August 19, 2010

Summer Under the Stars: August 2011

Every year, my cinema-loving friends and I have eagerly awaited the announcement of Turner Classic Movies' summer schedule. For August is the month of summer under the stars, when each day is entirely devoted to a single classic movie star. You could spend sunup to sundown bathing in Jean Harlow flicks and pampering yourself from highlights to pedicure. Or ogling Gary Cooper and eating an entire pizza. Or, hell, just spend a few hours getting your Borgnine on.

But, this year, we the aforementioned all agree that the quality has slipped. Sure, there's a Lauren Bacall Day and a Steve McQueen Day, but on the whole... not so twinkly and bright. Bob Hope Day: Asshole that we let roam the globe terrifying our brave men and women in uniform for years. This man is Not Funny. Never Was. Margaret O'Brien Day, that insipid little moppet with her wretched freckles and always crying because off-camera her mom is threatening to kill her puppy. No, really. She used to do that. Do you want to condone that kind of behavior? Randolph Scott Day. John Mills Day. Walter Pidgeon Day. I ask you. No, really, i'm fucking asking you. Would you go out of your way to see a film by any of these people, much less spend an entire day on the couch mostly unresponsive to efforts at human contact?

We cannot allow this to happen again. So, here's my list, planned down to the day--each has at least 12-16 hours of indicated films (most have links to full descriptions, photo galleries, other obsessive stuff) and there are plenty others to choose from for the rest of the 24 hours. There are many stars i wanted to include but just didn't manage to get in there: Ramon Novarro, Sammy Davis Jr., Carole Lombard, Tyrone Power, Barbara Stanwyck. Would that i had enough Louise Brooks or Dorothy Dandridge! I have not planned a whole day's programming for each star, but at least 12 hours' worth and I'll leave the other half open to suggestion. Also, to add to the difficulty level, each star has a"transition film"--a movie that features both stars to serve as the late-night changeover. I also added some suggested extra features or special guests--i could probably come up with one for every day, but i think the half-dozen or so suggested is enough. I have also made Fridays "Director's Special" day, where we highlight a single director rather than a single star. There could have been more of these too. There could have been more of a lot of things (i'm still debating the Vincent Price weekend), but i think this is still an improvement upon this year.


Monday, 8/1: Orson Welles Day
Featuring: Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Touch of Evil, Black Magic, Othello, The Long Hot Summer, Chimes at Midnight, Compulsion, Jane Eyre
Reasoning: The bastard genius of American cinema. To begin with Citizen Kane and end with wine in a box.


Tuesday, 8/2: Roddy McDowall Day
Transition film: Macbeth
Featuring: Cleopatra, Lord Love a Duck, Tam Lin: The Devilís Widow, The Loved One, How Green Was my Valley, Planet of the Apes, The Longest Day, Lassie Come Home, Evil Under the Sun, 5 Card Stud
Special Guest: Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman, one of Roddyís many good buddies and the one who got his bathroom (!) installed in the Hollywood Museum introduces Lord Love a Duck and perhaps The Loved One. Dishing with Osborne ensues.
Reasoning: Roddy was a Hollywood fixture for decades and his career runs from sentiment to cult to epic to kitsch with hero and villain in equal amounts.


Wednesday, 8/3: Shelley Winters Day
Transition film: The Poseidon Adventure
Featuring: A Place in the Sun, Bloody Mama, The Big Knife, A House Is Not a Home, Lolita, The Young Savages, Next Stop Greenwich Village, Winchester '73
Reasoning: Again, range. Important works like Lolita and A Place in the Sun, then Shelley playing gangster in Bloody Mama (Robert DeNiro as her glue-huffing incestuous son!) and madam in A House Is Not a Home. From bombshell to blowsy broad, Shelly has always worked.


Thursday, 8/4: John Garfield Day
Transition film: He Ran All the Way
Featuring: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Humoresque, Tortilla Flat, They Made Me a Criminal, The Sea Wolf, Body and Soul, the Garfield documentary they have filed away there somewhere
Reasoning: Garfield's short career contained many great performances. If i want a tortured genius of an actor, iíll take Garfield over Brando any day. And, seriously, five seconds of him and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice contains more sex appeal than any three months of the Playboy channel.


Friday, 8/5: Directorís Special Ė Elia Kazan Day
Transition film: Gentlemanís Agreement
Featuring: A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Baby Doll, Splendor in the Grass, East of Eden, A Face in the Crowd, The Arrangement
Reasoning: Although I acknowledge the dubiousness of his actions during the Blacklist Era, Kazan did make some great films. Not a comedy in the bunch, though.


Saturday, 8/6: Jeanne Moreau Day
Transition film: The Last Tycoon
Featuring: Dangerous Liasons 1960, The Trial, Eva, Jules et Jim, The Bride Wore Black, Viva Maria, Bay of Angels, Great Catherine
Special Guest: Can we get La Cotillard to do a few intros or voice-over on one of those montage shorts? I bet we can.
Reasoning: Well, itís about time we brought in a foreign staróand even so, Iím sure we can get at least half the films in English. Most of the ones in French are masterpieces and weíll all enjoy Moreau's stylish existentialist/nihilist heroines of Eva and Bay of Angels.


Sunday, 8/7: Shirley MacLaine Day
Transition film: The Yellow Rolls Royce
Featuring: Sweet Charity, What a Way to Go, Terms of Endearment, Irma La Douce, The Children's Hour, The Trouble With Harry, Woman Times Seven, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Can-Can
Reasoning: Itís Sunday. Sunday is a good day for a few ultra-vivid Technicolor musicals, a number of movies with smashing costumes and then a tearjerker or two.


Monday, 8/8: Dean Martin Day
Transition film: Some Came Running
Featuring: Oceanís Eleven, Rio Bravo, Artists and Models, Ada, Bells Are Ringing, Murderís Row, Sailor Beware, The Cannonball Run, The Sons of Katie Elder
Reasoning: If this month has two motifs, itís character actors and honoring the underappreciated. Dean had a long and varied career: weíve got early comedy, classic Westerns, Bond satire, Rat Packery and, of course, Cannonball Run for shits and grins.


Tuesday, 8/9: Thelma Ritter Day
Transition film: Move Over, Darling. Okay, so I know this one does not technically work, but I donít care. And, well, Dean did star in the original version of this film that stopped filming when Marilyn Monroe died. This is the only fudged changeover Iím doing, so I think Iím allowed.
Featuring: All About Eve, Pickup on South Street, Daddy Long Legs, Rear Window, Birdman of Alcatraz, Pillow Talk, Boeing Boeing
Reasoning: The ultimate character actress. Try to imagine Rear Window or All About Eve without her. You canít. From the most noir B-melodramas to the frothiest of high-budget comedies, Thelma was an oasis of deadpan wit and flawless reason. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress six--SIX--times and never won, although in many ways she defines what that title means.


Wednesday, 8/10: Clark Gable Day
Transition film: The Misfits
Featuring: Red Dust, Mutiny on the Bounty, Possessed, China Seas, A Free Soul, Homecoming, Mogambo, Wife vs. Secretary, Gone With the Wind
Reasoning: Heís Clark Gable. The king. He deserves a day. You have a problem with that?


Thursday: 8/11: Peter Lorre Day
Transition film: Strange Cargo
Featuring: M, Casablanca, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mad Love, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Passage to Marseille, The Comedy of Terrors, a few of his Mr. Moto flicks
Special Feature: Der Verlorene, The German-language film Lorre wrote, directed and starred in after World War II was an indictment of the Nazis and was, as they say in comedy, ďtoo soon.Ē Itís recently been restored and revived and would be great to show.
Reasoning: Lorre is the character actor of the classics. He also brings in some of the great vintage horror and noir. M remains a work of chilling genius and Strange Cargo answers the questions: "What would happen if Joan Crawford was stuck on a boat with Peter Lorre and Jesus?" Hijinx ensue.


Friday, 8/12: Directorís Special -- John Huston Day
Transition film: Beat the Devil
Featuring: Moulin Rouge, The African Queen, Night of the Iguana, Under the Volcano, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Dead, The Maltese Falcon, Freud, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
Reasoning: For all his many flaws and bastardrys, John Huston is sort of the archetypical great American. He made quite a few brilliant films and is the instigator of some fine quotes and anecdotes.


Marilyn Monroe Day
Transition film: The Asphalt Jungle
Featuring: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Prince and the Showgirl, Niagara, Donít Bother to Knock, Bus Stop, Clash by Night, The Seven Year Itch, How to Marry a Millionaire, Ladies of the Chorus, the documentary with the Somethingís Got to Give outtakes
Special Feature: Get an assortment of people to record intros/outros fro some of the films--Marilyn has been such a culturally pervasive figure who cuts across all cultural groups: As Raymond Chandler once said gleefully that in a contemporary poll of highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow tastes, "Marilyn Monroe and I were the only ones that made all three brows." Naomi Watts is doing a Marilyn flick right now, Iím sure sheíd tape a few minutes on one of her favorite films. Get Joyce Carol Oates. Get one of the actors of crewfolk who worked with her on one of the films. Get Dixie Evans. Get as wide a range as possible and don't let anyone talk for more than two minutes.
Reasoning: Everyone loves Marilyn. I think the wide range of commentators and showing some of her lesser-screened films will bring something new.


Sunday, 8/14: Charles Laughton Day
Transition film: O. Henryís Full House
Featuring: Spartacus, The Private Life of Henry VIII, Island of Lost Souls, Jamaica Inn, I Claudius, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Rembrandt, Ruggles of Red Gap, The Devil and the Deep, Young Bess
Reasoning: One of those actor's actors. Bring in some British film.



Monday, 8/15: Rita Hayworth Day
Transition film: Tales of Manhattan
Featuring: Gilda, Down to Earth, Separate Tables, Cover Girl, Fire Down Below, You'll Never Get Rich, Miss Sadie Thompson, Blood and Sand, Susan and God, Affair in Trinidad, The Lady From Shanghai
Reasoning: Rita was the Love Goddess, albeit a tragic one. Gilda is one of the great films noir and she also made some fantastic musicals--Fred Astaire considered her the best of all his dance partners.


Tuesday, 8/16: Victor Mature Day
Transition film: My Gal Sal
Featuring: The Shanghai Gesture, Samson and Delilah, I Wake Up Screaming, My Darling Clementine, Kiss of Death, The Las Vegas Story, The Robe, Cry of the City, Million Dollar Mermaid, One Million B.C.
Reasoning: Quite underrated, Mr. Mature, master of chiaroscuro black and white and the most lurid of Technicolor. Plenty of crime dramas, biblical epics with a vintage dinosaur flick and one hell of a western tossed in. Besides, he was apparently the only man Rita Hayworth was ever involved with that didnít screw her over. And I once knew a guy whose grandfather was a friend of Victor Matureís. He was the refrigerator repairman and they started hanging out. So: Good actor, kind to film stars and refrigerator repairmen. Victor Mature deserves a day.


Wednesday, 8/17: Eve Arden Day
Transition film: No, No Nanette
Featuring: Ziegfeld Girl, Mildred Pierce, Stage Door, At the Circus, Grease, Anatomy of a Murder, Comrade X, Our Miss Brooks
Reasoning: Because no one could wisecrack like Eve Arden.


Thursday, 8/18: Edward G. Robinson Day
Transition film: Manpower
Featuring: Little Caesar, Five Star Final, Kid Galahad, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, The Ten Commandments, The Cincinnati Kid, Seven Thieves, Barbary Coast, Key Largo
Reasoning: Robinson played many roles, but the main two seemed to be moral compass and figure of pure evil.



Friday, 8/19: Directorís Special Ė Billy Wilder Day
Transition film: Double Indemnity
Featuring: Some Like it Hot, Ace in the Hole, Kiss Me Stupid, The Lost Weekend, The Apartment, Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard, A Foreign Affair, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Major and the Minor
Reasoning: Sheer greatness. I mean, look at that list. And itís only partial. Many consider Wilder a great cynic, but he was only ahead of his time. Ace in the Hole could happen today--is happening today. Some Like It Hot is still brilliant, subversive and hysterically funny. Billy Wilder is one of the three people I most would want to have dinner with. The other two are Hunter S. Thompson, Ava Gardner and Oscar Wilde. I can never make the last cut.


Saturday, 8/20: Marlene Dietrich Day
Transition film: Witness for the Prosecution
Featuring: The Blue Angel, Dishonored, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is a Woman, Destry Rides Again, Desire, Stage Fright, Morocco, Marlene
Special Feature: Unearth one of her pre-Blue Angel German flicks. This actually shouldnít be that hard, I think several of them are still available over there.
Reasoning: The proto-example of female cool has still never been equaled and Dietrich shows it at her best in the not-on-DVD Dishonored. A pre-Blue Angel film and the Marlene documentary--in which an aged, cantankerous goddess argues with Maximillian Schell and refuses to appear on screen--add depth to the legend.


Sunday, 8/21: William Holden Day
Transition film: Paris When It Sizzles
Featuring: Picnic, Golden Boy, Boots Malone, Stalag 17, Born Yesterday, The World of Suzie Wong, Our Town, The Bridge on the River Kwai
Reasoning: Holden was the guy you wouldn't think was tortured but whom indeed was. Affable on the surface, but something tangibly wrong beneath: It may have made him an unhappy person, but it made him a compelling leading man.

Monday, 8/22: Faye Dunaway Day
Transition film: The Towering Inferno
Featuring: Network, Bonnie and Clyde, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Chinatown, Barfly, The Thomas Crown Affair, Arizona Dream, Mommie Dearest
Special Guest: Tom Ford and Faye talk fashion. If youíve read her autobiography, she was very into how her costumes aided her character (she worked very closely with Theadora Van Runkle on many of them). She's a fashion icon to many she may be the most stylish star of the second half of the 20th century. If not Ford, Marc Jacobs, whoever.
Reasoning: Well, again, look at that list. Faye is the last of the great film divas.


Tuesday, 8/23: David Niven Day
Transition film: The Extraordinary Seaman
Featuring: Murder by Death, The Guns of Navarone, Casino Royale, Wuthering Heights, The Pink Panther, The Bishopís Wife, The Elusive Pimpernel, Lady L, Bonjour Tristesse, Around the World in 80 Days
Reasoning: Everyone loves David Niven. Classy, funny, fine raconteur. He deserves a day.


Wednesday, 8/24: Ava Gardner Day
Transition film: The Little Hut
Featuring: The Killers, The Barefoot Contessa, Pandora & the Flying Dutchman, One Touch of Venus, On the Beach, The Sun Also Rises, The Bribe, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Naked Maja, Showboat
Special Feature: I think itís about time TCM gave Ms. Gardner a documentary.
Reasoning: Ava is my favorite, so she gets a day. But, to give an explanation, perhaps the greatest face ever to grace a movie screen. An underrated (that word again) actress, one of the few women who actually lived the kind of life legends are spun from: The poor Southern childhood, the sudden screen test and discovery, the Hollywood marriages, the Sinatra love story, the bullfighters, the drama...


Thursday, 8/25: Robert Mitchum Day
Transition film: My Forbidden Past
Featuring: His Kind of Woman, Angel Face, Macao, The Sundowners, Thunder Road, Bandido, The Lusty Men, Out of the Past, Farewell My Lovely, Pursued, Crossfire, that special where itís just him and Jane Russell talking smack.
Reasoning: The mighty Robert Mitchum is one of those stars whose popularity fell off, but is now on the upswing. Heís done every genre and every level of quality and brought a sullen grace to all of them.


Friday, 8/26: Directorís Special: Vincente Minnelli Day
Transition film: Home from the Hill
Featuring: Meet Me in St. Louis, Madame Bovary, The Bad and the Beautiful, Gigi, Designing Woman, An American in Paris, Cabin in the Sky, The Cobweb, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Reasoning: Master of the musical and the lush period piece.


Saturday, 8/27: Billie Burke Day
Transition film: Father of the Bride
Featuring: Becky Sharp, Dinner at Eight, The Wizard of Oz, Topper, The Bride Wore Red, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Craigís Wife
Reasoning: Hey, she's Glinda the Good! And played the fluttery wife/mother/aunt in countless screwball comedies. Dorothy Parker may have hated her, but i like Billie Burke fine in small doses.


Sunday, 8/28: John Barrymore Day
Transition film: A Bill of Divorcement
Featuring: Twentieth Century, Romeo and Juliet, Svengali, Don Juan, Grand Hotel, The Great Profile, The Beloved Rogue
Special Feature: Oh, this one is pure wishful thinking, but isnít this whole list. What would be marvelous would be to get a cartoonist to do a series of shorts to run during the day of ďthe Adventures of John Barrymore.Ē And do like a half-dozen, from any of his many classic one-liners ending with his friends smuggling his body out of the funeral home. Of course, start them all with a disclaimer stating that this is all exaggerated and possibly not even true at all but, hey, a legend begets legends. Iím imagining stick figures or Terry Gilliam-like collages.


Monday, 8/29: Joan Bennett Day
Transition film: Moby Dick
Featuring: Scarlet Street, Little Women, Suspiria, The Macomber Affair, The Woman in the Window, Man Hunt, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, The Man in the Iron Mask, House of Dark Shadows
Reasoning: Bennett is another of our wide-range actors. Weíve got early 30ís costumers, 40ís noir, 50s drama, some horror, even a vampire TV show.

Tuesday, 8/30: Vincent Price Day
Transition film: Green Hell
Featuring: Masque of the Red Death, The Tingler, The Baron of Arizona, Tower of London, Laura, Theater of Blood, Dragonwyck, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Fly, Leave Her to Heaven
Special Feature: See if we can unearth an episode or two of his late-70s British cooking show, Cooking Price-Wise.
Reasoning: Honestly, I thought of doing a whole Vincent Price weekend. Who does not love Vincent Price? What movie is not made better by the presence of Vincent Price?


Wednesday, 8/31: Lillian Gish Day
Transition film: The Whales of August
Featuring: The Wind, The Night of the Hunter, Intolerance, The Unforgiven, Orphans of the Storm, La Boheme, Duel in the Sun, The Scarlet Letter, Broken Blossoms
Reasoning: It all sort of began with Miss Gish so itís fitting that we should finish with her.

Posted by lissa at August 19, 2010 04:58 PM