Greetings, readers! I’m taking a break from my traditional blog entries this month to give you my picks for Summer Under the Stars. The annual tradition on Turner Classic Movies showcases the work of one star for 24 hours each day in August. Each week I’ll bring you my can’t miss movie selection’s for each respective star’s days. Without further adieu. here are my picks for August 6th-August 12th.
August 6th-Robert Mitchum
This year Robert Mitchum is getting his own day on what would have been his 100th birthday. If you’re a Mitchum fan, and especially if you’re a film noir fan, there are tons of great films to pick from. While you can’t go wrong with classics like The Night of the Hunter and Out of the Past, my pick is a noir film that has flown under the radar: His Kind of Woman. It not only features Mitchum and Jane Russell, but an absolutely scene-stealing performance by Vincent Price. Don’t miss it!
August 7th-Eleanor Parker
Eleanor Parker is making her Summer Under the Stars debut this year. If you watch one film of hers (and I hope you see more than that, because she’s so talented but tends to get overlooked), make it Caged. It’s a women in prison film. But don’t go in thinking it’s a camp fest a la Caged Heat. This is a gritty prison noir drama that is one heck of an emotional roller coaster. It makes arguments for prison reform that are still relevant today.
August 8th-Franchot Tone
On Franchot Tone’s day in the spotlight, don’t miss the underrated Billy Wilder film Five Graves to Cairo. It’s part globe-trotting adventure and part World War II espionage intrigue. The plot involves an undercover British soldier who tries to alert the Allies that the Germans supplies buried in five excavation sites across Egypt. So there are some Hitchcock and Indiana Jones vibes in this one too. A fun watch.
August 9th-Sandra Dee
My pick for Sandra Dee’s day is A Summer Place. It’s not only seasonally appropriate, but Dee’s best performance IMHO. Here’s a little synopsis from Internet Movie Database:
A self-made businessman rekindles a romance with a former flame while their two teenage children begin a romance of their own with drastic consequences for both couples.–IMDB
On the surface it sounds like an after school special or a soap opera. But it’s so much more than that. The supporting cast features the always wonderful Beulah Bondi.
August 10th-Sidney Poitier
This is another day where it’s hard to pick just one film. There’s In the Heat of the Night, To Sir With Love, etc. But out of all of them my pick is A Patch of Blue. It’s an unflinching look at racism and abuse. In the film, Poitier befriends a blind white girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and becomes her mentor/friend. He offers her a sanctuary from her abusive home life, especially her mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters, in an Oscar-winning performance). Be warned: this is a brutal film to watch because of the subject matter. But all the performances are top-notch.
August 11th-Ginger Rogers
While most people think of Ginger Rogers as Fred Astaire’s dance partner (something she was brilliant at btw), far too few people give her proper respect as a dramatic actress. While I was tempted to pick Top Hat, my favorite Astaire/Rogers film. in the end I chose Kitty Foyle. The film won Rogers an Oscar for best actress. In it, she plays a white-collar middle-class girl who falls for a socialite. Trouble ensues when she clashes with his family. This film could have been predictable melodrama, but the cast elevates the material. Look for Dennis Morgan, who has his own day coming up later in the month.
August 12th-John Wayne
How does one pick just one film from the Duke? The lineup is packed with must-see viewing: Stage Coach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Quiet Man (I mean who can pass up the Duke and Maureen O’ Hara?). But my pick is The Searchers. It’s John Wayne’s most raw and real performance. In it, Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran who sets out to rescue his daughter from the Comanches. Wayne’s character is cruel and openly racist. It was not an easy part to play. And it was one of many great film collaborations between Wayne and director John Ford. The supporting cast features a young Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, and the ubiquitous character actor Ward Bond. This is not an easy western to watch. But you’ll be glad you did.