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Best of The Essentials
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Best of The Essentials - Saturdays in April


TCM looks back at some of our guests and films from The Essentials, the series with our hosts and special guests introducing and discussing movies considered to be must-see viewing for cinema enthusiasts. The series, which began in 2001, has covered some of the finest movies ever made. Each Saturday in April, we'll show a double feature of The Essentials, with presenters as shown below.

East of Eden (1955) is a dramatization of sections of the classic John Steinbeck novel, directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Oscar-nominated James Dean in his first major film role. Also in the cast are Julie Harris, Raymond Massey and Oscar winner Jo Van Fleet. Talk show host David Letterman presents with host Alec Baldwin.

The Night of the Hunter (1955), adapted from the novel by Davis Grubb, is the only film directed by the distinguished actor Charles Laughton. Robert Mitchum stars as a murderous preacher who terrorizes his bride (Shelley Winters) and her small children. Lillian Gish costars as the children's protector. Actress Rose McGowan presents with host Robert Osborne.

Singin' in the Rain (1952), with direction and choreography by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, is considered by many the best movie musical of all time. In this satirical depiction of Hollywood during the 1920s transition from silents to "talkies," Kelly stars opposite Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. Comedian and writer Tina Fey presents with host Alec Baldwin.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) stars James Stewart in a definitive, Oscar-nominated performance as a young U.S. senator fighting government corruption. The movie racked up a total of 11 nominations, including one for director Frank Capra and won for Lewis R. Foster's original story. Film critic Molly Haskell presents with host Robert Osborne.

Norma Rae (1979) earned Sally Field an Oscar for her gritty portrayal of a young factory worker who becomes involved in labor union struggles. Based on a true story, the movie costars Beau Bridges and was directed by Martin Ritt. Field herself presents with host Robert Osborne.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) is a "mockumentary," a phrase coined by director Rob Reiner to describe this send-up of rock band documentaries. The movie was largely improvised by its cast, which includes Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. It has become a much-loved cult favorite. Actress Drew Barrymore presents with host Robert Osborne.

Cat People (1942) is a low-budget horror classic from producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur, who engage audience imagination as a substitute for elaborate special effects. Simone Simon stars as a woman who suspects she is a member of a race that transforms into panthers when sexually aroused. Alec Baldwin presents with host Robert Osborne.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is Oscar-nominated director Stanley Kubrick's epic science fiction film, which overflows with imagination, ambiguity and award-winning special effects. A voyage to Jupiter develops into a journey through time for astronauts, including Keir Dullea, after the discovery of a mysterious monolith in space. Director William Friedkin presents with host Alec Baldwin.

by Roger Fristoe
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