One of my favorite things about summer is the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) festival. The network celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and this August its 17th SUTS festival will come alive on your TV. If you don’t know what Summer Under the Stars is about, it’s simple – for the entire month of August the films of a different star will be featured each day. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with lesser known movies as it does me. As I peruse this year’s schedule I see there is plenty of opportunity for that with a slate of popular favorites mixed in with a few lesser known gems.
As I do every year, I am including the entire list of Summer Under the Stars featured actors by date with a few added details for your enjoyment – and my convenience. This year’s festival will feature 14 TCM premieres that are noted below on the day each will air. There are 12 stars who have never been honored with Summer Under the Stars days, which is great. I’ve noted new honorees with a * next to the name. You’ll see a favorite portrait of each plus either recommendations, mentions of the movies I’m most looking forward to, or simple alerts on which stars you just have to sit back and enjoy.
Let’s get to it….
August 1 – Henry Fonda
One of my favorite actors starts things off with offerings covering four decades. The only new to me entry for the day is Leigh Jason’s The Mad Miss Manton (1938), a comedy with Henry Fonda joining forces with Barbara Stanwyck. My DVR is already set for this one, but you can’t miss with any number of movies on the first day of SUTS, which includes Preston Sturges’ wonderful The Lady Eve also starring Stanwyck and Fonda. This is a fantastic first day.
August 2 – Ruth Hussey*
There are a few Ruth Hussey movies scheduled that I haven’t seen. Before I get to the one I’m most looking forward to let me recommend Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited (1944), a memorable horror offering pairing Hussey with Ray Milland. Most people shy away from horror, but you need to see this atmospheric gem.
There are a couple of 1938 movies I haven’t seen on Hussey day and will record them, but they seem like silly comedies. Maybe I’ll be surprised. The new-to-me offering I’m really looking forward to is John Stahl’s Our Wife (1941) starring Melvyn Douglas who is getting a SUTS day of his own this year.
August 3 – Marlon Brando
The only Brando offering I haven’t seen is Berhhard Wicki’s Morituri (1965) so naturally I’m set to record that. I like the idea of co-stars Yul Brynner and Trevor Howard so this should be interesting. Aside from that, I’d recommend the ones I think everyone else would too, and the ones I’m sure you’ve seen: Elia Kazan’s powerful acting powerhouses, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954). There’s not one misstep in either of those.
August 4 – Shirley Temple*
I cannot believe Shirley Temple has not been honored by the Summer Under the Stars festival, but it’s true. There are several enjoyable movies on Temple day with Irving Reis’ The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) leading the pack. You can also get an idea of why Shirley Temple was such a box office draw with the earlier pictures offered. However, my recommendation is Harold S. Bucquet’s 1941 dramedy Kathleen because it’s a lesser-known offering with a terrific cast, including Herbert Marshall, Laraine Day, Gail Patrick, and Felix Bressart. In addition, Shirley Temple day is featuring the TCM premiere of William A. Seiter’s Susannah of the Mounties (1939) so be on the lookout for that one.
August 5 – Melvyn Douglas*
One of the favorite featured stars for this fan is Melvyn Douglas who, surprisingly, has never been honored with a Summer Under the Stars day. This one is long overdue. There’s really no way to choose a favorite on Douglas day, which features movies from five decades of the actor’s career with three TCM premieres scheduled. The first of those is Wesley Ruggles’ I Met Him in Paris (1937) co-starring Claudette Colbert. Another is the gangster melodrama Mary Burns, Fugitive (1935) directed by William K. Howard. Finally, Alexander Hall’s There’s That Woman Again (1938) with Douglas opposite Virginia Bruce gets a first-time airing on the network. All three are new-to-me must-sees.
August 6 – Lena Horne
Plan ahead for Horne day should be a banner. The morning offerings are all ones I’ve never seen and the evening offerings are straight-up classics everyone should see. Of those I would most recommend Ms. Horne’s first film, William Nolte’s The Duke is Tops (1938) and Vincente Minnelli’s Cabin in the Sky (1943), a musical fantasy replete with extraordinary talent. I’m excited about this day.
August 7 – James Stewart
One of the most beloved classic actors gets a day and you will rejoice. TCM did a nice job of mixing Stewart standards such as Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with a few lesser-known movies. You’ll love watching them all, but if I had to choose just one I’d go for William Keighley’s No Time for Comedy (1940), which pairs Jimmy with the wonderful Rosalind Russell. Enough said.
August 8 – Ava Gardner
I am most looking forward to the TCM premiere of Ava Gardner, the Gipsy of Hollywood (2017) on Gardner day. I am a big fan of Ava’s, however, and enjoy her in movies. She’s underrated and you should spend the day with her and the likes of Gable, Taylor, Peck, and Lancaster and make up your own minds. That said, Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946), Ava’s first outstanding picture, is the can’t miss in the schedule.
August 9 – Red Skelton
You’ll get laughs, brilliant color and one of the most beloved entertainers in history on Skelton day. I’ve seen quite a few of the movies slated to honor Red Skelton, but not the two “whistling” pictures scheduled in the evening, S. Sylvan Simon’s Whistling in Dixie (1942) and Whistling in Brooklyn (1943). Both crime comedies sound enjoyable and co-star Ann Rutherford.
August 10 – Rita Moreno*
A national treasure, the very first person to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy, gets 24 hours of movie attention. That’s a great deal for all of us. Rita Moreno day will no doubt be entertaining and includes the TCM premiere of Robert D. Webb’s Seven Cities of Gold (1955) with Rita surrounded by Richard Egan, Anthony Quinn, Michael Rennie, and Jeffrey Hunter. I’m looking forward to that one as well as familiar favorites West Side Story (1961) and Carnal Knowledge (1971).
August 11 – Humphrey Bogart
The American Film Institute chose Humphrey Bogart as the number one greatest male American screen legend of the Twentieth Century. What can I possibly add to convince you to spend this day with Bogart? Of the classic treasures scheduled on Bogart day, I would have to recommend Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), which features a memorable tragic pairing between Bogart and Gloria Grahame. That movie blows me away every time I see it. I also have a soft spot for Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage (1947), the first Bogart movie I ever saw. I was riveted by the POV introduction to his character. I keep saying this, but you can’t go wrong with a day of Bogart, one of my father’s favorites. It’s a terrific schedule of movies.
August 12 – Ann Sothern
The enjoyable Maisie pictures are slated to honor Ann Sothern and I’d recommend them for entainment purposes, but for fans of more serious fare I highly recommend Fritz Lang’s The Blue Gardenia (1953), a film noir starring Anne Baxter and Richard Conte alongside Sothern. I also love Joesph L. Mankiewicz’s A Letter to Three Wives (1949) about a woman who mails a letter to other three women telling them she has run off with one of their husbands. The movie stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, and Ann Sothern as the three wives with Kirk Douglas, who is a SUTS honoree later in the month, and Paul Douglas in his film debut.
August 13 – Brian Donlevy*
Many of the movies slated for for-time-honoree Brian Donlevy’s celebration are unfamiliar to me. I love this guy though. What a face! Rough and tough, Donlevy was a terrific supporting actor. My favorite of the films I’ve seen him in is Preston Sturges’ The Great McGinty (1940), which is scheduled in prime time on Donlevy day. McGinty is a homeless man who makes it to be Governor of a state thanks to the mob. The movie has all of the charm and brilliance you’d expect from a Preston picture and terrific performances.
The rest of the evening schedule for Brian Donlevy is worth the price of admission. The new-to-me offering are earlier in the day, which is when my DVR will be on overload.
August 14 – Liv Ullmann*
One of my favorite days of this year’s SUTS festival is Liv Ullman’s. While I’ve seen most, if not all, of the scheduled movies, it’s been a long time for all. Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen Laslo Banedek’s The Night Visitor (1971), which kicks off Ullmann day and sounds terrific. I am thrilled, however, to get a chance to watch Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata (1978) with the TCMParty crowd. That’s preceded in prime time with the TCM premiere of Dheeraj Akolkar’s Liv & Ingmar (2012), a documentary chronicling the 42 year long relationship between Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman.
August 15 – Rod Steiger*
Mr. Steiger is another surprising first-time honoree in this festival. The three-time Oscar nominee never disappoints with his steady sometimes loud depictions his day is full of worthy movies. John Farrow’s The Unholy Wife (1957) starring Diana Dors is the one I haven’t seen and will be taping as well as Andrew Stone’s Cry Terror!, which is my recommendation. James Mason and Inger Stevens lead the cast in what I believe is a little-known, but worthy thriller.
August 16 – Irene Dunne
Known in her day as The First Lady of Hollywood, Irene Dunne is one of my favorite actors. The talented Ms. Dunne excelled in all genre making audiences laugh or cry with equal vigor. My recommendation is to leave enough room on your recording devices or clouds for the entire Dunne Day. You won’t be sorry.
Long-time Irene Dunne fans should be excited about the two TCM premieres on her day: Rouben Mamoulian’s High, Wide, And Handsome (1937) and John Stahl’s When Tomorrow Comes (1939) scheduled toward the end of the day.
August 17 – Errol Flynn
Beauty in male form dominates the 17th day of the month. Not to say that Errol Flynn was just looks. There is plenty of high flying adventure worth your time on Flynn day. If I had to choose, I’d put my money on three Michael Curtiz pictures: The Sea Hawk (1940), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Captain Blood (1935). Otherwise, you’ll enjoy watching Mr. Flynn all day.
August 18 – Audrey Hepburn
I was going to suggest the Audrey Hepburn movies slated for primetime on forward on her day. The several hour slot starts with Billy Wilder’s delightful Sabrina and ends with Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark (1967), which never fails to fray my nerves. After a second look at the early offerings on Hepburn day, however, I’d suggest to just watch the entire thing. Call out sick.
August 19 – Buster Keaton
Peter Bogdanovich’s The Great Buster: A Celebration is an exciting TCM premiere chronicling the life and career of one of America’s most influential and celebrated filmmakers and comedians. I’d say Keaton day is the most important of this year’s Summer Under the Stars. Far too many are not familiar with his work and must be enlightened by genius. Bagdanovich’s documentary is exciting, but there’s nothing like actually watching Buster Keaton. Watch every single movie airing on the 19th.
August 20 – Dorothy McGuire*
Serenity is what always comes to mind when I think of Dorothy McGuire in movies. This is a terrific first-time honoree with a couple of films scheduled I’ve never seen. The one I am most looking forward to is Mark Robson’s Trial (1955), a courtroom drama co-starring Glenn Ford and Arthur Kennedy. I’m also looking forward to the TCM premiere of Claude Binyon’s Mother Didn’t Tell Me (1950), a comedy with McGuire alongside June Havoc, Gary Merrill, and the great Jessie Royce Landis.
August 21 – Joel McCrea
By the time Joel McCrea day rolls around, I’d have had a full weekend of his movies and those of his wife, the talented Frances Dee at Capitolfest. This is a great opportunity to wrap up a McCrea summer in delightful style. Who doesn’t love Joel McCrea? He was in a few of the best classic romantic comedies made and excelled at Westerns. You’ll get plenty of opportunity to watch him do his thing in several genre on the 21st and I can guarantee you’ll admire him even more once the day is done. Here’s another day of must-sees from start to finish with my favorites scheduled for primetime, Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1942) and George Stevens’ The More the Merrier (1943).
August 22 – Leila Hyams*
Premiere featured star Leila Hyams’ day should be particularly enjoyable as it is also a tribute to pre-code movies. Hyams’ film career was relatively short, but there are several standouts in her filmography and most of those are scheduled on the 22nd. I’m really looking forward to this one.
August 23 – Fred Astaire
One of the most popular movie stars of all time and hugely admired talent. I won’t recommend just one picture from Astaire day, but will say that you will be enchanted with the schedule starting in primetime, which spotlights several of his Ginger Rogers collaborations. Apart Astaire and Rogers were among the most talented performers to ever work in the movies. Together they were magic.
August 24 – Shirley MacLaine
Once again, I’m sure you’ll enjoy several of the offerings on Shirley MacLaine day. When an actor is talented and works with some of the best in the business, the movies that result are wonderful. Most exciting on MacLaine day, however, is the TCM premiere of Vittorio De Sica’s Woman Times Seven (1967), which I’ve never seen.
August 25 – Dustin Hoffman*
Stephen Frear’s Hero (1992) co-starring Geena Davis and Andy Garcia is a TCM premiere for Dustin Hoffman day. Of the movies on the schedule, I would recommend the two you’ve probably seen, Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie (1982) and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967). There is something for everyone scheduled though as far as genre movies go.
August 26 – Mary Astor
Four decades of movies from the career of one of Hollywood’s greatest actors is scheduled on the 26th. That’s really all I say about the Summer Under the Stars tribute to Mary Astor. Don’t miss one of her movies especially José Ferrer’s Return to Payton Place (1961), the TCM premier on this day.
August 27 – Walter Brennan*
This actor is controversial as far as I’m concerned given his beliefs, but man was he ever good and deserving of a SUTS day. The three-time Academy Award winner is wonderful in everything he ever did. You just have to see Walter Brennan work. Watch everything on his day.
August 28 – June Allyson
The quintessential girl next door should make a fun day of movies. The June Allyson warm, ready smile ensured she became a favorite of audiences and leading men during her day, but I prefer a darker bend. My recommendations on Allyson day are two dramas: John Sturges’ Right Cross (1950), a sports drama with Dick Powell, Ricardo Montalban, and Lionel Barrymore, and Robert Wise’s fantastic Executive Suite (1954) featuring one of the greatest ensembles ever gathered.
August 29 – Paul Lukas*
Every single morning/early afternoon Paul Lukas offering is an Aurora premiere. I will be busy recording on Lukas day for sure. I’m also looking forward to watching Raoul Walsh’s Uncertain Glory (1944) again since it’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen it. Primetime and later offerings include more familiar fare like Herman Shumlin’s Watch on the Rhine (1943) and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). I know I sound like a broken record, but the entirety of Paul Lukas day is worth your attention.
August 30 – Susan Hayward
Some of my favorite Susan Hayward performances are not scheduled on her SUTS day, but there’s a heck of a lot of good stuff offered. My first recommendation is for Stuart Heisler’s Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947). Susan Hayward received the first of five Academy Award nominations for her performance in that movie. Then I’d say we all need to watch the TCM premiere of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s House of Strangers (1949), a film noir with Edward G. Robinson playing opposite Ms. Hayward. That one I’ve never seen.
August 31 – Kirk Douglas
I assume most anybody who visits this blog is familiar with the work of Kirk Douglas, the high-energy, intense actor who always makes an impression. And this is a hell of a way to end Summer Under the Stars. Fasten your seat belts. Every Douglas offering is enjoyable with the darker, moodier pictures highest on my list.
Those are this year’s 31 honorees. Let me know what you think. I’m heading over to clear my DVR right now. Be sure to visit the TCM Summer Under the Stars page for more details on this classic festival. Happy summer and happy watching.