There’s a spate of films bursting with action and adventure on the Turner Classic Movies network beginning this weekend, along with stories centering on strong women, each having a distinctly Catholic flair or in line with Catholic morality. Get the kids together, pop some corn and settle in for seafaring adventure, dashing swordplay, and courtly love.November 16 —11 a.m.: The Prisoner of Zenda (1952). English sportsman Rudolf Rassendyll, on vacation in Ruritania, runs into King Rudolf V, for whom he is a dead ringer, on a hunting trip before being crowned. The king is kidnapped, leaving Rassendyll to fill in for him at the coronation. This was the first time Anthony Hope’s novel was shot in color. Stewart Granger is both Rudolfs; Deborah Kerr is Princess Flavia. As the cardinal, Lewis Stone comes full circle: 30 years before, he’d played the dual roles of Rassendyll and the King.—3 p.m.: The Spanish Main (1945). Paul Muni is amusing as a Dutch pirate falling in love with titian-haired Maureen O’Hara, stealing her away from the hugely enjoyable, villainous governor, Walter Slezak. Always entertaining, Slezak is one of the reasons my son, DeForeest, learned to appreciate villains at a very early age. “They always have the best lines,” he noted with a true actor’s sagacity.—5 p.m.: The Women (1939). All right ladies, it’s your turn. With Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Marjorie Main and another hundred women with nary a man in sight, this was one of the major productions of that magical cinematic year, 1939. Written as a play by Clare Boothe (before she married Henry Luce and converted to Catholicism), friends of a happily married woman talk her into getting a divorce. The play was cleaned up for the screen without losing many biting, catty lines. Don’t miss this one. November 17 —3:15 a.m.: This Land Is Mine (1943). A depiction of life in Occupied France during the Second World War, it’s a propaganda piece to be sure but lifted to a higher level by the sensitive acting of the great Charles Laughton as a mild-mannered schoolteacher who finds courage and love with Maureen O’Hara. —11 a.m.: To Be or Not to Be (1942). Ernst Lubitsch directs one of his best films, about a troupe of Polish actors resisting the Nazis. Very patriotic — except that Jack Benny worries that his wife, Carole Lombard, is carrying on with young Polish flyer, Robert Stack. Marked with the Lubitsch touch, this is a must-see. November 18 —12:45 p.m.: I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955). Based on her autobiography, this harrowing story tells how beautiful Lillian Roth, toast of Broadway in the 1930s, battled alcoholism. Later a Catholic convert, Lillian is energetically impersonated by another gifted Catholic actress, Susan Hayward, whose performance netted an Oscar nomination. Even sanitized, this is a disturbing story which should elicit prayers for everyone suffering from an addiction.—7 p.m.: The Elephant Man (1980). The true story of Joseph Merrick (called John here) has inspired millions. Victim of a disease which made him a freak of nature in 19th century England, he was despised and derided but he never lost his devotion to God. Merrick is vividly brought to life by John Hurt, with Anthony Hopkins as the doctor who assists him.November 19 —3 a.m.: Cyrano De Bergerac (1950). The gallant, swashbuckling poet, the witty swordsman with “this nose of mine which marches on before me by a quarter of an hour,” became the signature role of Jose Ferrer. He played it on Broadway to glowing reviews, winning a Tony followed by an Oscar. With Mala Powers as his beloved Roxanne and William Prince as the tongue-tied Christian, Edmund Rostand’s play translated by Brian Hooker remains the foremost instance of chivalrous romance, suffused with accents of heroic Christian love. A lesson for children: Cyrano refuses to be a victim for, “A great nose indicates a great man.” One marvelous line follows another until, having gown old, Cyrano still using words to fight against corruption is ambushed. In the final sequence, his integrity intact, the dying Cyrano can say that when he stands before God, “my salute shall sweep away the stars from the blue threshold.” He dies, we see, at the foot of the Cross. No one should ever attain the age of 20 without reading this play or seeing it performed. Parents, don’t let your children miss this one. And be sure to enjoy it again yourselves. —Noon: The Rising of the Moon (1957). Director John Ford brought many of players of the Abbey Theatre in Ireland together (many had been seen already in The Quiet Man) for three tales deeply Irish in nature but unquestionably enjoyable for all. “The Majesty of the Law,” “A Minute’s Wait” and “1921” are all tied together by Tyrone Power acting as interlocutor between each story.—5 p.m.: The Maltese Falcon (1941). John Huston’s version remains the standard against which all films depicting hard-boiled detectives are measured. Investigating his partner’s murder, detective Sam Spade comes across a motley crew searching for a jewel encrusted statue of a falcon, created during the Middle Ages by the Catholic Order of the Knights of Malta as tribute to the Emperor for granting the an island realm. Exciting? You bet! Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook, Jr. were never better.November 20 —5 p.m.: Mister 880 (1950). Loveable, old Edmund Gwenn, Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street,” counterfeits one-dollar bills. Dorothy McGuire is his friendly neighbor who works at the UN; Burt Lancaster is the Treasury agent assigned to the case in this charming, very appealing film. Don’t miss this one.November 21 —From 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Nov. 22, TCM’s programming is centered on John Kennedy the sole Catholic president, on this, the 50th anniversary of his assassination. It starts with a documentary of the Wisconsin primary which set JFK on the road to the White House, and includes the film “PT 109” starring Cliff Robertson as Kennedy, depicting his exploits during World War II. Sean M. Wright, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Santa Clarita, presents workshops and enrichment courses on Catholic topics at parishes throughout the archdiocese. He replies to comments sent him at [email protected]. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1115/movies/{/gallery}