The 27th installment of Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) nears. The yearly Turner Classic Movies (TCM) month-long festival has been a favorite of mine since its inception. Rarely do we get the opportunity to delve into the work of key actors for 24 straight hours, but TCM ensures we can do that every August. Although a few of the featured players are usually well-known, there are always rare gems strewn about the festival and movies to be introduced to. This year is no exception.
As has become tradition on this blog, I have chosen picks from this year’s Summer Under the Stars schedule. There are several actors I am thrilled to spend a day with because their movies are not familiar to me. In fact, TCM is featuring twelve stars never honored with a Summer Under the Stars day (noted with a *) and ten movies premiering on the network during the festival. No doubt everyone will find uncharted gems. Here are my picks and their pics for SUTS 2021.
August 1 – Bette Davis
If Bette Davis is not the most honored Summer Under the Stars actor, she is close to it. That said, this is a fantastic way to kick off the festival with a serious actor who possessed a serious attitude. Davis day offers eternal favorites like William Wyler’s Jezebel (1938) and Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), but also brings the new-to-me Winter Meeting (1948) directed by Bretaigne Windust. The latter was (supposedly) Davis’ biggest flop at Warner Bros., which only makes me want to watch more. The other enjoyable entry I recommend on Davis day is William Dieterle’s Satan Met a Lady (1936) co-starring Warren William. Satan Met a Lady is one of several screen adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel, The Maltese Falcon.
August 2 – Richard Burton*
If you like authoritative voices, even of self-loathing characters, Richard Burton is your guy. Does it not seem most of his characters fit that bill? Anyway, my pick for Burton day is one of his seven Academy Award-nominated turns for Charles Jarrott’s Anne of The Thousand Days (1969) in prime time.
August 3 – Kim Novak
Joshua Logan’s Picnic (1955), co-starring the stunningly hot William Holden, is my pick for Novak day, but there are several gems offered. Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Film Festival (2013) is a must-see interview with Robert Osborne doing the honors. Robert Aldrich’s The Legend of Lilah Clare (1968) is new-to-me and on my to do list. Piquing my curiosity is the fact that Lilah Clare was listed among the 100 Most Enjoyable Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award Founder John Wilson’s book, The Official Razzie Movie Guide. With Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine as co-stars, how bad can this be?
August 4 – Louis Armstrong *
My DVR will be working overtime on Louis Armstrong day, a fantastic SUTS 2021 premiere artist. While there are several new-to-me offerings, I am most looking forward to Gary Giddins’ and Kendrick Simmons’ documentary, Satchmo: The Life of Louis Armstrong (1989), which premieres on TCM at 8 PM and repeats early the following day.
August 5 – Margaret Rutherford*
This will be a blast! The entire Rutherford schedule is worth a watch, but my recommendations are afternoon the offerings,Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1967) and George Pollock’s Murder She Said (1961), which kick off a terrific array of crime mysteries in prime time.
August 6 – Robert Mitchum
Out of the Past (1947) comes Robert Mitchum, everybody’s favorite bad guy. And good guy. You cannot go wrong with Mitchum on the screen no matter the story, but if time is limited, dedicate the evening on his day to this memorable actor. Kicking off prime time is Jacques Tourneur’s epitome of noir with Mitchum up against one the greatest femme fatales of all time played by Jane Greer. Mitchum and Greer reunited two years after Out of the Past for Don Siegel’s The Big Steal scheduled in the morning on Mitchum day.
August 7 – Abbott & Costello*
Finally!! I would say people of a couple of generations have been waiting for an Abbott & Costello SUTS day for 27 years. I may well gather some New Jersey friends to watch the hugely popular Jersey natives all day on Saturday, August 7. Charles Barton’s The Time of Their Lives (1946) and Arthur Lubin’s Buck Privates (1941) are always recommended, but the Abbott and Costello “Meet” series from Universal kicking off with Charles Barton’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in prime time is hard to resist. These movies made childhoods.
August 8 – Esther Williams
If you like beautiful Technicolor and memorable choreography you will enjoy Esther Williams’ brand of musical comedies. The picture I am most looking forward to on Williams’ day, however, is Norman Taurog’s The Hoodlum Saint, which features an extraordinary cast. How have I never seen this? William Powell, Angela Lansbury, James Gleason, Lewis Stone, and Frank McHugh are but a few of the wonderful actors in this 2 AM offering.
August 9 – Kay Francis
The 1930s reign supreme as Kay Francis struts her stuff on August 9. Watch every single entry on Francis day for sure, but I must say the double bill of Tay Garnett’s One Way Passage (1932) coupled with Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932) is hard to beat.
August 10 – George Segal*
We just lost George Segal in March so this tribute is extra special. If you can watch only two movies on Segal day, make them Herbert Ross’ The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and Robert Altman’s California Split (1974). George Segal is equally memorable opposite Barbra Streisand as he is opposite Elliott Gould.
August 11 – Kathryn Grayson
For me it is all about George Sidney on Kathryn Grayson day. His Anchors Aweigh (1945) and Show Boat (1951) are my picks for August 11.
August 12 – Ramon Novarro*
One of the days I am most excited about is a day with SUTS premiere star Ramon Novarro on August 12. If I had to choose two pictures on the schedule for this day, they would have to be Fred Niblo’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and Ernst Lubitsch’s The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927). However, I say watch everything including The Big Steal on Mitchum day for a great Novarro performance.
August 13 – Jane Fonda
Stanley and Iris (1990) directed by Martin Ritt starring Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro is playing at 2:15 AM (unfortunately) and is the TCM premiere on Fonda day. That is a definite, but I will also advocate for the block of movies starting at 6 PM with the fabulously entertaining Sunday in New York directed by Peter Tewksbury followed by James Bridges’ The China Syndrome (1979) and Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971). You cannot miss with any of these movies and throw in a Barbarella (1968) for fun.
August 14 – Gregory Peck
It is hard to believe TCM has never aired The Omen (1976), the still effective thriller-horror directed by Richard Donner and co-starring Lee Remick and a terrific supporting cast. I would have enjoyed live tweeting this movie, but this TCM premiere happens at 1:30 AM. Too late for this working gal, but this is my pick for Peck day given a few of his best are not on the schedule. You might want to allow time for John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956) and Henry King’s Twelve O’clock High (1949) though.
August 15 – Judy Garland
One of the greatest entertainers who ever lived did not make a movie she is not worth seeing in. That said, if you need the best of Judy, I recommend the triple feature starting at 2:30 PM on her day: Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Cukor’s A Star is Born (1954), and Walters’ Summer Stock (1950). All iconic. All great.
August 16 -Robert Young*
I have always liked Robert Young thanks to Sweet Rosie O’Grady, but lately I am becoming an honest to goodness Young fan and am really looking forward to his first SUTS day. I look forward to my first viewing of George Seitz’s Calm Yourself (1935), the last of four movies Robert Young and Madge Evans made together. My recommendations are John Cromwell’s The Enchanted Cottage (1945), and Irving Pichel’s They Won’t Believe Me (1947). The latter is newly restored and aired during this year’s TCM Film Festival to the delight of everyone who saw it.
August 17 – Gloria Grahame
One of the most moving, memorable actors from the Golden Age is Gloria Grahame who never made an entrance that did not house itself permanently on your brain. Grahame day begins with two new-to-me offerings, Richard Whorf’s Blonde Fever (1944) and Mark Robson’s Roughshod (1949). Those are a given, but so is the entire evening line-up, which will make the most casual viewer a Gloria Grahame fan. These are: Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947), and Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Not only are those among Grahame’s greatest pictures, but they are among the best films noir ever made.
August 18 – Robert Redford*
And they shall swoon. Redford is handsome, that’s for sure, but he is also a great actor with many memorable films in his filmography. George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Sydney Pollack’s The Way We Were (1973) are Redford standards that should be seen, but so is my recommendation, the lesser known The Candidate (1972) directed by Michael Ritchie. Rod Lurie’s The Last Castle (2001) is a TCM premiere on Redford day.
August 19 – Setsuko Hara*
I have seen only a few Setsuko Hara films so am particularly excited about her day. The newly commemorated SUTS star’s day features two TCM premieres. The day kicks off with Here’s to a Young Lady (Ojosan Kanpai) (1949) directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, and Mikio Naruse’s Repast (Meshi) (1951) will air later that morning. A few of the films she made with mentor/director Yasujiro Ozu will also be presented and all are worth watching
August 20 – Van Heflin
Gosh, I cannot pick just a few Van Heflin movies from his scheduled day except to offer a shout out to Phil Karlson’s underrated Gunman’s Walk (1958). Heflin is one of those actors who stands tall even in lesser movies and could easily steal a scene from Hollywood’s most popular actors. He did that in Mervyn LeRoy’s Johnny Eager (on the schedule) and took home Oscar for his efforts.
August 21 – Katharine Hepburn
The favorite of many, Katharine Hepburn’s impressive career is well represented on August 21. I wish George Cukor’s fabulous Holiday (1938) were on the schedule, but you do get a few of Hepburn’s popular favorites from the 1930s and 1940s. You cannot go wrong with any number of those movies. David Heeley’s 1993 documentary, Katharine Hepburn: All About Me will also be offered, but again too late for this fan at past 2 in the morning.
August 22 – Tyrone Power
Let us begin with the TCM premiere on Tyrone Power day, Henry Hathaway’s The Black Rose (1950) with Jack Hawkins, Orson Welles, Cecile Aubrey, and Michael Rennie in support of Power. Aside from that, there are quite a few must-sees. They are Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947), which is Power’s best performance, Rouben Mamoulian’s The Mark of Zorro (1940), Henry King’s The Black Swan (1942), and Goulding’s The Razor’s Edge (1946). In other words, you have plenty of Ty Power to keep you busy.
August 23 – Eve Arden*
I will venture to say that social media will be abuzz on August 23. It is about time that the great Eve Arden and her sharp delivery get a SUTS day. It will be popular, and you cannot miss it. That’s it. Take the day off.
August 24 – Maurice Chevalier*
Go for the Lubitsch pre-codes on Maurice Chevalier day, another SUTS debut star. Ernst Lubitsch’s The Love Parade (1930), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), and The Merry Widow (1934) will no doubt enchant you. You can add Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) for good measure.
August 25 – Jane Wyman
Prime time on Jane Wyman day offers her Academy Award-winning role in Jean Negulesco’s Johnny Belinda (1948) and I like the variety throughout the day. There are three new-to-me movies on the schedule, which I will not miss: Ray Enright’s Bad Men of Missouri (1941), Robert Wise’s So Big (1953), which features Sterling Hayden whom I adore, and Michael Curtiz’s The Story of Will Rogers (1952). I am not sure how I could have missed seeing the last one, a Technicolor Curtiz with a superb supporting cast. My recommendations on Wyman may well be the movies I have yet to see.
August 26 – Tony Randall*
Having just read Eve Golden’s terrific biography of Jayne Mansfield, I am drawn to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957) on Tony Randall day. I haven’t seen that in quite some time. Of course, you can get your fill of Randall with Doris Day and Rock Hudson in those ever-entertaining movies they did together which are part of the line-up.
August 27 – Merle Oberon
Most people would recommend William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights (1939) as the Merle Oberon movie to see and I know it is a standard in romance stories, but I would have preferred Wyler’s These Three (1936) with Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea alongside Oberon. Since that one is not on the bill, I recommend Ernst Lubitsch’s That Uncertain Feeling (1941) with the dashing Melvyn Douglas. Or, if Edna May Oliver is more your style, you’ll have fun watching Julien Duvivier’s Lydia (1941). I am most curious about Richard Quine’s Hotel (1967) with a cast that includes Rod Taylor, Karl Malden, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Conte, and Michael Rennie.
August 28 – Lee Marvin
This is easy. You must watch the Lee Marvin essentials being offered, Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967), Elliot Silverstein’s Cat Ballou (1965), and John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). If you haven’t seen it, I would also watch Stuart Heisler’s I Died a Thousand Times (1955), a compelling remake of Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra (1941). By Lee Marvin day you should have watched The Big Heat airing on Gloria Grahame’s day, because it is another Marvin essential. Finally, August 28 offers two TCM premieres, Michael Apted’s Gorky Park (1983) with William Hurt, Brian Dennehy, and Ian Bannen aside from Marvin, and Stuart Rosenberg’s Pocket Money (1972) with Paul Newman, Marvin, Strother Martin, and Wayne Rogers.
August 29 – Ingrid Bergman
A terrific array from Ingrid Bergman’s career in America and abroad is offered on her day. You will see perennial favorites like George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) and Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942), which make for enjoyable #TCMParty experiences. Since those are likely to have been seen by most people, I recommend the international offerings on Ingrid day like Gustaf Molander’s Intermezzo (1936) in which she is so good that after one viewing of the movie, producer David O. Selznick brought Bergman to Hollywood to sign a contract with Selznick International Pictures. August 29, which happens to be the anniversary of Ingrid Bergman’s birth and death, will offer a superb mix illustrating her range as one of the greatest screen actors who ever lived. In addition, you will get the opportunity to see the TCM premiere of Lewis Milestone’s Arch of Triumph (1948).
August 30 – Jimmy Cagney
Sir Cagney, as I like to refer to him, is beloved, admired and oft remembered by anyone who’s ever seen one of his movies. It is difficult to recommend anything but that you should watch this guy a lot. I will venture to mention two of his greatest scheduled on Cagney day: Raoul Walsh’s White Heat (1949) and Michael Curtiz’s Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Those two pictures alone show the scope of Jimmy Cagney’s magnificent talent.
August 31 – Fredric March
This year’s Summer Under the Stars festival ends as it begins, with an actor of supreme confidence and attitude, not to mention talent. Fredric March was one of the all-time best and it is fitting that this year’s SUTS ends on the anniversary of his birth with a memorable sampling of his movies. The day begins in grand fashion with William Wellman’s Nothing Sacred (1937) with March opposite one of the screen’s greatest comediennes, Carole Lombard. From there you will get some of Fredric March’s most important movies.
There you have them, my picks and more for Summer Under the Stars 2021. I will see you online among the stars.
One last thing – here’s an informal petition for Eric Blore to get his Summer Under the Stars day next year.