One of my favorite things about summer is the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) festival, a great way for people to delve in to the work of key actors and maybe even fall a little in love. 2020 marks the 26th incarnation of SUTS on TCM and I’ve been here for every single one of them so I’m thrilled to present what has become a tradition on this blog, my picks for each and every one of the 31 days.
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 premiere movies noted below and 12 stars who have never been honored with Summer Under the Stars days. I have noted the new honorees with a * next to the name with favorites being S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Sylvia Sidney, Nina Foch, and Dolores Del Rio. You’ll see a portrait of all 31 stars below plus either recommendations, mentions of the movies I am most looking forward to, or simple alerts on which stars you just have to sit back and enjoy. Thank you to Stephanie Thames, Sr. Director of Programming for Turner Classic Movies, who is always so nice about answering my questions.
Let’s get to it…. Summer Under the Stars 2020
August 1 – Barbara Stanwyck
I cannot think of a more robust, powerful actor better suited to kick off this year’s festivities than Barbara Stanwyck. One of classic Hollywood’s most beloved and admired figures, Stanwyck brought gravitas to all her roles from memorable pre-codes through melodramas and beyond illustrating her prowess in all genre. Luckily, August 1 falls on a Saturday this year making it easy for me to enjoy the day in its entirety.
Stanwyck day offers no TCM premieres but there are two new-to-me offerings I cannot wait to watch, Gambling Lady (1934), which kicks off this year’s SUTS at 6AM ET and The Mad Miss Manton (1938) at the other end of Stanwyck day. I cannot say enough of Barbara Stanwyck, but I bet neither can you. She is that terrific in her movies. The Stanwyck line-up includes a few lesser-known pictures as well as familiar favorites, Ball of Fire (1941) and Double Indemnity (1944) in prime time. My recommendation for the day is Fritz Lang’s steamy Clash by Night (1952).
August 2 – Rock Hudson
Before I even considered commenting on the movies offered on Rock Hudson day, I decided to go to my friend Fussy (@FussyFilm on Twitter) because she is the ultimate authority on all things Rock Hudson. In fact, if there is a Rock Hudson in Plaid fan club I bet she’s the president. Here’s what Fussy had to say about Rock Hudson day movies…
“All That Heaven Allows is my favorite and he’s great in the role, but Giant really shows his acting chops, and Pillow Talk is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.” Fussyadded, “Hudson gives sincerely performances in the hands of Douglas Sirk in both Written on the Wind (1957) and Magnificent Obsession (1954).” For her money, Rock’s is a perfect day to spend on the couch. Despite Coleen’s favorites, I am most excited to see the new-to-me TCM premiere of Nathan Juran’s The Golden Blade (1953) co-starring the wonderful Piper Laurie.
August 3 – Rita Hayworth
She had the star power to save a studio. I am in awe of that. The gorgeous Rita Hayworth was also a terrific actor, however, and there is plenty on her day to illustrate that. Rita’s heavy-hitting pictures are scheduled for prime time on her day, including the iconic Gilda (1946). However, I plan to be on hand all day starting with David Howard’s The Renegade Ranger (1938) in the morning, the only movie scheduled that I have not seen. If I have to recommend what I believe is a lesser-known Rita Hayworth offering, I would have to go with Raoul Walsh’s charming The Strawberry Blonde (1941) featuring a terrific lot led by James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland. I cannot get enough of that one.
August 4 – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall*
If there is a cure for the blues on this list, it’s S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall day replete with music and fun. I am thrilled to spend an entire day with this lovely actor, a character who added oodles to every movie he appeared in. In fact, I do not think it’s even possible to watch Sakall and not smile from ear to ear. The new-to-me entry here starts the festivities and is my pick of the day, William Seiter’s It’s a Date (1940). The cast is fantastic with Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon, and Eugene Pallette joining Sakall in a musical romance I cannot believe I have never seen. Cannot wait for this because is Cuddles Sakall not exactly what we all need right now?
August 5 – Ann Miller
I have mentioned several times on this blog how much MGM musicals meant to me as a child. Ann Miller was a huge part of that so what can I say about the 24 hours dedicated to her? Watch every single minute of this supreme talent. You will not regret it.
August 6 – Burt Lancaster
Following the sublime Ann Miller, you will do well to delve into the intense, passionate Burt Lancaster. Once again, the new-to-me offering starts the day, which means I will be getting up mighty early for most of August. That movie is Richard Thorpe’s 1951 Western Vengeance Valley co-starring Robert Walker, Joanne Dru, Sally Forrest, John Ireland, and Ray Collins. There really is a lot to enjoy on Lancaster day, though, from swashbuckling in Technicolor to his critically acclaimed turns inRochard Brooks’ Elmer Gantry (1960), Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity (1953), John Frankenheimer’s Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and Louis Malle’s Atlantic City (1980). Still, I suggest anyone who is not familiar with Lancaster’s work to take a look at Jules Dassin’s Brute Force, a top-grosser for Warner Bros. in 1947 and a hard-hitting film noir that lingers with memorable femmes.
August 7 – Sylvia Sidney*
I may well call out sick on Sylvia Sidney day, one of the SUTS premiere actors I am most looking forward to. There are several movies slated I have never seen, Dudley Murphy’s …One Third of a Nation (1939) co-starring Leif Erickson and featuring Sidney Lumet in a supporting role, is one of them. Then there’s Fritz Lang’s You and Me (1938) co-starring fellow SUTS honoree this year George Raft. You and Me is a TCM premiere and it will be followed by the other TCM premiere on this day, Thirty Day Princess (1934) directed by Marion Gering and co-starring Cary Grant. Cary Grant! How have I not seen this? Anyway, finally, there is Ray Enright’s The Wagons Roll at Night (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Albert, and Joan Leslie. This is all richness beyond my wildest movie dreams.
There is no loser on Sidney day, but for fun, I would recommend King Vidor’s Street Scene (1931), which is the film debut of essential character actors Beulah Bondi and John Qualen. I watched a poor copy of this last year so I am looking forward to a clearer view of the stoop. In addition, William Wyler’s Dead End (1937) is well worth your time with its stellar cast that includes Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie, and Claire Trevor among a long list of ace supporters. I would also not miss Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets (1931) based on a Dashiell Hammett story with Gary Cooper and Paul Lukas playing opposite Sylvia. Finally, I must recommend Josef von Sternberg’s An American Tragedy (1931) with Phillips Holmes and Frances Dee. This is based on Theodore Dreiser’s tragic story like George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun (1951).
August 8 – Charlie Chaplin
Chaplin movies scheduled span from 1914 through 1957’s A King in New York and include his major works. Of those, City Lights (1931) is my favorite, but you cannot miss with the work of this genius.
August 9 – Goldie Hawn*
Goldie Hawn’s day offers two TCM premieres: Hugh Wilson’s enjoyable The First Wives Club (1996) and the final movie the day, which happens to be the one I’m most looking forward to, Chris Menges’ Crisscross (1992). My mother will be particularly happy about an entire day of Goldie Hawn movies, which to me is a sign of a terrific on-screen comedian. The Hawn schedule also includes her Academy Award-winning turn in Gene Saks’ Cactus Flower (1969).
August 10 – Norma Shearer
Go for the pre-codes! Those naughty gems are terrific and Norma Shearer is one of the greats in the genre. I strongly suggest you put ’em around Clarence Brown’s A Free Soul (1931) and Robert Z. Leonard’s The Divorcee (1930) scheduled as a one-two punch in late morning on Shearer day. Norma garnered Academy Award nominations for her portrayal in both of those movies, as well as for Marie Antoinette (1938), Romeo and Juliet (1936), and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) all on the schedule. She was also nominated for E. Mason Hopper’s Their Own Desire (1929) but that’s not slated to air. Still, Norma in the late 1920s will make appearances.
August 11 – Sammy Davis, Jr.*
2020 marks the SUTS debut of the ultra-talented Sammy Davis, Jr. and the day has several new-to-me offerings scheduled, including the TCM premiere of Nick Castle’s Tap (1989) co-starring Gregory Hines. I’m also looking forward to the short subject, Rufus Jones for President, which marks Sammy’s first screen onscreen appearance. Directed by Roy Mack, Rufus Jones also stars Ethel Waters, another favorite. Millard Kaufman’s Convicts 4 (1962) looks promising with Ben Gazzara, Stuart Whitman, Ray Walston, and Vincent Price among other notables in the cast. Finally, I look forward to seeing Arnold Laven’s Anna Lucasta (1958) with Eartha Kitt, Henry Scott, Frederick O’Neal, and personal favorite Rosetta LeNoire opposite Davis.
August 12 – Lana Turner
Lana day offers must-see staples such as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), arguably her greatest movies. However, the schedule offers a nice variety of genre spanning much of her 50-year career. You have George B. Seitz’s Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) through Jack Arnold’s Bachelor in Paradise (1961) opposite Bob Hope. This should be a fun Twitter day.
August 13 – John Barrymore*
I find it hard to believe that John Barrymore has never been honored with a SUTS day before, but here we are, a schedule featuring one of the silver screens greatest hams. Barrymore’s day kicks off with a trio of silents, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Don Juan (1926), and When a Man Loves (1927) all of which I highly recommend, but – once again – my heart belongs to the pre-codes on the schedule and there are several. For my money, the worst of the lot is Rasputin and the Empress (1932), but that one is still worth a look since it stars the three Barrymores in one movie, a major coup for Metro Goldwyn Mayer at the time. You might also enjoy seeing fellow 2020 honoree Anne Shirley in an uncredited role as Princess Anastasia in that.
There is one TCM premiere on this day, Ralph Murphy’s Night Club Scandal (1937), a murder mystery that sounds like it’s right up my alley.
August 14 – Steve McQueen
I imagine the internet will be buzzing about 24 hours of the King of Cool. As far as I’m concerned, you need to settle in front of your television at 2PM on McQueen day and stay there for the rest of the schedule. His major movies are all airing in a row starting with Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway (1972), which is one of my Steve McQueen favorites.
August 15 – Nina Foch*
The cool, sophisticated Nina Foch is another of my favorite SUTS 2020 premiere stars. I might add, Foch is a wonderful choice to follow Steve McQueen and thrilled her day falls on a Saturday. The entire schedule for this actor is superb. Watch the entire thing from dusk untill dawn and beyond.
August 16 – Cary Grant
I should just skip commenting about Cary Grant day. If you have ever visited this blog, you know how I feel about this man. He is my heart. I will add just one thing, be sure to watch Norman Taurog’s charming Room for One More (1952).
August 17 – Maureen O’Hara
Ah, the lovely Maureen O’Hara, another actor I enjoy immensely. How can you go wrong spending a day with her movies? Honestly, I think most people will enjoy most of the ones on the schedule. I have a huge soft spot for Spencer’s Mountain (1964) with Maureen playing opposite Henry Fonda, but that is hardly the best on the schedule. For that, I would turn to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) in prime time followed by the beloved Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Although my favorite Maureen O’Hara pictures are not on the schedule, you will enjoy a day with this wild Irish rose.
August 18 – Warren Beatty
Arthur Penn’s landmark Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Beatty’s own Reds (1981), Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and Mike Nichol’s The Fortune (1975) are my picks for Warren Beatty day. Although, you should get an interesting introduction to Arthur Hiller’s Promise Her Anything (1966) co-starring Leslie Caron.
August 19 – Dolores Del Rio*
I am beyond excited for Dolores Del Rio day and I hope you are too. I have never seen Clarence Brown’s The Trail of ’98 (1928) or William Dieterle’s Madame Du Barry (1934), which kick off the 24 hours of Del Rio. But the day’s schedule never falters from Busby Berkeley’s I Live for Love (1935) through the prime time line-up starting with the star’s stunning portrayal of Ramona (1928) directed by Edwin Carewe, the TCM premiere on Del Rio day. If you are not familiar with Dolores Del Rio’s Hollywood work I guarantee you will be a fan when this day is done.
August 20 – William Powell
Who does not love this charming sophisticate? Since so many know and adore William Powell in The Thin Man movies, two of which are slated for his day, I recommend a few of the lesser known offerings for a bit of variety, and which do not disappoint. I am thinking of Michael Curtiz’s The Key (1934) co-starring Edna Best and Colin Clive, Mervyn LeRoy’s High Pressure (1932) with Evelyn Brent and George Sidney, and Tay Garnett’s One Way Passage (1932) with Kay Francis. All three of those have stellar supporting players to enjoy. In addition, there is one TCM premiere on Powell day, George S. Kaufman’s The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), which I have not seen. If you prefer familiar fare then you cannot beat Jack Conway’s top notch Libeled Lady (1936). No matter what you watch, be aware that the world will swoon on August 20.
August 21 – Diana Dors*
Diana Dors is the 2020 SUTS honoree whose films I am least familiar with, but by the movie titles scheduled for her day I think it will be a hoot. Ken Annakin’s Here Come the Huggetts (1948), which is part of a movie series I had never heard of, is one of them. I am also looking forward to J. Lee Thomson’s An Alligator Named Daisy (1957) because it sounds like awful fun. There is a TCM premiere on Dors day, The Weak and the Wicked (1954). My recommendations are Seth Holt’s Danger Route (1967) for those who enjoy B thrillers and Ken Hughes The Long Haul (1957) with Victor Mature, which is good outright.
August 22 – John Wayne
Watch the John Ford offerings and you’ll have seen the best of John Wayne. Several are scheduled on his day, all good. Then again, it’s John Ford. Otherwise, I will focus on the earlier Wayne outings I am less familiar with, Tenny Wrights The Big Stampede (1932) and The Telegraph Trail (1933).
August 23 – Bette Davis
La Grande Dame. Admired, respected, brave. Bette Davis was honored with a SUTS day in 2016, but who can get enough of her? So, aside from Davis staples like Jezebel (1938) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), I recommend the book ends on Bette’s day. First up is Lloyd Bacon’s Marked Woman (1937) with Humphrey Bogart and bringing up the rear is William Dieterle’s Satan Met a Lady (1936) with Warren William. The thought is these have been seen less than Edmund Goulding’s The Old Maid (1939) or Curtis Bernhardt’s A Stolen Life (1946), which are also on the schedule. Either way you go here you will end up admiring this woman.
August 24 – George Raft
This one kicks off with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich alongside George Raft in Raoul Walsh’s Manpower (1941) first thing in the morning with a Walsh chaser in Background to Danger (1943) next. Follow that with crime upon more crime and you have an enjoyable day indeed with Raft at the center of it. This definitely beats tossing quarters.
TCM presents the premiere of Seymour Friedman’s Loan Shark (1952) with Raft and Dorothy Hart on this day.
August 25 – Anne Shirley
Anne Shirley’s career fascinates me. She has such an impressive body of work for an actor who retired at 26. You too will be impressed with the line-up on her day, which includes such notables as King Vidor’s Stella Dallas (1937) and Edward Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet (1944). I am most looking forward to John H. Auer’s Music in Manhattan (1944) with Dennis Day and the TCM premiere of John Ford’s Steamboat Round the Bend (1935) with Will Rogers, Irvin S. Cobb, and the great Eugene Pallette alongside Ms. Shirley.
August 26 – Laurence Olivier
It is time to admit it. Lord Olivier is too highbrow for this movie fan. As such, I do not connect with him as most others do and I cannot say I will spend all of August 26 watching his movies, but I can mention my favorites: Tim Whelan’s The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Alexander Korda’s That Hamilton Woman (1941), and Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer (1960).
August 27 – Claudette Colbert
Here is another 24 hours of movies that promises to be supremely entertaining, this time the popular Claudette Colbert is featured. I am very excited to watch Mel Ferrer’s The Secret Fury (1950) with Colbert and Robert Ryan caught in a web of bigamy. I have previously only seen a terrible copy of The Secret Fury. If your time is limited and you cannot spend all day with Claudette then use the time wisely and wait for prime time and an irresistible, delightful triple feature: Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934), Chester Erskine’s The Egg and I (1947), and Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story (1942). That is a hell of a movie night apt to make a classics fan even of the most ardent resister.
August 28 Paul Henreid*
Paul Henreid, lovely to look at and dreamy to listen to. Both of those are illustrated on Henreid day, which is replete with great movies and the added bonus of more Bette Davis. The first movie to highlight for this fan was not popular when initially released, but I happen to enjoy it, Irving Rapper’s Deception (1946) with Henreid, Davis and the great Claude Rains. However, as was the case for Colbert, prime time is what you want to save your popcorn for. Starting at 8PM ET with Irving Rapper’s ever memorable Now, Voyager (1942) the night remains a feast until Henreid day concludes, a night that includes the TCM premiere of For Men Only (1952) starring and directed by Henreid. I think you will want to stick around for this line-up.
August 29 – Eva Marie Saint
Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival: Eva Marie Saint (2014) where the actor sits with Robert Osborne is a must-see on Saint day. Plus the schedule includes Saint’s Oscar-winning debut movie performance in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, and (for my money) the best performance by a Hitchcock blonde in the thrilling North by Northwest (1959). Those are the Eva Marie Saint staples airing on her day, but I also recommend the lesser-known, honest exploration of drug addiction, A Hatful of Rain from 1957 co-starring Don Murray and Anthony Franciosa and directed by Fred Zinnemann.
August 30 – Charlton Heston
A big actor who made big movies, Charlton Heston is best – in my opinion – when he takes on epic stories and you will get that on his SUTS day. You will also enjoy my favorite of his films, Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) although I think Heston was miscast in it, and Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes (1968), the original and still the best of all the simian tales that followed. This day is a mad house!
August 31 Alain Delon*
We arrive on the last day of SUTS 2020 ready for the premiere day of one of cinema’s most popular European actors of the 1960s. Of the films featured, Spirits of the Dead immediately caught my attention. I have never seen this film, a compilation of three Edgar Allan Poe stories from three different directors, Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, and Roger Vadim. Of the films on Delon day that I’ve seen I vouch for Michael Winner’s CIA thriller Scorpio (1973) co-starring fellow 2020 SUTS honoree Burt Lancaster, and I’d be remiss not to give a shout to Terence Young’s terrific Western Red Sun starring my mother’s man, Charles Bronson alongside Ursula Andress, Toshiro Mifune, Alain Delon, and Capucine. My lack of familiarity with foreign films leaves me open for plenty of new discoveries on the last day, which is a memorable way to end the festival.
I hope you have enjoyed perusing the Summer Under the Stars schedule with me, as much as I have taking a deep dive into this year’s offerings. Be sure to visit the TCM Summer Under the Stars page for more details on this classic festival. Here’s hoping you have a happy and safe summer enjoying movies.