Twice a year, The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ offers its loyal fans a brief respite from their usual variety of scheduled movies by presenting two deviations: 31 Days of Oscar—in which Academy Award-winning and/or nominated films dominate from February 1 through March 3—and Summer Under the Stars, in which Tee Cee Em dominates each broadcast day with movies devoted to a single performer. Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge fan of either event…but if I had to choose the lesser of two evils I’d go with SUTS, only because I don’t get as bored as quickly with it as I do 31 Days.
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence might serve up another SUTS blogathon like she has the two years previous…but it would appear that it’s all hands on deck on The Black Maria, as she sails off in search of cinematic plunder with co-captain Miss Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial and first mate Brandie, who as head of the animation department is probably getting to use the “batten down the hatches” joke more frequently than I. I took a glance through the August lineup…and asked myself: “If I could sit down with only one of these movies for each day a star is being feted…which one would I choose?”
Here are my answers:
August 1, Friday – Jane Fonda. I was tempted to go with The China Syndrome (1979; 5:45pm), a movie I loved as a young movie geek*…but I always find myself coming back to Klute (1971; 12:15am), one of my favorite suspense thrillers.
August 2, Saturday – David Niven. Of the movies scheduled, I’ll go with Dodsworth (1936; 6am).
I think Pidgeon gave one of his best screen performances in Advise & Consent (1962; 2:15am)…but I’d be crazy not to go with How Green Was My Valley (1941; 8pm).
August 4, Monday – Judy Garland. And it’s the movie for which she should have won the Best Actress Oscar, A Star is Born (1954; 12mid).
August 5, Tuesday – Barbara Stanwyck. There are always so many great choices when Babs is in the spotlight…but my favorite of her movies has always been and will remain Ball of Fire (1941; 8pm).
August 6, Wednesday – Paul Muni. Tough not going with I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932; 8pm)…but my favorite Muni film has always been Scarface (1932; 9:30pm).
August 8, Friday – Jeanne Moreau. My love of Orson Welles films is trying to convince me to go with The Trial (1962; 8pm)…but even though I’m a fan of that movie I readily admit you need an urn of strong coffee at the ready to keep from dozing off. So I’ll go with Elevator to the Gallows (1958; 10:15pm) instead.
August 9, Saturday – William Powell. These are not getting any easier, particularly with The Thin Man (1934; 8pm) and After the Thin Man (1936; 9:45pm) (if they had moved After to Jimmy Stewart day I would have picked it). Let’s go with Libeled Lady (1936; 1pm), because it’s a great screwball comedy and you get the bonus of Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow.
August 10, Sunday – Carole Lombard. Oh, it was awfully hard not giving To Be or Not to Be (1942; 8pm) the nod on this day. But since I’ve watched it recently, I had no problem selecting what’s probably my favorite Lombard romp, Twentieth Century (1934; 12:30pm).
August 11, Monday – Marlon Brando. Even though I have multiple problems with Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg’s apologia for why they ratted out their friends and colleagues, Brando deserved the Best Actor trophy he received for On the Waterfront (1954; 11:45pm).
I fought off the temptation to pick The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945; 6am)…and instead will pick one of Smith’s most underrated turns in The Constant Nymph (1943; 12mid).
August 13, Wednesday – Cary Grant. I could have gone with just about any of the movies on tap today—but Grant’s comedic performance in His Girl Friday (1940; 9:30am) not only should have been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but served up to him on a silver tray instead of his The Philadelphia Story (1940; 12:45pm) co-star James Stewart. (Stewart’s Macaulay Connor would have set a world record for stammering if editor Walter Burns was in the same room.)
August 14, Thursday – Charlie Chaplin. My heart aches at having to overlook so many classic films from one of cinema’s most beloved filmmakers—but I’m going to pass over both City Lights (1931; 12:30am) and Modern Times (1936; 3pm) for The Gold Rush (1925; 11:45am), the first film featuring The Little Tramp that I ever watched. (But if it’s the 1942 re-issue, then I reserve the right to change back to City Lights.)
So many wonderful films of Faye’s on the schedule…but with Chinatown (1974) at midnight, it was pretty much a fixed fight.
August 16, Saturday – Herbert Marshall. Like I need an excuse to watch Foreign Correspondent (1940; 8pm) again. (And it’s on
The Drewssentials Essentials!)
August 17, Sunday – Every once in a while the channel offers up movies by an actor/actress that simply makes me shrug and go “Meh.” That’s the case with John Hodiak…and under normal circumstances I’d probably go with Lifeboat (1944; 8pm). But A Bell for Adano (1945) is on the schedule afterward at 10pm, and since I’ve never seen it that is my choice. So there. Thbth.
A similar situation has cropped up with Claudette; I’d probably go with It’s a Wonderful World (1939; 4:15pm) because it’s one of my favorite screwball comedies…but I’m kind of curious to check out Remember the Day (1941) at 2am.
August 19, Tuesday – Paul Newman. Tempted to go with The Prize (1963; 11:15am), because it’s a guilty pleasure…but Dad and I never miss an opportunity to watch Cool Hand Luke (1967; 5:45pm).
August 20, Wednesday – Thelma Ritter. I have always championed The Mating Season (1951; 8pm) as my favorite movie with Thel, and I don’t plan to stop now.
August 21, Thursday – Lee Tracy. I got a bit of grief from a commenter on my review of Repeat Performance (1947) back in January when I suggested that Turn Back the Clock (1933; 6:30pm) “covers similar ground.” So I’m going to watch Clock again because it’s been a while.
None of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies made the TCM schedule, so I feel a little guilty about choosing The Lavender Hill Mob (1951; 8am) because Aud has but a mere cameo. I’ll say a few novenas and feel better later.
August 23, Saturday – Ernest Borgnine. Marty (1955; 8pm) might have The Essentials spotlight, but I’m going with The Catered Affair (1956; 9:45am) because it’s an underrated gem.
August 24, Sunday – Gladys George. If I hadn’t watched Flamingo Road (1949; 10am) so recently I probably would have tabbed this as my Gladys pick. Instead, I’ll go with The Roaring Twenties (1939; 6pm).
August 26, Tuesday – Sophia Loren. None of the movies on the schedule really reach and shake my hand…but I’ve always had a preference for Two Women (1961; 8pm).
August 27, Wednesday – Edmond O’Brien. I’m passing up White Heat (1949; 6pm) and D.O.A. (1950; 8pm) because An Act of Murder (1948) is premiering at 9:30pm…and I’ve never seen it.
August 28, Thursday – Arlene Dahl. Kind of the female John Hodiak, to be honest. But she’s in The Black Book (a.k.a. Reign of Terror – 1949; 2:30pm), so I’m going with that.
Tough sledding when you not only have Citizen Kane (1941; 2:15am) on the schedule but also The Magnificent Ambersons (1942; 5pm). Fortunately, I have no qualms about choosing The Third Man (1949; 12:15am).
August 30, Saturday – Betty Grable. I’m not much of a Grable devotee, so I was tempted to go with The Nitwits (1935; 8am)—because I do love Wheeler & Woolsey. Since I haven’t seen I Wake Up Screaming (1941; 11:45pm) in a while, I’ll pick that.
August 31, Sunday – The channel closes out SUTS with Alan Ladd, and for me there can be only one choice: The Glass Key (1942; 12:45pm).
I have to confess, I’m a little more stoked about this year’s Summer Under the Stars because of the three movies mentioned above that have been on my must-see list for some time now. Next month, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will return to the standard presentation of Coming Distractions…but in the meantime, see you at the movies!
*Rich says I qualify as a movie geek…who am I to argue?