My Summer Under The Stars – 46 Movies in 31 Days on TCM

I actually watched 68 new-to-me movies in August altogether, which I believe is a record for me. 46 of them, however were on Turner Classic Movies’s Summer Under The Stars. There were several days where I watched between four and six films all in a row on TCM. There were even some days where in the midst of watching new-to-me films I watched some old favorites as well. I discovered at least one old film star I’d never known about and now love. I finally watched some essential classic films that had somehow escaped me up until now. I watched a few films that were pretty forgettable and I discovered some films that I will love forever.  Overall, it was a wonderful journey of film immersion for someone who loves film down to her bones, and now I don’t know what do to with my life until next August.

I didn’t watch a film from every single star showcased. I did, however, watch films from 15 different stars:

Julie Christie, Steve McQueen, Ingrid Bergman, Bob Hope, Warren Beatty, Walter Pidgeon, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Lee Remick, Olivia de Havilland, Peter O’Toole, Henry Fonda and Thelma Todd. And while I was at it, I also managed to watch several films starring Laurence Harvey, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Richard Burton and Joanne Woodward, even though they weren’t featured stars. I’ve already been watching an obscene amount of TCM lately because I’ve been unemployed for the last few months, but this month really surpassed all others, and I couldn’t have asked for a better line-up of stars. I watched several Academy Award-winning and nominated films, as well as some that maybe should have been. I watched some films that did not age very well, and others that are simply timeless.

Julie Christie: Darling

I’d watched Doctor Zhivago in July, so Darling was the only film of Christie’s that I really wanted to watch. I thought it was an interesting time capsule type of film, and would make a good double feature with 2009’s An Education. Christie won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her performance in the film. It also won Original Screenplay and Costume Design and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director – John Schlesinger. It would be Schlesinger’s first of three nominations; he won the award for 1969’s Midnight Cowboy. The film also featured a devious supporting performance from Laurence Harvey that I really enjoyed.

Steve McQueen: Junior Bonner, The Reivers

I’ve really hit Steve McQueen hard this year. I think I’ve seen about nine or more of his films this year that I’d never seen before. I really enjoyed Junior Bonner, but didn’t particularly care for The Reivers. Although, Rupert Crosse gave a dynamic performance and was rightfully nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for it.

Ingrid Bergman: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Intermezzo, NotoriousAutumn SonataGaslight

Ingrid Bergman was the first day I really spent watching multiple films. On top of the five new-to-me films, I also rewatched Casablanca. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was woefully miscast, but it did feature interesting performances from both Bergman and Spencer Tracy. Intermezzo was kind of forgettable. Notorious was amazing; it was so odd watching Cary Grant play a jerk. Autumn Sonata was heartbreakingly good – Liv Ullman really should have gotten an Oscar nomination along with Bergman. I thought Bergman was great in Gaslight, as was Angela Lansbury, who nabbed her first Oscar nomination for the film. It was great to see so much more for Ingrid Bergman, as prior to this I’d only seen Casablanca, Anastasia and Spellbound. I’d only seen the latter for the first time in July, actually.

Bob Hope: Road to Singapore, Road to ZanzibarRoad to UtopiaRoad To BaliRoad to Morocco

All I really have to say about the Road To movies is that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour are really wonderful together. Road To Morocco was definitely the best of the bunch, it’s screenplay got an Oscar nod, but after nearly ten hours of these movies they started to get really monotonous.

Warren Beatty: Reds, The Parallax ViewIshtar

I am really glad I finally got to see Reds. It was an absolutely fabulous film. Beatty won Best Director  at the Oscars that year and the film also won for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actress Maureen Stapleton. It was also nominated for another nine Oscars, including Best Picture. It lost to Chariots of Fire and I am so completely retro-actively outraged. i watched Chariots of Fire a few summers ago and I fell asleep during the middle of it and when I woke up, I had to rewind and watch what I missed. Long story short, that film is boring and Reds is a masterpiece and I’m pretty sure the Academy just didn’t have the balls to give their top award to a film about communists. The Parallax View was a great 70s political thriller and Ishtar was away funnier than I expected. I think the reason it flopped so hard at the time is that the audience didn’t want to see such great actors as Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman playing such schmucks, because the film as a whole is really hilarious. I think if it had been different actors people could have focused on the film more.

Walter Pidgeon: Mrs. MiniverForbidden Planet

I don’t think Mrs. Miniver has aged very well. I can understand why it was so revered at the time it was released, in the heat of WWII, but now it just isn’t relatable. It won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director William Wyler and Best Actress Greer Garson and was nominated for another six. I’ve only seen one of the other ten films that were nominated that year, Yankee Doodle Dandy, but I liked it miles better. I will say the very final scene of Mrs. Miniver is fabulous and almost makes the rest of the film worth watching, just to set it up. Forbidden Planet was so great. It’s been on my list to watch FOREVER and was definitely worth staying up until the wee hours of the night to watch. The score is groundbreaking, the visual effects are great even today and it has the honor of introducing the world to Robby the Robot. I’d definitely recommend it to any Sci-Fi fan who has yet to see it.

Katharine Hepburn: The Sea of Grass, Keeper of the FlameWoman of the YearWithout LoveBringing Up Baby

The first Hepburn film I watched during SUtS was an Elia Kazan western that apparently even the director was ashamed of it. It was a rather boring, overly dramatic, slightly clichéd film, but it was worth it for the chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy. The next three films were all Hepburn/Tracy films as well. I love Hepburn and Tracy together but I kind of hate the way their films almost always end. It’s very timely for when they were made, but it’s also so demeaning to the Hepburn characters that I almost can’t stand it. Lastly I finally got to watch the screwball comedy to end all screwball comedies, Bringing Up Baby. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I’d already seen two other Hepburn/Grant films, The Philadelphia Story and Holiday, and I must say I love them together, maybe more than I love Hepburn/Tracy.

Paul Newman: HudHarperCool Hand LukeRachel Rachel, Paris BluesSweet Bird of Youth

Paul Newman is one of my all-time favorite actors, but I’d barely seen any of his films. On top of the six films listed above, I also rewatched The Sting. Hud was absolutely fantastic. It won three Oscars, including Best Actress Patricia Neal, and was nominated for four other, but NOT Best Picture. It was one of my favorite films I saw during SUtS. Harper sort of reminded me of a slightly less serious version of Bullitt. Cool Hand Luke was so wonderful. I think it may have been Newman’s best performance. Rachel Rachel was his directorial debut and starred his wife Joanne Woodward and it was so hard to watch and yet so rewarding in the end. Woodward is most definitely one of the most underrated actress out there. Paris Blues was a fun look at Paris cafe/jazz culture and Sweet Bird of Youth was another great Richard Brook’s directed adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play.

Elizabeth Taylor: Father of the BrideA Place In The SunBUtterfield 8Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Steve Martin remake of Father of the Bride is one of my all-time favorite films, so I was delighted to finally see the original. This would be my sixth Spencer Tracy film during SUtS, even though he wasn’t even featured. He was so charming in this film and Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor were both so wonderful as well. Montgomery Clift was so amazing in A Place In The Sun. The film won six Oscars including Best Director George Stevens and was nominated for two others including Best Picture. It lost to An American In Paris, which also won six Oscars that year.  BUtterfield 8 was Taylor’s 4th Oscar nomination in a row and her first win. This was another film wherein Laurence Harvey plays a jerk. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was 5th and final nomination and win at the Academy Awards. The film won five Oscars in all and was nominated for 13. If I had to pick one film out of all these forty-six as my favorite, I would choose this one. I was completely blown away from how wonderful everything about this film was. I feel like I could watch this film a million times and still find something new to love about it.

Lauren Bacall: Designing Woman

I’d seen most of the films featured on Lauren Bacall day, but this one I really wanted to see. I love Gregory Peck a lot and he was so wonderfully charming in this film. He and Bacall had great chemistry together and were really fun to watch.

Lee Remick: The Running ManAnatomy of a MurderDays of Wine and Roses

For some reason I’d never heard of Lee Remick before. After watching the three films listed above, I wish I’d watched more of her films. She was so absolutely fabulous in all of them. The Running Man featured Laurence Harvey yet again playing a jerk and a young Alan Bates playing a nice guy. I though Remick, however, stole the show. She has this wonderful air of both sexuality and innocence about her. She was equally fabulous in Anatomy of a Murder, which featured a really great lead performance from Jimmy Stewart. I felt like I could see how this film influence so many other courtroom films from A Few Good Men to The Rainmaker to My Cousin Vinny. Lastly, I watched Days of Wine and Roses, which co-starred Jack Lemmon. It was kind of odd to see Jack Lemmon play such a horrible character. The whole film was maybe one of the most incredibly and throughly sad films I’ve ever seen. The end is particularly devastating. Both Lemmon and Remick were nominated at the Oscars for their performances.

Olivia de Havilland: Light in the PiazzaThe Snake Pit

I’d watched both of Olivia de Havilland’s Oscar-winning performances in The Heiress and To Each His Own in July, so I only watched two of her featured films. Light in the Piazza was an interesting film, but de Havilland’s performance was probably the best thing about it. The Snake Pit was really intense, I’m not sure I could handle watching it again. The film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Director, Best Actress and Best Picture, but only won one – for Best Sound.

Peter O’Toole: My Favorite YearBecketThe Last EmperorThe Ruling ClassThe Stunt Man

I woke up at 7AM on a Saturday to start my day with Peter O’Toole. I’d actually seen about 13 of his films before, but these five had somehow always alluded me (and I still haven’t seen his version of Goodbye Mr. Chips (well either version) or The Lion In Winter). It was fascinating to watch four of his eight nominated performances all in one day (the two films stated above being the only two of the eight I’ve yet to see). My Favorite Year was wonderful, good fun. I feel like no one  but Peter O’Toole could have done that part justice. Becket was intense and seeing Richard Burton and O’Toole on the screen together was just breathtaking. The Last Emperor was amazing. I’ve been trying to watch every movie ever nominated for Best Picture (I’m at 56/82, but I’ve also seen countless films that were nominated and other than Driving Miss Daisy, I’ve seen every film that’s won since 1980). I was kind of shocked that none of the acting was nominated from the film. I thought at the very least O’Toole and maybe John Lone would have gotten nods. The Ruling Class was really hard to watch at times, it’s biting satire was almost too much sometimes, but O’Toole gave a truly tour-de-force performance and in the end I really enjoyed the film. The Stuntman was another hard one to watch, mostly because Peter O’Toole’s character was just so borderline evil. I loved the ending though. Absolute perfection.

Henry Fonda: The Lady Eve

I’d wanted to watch The Lady Eve for about two years now, since my History of Fashion instructor at the Academy of Art University recommend I watch it. We kind of bonded over our shared love of classic films and I was the only student in the class who’d even heard of Edith Head. He said I would just die when I was Barbara Stanwyck’s costumes in the film. He was right, they were phenomenal. As was Stanwyck; I don’t think I’d ever seen a film with her before. I also loved how young Fonda was and was shocked at how great he was a comedy.

Thelma Todd: Horse Feathers

I mostly watched this film because I feel like as a film buff I need to see more Marx Brothers films. That being said I thought this film was kind of trying at times. I mean, there were parts that were absolutely laugh out loud funny, but there were other parts that seemed to just drag on forever. I definitely liked A Night At The Opera, which I saw a few months ago, a lot better.

All in all, this was a wonderful month of intense film watching and I’m kind of sad that I won’t be able to do anything quite like it again until next August. I’ve gathered as many of the films that are available for purchase here, if you’re interested in owning any of them.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on September 1, 2010, in Classic Film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. holy crap this is cool! I’ve always wanted to do this! just watch a million old movies that are new to me. best feeling in the world.

  2. Nice recap. I could hardly remember all of it. I didn’t know you haven’t seen Lion in Winter. As you know it is one of my all time favorite plays (to be in, you should have seen me and Larry in these roles) and I used to have the video which is almost word for word the play. Besides O’Toole and Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins plays Richard the Lionhearted. We must search the bins at Big Lots!

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