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29 June 2015

Classic films on TV: Watch this!

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,

Born on the Fourth of July.

If those song lyrics sound familiar, you may be ready for this weekend's Fourth of July celebration in your area and my choice for one of the key classic movies to take in this week in the comfort of your own home.

Airing, appropriately enough, at 7 p.m. Saturday (the Fourth of July) on TCM, Yankee Doodle Dandy isn't just a great cinematic interpretation of song and dance man, playwright and actor George M. Cohan, performed brilliantly by James Cagney, it also stands as the movie that earned Cagney his only Academy Award.  (Note:  All times listed are Central Daylight Time.)

It may not deal with all the highs and lows of Cohan's amazing life and career, but it captures the diehard spirit of a patriot who could rally the troops (both military and civilian) and who, as evidenced by Cagney's performance, could dance up the walls during the song The Yankee Doodle Boy, which I thought, until a year or two ago, was titled Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Perhaps you're looking for something a little edgier to celebrate your Independence Day weekend?

Got you covered:  Over on AMC, Jaws will be terrorizing the cinematic beach Friday with a trio of flicks, beginning with the original Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg's masterpiece-with-bite, at 11 a.m.

The blood in the water continues at 2 with Jaws 2 (1978) and wraps up at 4:30 with Jaws 3-D (1983).  Just when you think it's safe to go back in the water, AMC rinses and repeats Jaws 1 and 2 beginning at 6:45.

Once we get past the Independence Day theme, there are some really terrific classic movies airing this week.  One of my favorites is Little Big Man, Arthur Penn's sweeping comic-historical-drama starring Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man looking back over his long life and incredible history, including becoming a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Little Big Man lights up your TV screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday on TCM

And getting back to James Cagney for a second, the perfect cinematic tough guy turns up the White Heat (1949) at 5 p.m. Friday on TCM.  If you've never seen the "Make it Ma, top of the world" finale to White Heat, this becomes a must-see.

If something a little tamer sounds better, you can catch Lucille Ball as quick-witted eccentric Mame Dennis in the classic musical Mame (1974) at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on TCM.

And now for a couple personal favorites:  I've already set our DVR to record at 2 p.m. Sunday on TCM.  That's when Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift team up for the dramatic romantic-modern Western The Misfits, directed by John Huston from Arthur Miller's screenplay.

If I was only going to see once classic movie this week, however, it would have to be Charlie Chaplin's historic classic edgy comedy The Great Dictator (1940), which airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on TCM.

Chaplin's first full talkie is written and directed by the man himself.  He also heads a cast that includes Paulette Goddard and Jack Oakie.  Chaplin plays Dictator Adenoid Hynkel, who's a dead ringer for a humble Jewish barber (also Chaplin).

The Great Dictator was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, best actor (Chaplin) and best writing, original screenplay for Chaplin.