By Chris Morris
If you read my article back in March regarding the TCM Classic Film Festival, you know that I am a classic film fan. And that I love Turner Classic Movies. They have many cool ways to engage their viewers throughout the year. Whether it’s their Saturday Night “Essentials”, or their just wrapping up “Summer of Darkness”, where they showed film noir movies every Friday; morning, noon and night.
Every August TCM features their “Summer Under the Stars”, where all regular programming goes out the window and they focus on one star per day all month long for 31 days.
I am a film geek but I wasn’t always. Thankfully I had help along the way, pointing me to certain movies to help push along my education to become the film geek I am today. And during Summer Under the Stars, it’s a good way to quickly fill in some gaps on your film knowledge.
I’m going to go through the schedule, day by day and point out some bright spots. It’s hard to find bad movies (after all this is Turner CLASSIC Movies after all), so take my opinions with a grain of salt. Hell you can pin the schedule up on a dart board and find a good movie to watch that way. No Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant or William Powell or Ginger Rogers days, but both are featured here and there (Ginger in particular on Fred Astaire day August 5th). But whatever, here’s my thoughts on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars, using TCM language of what’s “Essential” to watch. Get your DVR’s ready…
August 1st – Gene Tierney
Essential: “Laura” (1944) 3:45pm ET; directed by Otto Preminger. A wonderful if convoluted film noir that was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 1999. And as a bonus – Vincent Price!
August 2nd – Olivia de Havilland
Essential: 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (starring de Havilland as Maid Marian at 8pm ET) has been one of my all-time favourites since I was a kid. Errol Flynn IS Robin Hood. But a definite second is “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939) with Flynn, de Havilland and the great Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth.
August 3rd – Adolphe Menjou
Essential: “Stage Door” (1937; 11:15pm ET) stars Menjou but also an all star female cast with Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers leading the way as women at a theatrical boarding house trying to make their big break happen.
August 4th – Teresa Wright
Essential: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946; 5pm ET)
A lot of selections this day, making one choice hard. “Mrs. Miniver” (1942; 2:30pm ET) and “Pride of the Yankees” (1942; 12:15am ET) are all solid. My personal choice is “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943; 10:15pm) with Joseph Cotton as Wright’s favourite uncle who she slowly suspects could be a killer. Directed by the master Alfred Hitchcock.
August 5th – Fred Astaire
Essential: All nine Fred & Ginger movies, played back-to-back.
Really this should be Fred Astaire AND Ginger Rogers, only there weren’t enough Fred & Ginger movies made to fill up 24 hours, so Astaire gets top billing. I am a HUGE Fred and Ginger fan, so I recommend all nine of the movies they made together. Starting with “Flying Down to Rio” (1933; 6am ET) and ending with “Shall We Dance” (1937; 8pm ET), the movie most people pick as the best Fred & Ginger movie is “Top Hat” (1935; 11:15am ET) which includes their wonderful number “Cheek to Cheek”, Ginger’s ‘feather dress’ and Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore as back up comedic foils. “The Gay Divorcee” (1934; 7:30am ET) is also features Horton, Rhodes and Blore and great musical numbers…but I’m going to change the subject and move on, as I’ll just keep talking about Fred & Ginger movies all day…
August 6th – Michael Caine
Essential: Woody Allen’s great “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986; 8pm)
Again lots of choices on this day. I’ll be watching “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975; 3:30pm) co-starring Sean Connery, “Deathtrap” (1982; 5:45pm) co-starring Christopher Reeve in a VERY non-Superman type role and “Get Carter” (1971; 12midnight). My longshot pick is “The Ipcress File” (1965; 10pm) with Caine as secret agent Harry Palmer. Never seen it but really want to.
August 7th – Katharine Hepburn
Essential: “Bringing Up Baby” (1938; 11:30am) is an all-time classic slapstick comedy with one of her best co-stars Cary Grant
One of the all-time greats Hepburn probably couldn’t give a bad performance, so there are no bad choices here. Three movies that Hepburn starred in with Spencer Tracey “Pat and Mike” (1952; 1:15pm), “Adam’s Rib” (1949; 3pm ET) which is probably my favourite Tracey-Hepburn movie, and “Woman of the Year” (1942; 4:45pm). I’ll for sure be watching “Alice Adams” (1935; 8pm ET) co-starring Fred McMurray, “The Lion in Winter” (1968; 10pm) co-starring Peter O’Toole and “Undercurrent” (1946; 4am) which I haven’t seen at all, co-starring Robert Mitchum. Until now I could only imagine what Hepburn and Mitchum on-screen together would look like.
August 8th – Raymond Massey
Essential: James Dean stars in “East of Eden” (1955; 8pm)
I have to admit that I’m not as familiar with Mr. Massey’s work. “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944; 5:45pm) is another all-time classic slapstick comedy starring Cary Grant. I’m curious about “Desperate Journey” (1942; 12:15am), starring Massey but also Errol Flynn, Alan Hale and Ronald Reagan, which kinda sounds like a Bizarro world version of “Gunga Din”, which will come up later…
August 9th – Robert Walker
Essential: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” (1951; 8pm ET)
Again, not an actor I am that familiar with, other than him being the smiling weirdo in the afore-mentioned “Strangers on a Train”, which is the easy choice here. Based on the picks here, Walker starred in a lot of Army movies. Also interesting picks here are “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” (1944; 11:30am ET) and “The Beginning Or The End” (1947; 1:45am ET) which is about The Manhattan Project.
August 10th – Joan Crawford
Essential: Two classics here: “The Women” (1939; 3:30pm ET) and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962; 1:45am ET).
That’s it for the first ten days of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Coming up in Part Two: Robert Mitchum, the Marx Brothers, more on “Gunga Din” and John Wayne!