TCM Top…7! It’s time for Summer Under The Stars!

U Drop Inn, Route 66, Texas, USA. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

“Lemon Drop”

How easy this makes my introduction—August 1 is the first day of TCM’s annual Summer Under The Stars, a programming favourite of fans: each day dedicated entirely to the films of one star. It’s a marvellous way to get an idea of a star’s range (or lack thereof), and for some of those with long careers, see how their style changed over the years. This year’s SUTS opens with Bogey and ends with Sexy Rexy (mostly so-called because he got into some trouble). Still no day dedicated to, say, Marjorie Main or Mary Wickes, but no doubt one day we’ll get there!

At any rate, this week we’ll have 7 top picks. I can’t guarantee that throughout August, both due to time and because there are some stars I’m not too crazy about, but who knows?

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948
2:30PM Thursday, August 1

As I’ve said before, I think this is one of Bogey’s best performances, and considering his filmography—well, that’s a very tough call, but every time I see Sierra Madre, his turn as one of three prospectors seeking gold in the mountains of Mexico leaves me reeling. Bogey’s portrayal as a normal man sliding into pure, paranoid madness is vital and almost palpable—nothing short of astounding, really.

Of course, the film also stars 30s matinee idol Walter Huston (oh, how far the modern-day “hunks” have fallen…ugh—the same goes for Bogey, too, really) as an older prospector who is…well, a bit loopy; the opposite of Bogey’s madness, he’s gregarious and good-natured, but nobody’s fool. Tim Holt rounds out the trio, a fairly easygoing fellow trying to maintain an equilibrium during the gold hunt.

Jack Warner considered Sierra Madre “the best film since pictures started talking”, and most film fans consider it director

Abandoned building on Route 66 in Foss, Oklahoma. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

“Sunlight”
Foss, Oklahoma

John Huston’s best film and that the performances from Bogart and Huston are exceptional in even their great careers (particularly considering both had usually played suave, elegant characters to this point). I concur. This is, very simply, one of the best films ever made.

Also worth watching: High Sierra 1941, 7AM; The Maltese Falcon 1941, 9AM; To Have And Have Not 1944, 10:45AM; Beat The Devil 1953, 4:15PM; In A Lonely Place 1950, 6PM; Key Largo  1948, 10PM; The Caine Mutiny 1954; The Harder They Fall 1956, 4AM.

Love Me Or Leave Me 1955
3:35AM Friday, August 2

On a day dedicated to one of my favourite singers and stars, Doris Day, yes, I pick the last number on the schedule—but not only do we get to enjoy the lovely and talented Doris, we get to see James Cagney play against her as a gangster who makes her a star (based on the real-life story of Ruth Etting). Understandably, Etting wishes to escape the mobster’s influence, making it on her own and without a shadow side. Cameron Mitchell also stars, and we get to hear Doris’ lovely voice singing the title song and others such as “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” and “Shaking the Blues Away”. This is such a terrific film, with equally terrific performances from its top two stars—why it’s not better known is beyond me. I promise it’s worth setting the DVR for!

Also worth watching: Romance On The High Seas 1948, 6AM; The Lullaby of Broadway 1951, 11AM; On Moonlight Bay 1951, 12:45PM; By the Light of the Silvery Moon 1953, 2:30PM; Calamity Jane 1953, 8PM; Please Don’t Eat The Daisies 1960, 11PM

Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949
Midnight Saturday, August 3

This Alec Guinness film just cracks me up! He plays multiple roles in this entertaining black comedy about a young man denied his family birthright—so he determines to kill everyone in the way of the inheritance he’ll get only if they’re all room temperature. And yes—this is very funny.  Though Guinness is a fine dramatic actor, I really do like him best in comedic roles, and there are eight—eight!—of them for you to enjoy here.

Also worth watching: Great Expectations 1946, 6AM; Oliver Twist 1948, 8:15AM; The Lavender Hill Mob 1951, 10:15AM; The Ladykillers 1953, 12PM

Ruggles of Red Gap 1935
8PM Sunday, August 4

Character actress Mary Boland (you know, “L’amour, l’amour…” in The Women?) is today’s star, and I must say—I’ve not seen many of these films, this included! But it sounds like fun, commencing with a wacky turn of events: rather non-urbane westerner “Sourdough” Floud wins valet Marmaduke Ruggles (the great Charles Laughton) in a Paris poker game, and they head back west to Red Gap, Washington. Boland plays Effie, Sourdough’s shrewish, social climber .of a wife—and ZaSu Pitts the gal Ruggles falls in love with! I’ve not seen this, but it sounds like great fun, is said to be extremely funny, and I’m reading a lot of reviews calling this Laughton’s best performance, which is saying a great deal indeed. Looks like this is one worth catching!

Also worth watching: The Women (of course!) 1939, 11:30PM; Pride And Prejudice 1940, 2AM; Julia Misbehaves 1948, 4AM

Ben-Hur 1959
10:30PM Monday, August 5

One of the best on a day reserved for Charlton Heston. Need I say ANYTHING?

Also worth watching: 55 Days At Peking 1963, 12:45PM; Major Dundee 1965, 8PM; The Greatest Story Ever Told 1965, 2:30PM

Rebecca 1940
8PM Tuesday, August 6

Chillin'Daphne du Maurier’s own take on Jane Eyre was turned into a marvellous Selznick-produced, Hitchcock-directed film with today’s star, Joan Fontaine, in the lead role. It begins slightly unbelievably—(mustachioed) widower nobleman Laurence Olivier sees, spends an afternoon, and falls in love with naive and shy lady’s maid Fontaine, wedding her and whisking her away to his estate—but that’s probably part of its charm. (Bonus offered by Rebecca: No St. John Rivers.) Once in her new home, however, Rebecca finds herself truly haunted by her new husband’s first wife; these fears and feelings of inadequacy are encouraged by George Sanders and Judith Anderson.

Rebecca is melodramatic, one of Olivier’s most stilted performances, among the best for Fontaine, Sanders, and Judith Anderson, and as one reviewer put it, full of Hitchcock’s “contrived weirdness”. But it still wraps its fingers around yours, drawing you in to the bizarre, tense world of Manderley because the film is fun, it’s suspenseful, it keeps you wondering and guessing until you reach the rather shocking conclusion.

Through it all, the spectre of beautiful Rebecca—the first, now dead wife—exerts her own hold on the newlyweds, the servants, the townspeople. I don’t think this is a four-star film as so many others do, but it’s certainly terrifically entertaining gothic flick with all the right ingredients. You can’t go wrong.

Also worth watching Tuesday: The Bigamist 1953, 11AM; Gunga Din 1939, 4PM; Suspicion 1941, 6PM; The Constant Nymph 1943, 2:15AM

Above Suspicion 1943
9:30AM Wednesday, August 7

I’ve not seen this one, but it sounds intriguing—okay, mostly “Joan Crawford vs the Nazis” got my attention. Our star of the day is Fred MacMurray, though; he’s the husband of Crawford, and the couple is asked to spy on Nazis in pre-war Europe during their honeymoon. Sure, why not? Right? Isn’t that what you’d say? You can see why this has my interest piqued, though—especially since the film also stars greats Conrad Veidt and Basil Rathbone. Bring it on!

Just as an aside, I believe this is MacMurray’s first year as one of the Summer Stars. Though most folks are familiar with him from My Three Sons and (I hope!) the fantastic film noir Double Indemnity (a prime-time treat Wednesday evening), and maybe even the Professor comedies, he was a fairly big movie star and bit of a screen Adonis back in the day—starring with big names like Marlene Dietrich, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, and of course Barbara Stanwyck. Most folks seem to know him from comedy, though, which is too bad; he had a fair range, really, and today will be a great opportunity to see that on TCM!

Also worth watching Wednesday: Too Many Husbands 1940, 6AM; The Lady Is Willing 1942, 7:30AM; A Millionaire For Christy 1951, 2:45PM; Murder, He Says 1945, 8PM; Double Indemnity 1944, 10PM; Dive Bomber 1941, 1:30AM

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