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Recommendations for TCM’s 2021 Summer Under the Stars in August …. Part 1

Each year the month of August brings the TCM Summer Under the Stars spotlight where 24 continuous hours are devoted to one actor or actress. Sure we get some of the box office champs taking their bows but it’s always nice to see that the network shines the light on some of the great character players that made each and every film they appeared in that much better.

Here’s a look at this years roster with just one recommendation (a tough endeavor so maybe two) for each “star” being shown during their 24 hour spotlight. Many I’ve seen before while others are films I’ve always wanted to catch up on.

August 1st …. Bette Davis.

For my money, Miss Davis, is the greatest actress of her generation. She may not be my all time favorite but as the years have passed I’ve only grown to admire her more and more with every rewatch and new discovery. Sure it’s hard to narrow the field but what’s better than one Bette? Two of course so give A Stolen Life a look where she plays twins opposite Glenn Ford.

August 2nd …. Richard Burton

What a voice. Burton may not have starred in many films that excited me early on in my discovery of classic films but there were always a few that grabbed me. The Wild Geese among them and I did in fact go see his performance opposite John Hurt in the screen adaptation of 1984 released following Burton’s death. Might I recommend 1971’s Villain. One of the better British gangster films of the period and beyond.

August 3rd …. Kim Novak.

Screen beauty personified. I suppose Vertigo stands tall amongst Miss Novak’s screen credits and rightly so. It’s the easy go to suggestion but if you’ve never seen the Noir film Pushover that sees her play opposite Fred MacMurray, that’s the one you should finally sit in on. If you have, then go right back to the Hitchcock classic all over again.

August 4th …. Louis Armstrong.

The legendary raspy voiced singer who left us the classic recording, What a Wonderful World, gets a day all his own. I’ll be sitting in on a documentary being featured, Satchmo: The Life of Louis Armstrong (1989) that I’ve yet to see. If you’d rather watch a film he appeared in, go with 1956’s High Society just to see him perform with Bing Crosby. The film’s highlight. Sorry Frank.

August 5th …. Margaret Rutherford.

This great character actress from England began her career in the 1930’s and stayed busy up to 1970. TCM is playing her quartet of Miss Marple films and they are well worth looking up. As I’ve seen them a number of times, I’m going to finally make the effort to see 1954’s The Runaway Bus.

August 6th …. Robert Mitchum.

As Mitch is one of my all time favorite actors, I can easily recommend any of the titles TCM is showcasing over the course of this spotlight. Farewell My Lovely, Out of the Past, The Lusty Men. But let’s throw Blood On the Moon into the mix. If you have yet to see this Noir tinged western then you’re in for a treat.

August 7th …. Abbott and Costello.

Childhood favorites thanks to a local channel playing a Bud and Lou flick once a week. Of course the go to title is the greatest Horror spoof of all, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I trust you’ve all seen it and if that’s the case then give The Time of Their Lives a shot. It sees Lou playing a revolutionary ghost who has come back to haunt Bud’s ancestor …. played by Bud of course.

August 8th …. Esther Williams.

The swimming star turned Hollywood beauty starred in a number of comedy musicals and while I haven’t seen them all (I am working my way through 2 TCM box sets) I did quite enjoy Bathing Beauty that sees her play opposite Red Skelton and Basil Rathbone. An easy one to recommend.

August 9th …. Kay Francis.

A major star of the early 1930’s, Miss Francis is for me an example of a name that would easily have faded if not for a channel like TCM. Truth is if it wasn’t for the network, I’d be hard pressed to name a film she appeared in. On that note I can easily suggest 1932’s pre-code special, Trouble In Paradise, where she stars alongside Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall.

August 10th …. George Segal.

I liked Segal no matter if he was playing cynical characters early on or the light comedic leading man he morphed into as the 1970’s dawned. Thankfully he could easily go back and forth between the two types of roles in action, drama or comedy films. King Rat being a gem is easy to point out. As I’ve seen it before, I’m finally going to take a look at The Terminal Man released in 1974.

August 11th …. Kathryn Grayson.

Of all the stars getting a spotlight, I suppose Miss Grayson is the one I know very little about and that’s because I wasn’t much of a musical fan growing up. I wanted westerns, action and Universal Monsters. But that won’t stop me from whole heartedly recommending 1945’s Anchor’s Aweigh with Miss Grayson joining Frank and Gene on screen.

August 12th …. Ramon Novarro.

Mr. Novarro is a fine example of my continuing journey though film history. I’ve seen just two films the silent film star appeared in. His title role, Ben Hur, in the 1925 classic and playing opposite Garbo in the 1932 talkie Mata Hari. Perhaps you have a title you can recommend to me. As it is, I’m going to make an effort to watch 1928’s Across to Singapore where played opposite an up and comer we’re all familiar with, Joan Crawford.

August 13th …. Jane Fonda.

Still going strong with her Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, Miss Fonda has a number of classic films to sit in on though you’ll never convince me that Barbarella is one of them. I will however stand behind the 1979 film, The China Syndrome. Powerful performances by all concerned and a topic that still is just as important today as it was in ’79. Jane, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas etc. See it of you have overlooked it all these years.

August 14th …. Gregory Peck.

Hollywood royalty thanks to any number of classic films, To Kill a Mockingbird and Roman Holiday, standing tall among them. But as they’re not playing on Mr. Peck’s day, why not grab the popcorn and watch the big screen adventure, Captain Horatio Hornblower, with our dashing leading man in the title role opposite lovely Virginia Mayo in this technicolor feature from director Raoul Walsh. Keep a sharp eye peeled for Christopher Lee while you’re at it.

August 15th …. Judy Garland.

The legendary actress takes center stage and for many in my age bracket, is likely in one of our earliest movie memories. I’m speaking of The Wizard of Oz. It would play once a year on TV prior to the advancement of home video. Meet Me In St. Louis is playing and that comes with my highest recommendation but as it’s a Christmas movie, why not give the 1954 must see, A Star Is Born, if you’ve never given it a watch with Judy and James Mason.

to be continued …..

10 Comments »

  1. That’s a fabulous line-up. Look forward to Kay Francis and Kathryn Grayson. The choice of villain is a cracker, rarely seen, but excellent film. and I’d love to check out Terminal Man again.

    • Yes Villain a memorable gangster flick made at a time when Burton was caught up with Liz which makes it an even greater selection of the scripts he was doing at the time and a departure from the hohum Liz pairings.

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