It’s hard to believe we’re over halfway through the TCM Summer Under The Stars festival. Best to cram in as much great viewing as possible the last few weeks. Here’s my viewing guide for this week.
8/18: Audrey Hepburn
There is a plethora of great movies on Audrey Hepburn’s day. You have My Fair Lady, Funny Face, Charade, etc. But my pick for her SUTS day is a thriller she made called Wait Until Dark. Hepburn is so convincingly vulnerable that every second she’s is danger is agonizing. The third act is one of the best ever filmed for a thriller. And Alan Arkin is at his best playing the maniacal villain.
8/19: Buster Keaton
Before I offer my pick for Buster Keaton day, just let me say this. Watch as many of his films as you possibly can. The man was a genius. He pulled off stunts that I still can’t believe were possible in the early days of cinema. That being said, my selection is The General. There’s some amazing stunt work with a train at the end that will blow your mind.
8/20: Dorothy McGuire
For the SUTS day dedicated to Dorothy McGuire, I recommend A Summer Place. Is it melodramatic at times? Yes. Is it a bit of a soap opera? Yes. But it’s a very entertaining soap opera. And it’s also just a great movie to watch during the summertime. Plus it gives Sandra Dee an opportunity to really showcase her acting chops. Dee was capable of playing more than just cookie cutter good girls.
8/21: Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea is a person whose SUTS day I marked on my calendar as soon as the schedule was released. He was equally capable at doing dramas and screwball comedies. And it’s a screwball comedy that I have chosen. It’s Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels. McCrea plays a Hollywood director whose fed up with making the same, predictable happy movies over and over. He disguises himself as a hobo and goes out into the world to learn about suffering. Along the way he teams up with Veronica Lake. For a screwball comedy, Sullivan’s Travels has a lot of insight and heart. It’s one of the deepest comedies you will ever see.
8/22: Leila Hyams
Leila Hyams is a first year SUTS honoree. And for her day, I recommend Tod Browning’s cult classic Freaks. It tells the backstage drama of a troupe of circus performers. Trapeze artist Cleopatra takes an interest in sideshow performer Hans. But it turns out she’s less interested in Hans than she is in Hans’ money. Freaks is weird, challenging and one of the most compelling cult movies I have ever seen.
8/23: Fred Astaire
If you love movies with great dancing, then you’re going to love day 23 of Summer Under The Stars. That day is devoted to the one and only Fred Astaire. I know it’s predictable to pick an Astaire and Rogers movie. But my favorite pairing of their is in the lineup. It’s Top Hat. Along with the great title number, Top Hat features Cheek to Cheek. That’s the number Rogers filmed in the infamous feather dress. The formula for Top Hat is the same as the other pairings of Astaire and Rogers pictures. They annoy each other at first. Then they fall in love and there’s some great dancing along the way. But Top Hat just has a special charm to me. Part of that I think is because it has some of the best songs of any of their movies. And that’s saying something.
8/24: Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLaine is an actress that I still don’t think gets enough credit for how versatile she is. She can do melodramatic comedies like Steel Magnolias, dramas like Terms of Endearment…and she can also sing and dance. That is range! So my selection for her SUTS day is Sweet Charity. MacClaine’s character is a taxi driver who stays optimistic, despite life, especially her love life, constantly disappointing her. The movie was also directed by theater legend Bob Fosse and features costumes designed by Edith Head. It earned a few Oscar nominations. But it still deserves more recognition.