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Oscar Winners Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis, Timothy Hutton: Christmas on TCM

Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter
Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter

Turner Classic Movies' Christmas daytime programming includes George Cukor's 1933 classic Little Women, the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, and the tedious 1959 version of Ben-Hur. William Wyler was a great director, but this multi-Oscared epic pales in comparison to Fred Niblo's more concise, less pretentious, and (mercifully) dialogue-less 1925 version starring Ramon Novarro (who was eons better than Charlton Heston in the title role).

Things get meatier on TCM in the evening as Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn spars with Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole in Anthony Harvey's New York Film Critics Circle winner The Lion in Winter (1968).

That'll be followed by Mike Nichols' masterpiece, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), in which Oscar winners Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis, and Oscar nominees Richard Burton and George Segal laugh, cry, yell, and then yell some more in this brilliant adaptation of Edward Albee's play.

Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Next, Oscar nominee Elizabeth Taylor tries to understand why Oscar nominee Paul Newman won't have sex with her in Richard Brooks' miserably bowdlerized version of Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). Considering how fuzzy the homosexuality of Newman's character plays out in Brooks' film, it's no wonder Taylor gets so confused. This isn't one of the better adaptations of a Williams play, but Madeleine Sherwood (think The Flying Nun) provides solid support.

More heavy – but less steamy – family drama follows in Robert Redford's Best Picture Oscar winner Ordinary People (1980). Oscar nominee Mary Tyler Moore is good as the cold mom, but Donald Sutherland as the caring father and Oscar winner Timothy Hutton as the troubled young son carry the movie. Ordinary People gets maudlin at times and it isn't nearly as insightful as it believes itself to be, but the performances make it well worth watching.

Schedule (PT) and synopses from TCM website:

5:00pm Lion In Winter, The (1968)
England's Henry II and his estranged queen battle over the choice of an heir.
Cast: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Merrow, John Castle Dir: Anthony Harvey C-134 mins

7:30pm Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
An academic couple reveal their deepest secret to a pair of newcomers during an all-night booze fest.
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis Dir: Mike Nichols BW-131 mins

10:00pm Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
A dying plantation owner tries to help his alcoholic son solve his problems.
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson Dir: Richard Brooks C-108 mins

12:00am Ordinary People (1980)
When a young man drowns, his family fights to recover from the trauma.
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch Dir: Robert Redford C-124 mins

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