Every August Turner Classic Movies celebrates 31 different stars, one per day, with a 24-hour marathon of their movies beginning at 6:00 am EDT each morning. In 2014 our 31 stars are:
1 - Jane Fonda
2 - David Niven
3 - Walter Pidgeon - Biography: Walter Pidgeon’s Long Road from Singer to Stardom
4 - Judy Garland
5 - Barbara Stanwyck - Brief commentary with link back to updated Stanwyck biography
6 - Paul Muni - New Review Posted: BLACK FURY (1935)
7 - James Stewart
8 - Jeanne Moreau
9 - William Powell - The Return of Picto-Sked
10 - Carole Lombard - New Review Posted: LADY BY CHOICE (1934)
11 - Marlon Brando
12 - Alexis Smith
13 - Cary Grant - New Review Posted: HOT SATURDAY (1932)
14 - Charles Chaplin - New Picto-Sked covers all 16 Chaplin films on TCM.
15 - Faye Dunaway
16 - Herbert Marshall - Biography of the TROUBLE IN PARADISE Star
17 - John Hodiak
18 - Claudette Colbert
19 - Paul Newman
20 - Thelma Ritter
21 - Lee Tracy - New Review Posted: BLESSED EVENT (1932)
22 - Audrey Hepburn
23 - Ernest Borgnine
24 - Gladys George - New Review Posted: MADAME X (1937)
25 - Dick Powell
26 - Sophia Loren
27 - Edmund O'Brien
28 - Arlene Dahl
29 - Joseph Cotten
30 - Betty Grable
31 - Alan Ladd
I will update the area above with any special Summer Under the Stars content that I post throughout the month. Subscribers will receive any new articles via email the morning after I post them.While August has long been my favorite month on Turner Classic Movies the annual selections do tend to send me away from the channel as much as they inspire some of my most enthusiastic binge viewing. Today’s 24 hours of Jane Fonda movies give me a good chance to catch up on work and watch a ball game, while the 24 hours of Lee Tracy movies on August 21 promise to make me just as wired as Tracy himself when I keep myself chained to TCM downing coffee all day and night long.
I’ve had to give some thought as the best way to preview TCM’s Summer Under the Stars 2014. I don’t want to cannibalize any of the content I already have planned for August and that includes the usual round of brief biographies, examination of oddball newspaper clippings, photo posts, the return of Picto-Sked and the usual review or two blended across what I hope to be my busiest blogging month of the year. But I do want to give a feel of what’s to come.
I'll lead off by bringing back an old feature:
Summer Under the Stars, Quickie Edition
Top Pick: Paul Muni on August 6 edges out William Powell on the 9th. Close call though.
Most Wanted: Lee Tracy will keep my DVR busiest of the bunch, but I don't want to repeat myself so I'll go with Claudette Colbert on the 9th. There are a few 1940s and '50s Colbert titles that I've been putting off and would like to watch this year.
Most Exciting Day is self-explanatory. If you want me to recommend a sick day from work, it'll be that day! Top Pick being those I have seen and would push you down on my couch and force you to watch if you even hint that you haven't seen it! Most Wanted being those I have to the best of my knowledge never seen but will be sure to check out this month.
These picks are based upon Turner Classic Movies' US schedule (most also air in Canada). Any times mentioned are all EDT because that's what TCM uses inside my Now Playing Guide and that's what I use when I set the clocks here on Long Island. The days are TCM's own slightly screwy time periods, typically beginning at 6 am and working through to the following morning at the same time.
Summer Under the Stars, Full Version
You have the basic schedule at the top of the page. Now I’m going to turn the spotlight to a preview and recommendations for the Golden Age stars and movies I’m most excited about with our usual concentration on the 1930s. Anything that TCM is showing that I’ve written about in the past will be linked to as we go along:1 - Jane Fonda
2 - David Niven - Niven’s part is small but Dodsworth (1936) remains an essential classic. It begins the day at 6:00 am EDT and is followed by The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) starring Errol Flynn at 8:00 am. Niven co-stars with Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother (1939) at 12 noon, though Charles Coburn is probably my favorite part of that title!
3 - Walter Pidgeon - I’m not a big fan of The Hot Heiress (1931) starring Ben Lyon and Ona Munson, but I usually give it another try each year. It’s playing at 7:30 am. The big titles play at night with a favorite, John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941), playing at 8:00 pm. It’s followed by the wonderful Mrs. Parkington (1944) at 10:15 pm, one of Pidgeon’s pairings with Greer Garson and one that provides him with a very strong character. Sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956) plays immediately after at 12:30 am.
4 - Judy Garland - Among the usual Judy Garland selections come four of her pairings with Mickey Rooney: Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) at 6:00 am, Girl Crazy (1943) at 8:00 am, then Strike Up the Band (1940) in the prime 8:00 pm time slot with Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937) tucked into the overnight at 3:00 am.
5 - Barbara Stanwyck - Only two pre-Code titles among the 14 Stanwyck movies playing on Tuesday the 5th. Night Nurse (1931) claims the 10 pm EDT slot while the day opens with Illicit (1931) at 6:00 am. Other key titles playing that day include Stella Dallas (1937) at 7:30 am, Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe (1941) with Gary Cooper at 5:45 pm and Stanwyck with Coop again in Ball of Fire (1941) at 8:00 pm.
6 - Paul Muni - Muni day is a favorite. I’m a big fan of The World Changes (1933), a multigenerational story of man in the meat packing business, playing at 6:00 am. Hi, Nellie! (1934) is the only Muni title on the schedule that I haven’t seen yet, so I’m excited about that at 7:45 am. Following that one is the classic Bordertown (1935) with Bette Davis, a movie that will feel very familiar to fans of They Drive by Night. Prime time features the pre-Code knockout combination of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) at 8:00 pm, followed by Scarface (1932) at 9:30. I was impressed by Black Fury (1935), a story of coal miners and their unionizing, when I first caught it. It reunites Muni with Scarface co-star Karen Morley and plays just after that movie at 11:15 pm. I also enjoy then historical epics spread throughout the day: Juarez (1939) at 1:30 pm, though Muni’s casting is a bit ridiculous in that one; The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) towards the end of the night at 2:30 am, followed by The Life of Emile Zola (1937) to close out Muni day at 4:00 am.
7 - James Stewart - Another Golden Age winner! The day begins with Stewart in support of Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy (!) in Wife Vs. Secretary (1936) at 6:00 am. Earlier this year I covered Vivacious Lady (1938) for the James Stewart Blogathon. Pairing Stewart with Ginger Rogers with more top shelf support from Charles Coburn, it plays at 9:30 am. Frank Borzage is usually a bit maudlin for me, but I do like The Mortal Storm (1940), playing at 10 pm. It’s followed by an Ernst Lubitsch movie that I didn’t always love, but it finally grew on me this past Christmas, The Shop Around the Corner (1940) at 12 midnight. Stewart day winds down with a baseball favorite, The Stratton Story (1949), beginning at 4:00 am.
8 - Jeanne Moreau - I haven’t watched it in a few years, but I’m very happy to see Orson Welles’ adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial (1963) in the 8:00 pm slot. Co-starring Anthony Perkins, it’s a bit of a mind-bender, just as it should be.
9 - William Powell - Dare I call this a perfect day of William Powell programming? I’m sure somebody’s favorite is missing, but I really like how TCM lined this day up. The first two Thin Man movies, The Thin Man (1934) and After the Thin Man (1936) play back-to-back beginning at 8:00 pm with five more of Powell’s teaming with his most popular co-star, Myrna Loy, leading into those. The Powell-Loy movies start at 11:15 am with their first, Manhattan Melodrama (1934), followed by Libeled Lady (1936) at 1:00 pm, Double Wedding (1937) at 2:45 pm, I Love You Again (1940) at 4:30 pm and Love Crazy (1941) at 6:15 pm. After Loy, Powell was teamed with Kay Francis more than anyone else, and those pairings are represented by their zaniest entry, Jewel Robbery (1932), at 7:30 that morning. Powell is teamed with Joan Blondell in the excellent Lawyer Man (1933) at 8:45 am. If you're recording these and want to reorganize them a bit, that last one actually goes together well with the final William Powell feature that day, High Pressure (1932), playing at 4:45 am.
All right, I dare not call it the perfect William Powell day because it could have used more Kay Francis (No One Way Passage!) and it could have linked itself perfectly to the following day by playing My Man Godfrey co-starring Powell’s then ex-wife:
10 - Carole Lombard - A nice pair of 1932 features open the day with Lombard and Pat O’Brien in Virtue at 6:00 am followed by No More Orchids with Lyle Talbot at 7:30 am. Probably my favorites of the bigger Lombard classics playing throughout the day are True Confession (1937) with Fred MacMurray and John Barrymore at 10:00 pm, followed by Lombard and Fredric March in Nothing Sacred (1937) at 11:45 pm. This is likely going to be one of the most popular days this August, but Lombard continues to be one of those few classic film stars who I don’t particularly care for. But if you’re looking for a Lombard lovefest come August 10, be sure to visit Carole & Co.
11 - Marlon Brando
12 - Alexis Smith - Biopic would be a strong term for Gentleman Jim (1942 - 8:00 pm), but it remains one of my favorite Errol Flynn movies. And speaking of movies that I love, The Constant Nymph (1943), highlighted by a fantastic Joan Fontaine performance, plays at 12:00 midnight.
13 - Cary Grant - Now Cary Grant is a star that I really enjoy, but maybe TCM needs to give him a year off because there are not a lot of surprises here: The Awful Truth (1937) at 6:00 am; Bringing Up Baby (1938) at 7:45 am; His Girl Friday (1940) at 9:30 am; My Favorite Wife (1940) at 11:15 am; The Philadelphia Story (1940) at 12:45 pm; etc. You get the idea. One pleasant surprise is early Grant feature Hot Saturday (1932) with Nancy Carroll playing at 8:00 pm.
14 - Charles Chaplin - Some shorts in the morning and mixed in throughout the night with several classic Chaplin features playing throughout the day: The Gold Rush (1925) at 11:45 am; Modern Times (1936) at 3:00 pm; The Great Dictator (1940) at 5:45 pm; The Kid (1921) at 9:45 pm; City Lights (1931) at 12:30 am; Monsieur Verdoux (1947) at 2:00 am.
15 - Faye Dunaway
16 - Herbert Marshall - The most interesting portion of Herbert Marshall day doesn’t come until midnight when TCM plays both versions of The Letter, beginning with the classic 1940 version and followed by the 1929 version starring Jeanne Eagels at 1:45 am — Eagels is so intense that she's actually uncomfortable to watch. Boy, I wish she lived long enough give us a few more talkies! I chuckled to see Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble (1944) on the schedule at 9:30 am. It’s one of the most over-the-top entries pitting Marshall against Mickey Rooney as love interest to Bonita Granville, wow! The masterpiece of the day is Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932) with Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis. It plays at 11:30 am and is followed by one of Marshall’s turns as Somerset Maugham (kind of) in the author’s fictionalized account of artist Paul Gauguin (sort of), The Moon and Sixpence (1942). More Bette Davis on the Marshall slate that afternoon with The Little Foxes (1941) at 2:30 pm.
17 - John Hodiak - I’m partial to the better known classics on Hodiak day with William Wellman’s Battleground (1949) playing at 11:45 am and Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) on at 8 that night.
18 - Claudette Colbert - Mostly later stuff playing for Claudette Colbert with some key exceptions in It Happened One Night (1934) at 6:00 pm, followed by the movie that lowered my resistance to Maurice Chevalier, The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) at 8:00 pm. A favorite plays at 2:00 pm when Colbert gets between Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in Boom Town (1940), a tale of oil men that also features Hedy Lamarr. I’m curious about a Twentieth Century Fox movie that premieres at 2:00 am, Remember the Day (1941). Haven’t seen it, like the premise: “An elderly schoolteacher, waiting to meet a presidential nominee, recalls the time when he was her student.”
19 - Paul Newman
20 - Thelma Ritter
21 - Lee Tracy - The pre-Code choice of 2014 and the entry I am most excited about is the motor-mouthed Lee Tracy, at his best portraying slick journalists and/or hucksters and con men. Tracy’s best known starring role comes as the gossip columnist in Blessed Event (1932), playing at 10:00 pm, but do try to catch him in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) with Ann Dvorak at 2:30 pm, followed immediately by The Half-Naked Truth (1932) with Lupe Velez and Eugene Pallette at 3:45. The day begins with some of the “B” movies that Tracy headlined in the late ‘30s into the early ‘40s, one of which I took a look at, Millionaires in Prison (1940), plays at 12:15 pm. From what I hear, Turn Back the Clock (1933) is a little different from most Tracy movies, but it is one I haven’t seen and thus my most sought-after title for August. At 8:00 pm Tracy is Jean Harlow's press agent in Bombshell (1933) and at midnight he’s John Barrymore’s theatrical agent in Dinner at Eight (1933). I’ve covered the movie that closes Tracy day, Clear All Wires! (1933 - 4:30 am), but found it more of a decent piece of trivia than anything else.
My pick of the day would be The Half-Naked Truth, but I’m left wondering where The Nuisance and Washington Merry-Go-Round are? I prefer all three of those to the better known Blessed Event.
22 - Audrey Hepburn
23 - Ernest Borgnine
24 - Gladys George - Another strong day though I wish they would have reversed the 8:00 and 10:00 pm features as Madame X (1937) at 10 is probably George’s top starring role while her part in The Maltese Falcon at 8 is a lot smaller. On the bright side she is on strong display alongside James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties (1939) at 6:00 pm and has a good part in the movie playing before that, They Gave Him a Gun (1937), an interesting though uneven movie starring Spencer Tracy with Franchot Tone. She’s in a supporting role in Bright Leaf (1950), a look at nineteenth century tobacco manufacture starring Gary Cooper that fascinated me enough to cover a few years ago.
25 - Dick Powell - This selection rivals Lee Tracy as my favorite this year. Dick Powell had the two most distinct runs as an actor that I can think of, beginning with his cheery leads in 1930s musicals before turning to the darker world of film noir in the 1940s and ‘50s. Not many stars can provide the entertainment Powell does in titles such as 42nd Street (1933 - 1:00 pm) and Dames (1934 - 11:00 pm) as well as the gritty intrigue of thrillers such as Pitfall (1948 - 4:15 pm) and Murder, My Sweet (1944 - 9:15 pm). Probably Powell’s best movie playing on the 25th is Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952 - 12:45 am), but two of his more intriguing titles that aren't shown very often come with a less heralded musical that he stars in, the silly yet catchy Colleen (1936 - 6:00 am), along with one of his later more serious turns as the detective trying to protect President Lincoln in Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target (1951 - 3:00 am).
27 - Edmund O'Brien - White Heat (1949) alert for 6:00 pm, followed immediately by O’Brien’s best starring role in D.O.A. (1950) at 8:00 pm.
28 - Arlene Dahl
29 - Joseph Cotten - The Orson Welles portion of the day: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) plays at 5:00 pm and Citizen Kane (1941) overnight at 2:15 am, just after Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), which begins at 12:15 am. Nice 8:00 pm selection with Portrait of Jennie (1948) starring Jennifer Jones.
30 - Betty Grable - The Astaire & Rogers movies play in the morning with The Gay Divorcee (1934) kicking things off at 6:00 am and Follow the Fleet (1936) at 9:30 am. Old Man Rhythm (1935) is a musical comedy from RKO that I’m curious about, starring Buddy Rogers with silent star Barbara Kent in one of her final film roles. I’m a sucker for Mother Wore Tights (1947) with Dan Dailey and it’s playing during dinnertime, beginning at 6:00 pm. Classic Grable with Don Ameche and Carmen Miranda in Down Argentine Way (1940) at 10:00 pm followed by less typical Grable with Victor Mature in the dark I Wake Up Screaming (1941), a TCM premiere at 11:45 pm.
31 - Alan Ladd - Shane (1953 - 8;00 pm) is one of those classics that sneaked up on me. I thought it was pretty corny when I was younger, then a few years ago I was surprised to find it tolerable and then, all of a sudden, I thought it was great. Still do. Ladd’s noir classics with Veronica Lake also play that day with The Glass Key (1942) at 12:45 pm, This Gun for Hire (1942) on just after Shane at 10:15 pm and my favorite of the trio, The Blue Dahlia (1946), on at 12 midnight.
Check out Kristina's round-up of August recommendations from other bloggers at the Speakeasy.
Star of the Month for September is Melvyn Douglas.
September will also feature 24 hour marathons of pre-Code movies each Friday throughout the month.
More Summer Under the Stars coverage coming soon!