Summer Under the Stars Guide: 8/20-8/26

It’s that time of the week again. Here is my viewing guide for this week’s Summer Under The Stars programming on TCM.

Day 20-Cary Grant

You can’t go wrong with any Cary Grant movie. The man was talented in addition to being devilishly handsome. But if I had to pick one film from his day, it would have to be The Philadelphia Story. In addition to Cary Grant, the cast also includes Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart, was directed by George Cukor, and features some of the best screwball comedy writing in the history of cinema. The plot, about a rich woman (Hepburn) about to remarry and having it sabotaged by her ex (Grant) and a tabloid reporter (Stewart) is a comic gold mine. This is one of the best ensemble comedies ever filmed.

Day 21-Ann Harding

For the day dedicated to Ann Harding, I’ve chosen It Happened on Fifth Avenue. I don’t normally watch Christmas films until after Thanksgiving. But here (and for one other pick this week), I’m breaking that rule. Christmas in this film is the backdrop for zany antics involving how a random group of people end up living in a mansion.

A homeless New Yorker moves into a mansion and along the way he gathers friends to live in the house with him. Before he knows it, he is living with the actual home owners.–IMDB

It’s a breezy comedy that earned an Oscar nomination for its screenplay. Just sit back and enjoy the lunacy and the heartwarming message underneath it all.

Day 22-Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford’s day features some great films, especially Blackboard Jungle and the noir classic Gilda. But my choice is the underrated Experiment in Terror. It’s a convoluted but fascinating thriller involving a woman being forced to pull off a bank heist.

Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is terrorized by a man with an asthmatic voice (Ross Martin) who plans to use her to steal $100,000 from the bank where she works. He threatens to kill her teenage sister Toby (Stefanie Powers), if she tells the police. However she manages to contact F.B.I. agent Ripley (Glenn Ford).–IMDB

This film is suspenseful and beautifully acted. It also features a score by the wonderful Henry Mancini.

 

Day 23-Greer Garson

Greer Garson is quickly becoming a favorite of mine thanks to many of her films being shown on TCM. For Garson’s day, my choice is Madame Curie. It’s part biopic and part romance. In the film, physicist Pierre Curie (Walter Pidgeon) falls for student Marie (Garson), and the two embark on a quest to discover uranium. This isn’t just a soap opera romance. It gives equally time to the scientific aspects and gives Marie Curie, a trailblazing female scientist, her due. The chemistry between Garson and Pidgeon makes the film a must-see,

Day 24-Dennis Morgan

And here is the other day I break my no Christmas movies until after Thanksgiving rule. For the day of programming dedicated to Dennis Morgan, my pick is Christmas In Connecticut. It doesn’t get as much attention as Christmas classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. But it deserves to. The film features Barbara Stanwyck as a writer who is a Martha Stewart-type in her magazine columns, but is far from it in real life.

Journalist Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) is one of the country’s most famous food writers. In her columns, she describes herself as a hard-working farm woman, taking care of her children and being an excellent cook. But these are all lies. In reality she is an unmarried New Yorker who can’t even boil an egg. The recipes come from her good friend Felix (S.Z. Sakall). The owner of the magazine she works for (Sydney Greenstreet) has decided that a heroic sailor (Morgan) will spend his Christmas on *her* farm. Miss Lane knows that her career is over if the truth comes out, but what can she do?

This is another great ensemble comedy. In addition to Stanwyck and Morgan, there’s a great supporting cast. S.Z. Sakall and Sydney Greenstreet are priceless in this gem of a film.

Day 25-Simone Signoret

Simone Signoret is an actress I’m not all that familiar with. But the one film of hers I saw is one I have never forgotten, and it’s my pick for day 25: Diabolique. To cut to the chase, this is a thriller that is up there with the best of Alfred Hitchcock.

In a French provincial town, Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse), a sadistic headmaster of a school belonging to his wife Christina (Vera Clouzot), a fragile young woman with a weak heart, carries on an affair with Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), a strong, forceful teacher who has been his mistress from the day she arrived. He has, however, treated her as badly as his wife, and the two women have been driven into an alliance against him. Together they work out an elaborate plan to rid themselves of their common tormentor. Luring him away from the school to Nocole’s cheap lodging house, they induce him to drink some doctored whiskey – and drown him in a bath. The body is later wrapped in a nylon tablecloth, packed into a laundry basket, taken back to the school, and at dark tipped into the grimy water of the school swimming pool. When, shortly after, the pool is drained, watched in anguished expectation from a window by the women, no corpse is there. Soon other mysterious events begin to occur..–IMDB

If Psycho made you afraid of showers, Diabolique will make you afraid of baths.

Day 26-James Cagney

James Cagney was one of the most versatile actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. He was equally convincing as both a gangster (The Public Enemy) as he was a song and dance man (Yankee Doodle Dandy). My pick is from his gangster films. It’s White Heat. You probably know it from the iconic line, “made it, Ma! Top of the world!” But this film is more than just that one exhilarating moment. It’s a tour de force performance by Cagney as the ruthless gang leader that makes it a classic. Here’s the plot to get you up to speed.

Cody Jarrett (Cagney) is the sadistic leader of a ruthless gang of thieves. Afflicted by terrible headaches and fiercely devoted to his ‘Ma,’ (Margaret Wycherly)  Cody is a volatile, violent, and eccentric leader. Cody’s top henchman wants to lead the gang and attempts to have an ‘accident’ happen to Cody, while he is running the gang from in jail. But Cody is saved by an undercover cop, who thereby befriends him and infiltrates the gang. Finally, the stage is set for Cody’s ultimate betrayal and downfall, during a big heist at a chemical plant.–IMDB

Cagney commanded the screen like few others. This film is one great example of that.

Those are my picks for the week. Enjoy the movies!

 

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