Heavy hitters, enchanting stars and a few lesser-known, bright talents are being served by TCM this year as part of the network’s Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) festival. For those who may not know the drill – TCM dedicates each day of the month to a different, classic star. Following is a roll call by day for your convenience and my pleasure. You’ll see a favorite portrait of each plus either recommendations, mentions of the movies I’m most looking forward to or simply alerts on which stars you have to just sit back and enjoy. This year’s SUTS festival will feature 16 TCM premieres and 19 stars who have never been honored, which is great. Be sure to check out TCM.com for SUTS details and schedule.
Let’s get to it….
August 1st – Edward G. Robinson
This year’s line-up is starting with one of my all-time favorite actors so I won’t be surprised if your DVR fills to capacity on day 1 of this festival. Picking just one recommendation for Robinson day is murder. If pressed I would have to go for the punch-in-the-gut story coupled with a stellar Eddie G. performance in Mervyn LeRoy’s Five Star Final (1931). It’s a lesser known entry that you should not miss. I don’t think you can get a better bang for your 89 minutes than this movie.
August 2nd – Lucille Ball
There are a few movies scheduled on Lucy day that I’ve yet to see. Irving Reis’ The Big Street 1942 tops the list. According to the August issue of TCM’s Now Playing Guide Lucille inherited her role in this movie when her friend Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash. My next choice is Henry Hathaway’s The Dark Corner (1946), which sounds like a terrific film noir with Lucille starring alongside Clifton Webb and William Bendix. And then I can’t wait to see is David Butler’s That’s Right – You’re Wrong (1939). This is a musical comedy about radio, which is right up my alley and the cast is fantastic including Kay Kyser, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson and Edward Everett Horton along with Lucy.
August 3rd – Bing Crosby
There’s a smorgasbord of goodies on Bing day with fantastic music to fill your hearts and ears. You’re getting a childhood favorite of mine, Tay Garnett’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949), several of the Road Movies Bing made with Bob Hope, which are a hoot, the enjoyable High Society (1956), the 7-time Oscar-winning Going My Way (1944) and several of Bing’s early musicals. I’m looking forward to those 1930s gems most with emphasis on the new-to-me Sing, You Sinners (1938) directed by Wesley Ruggles in which Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor co-star with Bing. The latter is one of two TCM premieres on Bing day!
August 4th – Fay Wray
It’s only the 4th day and this may already be getting old, but there are several Fay Wray pictures scheduled on this day that I haven’t seen. Two look like “musts” to me though – It Happened in Hollywood (1937) directed by Harry Lachman sounds like a terrific comedy about a silent Western star who struggles with the advent of sound in the movies and Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack‘s The Most Dangerous Game (1932), a pre-code horror/mystery starring Joel McCrea.
August 5th – Karl Malden
This day is honoring one of the all-time great character actors. Slated for primetime on Karl Malden day are the highly regarded and popular Elia Kazan acting powerhouses, On the Waterfront (1954) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, both of which should be seen by everybody. I’m also highlighting a lesser known entry I’ve never seen in Roy Del Ruth’s Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954) for a chance to see how Malden does in a horror flick.
August 6th – Montgomery Clift
Since this is one of my favorite movies of all time I must insist you watch George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun from 1951, which stars Monty Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters. All of them deliver memorable performances helmed by an underrated, but wonderful director. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie.
August 7th – Jean Harlow
I can’t possibly recommend one Harlow movie from the scheduled line-up. My suggestion would be to call out from work, sit back and enjoy this memorable star. Lucky for you Harlow day falls on a Sunday so just clear your calendar.
August 8th – Esther Williams
Celebrating the 95th anniversary of her birth!
If you like musicals and you like to swim then plan to call in sick on Esther Williams day – with frozen drink in hand. For beauty and pure entertainment this can’t be beat, another instance when picking just one makes little sense.
August 9th – Tim Holt
I’ve not seen every single Holt movie scheduled from 6:00 am through 8:00 pm on his day so my DVR will be overloaded on the 9th. As far as TCM’s primetime line-up for Tim Holt you’re getting everything from Huston’s affecting The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) to Welles’ bold The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) to La Cava’s charming 5th Avenue Girl (1939) so pick your poison.
August 10th – Hedy Lamarr
Hedy day requires my DVR to be on constantly because I am severely deficient in Hedy Lamarr movies. I think I’ve seen only two that are scheduled on her day. That said, there are a few that stand out as must-sees for me including I Take This Woman (1940), which co-stars Spencer Tracy and had an intriguing trio of directors involved – W. S. Van Dyke, Josef von Sternberg and Frank Borzage. Jack Conway’s Lady of the Tropics (1939), which features the beautiful Lamarr co-starring in a romance with the equally beautiful Robert Taylor is my other OMG entry.
August 11th – Spencer Tracy
Tracy was the actor’s actor, the standard and one of my favorites. I was hoping that George Cukor’s Edward, My Son (1949) made the cut because it was the first Spencer Tracy movie I ever saw and I haven’t seen it in ages. However, you really can’t go wrong with the schedule as is, which includes movies from four decades of Tracy’s extraordinary career and from a variety of genres. If I had to recommend a couple I would go with George Stevens’ Woman of the Year (1942) and John Sturges’ Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), which I think offer a nice contrast to what Tracy could do on screen under hugely different circumstances. But really that would be true for any two-film combination here. Anyway, Sam Wood’s crime drama Whipsaw (1935) co-starring Myrna Loy is the only movie on Spence’s day that I haven’t seen so I’ll be all over that one.
August 12th – Janet Gaynor
I’ve only seen three of the dozen or so movies scheduled to honor Janet Gaynor and I’m excited about watching her in action. The two scheduled movies that I think I’d absolutely love are: William A. Wellman’s Small Town Girl (1936), which features Robert Taylor, Binnie Barnes, Lewis Stone, Andy Devine and a bit player named James Stewart plus Ms. Gaynor. Then there’s David Butler’s pre-code musical comedy Delicious (1931), which has El Brendel in the cast. I first saw Brendel in a movie at Capitolfest a few years ago and – although he’s an acquired taste – I though he was hilarious.
August 13th – Ralph Richardson
The movie that’s right up my alley on Sir Richardson’s day is William Wyler’s The Heiress (1949), which features terrific acting across the board by the impressive cast – Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Miriam Hopkins and Ralph Richardson. I assume most people have seen this one, but it’s always worth a rewatch. Other than that I will be paying close attention to several new-to-me movies on the 13th.
August 14th – Cyd Charisse
An entire Sunday with Cyd Charisse should make your summer. Period. What I haven’t seen is…THE NOIR!! Who knew Cyd was in a film noir?! Directed by John Berry, Tension (1949) stars Richard Basehart, Audrey Totter, Barry Sullivan and Cyd Charisse. I’m giddy with excitement awaiting this one!
August 15th – Roddy McDowall
I tried to be unique in this entry, but I can’t help it. The undisputed champion on Roddy’s day is John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941) wherein Roddy delivers one of – if not THE – greatest performances by a child actor ever. This movie is not only one of my favorites, but one of the greatest ever made by master filmmaker, John Ford, which – I know – is quite the statement.
August 16th – Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter’s entire line-up is terrific, but I have to suggest that you not move from 8:00 pm until about 4:25 am on the 17th. There are four movies in a row that just don’t quit. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950) starts at 8:00 pm EST. followed by Jean Renoir’s Swamp Water (1941), which is good don’t let the title fool you. Next is Edmund Goulding’s terrific film noir, The Razor’s Edge (1946) followed by Billy Wilder’s lesser known Five Graves to Cairo (1943). You might be a little tired on hump day following Baxter day, but only two more days till Friday.
August 17th – James Edwards
I’m afraid I’ve seen only two movies in the line-up honoring James so I’m recommending two new-to-me films noir that look great on paper. The first is Phil Karlson’s The Phenix City Story from 1955 and the other is Robert Wise’s The Set-Up from 1949. James Edwards plays small, supporting roles in both of these, but I look forward to his day and these movies. In reviewing his filmography it seems I’ve only seen five movies in which he acted and only two of those are scheduled in this festival.
August 18th – Angie Dickinson
This is one of the easiest days for me to recommend entries. My picks on the 18th are John Boorman’s thriller, Point Blank from 1967 and Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo from 1959, which air in that order in primetime or 8:00 pm EST.
August 19th – Ruby Keeler
With the exception of Mervyn LeRoy’s Gold Diggers of 1933 I’ve seen none of the movies on the daytime schedule for Keeler day so they’ll be DVRd. As far as recommendations, I’m going with the three entries from that year, which aside from Gold Diggers includes Lloyd Bacon’s 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. I’ve no doubt you’ll love these.
August 20th – Humphrey Bogart
I’m recommending two of the unlikeliest candidates from a stellar Saturday Bogart line-up – the first two entries of the day, both directed by Lewis Seller. From 1938 Crime School brings you The Dead End Kids (or The Bowery Boys as I knew them back in the day) in a crime drama and King of the Underworld from 1939 features bad guy, Bogie and Kay Francis.
August 21st – Bette Davis
A Bogart Saturday is followed by a Davis Sunday so plan to do nothing but watch TCM this weekend. If there are any Bette Davis movies listed that you haven’t seen then go for those. Otherwise I’d highly recommend William Wyler’s The Letter (1940) in daytime and Irving Rapper’s Now, Voyager (1942) with the wonderful Paul Henreid in primetime.
August 22nd – Robert Montgomery
Again here I have a few movies I’ll be introduced to, which I can’t wait to see. I’m recommending three movies this time, two pre-codes you need to see and a film noir directed by Robert Montgomery in which he also stars. First there’s Robert Z. Leonard’s The Divorcee (1930) starring Norma Shearer and Chester Morris. This is one of the best of the pre-code era and it’s airing first thing in the morning so set your alarms. Then I suggest Harry Beaumont’s When Ladies Meet (1933), which is a light romp with Ann Harding, Myrna Loy and a terrific lot of supporting players alongside Montgomery. Finally, there’s Lady in the Lake (1947) in which Montgomery plays Philip Marlowe with Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan and a few other recognizable names.
August 23rd – Brigitte Bardot
I’ve not seen a single Brigitte Bardot movie so this is an open day where anything goes.
August 24th – Constance Cummings
This is another day where I’ve seen not one entry. I’m pretty excited about the preponderance of pre-codes airing though with Clyde Bruckman’s Movie Crazy (1932) starring Harold Lloyd leading the pack. I recommend you watch them all along with me.
August 25th – Van Johnson
The 100th anniversary of his birth!
This is an interesting year in SUTS in that it seems I’m drawn to unlikely candidates upon first review of the offerings. For Van day I’m going to recommend Richard Brooks’ The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), which is usually not the type of movie I go for because it’s on the melodramatic side, but I enjoy this for some reason. The cast is first-rate with Elizabeth Taylor, Walter Pidgeon, Donna Reed and Eva Gabor joining Van as he reminisces in Paris. Roger Moore makes his American film debut in this too. I might add that for some reason this is an MGM release that fell into the public domain. AS a result I’ve never been able to find a decent copy on DVD. The ones I’ve gotten my hands on have all been 4:3 (TV) aspect ratio as if they were copied from pan and scan versions, which is blasphemy. Anyway, just had to vent about that and add that it’ll be special to watch the movie in its original aspect ratio on the 25th.
The other Van Johnson entry I suggest you go for is another film noir, Roy Rowlands’ Scene of the Crime (1949) – another compelling story and another fine cast in a dark and dreary world.
August 26th – Boris Karloff
Karloff day is the one I’m most looking forward to. I grew up with an older brother who made me watch anything scary when it was on and Boris Karloff was always high on his list. Because of that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all of the entries slated for Karloff day although in a few instances I remember little about the movies so I’ll be DVRing this entire daytime schedule and watching as soon as I get home from work. The primetime schedule features Boris’ biggest movies, James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein followed by Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932), which is a horror fan’s dream line-up. Except, I really wish the third consecutive entry would’ve been Rowland V. Lee’s Son of Frankenstein (1939) not only because it’s a personal favorite, but also because it’s the third and last time Karloff portrays The Monster and watching these in succession would’ve been great. I recognize that I’m complaining about an embarrassment of riches, so don’t mind me.
August 27th – James Garner
This is another easy day for me to recommend my two favorites. First is Norman Jewison’s The Thrill of it All (1963) with Garner and Doris Day. This is my favorite of the Doris Day romantic comedies, the chemistry between the two stars is terrific plus it has a fun story co-written by legends Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart and a script written by Reiner plus supporting players that include Arlene Francis, ZaSu Pitts, Edward Andrews, Reginald Owen and Alice Pearce (in a very small but funny part).
The next recommended feature for Garner day is John Sturges’ The Great Escape (1963), a thrilling, entertaining historical adventure.
August 28th – Jean Arthur
I can’t say I’m a huge Jean Arthur fan, but I sure love her movies and the TCM line-up on her day is fantastic. If I had to choose just two to recommend I’d make it George Stevens’ The More the Merrier (1943) and Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take it With You (1938) only because I assume everyone in the world has seen Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington playing earlier in the day. Just imagine how stacked the schedule is that I chose to ignore Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings (1939) with my Cary Grant and Stephen Roberts’ The Ex-Mrs. Bradford with my William Powell.
BTW – have you noticed how many George Stevens movies I’ve mentioned? He’s one of my favorite directors.
August 29th – Charles Boyer
Lots of great movies listed for Boyer day, but I’m skipping recommendations for the 29th other than to say that if you’ve never seen George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) you simply must. Charles Boyer is beloved by classics fans, but to be honest I don’t understand much of what he says so watching his movies often proves an exercise in frustration for me.
August 30th – Jean Simmons
The two recommendations for Jean Simmons day came easily. First watch Otto Preminger’s Angel Face (1953), a film noir with Simmons, Robert Mitchum, Mona Freeman and Herbert Marshall. You’re welcome! And the last entry for the day is George Cukor’s The Actress (1953), which is the story of Ruth Gordon’s journey to become an actress. The story was written by Gordon herself and the movie co-stars Spencer Tracy, Anthony Perkins and Teresa Wright. These are not the “best” two movies of the day, but they’re worth a look if you’ve never seen them.
August 31st – Dean Martin
TCM is ending SUTS with one of the Kings of Cool.
My first Dean Martin recommendation is noted under Angie Dickinson’s day (Aug. 18) and that’s Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959), a terrific Western. So now that you have that under your belt I’ll suggest three more for Dean day. If you haven’t seen Vincente Minnelli’s Bells Are Ringing (1960) STOP and mark your calendar. Then I’d go for Hal Walker’s At War With the Army (1951) because I love Martin and Lewis movies. This is not one of the best collaboration between the comic duo, but (sadly) it’s the only one offered. Finally, I’m going for the new-to-me Toys in the Attic (1963) directed by George Roy Hill, which stars Martin and Geraldine Page, Yvette Mimieaux, Wendy Hiller and Gene Tierney in one of her last movies.
That’s quite the month of movie watching that lies ahead. I’m particularly loving the number of films noir and pre-codes I’ve never seen and would LOVE to know your recommendations. Remember to check out TCM’s schedule and be on the lookout for the terrific, interactive daily SUTS entries focused on each star throughout the month. on the site
One last thing…
The lovely and talented Kristen Lopez will be hosting the ‘Summer Under the Stars’ blogathon again this year over at Journeys in Classic Film. This event is fantastic fun so be sure to visit her site throughout August to access submissions on the stars and movies featured on TCM.
NOTE: There will be no Friday Foto Follies this week. I’ve quelled my lust for images with this entry.