A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM
By Ed Garea
SUMMER UNDER THE STARS
It’s August, which means a month of “Summer Under the Stars,” in which each day is devoted to the films of a particular actor or actress. In the past, TCM has made this somewhat interesting by including people we don’t normally see, i.e., those not from Hollywood, the international stars. But this year is a definite downer – there are no international stars featured. The closest we get is a day devoted to Marlene Dietrich (August 22) and Ingrid Bergman (August 28), but in the case of both, we do not get any of their early, foreign-made output. We only get their Hollywood work (except in Bergman’s case, a few films she made with then-husband Roberto Rossellini and Ingmar Bergman later in Sweden).
Instead, we get yet another day of Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn and Gary Cooper, and the films being shown are those we’ve already seen 100 times. Given the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, TCM sticks to the tried and true, and in the end, lets its fans down. I, for one, would like to see a day devoted to the films of Marcello Mastroianni, Alec Guinness, Setsuko Hara, Monica Vitti. Paul Wegener, George Arliss, Michel Simon, Chishu Ryu, Peter Lorre, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Simone Signoret, Charles Hawtrey, Anouk Aimee, Ugo Tognazzi, Emil Jannings, Richard Attenborough, Brigitte Bardot, Vittorio Gassman, Googie Withers, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Alberto Sordi, Diana Dors, Jean-Claude Brialy, Gerard Depardieu, Giulietta Masina, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Marais, Anna Magnani, and Albert Remy. And that’s just off the top of my head.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
August 1: On a day devoted to Gene Tierney, try Whirlpool (2:00 pm), a 1949 crime drama from Fox and directed by Otto Preminger.
August 2: It’s Olivia de Havilland’s day, and our pick is the distinctly and delightfully weird In This Our Life from Warner Bros. and director John Huston in 1942, airing at 6:00 pm.
August 3: It’s Adolphe Menjou’s time, and the pick of the lot are his seldom seen Pre-Code films, The Easiest Way (1931), Men Call It Love (1931), and The Great Lover (1931), which are being shown from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
August 4: The only movie of note on Teresa Wright’s day is the marvelous The Little Foxes, from 1941 and director William Wyler, airing at 8:00 pm.
August 9: Robert Walker has the stage, so to speak, and the film of his to see is The Beginning Or The End (1:45 am), from MGM in 1947. It’s a whitewashed story of the development of the atomic bomb, with a little fact and a whole lot of fiction thrown in.
August 10: Joan Crawford’s day is highlighted by two films: The silent Our Dancing Daughters from 1928 (9:00 am), followed at 10:30 by 1933’s Dancing Lady, more notable for the appearance of Fred Astaire and The Three Stooges.
August 11: The day is devoted to the great and overlooked Rex Ingram, with several gems being screened. Begin at 4:00 pm with The Thief of Bagdad (1940), followed by his amazing performance as Jim in MGM’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), at 6:00 pm. The evening offers three classics, beginning at 8:00 pm with The Green Pastures (WB, 1936), followed at 10:00 by MGM’s Cabin In The Sky from 1943. The evening closes with Columbia’s 1943 gripping war film, Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart, at midnight.
August 14: On a day devoted to Grouch Marx, set your clocks for 4:30 pm. That is when the classic Marx Brothers movies will be shown, starting with The Coconuts from 1929. Following in order are Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), Duck Soup (1933), and A Night at the Opera (1935).
August 15: It’s Douglas Fairbanks Jr on this day, and, once again, his most interesting films are his rarely shown Pre-Codes. Begin at 6:00 am with Chances (WB, 1931), then continue on through Union Depot with Joan Blondell (WB, 1932) at 7:15, It’s Tough To Be Famous (WB, 1932) at 8:30 am, The Narrow Corner (WB, 1933) at 10:00 am, and Captured with Leslie Howard and Paul Lukas (WB, 1933) at 11:15 am.
August 2: At midnight, it’s Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis in the toothless Gothic horror Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
August 6: Two to choose from for Michael Caine fans. First up at 9:45 am retired spy Michael takes on the evil Karl Malden in Billion Dollar Brain (1967). And for those who want to stay up until 4:00 am or who simply love torture, there’s Caine in one of the all-time crap classics The Swarm (1978).
August 8: Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, and Ralph Richardson try to bring an end to war in this adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Shape Of Things To Come, simply titled Things To Come (1936).
August 10: Joan Crawford’s always good for a psychotronic feature or two, and tonight, we have two. First, at 1:45 am, it’s Joan versus deranged sister Bette Davis in 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Following at 4:15 am, Joan plays surrogate mother to a mixed-up caveman in the wonderfully atrocious Trog (1970), Joan’s last movie. What a way to go out.
August 11: Rex Ingram demeans himself as a native opposite Gordon Scott as Tarzan in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle (1955), from producer Sol Lesser and RKO.
August 12: Two back-to-back features starring Robert Mitchum. At 10:45 pm, it’s Robert and Gene Barry in the classic Thunder Road (1958) followed by Mitchum taking on the Japanese Mob in The Yakusa (1975) at 12:30 am.
August 14: At 4:00 am, it’s an all-star cast in the Godawful Story of Mankind (1957). See great actors embarrass themselves in this putrid retelling of history down through the ages. Not to be missed for fans of bad movies.