Ring in the New Year with some must-see movies on TCM. On this list you will find movies with grace in unexpected places, Christian themes, and overlooked gems. All times are Eastern; schedule subject to change.

Dark Victory (1939), January 5th, 8:00 pm

This is sort of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 30 years before her time. Bette Davis is dying. And she dies well. I recommend the movie, though it misses being a masterpiece. That’s probably because they soft-pedaled the religious element. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Captains Courageous (1937), January 6th, 1:30 pm

A classic movie from a classic novel (by Rudyard Kipling), Captains Courageous is the story of a rich little spoiled brat’s transformation into a young man of character, altruism, and principle, on account of his falling overboard from his father’s luxury boat and being picked up by some humane, good-natured New England fishermen. Spencer Tracy is truly fantastic in this one, and Freddie Bartholomew’s transformation as the arrogant but impressionable little boy overboard is credible and wonderful. The movie takes a little while to get going, but “Hold On, I’m Comin'” (Sam and Dave, 1966). (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), January 7th, 3:00 am

This is from a golden period in Woody Allen’s movie bio. It is extremely funny, completely gripping, and basically enchanting. All the Zahls have loved this movie, and I hope you will, too. It was also filmed almost entirely in Rev. Jacob and Melina Smith’s neighborhood of Calvary St. George. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Alice Adams (1935), January 10th, 6:00 am

George Stevens directed this Booth Tarkington adaptation. It stars Katherine Hepburn. The movie is not quite as good as the book, which, believe it or not, has a slightly more hopeful ending. But the story itself, which concerns a “socially ambitious” young woman with whom a genuinely fine and principled “society” scion falls in love, is true to life. The heroine blows it — it’s her own fault. And it didn’t have to happen. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Cabaret (1972), January 10th, 5:45 pm

I met Liza Minnelli once and was able to tell her how much I love Cabaret. Especially her corrosive, unforgettable lament, “Maybe This Time.” The movie Cabaret, and the Broadway musical on which it is based, is outstanding. It is based on an early Christopher Isherwood memoir, which became a John Van Druten play. Just about everything in Cabaret is memorable and well done. But the best part is still Liza Minnelli. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

36 Hours (1964), January 11th, 4:15 pm

36 Hours is espionage magic. People usually privilege the first half of the movie, which is truly novel and mysterious, over the second half, which feels more “mundane.” But that’s not true. The second half simply follows from the first. (And in some ways, especially the romantic connection, the second half is better.) Anyway, the idea of 36 Hours — it was based on a short story by Roald Dahl — is original, and in my opinion, dazzling. See it! (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Four Feathers (1939), January 11th, 8:00 pm

Guess this “British Empire” spectacle isn’t very PC just now, but the film will still live forever. There is an atonement/redemption theme at the heart of Four Feathers, and it works completely if you give it time. This is “stiff upper lip-ness,” coupled with loyalty, courage, and ultimate altruism to the max, and it will stir you.

It also starts on a pretty small canvas, before it flies up and out to a yuge canvas. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), January 13th, 1:15 am

This is what they call a “romantic fantasy,” and it works about 90%. One’s special fave, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, directed it, and every actor in it is perfect. The ending is a little unsatisfactory, in my opinion, but try it out. The core of Ghost should delight you. The score, too! (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), January 13th, 5:30 pm

This is a beguiling mystery from Otto Preminger and stars Sir Lawrence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea and Noel Coward. And The Zombies! Does the missing person “Bunny Lake” even exist? The ending of the movie is a little disturbing — it was back then, and it still is now. But the film is worth seeing for … The Zombies, singing at least three, maybe four of their Rod Argent unforgettable tracks on a public-house TV screen. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Rear Window (1954), January 16th, 4:00 pm

This is probably almost everybody’s favorite Grace Kelly. Moreover, it works on every front you can name. Rear Window is about Original Sin and in a most ingenious way. (And Mary and I got to see Jimmy Stewart in person at Lincoln Center, where and when he introduced a new print of his classic movie. What a thrill that was. Somewhere I have the program.)

The Searchers (1956), January 16th, 8:00 pm

This used to be my favorite movie of all time. I certainly went through a period when I saw it at least once a month wherever it was playing in Manhattan. It’s Freudian (a little), panoramic (a lot), deeply, deeply redemptive, and kind of mythic. “What Makes a Man to Wander?” — The Searchers tells us. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Say Amen, Somebody (1982), January 19th, 12:00 am

A must for Mockingbirders, simply a must. And the O’Neill Brothers are immortal, to name just two of the participants here. As I say, a must for Mockingbirders.

Smilin’ Through (1932), January 19th, 8:00 pm

Kind of a touching, vintage ghost story — or better, “romantic fantasy.” A little creaky, maybe, but wonderful over all. True love makes it, as it should. Plus, there is an alarming (and memorable) scene in an Anglican church. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

The Lady Vanishes (1938), January 21st, 5:30 am

This is a prime Hitchcock classic, from the period before he came to Hollywood. I think it works on every level, and I recommend it highly. Oh, and that last surprise shot! (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Rocky Mountain (1950), January 22nd, 4:30 am

Rocky Mountain is a stirring Western that concerns a party of sympathetic Confederate soldiers who are trying to find CSA sympathizers in California. The movie stars Errol Flynn. He is a real hero here. Again, the ending, and the final shot, say it all; and I say, Amen! (Available for rent on Amazon.)

The Best Man (1964), January 23rd, 1:30 pm

This political movie is extremely well done. If it hadn’t been written by Gore Vidal, who attended the same school I did but seems to have ended up on every side but the good side in life, I would love it. (The ending is pure Vidal, and you’ll see why). But The Best Man is still thought provoking, and Henry Fonda is outstanding.

The Philadelphia Story (1940), January 24th, 1:30 pm

Here is a touching, matchless love story, filled with humor, suspense, and perfect performances. Watch for the nice Episcopal minister at the end — properly attired, too. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

West Side Story (1961), January 24th, 3:30 pm

Another matchless Hollywood incarnation of a great Broadway musical. I think West Side Story is probably a perfect movie. And that scene when they marry one another — “Think of our hearts, one heart” — even to speak of it makes me cry. (Available for free on Amazon Prime.)

Munster, Go Home! (1966), January 26th, 12:00 am

One has to feature this one on principle. We just LUV those timeless characters who originally lived (and to me always will live) on Mockingbird Lane. So hey, lower your standards a little for once and enjoy! Also listen to Los Straitjackets’ version of “The Munsters Theme.” It is inspired. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Hysteria (1965), January 26th, 10:00 am

A brilliant Jimmy Sangster script from Hammer Studios. I even got Mrs. Zahl to like this one. There’s a big secret and a lot of suspense, but it’s still watchable if you tend to get scared. Highly recommended … of its type. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

It Started with Eve (1941), January 26th, 2:30 pm

This has been my new favorite movie of all time for about six months now, ever since Mary and I saw it almost by chance. It is about love — and the right, best kind — as it comes to an “oldster,” played uniquely well by Charles Laughton, and as it changes his life — for the altruistic better. I would honestly say that It Started with Eve, which was directed by Henry Koster, is a movie miracle! Five stars, if not ten.

The Nutty Professor (1963), January 26th, 11:30 pm

This wonderful movie contains the very best of Jerry Lewis, as well as (almost) the very worst of him. The best are his scenes with Stella Stevens — in whose Mississippi home town I once preached — and especially his scenes with her when he is inside his suave, “Playboy” persona. The worst scenes — well, you’ll see them, and most of them are near the beginning. I realize I am sounding ambivalent, but still, see it. There are several touches of genius inside The Nutty Professor. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Morocco (1930), January 27th, 3:30 am

The resolution of this famous movie, starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich, is as surprising and also stirring and touching as it could possibly be. It is also unimaginable today. Funny thing, tho’: it’s true, and such things happen all the time! People do what Marlene Dietrich decides to do in Morocco ALL THE TIME.

Lord of the Flies (1963), January 29th, 9:45 am

This is a masterpiece concerning human nature. It is also a little hard to watch. I think I saw it the weekend it came out, in 1963, with my friends John Taft and Peter Wilson. I remember that Peter’s mother, as she was driving us home, said, quite matter-of-factly: “Men are such beasts, aren’t they.” Never forgot that observation from Mrs. Wilson. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

The Yearling (1946), January 29th, 5:45 pm

This is a stirring, long movie — as is the novel — about growing up in Central Florida when it was a lush but dangerous wilderness. The over-all effect of this strenuous movie is touching and memorable. And the Mendelssohn! You will not forget those leaping deer.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), January 29th, 8:00 pm

Another brilliant political movie, tho’ with North Korean espionage thrown in. The brainwashing sequences in the prison camp have probably never been improved on. And Laurence Harvey …. (Not to mention Angela Lansbury.) The Manchurian Candidate may put you in mind of a more recent presidential candidate, but I won’t say which one. (Available for rent on Amazon.)

The Music Man (1962), January 30th, 8:00 pm

Basically a perfect version of the Broadway musical. The Music Man is touching, funny, most romantic, and extremely tuneful. I would award this movie not five stars, but seventy-six trombones! (Available for rent on Amazon.)

Gabriel Over the White House (1933), January 31st, 6:00 am

I am surprised they are even showing this movie, tho’ it happens to be my favorite movie — outside of The Bride of Frankenstein — from the 1930s. You probably won’t believe your eyes. Gabriel is your must-see movie of the month. That is all I want to say. Oh, except to use the adjectives predictive, prophetic, prognosticative, uncanny, and visionary.

 My Fair Lady (1964), January 31st, 5:00 pm

In a month that has featured superb Hollywood versions of famous Broadway musicals, this one is right up there! “All I want is a room somewhere,” and that will never change. When I married Mrs. Zahl, I found one! LUV U.