Friday, July 31, 2015

TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars Highlights

It's hard to believe July has drawn to a close! Kudos to Turner Classic Movies for a phenomenal two-month-long Summer of Darkness, which I know many of us are reluctant to see come to an end.

There's still plenty of summer ahead on TCM, though, as the annual Summer Under the Stars festival launches on Saturday, August 1st!

For a quick chronological overview of the stars being celebrated in this year's festival, please visit my June preview post.

TCM has a beautiful Summer Under the Stars microsite with information about this month's films, as well as the regular online schedule.

As is usually the case in August, there are several days this month I'd be happy to leave the TV on all day long! Here's a quick look at just a few highlights from a great month on Turner Classic Movies. Click any highlighted title for my review.

...It's possible that Saturday, August 1st, is my favorite day on this year's schedule, as it celebrates a favorite actress, Gene Tierney. I've seen and liked all but a couple of the movies showing on the 1st. You can't go wrong with any of them, so I'll mention a couple of the lesser-known titles I like, NEVER LET ME GO (1953), a Cold War thriller with Clark Gable, and CLOSE TO MY HEART (1950), an adoption drama also starring Ray Milland.

...Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 99th birthday on July 1st, and TCM pays tribute on August 2nd. Again I've seen a majority of the films and want to highlight two films not as well known: PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943), which anticipates ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) by a decade, and the moving Western THE PROUD REBEL (1958), in which she plays a lonely farm woman whose life is changed by a man (Alan Ladd) and his mute son (David Ladd).

...Earlier this year I enjoyed seeing Harold Lloyd in THE MILKY WAY (1936) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation. Adolphe Menjou plays Lloyd's boxing manager, and the film is being shown as part of a day honoring Menjou on August 3rd. Menjou's real-life wife, Verree Teasdale, has a terrific part playing Menjou's glamorous, sarcastic girlfriend.

...Does anyone not love Teresa Wright? I didn't think so. It's Teresa Wright Day on August 4th. The excellent lineup includes one of my favorite Hitchcock films, SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943). Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, and a cute young Macdonald Carey are just three great reasons to watch it.

...Two of my favorite Fred Astaire films are again among his lesser-known films. CAREFREE (1938) is one of my couple favorites of the 10 movies he made with Ginger Rogers; it's as much '30s screwball comedy as musical, complete with Ralph Bellamy. And, as I've said here many times, YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942), costarring Rita Hayworth, might be my favorite Astaire film of all. It makes my heart happy! It's Fred Astaire Day on August 5th.

...My top pick for Katharine Hepburn Day on August 7th is my favorite of all her films, LITTLE WOMEN (1933). A classic in every way.

...August 8th is Raymond Massey Day; TCM will show two films in which he played abolitionist John Brown back to back: SANTA FE TRAIL (1941) and SEVEN ANGRY MEN (1955).

...You wouldn't believe how many professors and students have written me asking how to find THE BEGINNING OR THE END (1947), MGM's depiction of the Manhattan Project. The Warner Archive would probably do brisk business if they released it on DVD! It's shown as part of Robert Walker Day on August 9th. Walker is part of a marvelous cast which includes Brian Donlevy, Tom Drake, and Audrey Totter.

...On August 10th, Joan Crawford Day, my pick is THE DAMNED DON'T CRY (1950). Steve Cochran and Palm Springs locations are good reasons to try this engrossing melodrama.

...August 11th the Star of the Day is Rex Ingram, and I recommend ESCORT WEST (1958), a very likeable Western starring Victor Mature. It was produced by John Wayne's Batjac Productions.

...On August 12th you can't go wrong with two Robert Mitchum Westerns: RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948), costarring Loretta Young and William Holden, and BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948) costarring Barbara Bel Geddes, Walter Brennan, and Robert Preston, directed by Raoul Walsh. Entertainment guaranteed.

...What to watch on Ann-Margret Day on August 13th? VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964) is a perfect summer movie.

...August 15th is one of my favorite days on this month's schedule, honoring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I recommend the pre-Code UNION DEPOT (1932), costarring Joan Blondell, which has an amazing opening tracking shot. It's a crackling, gritty Warner Bros. Depression-era movie. And anyone who hasn't seen it yet should watch THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937), for which Fairbanks should have been nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. ZENDA is showing in prime time.

...I'm admittedly not much of a Patricia Neal fan, but that makes her an effective villainness in the Western melodrama RATON PASS (1951), airing on August 16th. She plots with Steve Cochran to steal a ranch from her new husband (Dennis Morgan) and his father (Basil Ruysdael). Dorothy Hart plays the woman Morgan should have married.

...THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949) was a highlight of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival I attended in May. It will air as part of a tribute to Lee J. Cobb on August 17th.

...August 18th...Vivien Leigh Day...GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), which will always be a great cinematic achievement despite those who have recently advocated tucking it away in a museum. Enough said.

...August 19th is John Wayne Day, and along with favorites like SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) and RIO BRAVO (1959), there are several lesser-known titles. I highly recommended the funny TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944), one of Wayne's best non-Ford Westerns. I'm also partial to BIG JIM MCLAIN (1952) which is derided in some quarters as anti-Communist propaganda but which I find a fascinating look at the era, plus it's got the Duke romancing sweet Nancy Olson in Hawaii. Not a perfect film but it works for me.

...It's Mae Clarke Day on August 20th! I love that. I very much recommend the pre-Code comedy-mystery PENTHOUSE (1933), also starring Warner Baxter and Myrna Loy. It's delightful, plus it led to Loy being cast as Nora Charles.

...On August 22nd, check out Hitchcock's lesser-known STAGE FRIGHT (1950) with Star of the Day Marlene Dietrich. Jane Wyman, Richard Todd, and Michael Wilding costar.

...Sunday, August 23rd, it's Debbie Reynolds all day! Check out the cute young Debbie in THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS (1953) and GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953). Bob Fosse is in both films and is pretty young and cute himself.

...August 25th is another favorite day on the schedule, honoring Virginia Bruce. SHADOW OF DOUBT (1935) is a nifty mystery with a good cast including Ricardo Cortez and Regis Toomey. Try it out!

...It's Christmas in August on August 27th, when Monty Woolley Day includes two Christmas perennials in which he costarred: THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1942) and THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947).

...Robert Montgomery shows why he would have been a good Hitchcock villain in RAGE IN HEAVEN (1941), shown as part of Ingrid Bergman Day on August 28th. George Sanders, who had recently been in Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940) and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), is the hero. Alas, the only film Montgomery made with Hitch was the comedy MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941).

...The month is winding down on Gary Cooper Day, August 30th. I like DALLAS (1950), an amusing Western in which he costarred with Ruth Roman and (there's that name again!) Steve Cochran. I also enjoyed TASK FORCE (1949) about the origins of the U.S. aircraft carrier program.

...The month ends on August 31st with Shelley Winters Day. She'll never be one of my favorites, but I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES (1955) is of great interest -- I visited the old gas station seen in the movie's opening scenes last October! It's just outside Lone Pine, California, right down the road from the "Soda City" location of Hithcock's SABOTEUR (1942). More on the I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES location here.

Happy Summer Under the Stars!

4 Comments:

Blogger Caftan Woman said...

It looks like not a day will pass in August without a few worthwhile movies to spend time with!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I yield to no one in my enjoyment of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s wonderful performance in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, but even so, will declare that the best two movies he is in, and he's great in both, are THE EXILE (1947) and THE DAWN PATROL (1930), and since both of these are also showing on August 15th (Fairbanks Jr. day) would strongly encourage everyone to see them, and especially if you are a fan of this actor, who is arguably kind of underrated.

THE DAWN PATROL is the original version, directed by Howard Hawks (his first masterpiece) and because of the 1939 remake (which is not nearly as good) was retitled FLIGHT COMMANDER and that's how it's listed in the TCM schedule and may play under that title, though the DVD has the original title restored.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

I learned by surprise I had recorded The Beginning or the End when I popped it in a few weeks ago, all excited to watch the giant grasshopper movie with Peter Graves (Beginning OF the End). Let this be a lesson to legibly label your dvd-rs.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's a great month, Caftan Woman!

Blake, thanks to much for sharing your Douglas Fairbanks Jr. recommendations! I'm so glad this fine actor's work is being celebrated on TCM.

Kristina, that gave me a smile!

Best wishes,
Laura

12:11 AM  

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