Turner Classic Movies gives a Christmas gift to musical fans all this month with 25 films starring Fred Astaire. The Star of the Month features will air on Wednesdays throughout December 2013, giving admirers of the dancing star a chance to see his best films and his most iconic leading ladies. Here's an overview of the entire schedule of Fred Astaire films for December.
The dance party kicks off on Wednesday, December 4, at 8 pm Eastern, with Astaire's very first screen appearance in "Flying Down to Rio" (1933). At 9:45 pm, Johnny Carson interviews Astaire on a 1979 episode of "The Tonight Show." Astaire then stars with Ginger Rogers in "The Gay Divorcee" (1934) at 10 pm. Rogers and Astaire continue to pair during the late night hours with "Roberta" (1935) at midnight, "Follow the Fleet" (1936) at 2 am, and "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" (1939) at 4 am. At 5:45 am, Astaire changes partners for Paulette Goddard in "Second Chorus" (1940).
The Astaire affair continues through the morning of Thursday, December 5, with "The Sky's the Limit" (1943) at 7:15 am. Joan Leslie and Robert Benchley costar.
On Wednesday, December 11, Astaire leads the prime time lineup with Rita Hayworth in "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941) at 8 pm. Hayworth returns for "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942) at 9:45 pm. At 11:30 pm, Cyd Charisse takes over as leading lady for "The Band Wagon" (1953) and follows up with "Silk Stockings" (1957) at 1:30 am. Astaire then appears in two movies with Vera-Ellen, beginning with "Three Little Words" (1950) at 3:45 am and followed by "The Belle of New York" (1952) at 5:30 am.
On Thursday, December 12, Astaire wraps up the morning with two movies costarring Lucille Bremer. "Yolanda and the Thief" (1945) airs at 7 am, and "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946) begins at 9 am, with William Powell reprising his role as the legendary show producer from the 1939 hit, "The Great Ziegfeld." Although Astaire appears in several numbers in "Ziegfeld Follies," it's not really an Astaire picture in the usual sense, with a huge cast performing a collection of musical numbers.
Astaire returns for more musicals on Wednesday, December 18, starting early with "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949) at 7:45 am. "The Band Wagon" (1953) gets a second screening at 1:15 pm. At 8 pm, Astaire stars with Eleanor Powell in "The Broadway Melody of 1940" (1940), and at 10 pm his leading lady is Judy Garland in "Easter Parade" (1948). "Royal Wedding" (1950) pairs Astaire with Jane Powell at midnight. At 2 am, George Burns and Gracie Allen join Astaire and Joan Fontaine for the fun in "A Damsel in Distress" (1937). The luck of the Irish then takes Astaire to "Finian's Rainbow" (1968) at 3:45 am.
On Christmas night, which will be Wednesday, December 25, TCM airs some of Astaire's most memorable films with Ginger Rogers, beginning with "Top Hat" (1935) at 8 pm. The dancing duo continue the holiday cheer with "Swing Time" (1936) at 10 pm, "Shall We Dance" (1937) at midnight, and "Carefree" (1938) at 2 am. They conclude the late night schedule with a second showing of "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949) at 3:30 am.
Other highlights of the December programming include the Friday Night Spotlight on the Hollywood Costume and, of course, plenty of holiday classics throughout the month. Visit the official TCM website for more information about upcoming features and a full movie schedule. You can learn more about Astaire's leading lady, Rita Hayworth, by watching the video at the top of this article.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.