by Julian Spivey
One of the greatest months of every year for classic movie buffs is August when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does Summer Under the Stars, where the network picks one actor/actress and programs the entire day’s schedule with their movies.
The network does a fantastic job at scheduling legendary movie stars like Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck and others who cycle in every so often for the event, with character actors or actors that don’t often get enough notice throughout film history.
Among this year’s first-time honorees are Robert Redford (which is truly surprising), Richard Burton, Abbott and Costello, Tony Randall and more. Many of the month’s honorees are being done on their birthdays like Redford on August 18, Robert Mitchum on August 6 and Fredric March on August 31.
Summer Under the Stars is currently underway on TCM with today’s first performer being Davis, a two-time Oscar winner, who’s second Oscar-winning performance in “Jezebel” airs at 7 p.m. (central standard time).
Below are five performers/days we recommend checking out the most, but if you have unlimited DVR space why not pick one film from all 31 days to add to your queue.
Robert Mitchum – Friday, Aug. 6
Robert Mitchum is one of the quintessential tough guys in cinema history. With performances often filled with cynicism and smarm he just feels like a more modern approach to acting than you’d often see from classics in the ‘40s and ‘50s. A couple of his greatest movie performances, as deliciously evil villains in “The Night of the Hunter” (1955) and “Cape Fear” (1962) aren’t on the schedule this year (though TCM does show them often), so if you can only check out one of his films on August 6 I recommend “Out of the Past” at 7 p.m., where Mitchum portrays one of the all-time great film noir characters in Jeff Bailey.
George Segal – Tuesday, Aug. 10
TCM is paying tribute to the late George Segal, who died on March 23 this year at 87, with his debut on Summer Under the Stars. Admittedly, I know Segal more as a television supporting actor, which he spent the last couple decades of his career doing, than a movie star but he was a leading man in many critically acclaimed films from the mid-‘60s through the mid-‘70s. I’ve never seen any of the films programmed on his day, but really look forward to checking out “California Split” (1974), which I’ve heard fantastic things about. Vulture called it the greatest gambling film ever made.
Robert Redford – Wednesday, Aug. 18
As I previously mentioned, I can’t believe this will be the debut for Robert Redford on Summer Under the Stars. I guess there’s no better time to make his debut on the annual event than his 85th birthday. His day is filled with essentially a “greatest hits” lineup of his films from “The Way We Were” to “The Natural” to “Out of Africa,” but if you can only catch one Redford movie that day, please make it “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” one of cinema’s greatest Westerns that features Redford and Paul Newman as maybe the greatest buddy matchup in film history.
Ingrid Bergman – Sunday, August 29
Oh Ingrid Bergman. My love. Few, if any, have ever been as good as Bergman. My DVR is going to be filled up on her Summer Under the Stars day that includes both of her Best Actress Oscar-winning performances in “Gaslight” (1944) at 2:45 p.m. and “Anastasia” (1956) at 7 p.m. If you’ve never seen “Casablanca,” which many consider the greatest movie ever made (what is wrong with you), WATCH IT! I’ll be making sure to finally catch “Gaslight,” which has been on my “must-see” list for a while.
James Cagney – Monday, August 30
James Cagney is one of the great tough guy actors of cinema, despite his diminutive size. If you’re going to catch his greatest gangster work definitely tune into, see “White Heat” (1949) at 3 p.m. But my favorite Cagney performance is a bit against type for him – and he absolutely kills it – in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942), the biopic of song and dance man George M. Cohan that won Cagney his Best Actor Oscar. You can check that out at 11:15 p.m. I’m also looking forward to the documentary “James Cagney: Top of the World,” which the network will be airing early Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 4 a.m.
To find out which stars and movies you’re most wanting to see you can check out the entire Summer Under the Stars schedule right HERE!