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Showcasing 52 Essential films from the silent era through the 1980s, Turner Classic Movies invites you into a world filled with stirring performances, dazzling musical numbers, and bold directorial visions that mark the greatest moments in film history. Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate series for movie lovers to ex Showcasing 52 Essential films from the silent era through the 1980s, Turner Classic Movies invites you into a world filled with stirring performances, dazzling musical numbers, and bold directorial visions that mark the greatest moments in film history. Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate series for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere. Based on the TCM series, The Essentials book showcases fifty-two must-see movies from the silent era through the early 1980s. Readers can enjoy one film per week, for a year of stellar viewing, or indulge in their own classic movie festival. Some long-championed classics appear within these pages; other selections may surprise you. Each film is profiled with insightful notes on why it's an Essential, a guide to must-see moments, and running commentary from TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present, including Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner. Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history, The Essentials is your curated guide to fifty-two films that define the meaning of the word "classic."


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Showcasing 52 Essential films from the silent era through the 1980s, Turner Classic Movies invites you into a world filled with stirring performances, dazzling musical numbers, and bold directorial visions that mark the greatest moments in film history. Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate series for movie lovers to ex Showcasing 52 Essential films from the silent era through the 1980s, Turner Classic Movies invites you into a world filled with stirring performances, dazzling musical numbers, and bold directorial visions that mark the greatest moments in film history. Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate series for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere. Based on the TCM series, The Essentials book showcases fifty-two must-see movies from the silent era through the early 1980s. Readers can enjoy one film per week, for a year of stellar viewing, or indulge in their own classic movie festival. Some long-championed classics appear within these pages; other selections may surprise you. Each film is profiled with insightful notes on why it's an Essential, a guide to must-see moments, and running commentary from TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present, including Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner. Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history, The Essentials is your curated guide to fifty-two films that define the meaning of the word "classic."

30 review for The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

  1. 5 out of 5

    ALLEN

    THE ESSENTIALS: 52 MUST-SEE MOVIES out of TCM is a honey of a book. I couldn't possibly disagree that the movies profiled here, which would occupy a whole year at the rate of one per week, are essential viewing (I have seen all but eight of them). Of course, any cinemaphile is going to raise a few objections: I wish more photos had been taken from publicity stills or lobby cards rather than blown-up film frames. A book with such respect for screwball comedy that has room for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGH THE ESSENTIALS: 52 MUST-SEE MOVIES out of TCM is a honey of a book. I couldn't possibly disagree that the movies profiled here, which would occupy a whole year at the rate of one per week, are essential viewing (I have seen all but eight of them). Of course, any cinemaphile is going to raise a few objections: I wish more photos had been taken from publicity stills or lobby cards rather than blown-up film frames. A book with such respect for screwball comedy that has room for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and THE LADY EVE somehow fast-forwards over other recognized Thirties screwball classics like MY MAN GODFREY, THE AWFUL TRUTH, EASY LIVING and BRINGING UP BABY. Why are the last two movies profiled ANNIE HALL (1977) and THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), with no room in between for RAGING BULL from 1980? Still, it's a lovely paperback production with exciting and informative prose by author Jeremy Arnold, and would make a great gift for any movie-lover or neophyte.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Grosser

    It's obvious that a lot of time and effort went into putting this book together. I enjoyed it very much. Now I just have to find the time to watch all the movies that I haven't seen yet. It's obvious that a lot of time and effort went into putting this book together. I enjoyed it very much. Now I just have to find the time to watch all the movies that I haven't seen yet.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Prince William Public Libraries

    I love movies. Old movies, new movies, foreign films, comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror, romance, kid’s movies, westerns—you name it and I’ll watch it. I even love reading books about movies almost as much I love the movies themselves. So when I saw The Essentials: 52 Must See Movies and Why They Matter sitting on my coworker’s desk, I immediately rushed to put a hold on it here at the library. The Essentials: 52 Must See Movies is a great book for the beginning movie enthusiast and the avid film b I love movies. Old movies, new movies, foreign films, comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror, romance, kid’s movies, westerns—you name it and I’ll watch it. I even love reading books about movies almost as much I love the movies themselves. So when I saw The Essentials: 52 Must See Movies and Why They Matter sitting on my coworker’s desk, I immediately rushed to put a hold on it here at the library. The Essentials: 52 Must See Movies is a great book for the beginning movie enthusiast and the avid film buff alike. With 52 entries dating from 1927’s Metropolis to 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap, movie lovers will be set for a whole year of viewing excitement by watching one film each week. Easy! Each entry contains a brief essay on why the film is essential, a short section of technical aspects to look for when watching the film, lots of obscure movie trivia, plenty of beautiful photographs, and quotes from the many hosts of TCM’s The Essentials program, including critics Robert Osborne and Molly Haskell, performers Carrie Fisher, Rose McGowan, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, and Sally Field, and directors Rob Reiner, Sydney Pollack, and Peter Bogdanovich. Best of all, many of the films mentioned in the book are available on DVD in the Prince William Public Library System. So whether you want to revisit some favorite old classics or you’re just looking for something new to watch on DVD, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hoopla, this is a wonderful book to check out. - John D. Click here to find the book at the Prince William County Public Library System.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    One of my favorite rides at Disney World in Hollywood Studios is the Great Movie Ride, the journey through the movies. This feels like a book version of the ride. In this book we are taken on a journey through 52 movies. The book is beautifully done with stills from all of the movies, as well as cast information, a brief history of the movie and some interesting trivia. The book was a quick read; each movie has a section that is about 4 pages long, and many of it are pictures. I have not seen mo One of my favorite rides at Disney World in Hollywood Studios is the Great Movie Ride, the journey through the movies. This feels like a book version of the ride. In this book we are taken on a journey through 52 movies. The book is beautifully done with stills from all of the movies, as well as cast information, a brief history of the movie and some interesting trivia. The book was a quick read; each movie has a section that is about 4 pages long, and many of it are pictures. I have not seen most of these films but reading this book makes me want to see them even more.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    For a movie buff it is a must read. Enjoyable sections in each movie on what to watch for. Of the 52, I've seen all but 7. I'll be watching TCM to see how soon I can catch up. For a movie buff it is a must read. Enjoyable sections in each movie on what to watch for. Of the 52, I've seen all but 7. I'll be watching TCM to see how soon I can catch up.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    Wonderful writing about some wonderful movies! I had my quibbles about a few of the selections (e.g., fond as I am of them, I would have said Rear Window and North by Northwest were less essential than Vertigo and Psycho), but for the most part I thought the choices were excellent and the author did a great job of demonstrating the value and merits of these movies.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Are there influential and essential movies in this 52 film list? Yes. Do they all matter? I don't really think so. And the lack of films post-1960s kind of undermines the goal of this book to me. That is, must-see essential movies that matter. Not every "groundbreaking" pre-1960 movie is essential while there are certainly several essential films from the 70's, 80's, and even 90's (No Ridley Scott's "Alien"? I know I'm bias on this one, but seriously? And also "Black Christmas" or Carpenter's "H Are there influential and essential movies in this 52 film list? Yes. Do they all matter? I don't really think so. And the lack of films post-1960s kind of undermines the goal of this book to me. That is, must-see essential movies that matter. Not every "groundbreaking" pre-1960 movie is essential while there are certainly several essential films from the 70's, 80's, and even 90's (No Ridley Scott's "Alien"? I know I'm bias on this one, but seriously? And also "Black Christmas" or Carpenter's "Halloween", both literally creating tropes of the uber-popular slasher flicks of the 80's? How would they not be considered essential when several founding horror films are?) I like movies. I like this book as a list of movies worth watching. I think it lacks in several spots though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    jamie

    Metropolis (1927) All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) City Lights (1931) Grand Hotel (1932) King Kong (1933) Duck Soup (1933) *It Happened One Night (1934) The Thin Man (1934) Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Swing Time (1936) Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) *Gone With The Wind (1939) The Lady Eve (1941) Citizen Kane (1941) Now, Voyager (1942) *Casablanca (1942) *Double Indemnity (1944) *Meet Me In St Louis (1944) Leave Her To Heaven (1945) The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) Out Of The Past (1947) The Red Shoes (1 Metropolis (1927) All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) City Lights (1931) Grand Hotel (1932) King Kong (1933) Duck Soup (1933) *It Happened One Night (1934) The Thin Man (1934) Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Swing Time (1936) Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) *Gone With The Wind (1939) The Lady Eve (1941) Citizen Kane (1941) Now, Voyager (1942) *Casablanca (1942) *Double Indemnity (1944) *Meet Me In St Louis (1944) Leave Her To Heaven (1945) The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) Out Of The Past (1947) The Red Shoes (1948) The Bicycle Thief (1948) The Third Man (1949) White Heat (1949) Adam's Rib (1949) Winchester '73 (1950) Sunset Boulevard (1950) Gun Crazy (1950) All About Eve (1950) *Singin' In The Rain (1952) *Roman Holiday (1953) Seven Samurai (1954) On The Waterfront (1954) Rear Window (1954) Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) The Searchers (1956) *Some Like It Hot (1959) North by Northwest (1959) Ben-Hur (1959) Breathless (1960) Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) *To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) Dr. Strangelove (1964) Bonnie And Clyde (1967) In The Heat Of The Night (1967) The Graduate (1967) Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) *Jaws (1975) Rocky (1976) *Annie Hall (1977) This Is Spinal Tap (1984) As of March 2020 I have seen 11 of these movies. Admittedly I do not remember them all. Obviously they are not as essential to me as they are to TCM.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Highly recommended for fans of classic movies, or even a great starting point for those not overly familiar with them. I found myself getting nothing done today because I kept wanting to read about just one more movie! I miss Robert Osbourne. 😌

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nadine Jones

    I'm a new-comer to classic movie fandom, and this book was the perfect introduction. A few years back, my kids and I started having Friday night movie night: I'd get a movie from library, bring home take out, and voila. But after several years of weekly movie nights, we started running out of decent movies that we might all enjoy. My daughter asked to watch Breakfast at Tiffanys, and I was surprised that we all enjoyed it. So I figured we'd try another classic that I'd never seen: Casablanca. I w I'm a new-comer to classic movie fandom, and this book was the perfect introduction. A few years back, my kids and I started having Friday night movie night: I'd get a movie from library, bring home take out, and voila. But after several years of weekly movie nights, we started running out of decent movies that we might all enjoy. My daughter asked to watch Breakfast at Tiffanys, and I was surprised that we all enjoyed it. So I figured we'd try another classic that I'd never seen: Casablanca. I was amazed at how fantastic it was! Then my daughter asked for Roman Holiday and All About Eve, and they were great! This was eye-opening. Up to this point, I'd been under the impression that (non-Hitchcock) older movies were dull and dry, or dull and silly. (I based this opinion on my impressions of Cutizen Kane and The Third Man, which I saw as a teen. I found them to be confusing and boring. ... Yes, I had seen The Apartment and enjoyed it, but I figured that was a fluke, because, Jack Lemmon can't miss.) I checked out Strangers on a Train, since I'd just read the book, and Rebel Without a Cause (a classic that I HAD liked as a teen.) I put The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon on my list, because I'd just read those books, too, but I wasn't really sure what else to add. Then I learned about this book, and it sounded perfect! It spans from 1927 (Metropolis) to 1984 (Spinal Tap). Limited to only 52 movies, a lot of movies are necessarily left out. You have On the Waterfront, but not The Wild Ones. Double Indemnity, but not The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep. Bonnie and Clyde, but not Easy Rider. Some Like It Hot, but not Getlemen Prefer Blondes. Rear Window and North by Northwest, but not Psycho or Vertigo or The Birds. There are very few foreign movies on the list: Metropolis, The Red Shoes, The Bicycle Thief, Breathless, and Seven Samurai are all I see. So, consider this very USA-centric. The iconic 70s movies included are: Jaws, Rocky, and Annie Hall. No Star Wars or The Godfather. The biggest surprise was that there isn't a single James Dean or Clint Eastwood movie included in the list. The choices are very focused on movies that pioneered a particular movie-making technique, which was actually very interesting for me, because that's never been how I look at movies. I look for big stars or good stories. This book helped me round out my list of movies to see; I probably never would have included movies such as It Happened One Night, The Thin Man, Now, Voyager, Sunset Boulevard, or Seven Samurai if I hadn't read about them in this book. I understand that this is just a sampling from each film genre, focusing on movies that pioneered certain things. I am kind of surprised that Star Wars wasn't included, though (and it's not because Star Wars is a "duh, of course!" kind of movie that needs no introduction, because Gone With the Wind and Jaws are on the list.) The list is pretty light on science fiction flicks, in general. Along with Metopolis, they list only Bride of Frankenstein and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Sorry, Alien, you don't make the cut. Blade Runner, you just get a one-line mention. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes trivia about each movie, background about how the directors and actors prepped for the roles, and information about how these "essential" movies influenced future movies. What I found least interesting were the quotes from current actors and directors who have been involved with the TCM "Essentials" TV program (such as Alec Baldwun, Drew Barrymore, and Peter Bogdonovich) about how they felt about these movies.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Critterbee❇

    A very well done compilation of 'must-see' movies, from 1927 to 1984. The films included are mostly classics, and recognizable titles like King Kong, Jaws, Casablanca, In the Heat of the Night, and Rear Window. I am not a big movie fan (I much prefer books), but I do watch movies occasionally, and usually older movies. This book is a great resource for finding quality movies, and learning a bit about their history. The book is beautifully produced, and very easy to read. Film mega-fanatics will p A very well done compilation of 'must-see' movies, from 1927 to 1984. The films included are mostly classics, and recognizable titles like King Kong, Jaws, Casablanca, In the Heat of the Night, and Rear Window. I am not a big movie fan (I much prefer books), but I do watch movies occasionally, and usually older movies. This book is a great resource for finding quality movies, and learning a bit about their history. The book is beautifully produced, and very easy to read. Film mega-fanatics will probably not learn a lot, but overall a very enjoyable, informative read. Great for updating your 'to-be-watched' queue!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lola

    I'm a huge fan of Turner Class Movies. I think they do wonderful work and programming, and I've been able to watch so many cool things on their channel. Weirdly, though, I bought this book before I became obsessed with TCM. I love Old Hollywood and particularly books that are just basically lists of movies I should watch with analysis and fun facts. Therefore, this is exactly the kind of book that is up my alley. As expected, it's a well-produced book with good analysis and some great facts. T I'm a huge fan of Turner Class Movies. I think they do wonderful work and programming, and I've been able to watch so many cool things on their channel. Weirdly, though, I bought this book before I became obsessed with TCM. I love Old Hollywood and particularly books that are just basically lists of movies I should watch with analysis and fun facts. Therefore, this is exactly the kind of book that is up my alley. As expected, it's a well-produced book with good analysis and some great facts. Though some of the movies are predictable (i.e. Gone with the Wind and Casablanca), I had never heard of others. It was also incredibly well-sourced, which I always love. The only thing I really didn't like were the celebrity quotes. They felt a little out of place to me. Recommended for any film fan!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Crossroads Library

    A finely done collection, this book certainly provides many (I'm not sure all 52) must-see movies for the movie fans and fanatics alike. That said, the focus is heavily on films from pre-1960, for good reason I suppose, however, it really misses the mark on essentials and movies that matter that arose after the move from black and white. Still, some good movies and very solid reasons why. 3.25 Roger Ebert stars out of 5 -Matthew A finely done collection, this book certainly provides many (I'm not sure all 52) must-see movies for the movie fans and fanatics alike. That said, the focus is heavily on films from pre-1960, for good reason I suppose, however, it really misses the mark on essentials and movies that matter that arose after the move from black and white. Still, some good movies and very solid reasons why. 3.25 Roger Ebert stars out of 5 -Matthew

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jill booksandescape

    The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter is a guide by Turner Classic Movies to the go-to movies from the silent era to the 1980s. It is written by Jeremy Arnold and includes a foreword by Robert Osborne. I was surprised by some of the choices of films in this book. I have seen quite a few of these, and I loved reading about them. I definitely have some new films added to my watch list.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Enjoyable book. Disagree with a few choices but still liked reading about why they were chosen. There is very little written about each film - it's pretty much a quick reference. But the pictures are beautiful, the production values are high and the whole package looks very appealing. I enjoyed the Robert Osborne quotes. Did not really need quotes from Drew Barrymore and Alec Baldwin... I would have preferred to hear from Ben Mankiewicz but c'est la vie. Enjoyable book. Disagree with a few choices but still liked reading about why they were chosen. There is very little written about each film - it's pretty much a quick reference. But the pictures are beautiful, the production values are high and the whole package looks very appealing. I enjoyed the Robert Osborne quotes. Did not really need quotes from Drew Barrymore and Alec Baldwin... I would have preferred to hear from Ben Mankiewicz but c'est la vie.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    A very useful reference, whether to find great classic films you may have missed, or to learn more about some of your favorites. I concur with most of Jeremy Arnold's picks and with his reasoning, although I don't care for several of the movies from later years. A beautiful book and enjoyable read! A very useful reference, whether to find great classic films you may have missed, or to learn more about some of your favorites. I concur with most of Jeremy Arnold's picks and with his reasoning, although I don't care for several of the movies from later years. A beautiful book and enjoyable read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christine Sinclair

    Perfection! Great movies, great writing, great photos in a beautiful format. Throw in quotes from the late, great Robert Osborne and you've got a real winner. Some picks are debatable, of course (This Is Spinal Tap?) and there are several movies I haven't seen yet, but each summary revealed a fact or two I didn't know, along with presenting a fresh spin on many old favorites. Loved it! Perfection! Great movies, great writing, great photos in a beautiful format. Throw in quotes from the late, great Robert Osborne and you've got a real winner. Some picks are debatable, of course (This Is Spinal Tap?) and there are several movies I haven't seen yet, but each summary revealed a fact or two I didn't know, along with presenting a fresh spin on many old favorites. Loved it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cool

    A totally fun book. It is fun to read about the movie and then watch it and then go back to the piece in the book. Great way to learn more about classic movies. Book is well constructed and lies open; also has built in flap on front cover to use as a bookmark.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ricky Kimsey

    Classic Movies This is about classic movies and includes movies from all genres and eras. I have seen most of the movies discussed and I agree that those do deserve the attention they get.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Bruce

    I grew up watching TCM with my grandpa when I was a kid. This book is for those into old Movie fans! It has movies like; Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, King Kong, Metropolis, Duck Soup, The Searchers and more that'll give you inside looks at the movies. I grew up watching TCM with my grandpa when I was a kid. This book is for those into old Movie fans! It has movies like; Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, King Kong, Metropolis, Duck Soup, The Searchers and more that'll give you inside looks at the movies.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Steeves

    Full review to come on my Instagram. :)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    FWIW I've seen 48. This is a fun book that also has some insightful technical information on most of the movies -- not a lot, but stuff that an amateur like me never noticed. FWIW I've seen 48. This is a fun book that also has some insightful technical information on most of the movies -- not a lot, but stuff that an amateur like me never noticed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Knarf 655321

    So I didn't read everything....I like to look at the pictures, okay! So I didn't read everything....I like to look at the pictures, okay!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia wills

    Informative and if you are like me it gives a lot about movies we have loved

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Shulman

    Good book about good movies Got some recommendations for movies I have not yet seen and a new appreciation for old favorites. An all-around good deal.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    I WANT TO WATCH ALL THESE MOVIES

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A beautiful looking collection of some truly classic movies (though it leans heavily American) that I would suggest as a lovely gift for the budding film buff (like high school maybe?) before a long summer vacation. There's not a lot here for readers that are already avid TCM viewers or film enthusiasts, either as new entries on "to be watched" lists or for insightful analysis of the films themselves - I mean knowing that Gloria Swanson walked down the staircase barefoot at the end of Sunset Blv A beautiful looking collection of some truly classic movies (though it leans heavily American) that I would suggest as a lovely gift for the budding film buff (like high school maybe?) before a long summer vacation. There's not a lot here for readers that are already avid TCM viewers or film enthusiasts, either as new entries on "to be watched" lists or for insightful analysis of the films themselves - I mean knowing that Gloria Swanson walked down the staircase barefoot at the end of Sunset Blvd. doesn't really get me into the mind of the filmmaker or inform my appreciation of how and why that tracking shot works - but some of these nuggets may help your pub quiz team.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is a reference book that suggests 52 movies that may not be the best movies made but, they are essential because they started a new type of movie, or way of filming, or made a significant impact. 'What to look for' in each one is an aid to enjoyment. Movie are always better if you know more about how and why they were made. Even the list of actors who turned down the roles is entertaining and informative. I recommend this book for movie lovers or those who don't know too much but want to op This is a reference book that suggests 52 movies that may not be the best movies made but, they are essential because they started a new type of movie, or way of filming, or made a significant impact. 'What to look for' in each one is an aid to enjoyment. Movie are always better if you know more about how and why they were made. Even the list of actors who turned down the roles is entertaining and informative. I recommend this book for movie lovers or those who don't know too much but want to optimize the time they spend watching movies.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    A fun read, one I was able to do in short bursts. Wonderful insight into why TCM picked these 52 movies. For the movies I knew, it gave me some additional insight; for those I had avoided, it gave me a reason to reconsider. I'm not sure that these are the best choices, -- I might add some other movies -- but they certainly make a case that these are essentials. A fun read, one I was able to do in short bursts. Wonderful insight into why TCM picked these 52 movies. For the movies I knew, it gave me some additional insight; for those I had avoided, it gave me a reason to reconsider. I'm not sure that these are the best choices, -- I might add some other movies -- but they certainly make a case that these are essentials.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jacque

    I'm a classic film fanatic but I know very little history behind the films I love. This gives some information behind 52 selections considered ESSENTIALS by my favorite channel TCM. And the pictures OMGosh. I'm a classic film fanatic but I know very little history behind the films I love. This gives some information behind 52 selections considered ESSENTIALS by my favorite channel TCM. And the pictures OMGosh.

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