sci-fi and horror movies. “It played coast to coast on syndicated television in the 1980s, which was an amazing thing,” Sherman recalled.
Most remarkable: Sherman forged a lifelong friendship with star Zita Johann (who he first saw in Universal’s “The Mummy”) to the point that she made him a heir to her estate. In fact, Sherman was the one who showed Johann the final version of “Nora Moran”; until then, she had only seen a working print that didn’t have the “fancier” techniques added during editing. She told Sherman she preferred the earlier version. Information like that is gold to classic movie fans and I would love to hear more from him on what Johann said about making the film.
A familiar story told in an unfamiliar way
“The Sin of Nora Moran” is a lean, 65-minute movie from the Poverty Row studio Majestic Pictures. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary and, in fact, was quite familiar at the time: girl falls for the wrong guy and has to pay for it.
So why the fuss over “The Sin of Nora Moran”?
It was a film ahead of its time in both filmmaking and storytelling. It is not presented in a linear fashion, instead it jumps – often dramatically – between different times, characters, perspectives and even reality and dreams (or nightmares as it may be).
The heavy use of montages, superimposed images and hallucinations – unusual at the time – added to the storytelling. (My favorite technique is a diagonal “wash,” usually used as a transition, but here it literally adds another layer of darkness over a character.)
Ask me why I enjoy watching classic movies and the answer is a variation on a theme: Because classic movies make me feel like I’m wrapping myself in warm blanket or snuggling in a cozy chair.
They are, in a word, comforting.
So I found it interesting over the past few months as social media filled with people seemingly just discovering that movies can bring comfort. Don’t get me wrong, I love that people have sought out movies to ease their worries. But classic movies have done this for me as far back as I can remember.
Rainy days make me want to stay home, pull up a blanket and put on an old black and white movie. If I’m a bit down, a Technicolor film always lifts my spirits. If I’m tense, I watch something soothing like the ethereal “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” or the fantasy of “Brigadoon.” Looking for inspiration, I’ll put on a Frank Capra movie. When I get home from a tough day at work, I turn on Turner Classic Movies and I start to wind down.
Often, the comfort factor is obvious as with my favorite romances that have me nestling in all warm and cozy. “Laura” with its beautiful score and Dana Andrews as the hardboiled detective in love with a portrait; “Dark Angel,” a sweet love triangle (yes there are such stories) with Fredric March, Herbert Marshall and Merle Oberon as inseparable lifelong friends who truly love each other; and “An Affair to Remember” where I can watch Nickie (Cary Grant) and Terry (Deborah Kerr) fall in love. (Let’s not talk about Janou; I’ll start to sniffle.)
Others films I find comforting will seem odd because of their genres, but they have that quality by transporting me to another time (“The Time Machine”), leaving me on the edge of my seat (“House of Wax”), mesmerizing me (“Sunrise”), making me laugh (“You Can’t Take It With You”) and scaring the heck out of me (“The Haunting”).
I’m sure this can be traced to memories of being introduced to classics by my family. I watched old horror films with my dad and any time I see one of the original Universal monsters or a 1950s creature feature, I relax which is a weird reaction to a horror film. Mom liked family-based films with “I Remember Mama” being a favorite. At grandma’s, we watched Bette Davis and Joan Crawford movies with the lights off.
When classic movie fans discover a new source of old movies, it’s like we hit the lottery.
So I feel like I’ve won the big one after finding a treasure of movies from Renown Pictures, a distribution company that specializes in British cinema and television, predominately from the 1930s to ‘60s.
More than 100 of Renown’s titles – mysteries, dramas, horror, sci-fi, detective stories, romance and documentaries– are streaming for free on Amazon Prime.
I almost made the mistake of bypassing these films when they first popped up as suggested viewing on my Prime account. They were packaged with the same blue artwork with four black and white photos. The titles, actors and directors were not familiar, so I didn’t pay attention. (Felix Aylmer? Wolf Rilla? Jane Hylton?)
Shame on me and obvious lessons learned: Don’t judge a movie by its cover – or unfamiliarity – because you’ll miss out.
I clearly remember watching the 2006 rom-com “The Holiday” for the first time, not expecting much more than another in a long line of agreeable but often interchangeable romantic comedies.
It would be a nice, but surely forgettable, two-hour escape using the familiar formula: two people meet-cute, fall for each and face obstacles that lead to a “grand gesture” to help them live happily ever.
I was wrong – “The Holiday” is a memorable rom-com that I get more emotionally involved in each time I watch it.
It’s a combination of the great cast (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law and Eli Wallach – all who have never been more charming on film), relatable characters (we’ve all gone through the same things), a delightful comic touch, a few twists on rom-com tropes and the sense of joy that permeates this deeply emotional film.
As we reminisce about the 2019 Turner Classic Movie Cruise, we talk about the great movies (there were nearly 100 shown), the varied entertainment options (trivia, Bingo), the port adventures and the delicious – and seemingly endless – array of food.
There are so many highlights from the TCM Cruise, which sailed from New York City to Bermuda from Oct. 22 to 27, 2019 on the Disney Magic, that it’s hard to choose a favorite. But I believe the memories we especially savor are those of the people: the cherished friends you only see at TCM events; the social media pals you finally meet in real life; and the TCM hosts and staff who make you feel like you’re one of the gang.
Then there are the stars. Is there anything more magical than hearing stories of classic Hollywood as they can only be told by the people who lived it? Not for me.
The 2019 cruise starred a trio of legendary actresses – Cicely Tyson, Diane Ladd and Mitzi Gaynor – who shared pieces of their lives and careers in ways that entertained us, inspired us and touched our hearts.
Through multiple interviews with TCM hosts, the actresses were gracious, giving and hilarious. They exuded strength and independence. There was much laughter, a few tears and moments that made our mouths drop open (in a good way).
Here is a sampling of my favorite moments and memories from the trio during their appearances.
The image of Mitzi Gaynor coming on stage in a wheelchair in the Walt Disney Theatre was unsettling, but she quickly put our fears to rest when she told us she had injured herself doing a lift in rehearsals. This spunky 88-year-old is still going strong and nothing seems to hold her back.
“You people are so beautiful. You people are so real. I love you all,” she said as she came out to a standing ovation, then set the tone for the rest of the interview. “By the way, I’m a widow and I’m very, very rich. Any Capricorn men who are free?”
Like think twice before accepting an invitation to stay overnight in a mansion. Don’t visit an English village – especially in the 17th century. If an inheritance involves an old house or meeting relatives for the first time, you might want to politely decline. And Dracula is never really dead.
Those are some of the recurring themes in the more than 70 horror films being aired in October by Turner Classic Movies.
TCM’s annual October scarefest returns with a night of themed horror movies every Thursday in October: “Betwitched” is the theme on Oct. 3, “Black Magic” on Oct. 10, “Ghost Stories” on Oct. 17, “The Undead” on Oct. 24 and “Horror Classics” on Oct. 31.
Friday nights are devoted to the TCM Monster of the Month, Godzilla (who brings along a few friends). You’ll find other horror films sprinkled throughout the schedule, too, with a horror marathon starting at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 and concluding in royal fashion with “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” at 6:45 a.m. Nov. 1.
This is what we have to look forward to: at least 10 movies from Hammer Film Productions; 8 movies starring Christopher Lee; 6 films each that feature Vincent Price and Peter Cushing; 4 with Karloff and 3 films directed by Roger Corman. Multiple movies carry the names of Barbara Shelley, Val Lewton, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson and American International Pictures (AIP), another favorite studio for horror fans.