Friday, January 29, 2016

TCM Starts Its 31 DAYS OF OSCAR February 1

For more than ten years, Turner Classic Movies has created a special lineup around the Oscars as a way to ramp up to the awards ceremony. They call it TCM's "31 Days of Oscar," with some sort of connection among the films to play off the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. Bacon himself has been the connection among all their "31 Days" films in the past, although others years didn't center on a person, but a instead some theme cooked up by the masterminds at TCM. This year, the schedule features a list of Oscar-winning and nominated movies, each of which connects to the one before and after it, like little links on a long and winding chain.

That means that February's first movie, Gigi, has something in common with the second, The Merry Widow (the 1952 version), and that Merry Widow also has some link to The Broadway Melody of 1936, which comes after it. And then Broadway Melody is linked to Calamity Jane, and Calamity Jane connects to Billy Rose's Jumbo... All the way to March 2, where Around the World in Eighty Days closes out the Oscar fest and connects to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which immediately precedes it, as well as back to Gigi at the top of the list to complete the circle.

Whew! It's 360 (complicated!) Degrees of Oscar.

I don't know the answers in this mighty trivia quiz (and if TCM has an answer key, I didn't see it), but I can think of a couple of links between Gigi and The Merry Widow off the top of my head. They're both set (at least partially, in Widow's case) in Paris and they both have scenes at Maxim's, the risque restaurant famous for flowing champagne and beautiful women. I'm guessing Maxim's is not what the quizzers at TCM had in mind, however, since the connections otherwise seems to be about the personnel. So, for example, the fourth piece in the puzzle is an easy one, since Doris Day starred in both Calamity Jane and Billy Rose's Jumbo.

It's quite a list, including Oscar powerhouses like Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Sting, An American in Paris, The Apartment and The Best Years of Our Lives. If you think Oscar nominees and winners past were better than Oscar nominees and winners current, this is your chance to reacquaint yourself with the back part of that equation, as well as more recent winners like 2001's A Beautiful Mind. Plus some of my personal favorites like Top Hat, Tootsie, The Awful Truth and Ninotchka. And the lesser-known Fred Astaire pic The Sky's the Limit, a musical from 1943 that cast Fred as a Flying Tiger who meets Joan Leslie on leave. It's not that great a film, but it was nominated for two Oscars, for Best Original Song (Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen's My Shining Hour) and Best Score.

If you can figure out the whole list of links from one film to the next, be sure to let me know. That's a gargantuan task, but so was figuring out a whole schedule of Oscar-iffic movies that tie together like that.


  1. I would automatically think that Maxim's is the link (Gigi has a couple of crucial scenes set there, while The Merry Widow has a song about going to Maxim's). But if they're stressing "1952 version," that suggests something from that version alone. I don't see who that could be....

  2. I thought, oh, it's Maxim's, and moved on. But then every other one I figured out was a person. Even a pretty obscure person. So I rejected Maxim's and focused on people in the 1952 Merry Widow and I got it eventually. Una Merkel. But I still think Maxim's should be enough of a link. (It's not that they specified the 1952 one, just that this is TCM's schedule, so they tell you what movies they're airing. And they're airing the 1952 one... The schedule also says The Sting was 1943, however. But if you click the link, you get the 1973 Sting. That one appears to be a typo on the list.)

  3. Oh, and by the way, it's NOT Una Merkel. In my zeal to find a person connection between THE MERRY WIDOW of 1952 and GIGI, I connected THE MERRY WIDOW of 1952 and THE MERRY WIDOW of 1934. She wasn't in GIGI. So I guess we're back to Maxim's!

  4. And with that, I found an actor connection... A minor player named John Abbott. He played a character named Manuel in GIGI and the Marshovian ambassador in THE MERRY WIDOW of 1952. (I still think Maxim's is a better connection. Grumble, grumble, grumble.)