Friday, August 15, 2014

Why are these men smiling?

Well, it’s very simple…they've just learned that with the bummer of a week movie and television fans have been experiencing—not only the tragic death of Robin Williams and the passing of a film icon, Lauren Bacall, but the demise of Ed Nelson and Arlene Martel—Shout! Factory has announced that all 143 episodes of a TV sitcom classic, The Phil Silvers Show, will be released to DVD on November 4th.

I mentioned briefly on the blog back in May that a Region 2 version of this release was in the works for September, and after that announcement I heard scuttlebutt from both Rick Brooks and Stephen Bowie that there would be a Region 1 version, too.  From what I have gleaned on the Book of Face, each set will have its own distinctive collection of bonuses and extras, which will kind of suck if you’re into that thing.  Me, I’m just happy to have all of Bilko on DVD—after The Dick Van Dyke Show (which I recently purchased in its entirety on Blu-ray) it’s my favorite situation comedy of all time.

Speaking of just being happy to have a show on DVD (okay, that segueway needs a little work), has announced that Timeless Factory Video is re-issuing M Squad: The Complete Series, which the Timeless people gifted us with in 2008.  If you already own this collection, there’s not a whole lot on here that’ll be new to you (the re-release does have a cheaper SRP, though)—I thought there might be a chance that Timeless would improve on the video quality of the previous release but it’s essentially same wine, different bottle.  There will be a bonus disc of Lee Marvin’s guest appearances on The Virginian, Checkmate and Wagon Train (plus an episode of Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker, which Timeless brought to disc in March of last year) to go along with the reduced pricing.

Once again, I apologize for the fallow fields on the blog of late: I just finished up a project that was not only rewarding financially but just a heck of a lot of fun to do…and no sooner had I completed that when I was offered a follow-up.  (I feel kind of bad choosing these tasks over entertaining the TDOY faithful…but in my defense, they are rather large checks.)  I have some staggering good news to pass along, however: after many months of dragging my feet, I finally found the initiative to hook the old Toshiba DVD recorder up to the AT&T U-Verse Total DVR-for-Life® in order to copy some of the flicks I’ve grabbed off The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ and after a few trials-and-errors, took a victory lap when I got the various apparatuses (apparati?) to work.  So I’ll be able to whittle down the substantial amount of movies I’ve saved, and have some reviews of movies to offer up in the bargain.  More to follow soon!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The British Invaders Blogathon: Went the Day Well? (1942)

This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contribution to The British Invaders Blogathon, currently underway from August 1-3 at A Shroud of Thoughts and spotlighting the best in classic films that originated on the other side of the pond.  For a list of participating blogs and the movies/topics discussed, click here.

There’s very little doubt as to the outcome of the events in Went the Day Well? (1942)—Charlie Sims (Mervyn Johns), the verger at the local church, explains in the first three minutes of the movie that the famed “Battle of Bramley End” came out all right in the wash.  We then flashback to a Whitsun weekend in the sleepy little English hamlet—Whitsun being the English designation for Pentecost—where there wasn’t much going on save for a platoon of British soldiers who have arrived in Bramley under the supervision of Major Hammond (Basil Sydney).  Hammond makes arrangements to billet his men, with the inhabitants are most welcoming of their temporary guests.

Still...there’s something a bit unsettling about the presence of Hammond and his men.  Nora Ashton (Valerie Taylor), the vicar’s daughter, finds it curious that when the back of a telegram was used to mark down scores in a card game that took place among several soldiers—the figures were jotted down in the “Continental” manner, with elongated fives and strokes through the sevens.  Nora’s suspicions are further aroused when young George Truscott (Harry Fowler) finds a chocolate bar among Hammond’s personal effects.  An Austrian chocolate bar.

Nora takes her concerns to the village squire, Oliver Wilsford (Leslie Banks)…but today is just not her lucky day.  Wilsford is a fifth columnist, working with Hammond—whose real identity is Kommandant Orlter, and who’s on hand as the leader of a vanguard of an invasion of Britain.  Oriter and his men quickly establish their authority in the blink of an eye (by killing the Reverend Ashton, Nora’s father, when he attempts to signal outside help by ringing the church bell) and inform the stunned populace that no one is leaving Bramley…and any attempts to contact anyone outside the village will be dealt with most severely.  (Nazis.  I hate these guys.)

Went the Day Well? is a mixture of WW2 propaganda, comic nightmare and subversive surrealism that was produced at the renowned Ealing Studios, a name we usually associate with such classic comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).   The source for the script (written by John Dighton, Angus MacPhail and Diana Morgan) was a short story written by Graham (The Third Man) Greene; in “The Lieutenant Died Last,” published in the U.S. in 1940, a poacher single-handedly stymies a Nazi attempt to invade a rural English village.  Dighton, MacPhail and Morgan considerably expanded the scope of Graham’s tale, though they did feature the poacher (played by Edward Rigby) as a minor character.

Despite the spoiler warning at the beginning of the movie, Went the Day Well? is a model of cinematic suspense; sure, we know the villagers eventually get the word out concerning their plight, but director Alberto Cavalcanti makes us squirm in true Hitchcockian fashion.  (Cavalcanti would later go on to helm the most famous segment of the 1945 British horror anthology Dead of Night—the one with Sir Michael Redgrave and that freaking ventriloquist dummy—and the underrated 1947 noir They Made Me a Fugitive.)  Two Land Army girls, Peggy Fry (Elizabeth Allan) and Ivy Dawking (Thora Hird), manage to scrawl a message of help onto an egg that is placed in a box with other hen fruit and handed off to a boy delivering newspapers by bicycle.  The paperboy is sideswiped by a car on its way to Bramley, and the eggs wind up smashed.  This sets up the next attempt: the driver of the car is a woman named Maud Chapman (Hilda Bayley), who’s there to pay her dowager cousin Mrs. Fraser (Marie Lohr) a visit.  Fraser manages to smuggle a note to her cuz in the pocket of her jacket, but Maud uses the paper to steady a rattling window on the passenger side of her automobile.  (The paper later becomes dislodged and is devoured in the backseat by Maud’s dog.)

The film often juxtaposes moments of black comedy and jarring, disturbing violence—the most memorable sequence involves the town’s postmistress (Muriel George), who also moonlights as Bramley’s phone operator.  Held hostage in her home by one of the German soldiers, she springs into action by throwing pepper into the Nazi’s eyes and dispatches him to the Great Beyond with the help of an axe.  She then tries to ring for help but her call is ignored by a gossipy phone operator from a neighboring town…and by the time chatty Gertrude returns to the desperate woman she’s met the business end of a German bayonet.

Released in December of 1942, Went the Day Well? premiered a few months after the similar The Next of Kin (also produced by Ealing, and featuring Well? players Johns, Sydney, Hird and Johnnie Scofield)—both movies were made not necessarily to scare the British public, but to highlight the possible dangers of a Nazi invasion.  Most scholars are in agreement that by the time of the movie’s release, that scenario was highly unlikely.  Still, the movie continues to exert its influence; the 1971 feature film version of the hit Britcom Dad’s Army (as well as a couple of episodes of the series) covers similar ground as well as the 1972 novel The Eagle Has Landed, which was brought to the big screen in 1977.  The mention of “the Home Guard” in the film kind of made me smile because I couldn’t help but think of what Dad’s Army fans call “The Magnificent Seven”…though I would be remiss in pointing out that what happens to the Guard in Went the Day Well? is far more savage than any of the shenanigans that befell Captain Mainwaring and Company.

Went the Day Well? eventually reached U.S. shores in June of 1944, retitled 48 Hours…because most American audiences were not familiar with the famous quotation by John Maxwell Edmonds that was borrowed for the title of the movie.  (“Went the day well?/We died and never knew/But, well or ill/Freedom, we died for you”)  It’s been off the radar screens of most classic film buffs—but according to TCM oracle Robert Osborne, it was one of the surprise hits of the TCM Film Festival in 2011…and recently premiered on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ in April of this year.  Bobby Osbo and guest programmer Glenn Taranto noted that with the exception of Leslie Banks (subversively cast as the treacherous Wilsford in light of his heroics in 1935’s Sanders of the River) and Mervyn Johns (Glynis’ pop; he’s also in Dead of Night) most of the British thesps will be unfamiliar to us Yanks; but I recognized Dame Thora, or course, as well as Patricia Hayes (as the postmistress’ assistant) and David Farrar (Black Narcissus).  (James Donald and Dad’s Army’s Private Godfrey, Arnold Ridley, also appear in bit parts.)

No, I first became acquainted with Went the Day Well? when I read about it as one of the entries in Halliwell’s Hundred; released to Region 2 DVD in November of 2006, I procured myself a copy (though the movie was re-released in 2011 to take advantage of its 2010 restoration—this is the version Tee Cee Em showed in April) and have been a champion of the movie ever since.  It’s unquestionably one of the finest war films I’ve ever watched, a masterful blend of comedy and suspense…and the next time it makes the rounds again on Turner Classic Movies, I suggest you make an appointment to see it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Jeff Goldblum Blogathon: Between the Lines (1977)

This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s entry in the Goldblumathon, currently underway at Cinematic Catharsis from August 1-3, and spotlighting the films of one of our most treasured modern-day character thesps. Jeff Goldblum.  Participating blogs and the topics under discussion can be found here.

In 1975, screenwriter Joan Micklin Silver directed her first feature—an independent film based on an 1896 novel by writer Abraham Cahan entitled Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto.  The book, which detailed the experiences of a newly-arrived-to-these-shores Jewish woman at the turn of the century, had special resonance for Silver, whose own family were Russian immigrants much like the characters in the novel.  No studio would finance what eventually was brought to the screen as Hester Street (the consensus was that it was “a lovely film, but for a Jewish audience”), so Silver’s husband Raphael raised $400,000 to shoot the movie under the auspices of their company, Midwest Film Productions.  Hester Street would wind up grossing $5 million in the U.S., and not only nabbed lead actress Carol Kane a Best Actress Oscar nomination but garnered Silver a Writers Guild nomination for best screenplay.  (It was also placed on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2011.)

Despite the success of Hester Street, the Silvers still couldn’t get any studio to back their next project, a 1977 comedy-drama entitled Between the Lines.  So the couple were once again forced to fend for themselves.  Lines tells several stories behind the scenes of a fictional Boston alternative newspaper, The Back Bay Mainline, inspired by screenwriter Fred Barron’s earlier experiences at both the real-life The Boston Phoenix and The Real Paper.  (Director Silver had also worked at one time for The Village Voice—though that publication is considerably more upscale than the paper in the movie.)  It’s a timeworn movie cliché, I know—but Lines is one of those “best movies you’ve never seen”; an engaging vehicle that mixes solid acting with first-rate scripting, and spotlights an impressive cast of folks who would go on to bigger and better things.

A character in Lines describes The Back Bay Mainline—which began life as a “radical underground” rag before changing with the times to reflect on the counterculture—as a “way station”; it’s staffed by people on their way up and on their way down.  Belonging to the former group is Michael (Stephen Collins), a frustrated novelist who’s been accused by at least one Mainline staffer of sponging off his girlfriend Laura (Gwen Welles) while he waits for a publisher to buy his book.  (Laura not only writes for the paper, she works a second job so that the two of them can keep body and soul together.)  Michael eventually gets an advance from a company who’s going to publish his book, and he expects Laura to go with him to New York.  She, however, would rather stay in Boston, where her job and friends are.

Harry Lucas (John Heard) is one of the paper’s veterans; a talented investigative reporter, he sadly lacks Michael’s determination to better himself by also writing a book, and his on-again-off-again relationship with girlfriend Abbie (Lindsay Crouse) is sailing troubled waters.  Abbie, the paper’s photographer, is fiercely independent (and damn good at her job), refusing to settle for a life where Harry writes and she “bakes bread” all day; she demonstrates this individuality in one scene where Harry is interviewing a dancer (Marilu Henner) in a strip club.  Abbie develops an instant journalistic rapport with the woman known as “Danielle,” something Harry (who’s writing an investigative piece) clearly resents.

Other staffers on the paper include David Entwhistle (Bruno Kirby), in charge of the Mainline’s personal ads but harboring a burning desire to be a reporter.  He gets a tip from music columnist Max Arloft (Jeff Goldblum) that a gentleman running for city council, Kevin “The Duck” Austin (Guy Boyd), is actually the man behind a major record bootlegging operation in town—and David risks being worked over by a pair of Austin’s goombahs to get the story.  Tipster Max is one of the paper’s most colorful personages; he’s always broke and cadging loans from the other employees including receptionist-typist Lynn (Jill Eikenberry), who functions as the surrogate mother of the group.

Lynn will turn out to be the most principled member of the Mainline staff.  There are rampant rumors that the paper’s publisher, Stuart Wheeler (Richard Cox), is planning to sell the Mainline to a rival publisher named Roy Walsh (Lane Smith), who specializes in buying up alternatives and transforming them into more mainstream publications.  In an early scene in the film set at a local restaurant, several of the paper’s employees discuss this possibility and vow to quit should it come to pass.  But when Walsh does get his hands on the paper, Lynn is the only employee who resigns in protest after Walsh orders editor Frank (Jon Korkes) to fire Harry for insubordination.  (In a marvelous scene, Walsh apologizes to her for not knowing her name while he’s asking her to perform some mundane task, and she tells him: “You don’t have to learn my name…because I quit.”)

One of my favorite scenes in Between the Lines features a little impromptu dancing from Lindsay Crouse (L), Gwen Welles (M) and Jill Eikenberry (R).
Though the period fashions of Between the Lines will no doubt induce a few giggles from those curious to check out the movie, the feature itself doesn’t seem at all dated: its themes of corporate rapaciousness in the journalism business and whether or not to compromise one’s idealism (“selling out” or “cashing in”?) will still resonate with audiences today.  For a low-budget independent film, Lines sports some powerhouse acting talent.  Stephen Collins is best known as the star of the long-running TV series 7th Heaven, and Lindsay Crouse would go on to appear in the likes of The Verdict, Places in the Heart and House of Games.  Jill Eikenberry was a cast member on the hit TV series L.A. Law while John Heard would star in such movies as The Milagro Beanfield War, Big and The Pelican Brief (he also worked in director Silver’s first studio feature, Chilly Scenes of Winter [1979—later retitled Head Over Heels]).

But what about the man of the hour—the focus of this here blogathon?  Goldblum’s Max Arloft is a charming scoundrel, constantly hitting on women (one of the movie’s highlights has him lecturing on “Whither Rock ‘n’ Roll?” to a group of female college students dutifully jotting down his every nonsensical utterance) and complaining about his $75-a-week salary (he’s forced to sell review copies of albums he’s received to a used record store for extra cash, a point he brings up in his negotiations for a raise with the Mainline’s publisher).  Max is Lines’ comic relief; in one scene, the newspaper’s office is invaded by a self-described performance artist (Raymond J. Barry, in his film debut) who begins wrecking the joint in an attempt to get attention…and Arloft joins in, punching holes in the office walls and ripping the shirt off the paper’s asshole advertising manager (Lewis J. Stadlen). 

Stanley exposed.
And yet—Max has a serious and even heroic side; realizing that David’s life may be in danger after tipping him off to “The Duck’s” activities, he races with Harry and Abbie to where David is supposed to meet the bootlegger just in time to see his friend receive a serious ass-kicking.  An enraged Max rips off the antenna from his car and starts brandishing it in a threatening manner in front of Austin’s goons as Abbie and Harry assist the injured David.  (Goldblum’s invective toward the henchies is a riot, along the lines of “pernicious ill-shits.”)

In his reference book Guide for the Film Fanatic, Danny Peary describes Between the Lines as “one of those films that I wish would never end.”  He astutely points out how most of the well-written characters of the film are flesh-and-blood human beings; they might act nobly in one instance and dickishly in the next, just like the people we know in real life.  Max is a great Goldblum character, and Jeff’s performance is in some ways a blueprint for the jaded journalist he later plays in The Big Chill (1983), Michael Gold.  Before the end of the movie, Goldblum’s Max encounters Harry and Abbie in a bar and Harry asks him what his plans are.  “Write a book,” he replies.  “About the loss of innocence…alienation…corruption…“  (He’s kidding, by the way.)  The Chill leitmotif of faded idealism is quite prevalent in Lines, as several of the characters reflect on the fun and good times that they had while working on the Mainline in the past…and how the takeover by the Robert Murdoch-like Walsh (character great Lane Smith’s Walsh is a douchebag without peer—quite a departure from his future role as editor Perry White on TV’s The Adventures of Lois & Clark) will bring an end to all that.

The gentleman who chats with Collins in an early scene—and then later buys drinks for Goldblum at the end of the film—is writer-humorist Doug Kenney, co-founder of the National Lampoon…who left this world for a better one at the age of 33 in a bizarre falling-off-a-cliff incident that still remains murky today.  (Kenney is the guy who plays “Stork” in National Lampoon’s Animal House—“Well, what are we s’posed to do, you moron?”)
Other future stars in Lines include the aforementioned Marilu Henner (who gets to shake her moneymaker as stripper Danielle), Joe Morton and Robert Constanzo (as one of Austin’s henchmen), and the ubiquitous Michael J. Pollard appears as “The Hawker,” seen in the opening credits handing out papers to passersby and people in cars (there’s an interesting scene where Pollard’s character is shown to be crashing at the paper’s offices in his off-hours, sleeping under a pinball machine and using several issues of the Mainline as a pillow).  Southside Johnny (Lyon) and the Asbury Jukes appear as themselves (decked out in leisure suits from Polyester R Us) and are prominently featured on the soundtrack (I Don’t Want to Go Home, Sweeter Than Honey).  Check out a great Jeff Goldblum performance in Between the Lines, available on manufactured-on-demand (MOD) DVD from MGM/UA.

Friday, August 1, 2014

These features will be transcribed for posting at a more convenient time

And here I thought I’d run out of excuses as to why I’m having so much difficulty getting back into the groove of both Serial Saturdays and Doris Day(s).  Seriously, I thought about using that Ebola thing that’s been in the news lately.

But I’m postponing both of these until next week only because I have commitments to two blogathons over the weekend, and a deadline on an outside project as well.  I can’t promise I’ll be back in regular feature mode by next Friday, but I will do my darndest.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guest Review: Warner Bros. Night at the Movies – The Sea Hawk (1940)

By Philip Schweier

A couple of years back I got a Kindle, and I immediately began filling it with books in the public domain (cuz I’m cheap). Among these were some swashbuckling adventures such as Captain Blood, and keeping Errol Flynn in mind, I also added The Sea Hawk, both books by Raphael Sabatini.

However, I recently got a copy of The Sea Hawk (1940) on DVD, and was surprised to learn the story is nothing like the novel. The movie is instead based on Beggars of the Sea by Seton I. Miller. Sabatini or not, it still makes for an interesting film.

In the aftermath of the success of 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk attempted to reunite many of the principals. Michael Curtiz returned to direct, as well as actors Flynn and Claude Rains. Erich Wolfgang Korngold provided music once more. Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone, having been featured opposite Flynn in Captain Blood (1935), chose to pass.

Flynn portrays Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe, a roguish captain whom Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robinson) employs as one of her Sea Hawks, specialized captains who form an elite group of commanders. As Don José Alvarez de Cordoba (Rains) of Spain journeys to England to assume his duties as ambassador, his ship is accosted by Thorpe’s Albatross. Of course the Albatross emerges the victor, and Don José and his niece Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall) are taken aboard to be “escorted” to England. Also taken aboard are a number of English prisoners who had been serving as rowers in the hold of the Spanish ship. Freeing these slaves justifies Thorpe’s attack on a ship flying the flag of a nation with whom England’s relations are tenuous at best.

During the voyage to England, Thorpe schmoozes Dona Maria, but she is inclined to give him the cold shoulder. By the time of their arrival, she has thawed somewhat. Nevertheless, the queen’s advisor, Lord Wolfingham (Henry Daniell), is eager to see Thorpe removed. It seems Wolfie is conspiring with Don José to undermine the queen, allowing King Phillip of Spain to conquer England.

In a private audience with the queen, Queen Elizabeth and Captain Thorpe hatch a plan to send the Albatross to Panama, the source of Spanish gold, and hijack as much gold as the ship can manage. All this wealth is intended to finance the development of the British Navy, as a means of defense. But Don Jose and Wolfingham have eyes on Thorpe, and are able to suss out from Thorpe’s chart maker his next objective. They manage to lay a trap for Thorpe and his men, which results in them being chained to oars of a Spanish galleon.

In true swashbuckling fashion, Thorpe is able to lead his men to freedom, and return to England to challenge the traitorous Lord Wolfingham. Dona Maria recognizes the treachery of her uncle, and succumbs to Thorpe’s romantic advances. The film ends with a rousing speech by Queen Elizabeth that, in 1940, could easily have been an allegory to the rising tide of war.

By 1940, some of these adventures had become old hat, especially when starring so many of the same actors. Other veterans from Robin Hood included Alan Hale and Una O’Connor, repeating the same types of roles as before.

The DVD I watched featured a “Warner Bros. Night at the Movies,” which included an intro by Leonard Maltin. I have never cared for Maltin, not since he did movie reviews for Entertainment Tonight back in the late 1970s. He’s always come across as a bit pompous to me, so I skipped the intro.

I did watch the newsreel, and the cartoon (a black and white Porky Pig episode). What I really found charming was the short, entitled Alice in Movieland, written by Ed Sullivan (yes, THAT Ed Sullivan). It chronicles the rise of a young contest winner from Nowhere, U.S.A., (played by Joan Leslie) who wins a contest for a trip to Hollywood and the chance to become a star. After bidding good-bye to her town amidst much fanfare, she journeys to Hollywood, where she is met with equal fanfare. She makes the rounds of a number of nightspots before her screen test. The crew is less interested in her, and more in getting another contest winner out the door so they can move onto the next one in time for lunch.

Nothing comes of her screen test, and on the verge of going home, she opens a letter given her by her grandmother (Clara Blandick). “Open it only when you feel you have to come home,” Gramma said. Instead of a train ticket home, Alice finds a letter, encouraging Alice to stick it out despite her frustration. It finishes with the line, “…and if you come home without making it as a star, I’ll wring your neck.” Whoa! Grandma’s showing some tough love.

Alice’s stick-to-it-iveness pays off and she soon lands a role as an extra, only to endure the hazing of her more experienced cast mates. Chief among them is the assistant director (played by Martin Burke, who was also featured in The Sea Hawk). She chews him a new one in front of the entire crew, drawing the attention of the director, who immediately puts her on the fast track to fame and fortune. As she collects her Academy Award®, she hears people shouting her name. But it’s only the porter (Clarence Muse) waking her as the train pulls into Los Angeles.

Yes, kids, like most Hollywood fables, it’s all been a dream, but not without its truth. Hopefully, it made one starry-eyed teenager think twice before journeying to Hollywood, only to become another Elizabeth Short (look her up). As for the star of the short, Joan Leslie, she enjoyed steady work in Hollywood, being featured in such films as Sergeant York and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Eventually she moved into television in the 1950s before leaving the business. In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s she returned to small roles on television shows such as The Incredible Hulk and Murder, She Wrote.

Anyone hoping for the same thrill from The Sea Hawk completes the Errol Flynn hat-trick, but anyone hoping for the same thrills as the Adventures of Robin Hood may be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Coming distractions: August 2014 on TCM (Summer Under the Stars edition)

Twice a year, The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ offers its loyal fans a brief respite from their usual variety of scheduled movies by presenting two deviations:  31 Days of Oscar—in which Academy Award-winning and/or nominated films dominate from February 1 through March 3—and Summer Under the Stars, in which Tee Cee Em dominates each broadcast day with movies devoted to a single performer.  Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge fan of either event…but if I had to choose the lesser of two evils I’d go with SUTS, only because I don’t get as bored as quickly with it as I do 31 Days.

I thought perhaps Jill at Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence might serve up another SUTS blogathon like she has the two years previous…but it would appear that it’s all hands on deck on The Black Maria, as she sails off in search of cinematic plunder with co-captain Miss Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial and first mate Brandie, who as head of the animation department is probably getting to use the “batten down the hatches” joke more frequently than I.  I took a glance through the August lineup…and asked myself: “If I could sit down with only one of these movies for each day a star is being feted…which one would I choose?”

Here are my answers:

August 1, Friday – Jane Fonda.  I was tempted to go with The China Syndrome (1979; 5:45pm), a movie I loved as a young movie geek*…but I always find myself coming back to Klute (1971; 12:15am), one of my favorite suspense thrillers.

August 2, Saturday – David Niven.  Of the movies scheduled, I’ll go with Dodsworth (1936; 6am).

August 3, Sunday – Walter Pidgeon.  I think Pidgeon gave one of his best screen performances in Advise & Consent (1962; 2:15am)…but I’d be crazy not to go with How Green Was My Valley (1941; 8pm).

August 4, Monday – Judy Garland.  And it’s the movie for which she should have won the Best Actress Oscar, A Star is Born (1954; 12mid).

August 5, Tuesday – Barbara Stanwyck.  There are always so many great choices when Babs is in the spotlight…but my favorite of her movies has always been and will remain Ball of Fire (1941; 8pm).

August 6, Wednesday – Paul Muni.  Tough not going with I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932; 8pm)…but my favorite Muni film has always been Scarface (1932; 9:30pm).

August 7, Thursday – James Stewart.  The Naked Spur (1953; 8pm.)

August 8, Friday – Jeanne Moreau.  My love of Orson Welles films is trying to convince me to go with The Trial (1962; 8pm)…but even though I’m a fan of that movie I readily admit you need an urn of strong coffee at the ready to keep from dozing off.  So I’ll go with Elevator to the Gallows (1958; 10:15pm) instead.

August 9, Saturday – William Powell.  These are not getting any easier, particularly with The Thin Man (1934; 8pm) and After the Thin Man (1936; 9:45pm) (if they had moved After to Jimmy Stewart day I would have picked it).  Let’s go with Libeled Lady (1936; 1pm), because it’s a great screwball comedy and you get the bonus of Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow.

August 10, Sunday – Carole Lombard.  Oh, it was awfully hard not giving To Be or Not to Be (1942; 8pm) the nod on this day.  But since I’ve watched it recently, I had no problem selecting what’s probably my favorite Lombard romp, Twentieth Century (1934; 12:30pm).

August 11, Monday – Marlon Brando.  Even though I have multiple problems with Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg’s apologia for why they ratted out their friends and colleagues, Brando deserved the Best Actor trophy he received for On the Waterfront (1954; 11:45pm).

August 12, Tuesday – Alexis Smith.  I fought off the temptation to pick The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945; 6am)…and instead will pick one of Smith’s most underrated turns in The Constant Nymph (1943; 12mid).

August 13, Wednesday – Cary Grant.  I could have gone with just about any of the movies on tap today—but Grant’s comedic performance in His Girl Friday (1940; 9:30am) not only should have been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but served up to him on a silver tray instead of his The Philadelphia Story (1940; 12:45pm) co-star James Stewart.  (Stewart’s Macaulay Connor would have set a world record for stammering if editor Walter Burns was in the same room.)

August 14, Thursday – Charlie Chaplin.  My heart aches at having to overlook so many classic films from one of cinema’s most beloved filmmakers—but I’m going to pass over both City Lights (1931; 12:30am) and Modern Times (1936; 3pm) for The Gold Rush (1925; 11:45am), the first film featuring The Little Tramp that I ever watched.  (But if it’s the 1942 re-issue, then I reserve the right to change back to City Lights.)

August 15, Friday – Faye Dunaway.  So many wonderful films of Faye’s on the schedule…but with Chinatown (1974) at midnight, it was pretty much a fixed fight.

August 16, Saturday – Herbert Marshall.  Like I need an excuse to watch Foreign Correspondent (1940; 8pm) again.  (And it’s on The Drewssentials Essentials!)

August 17, Sunday – Every once in a while the channel offers up movies by an actor/actress that simply makes me shrug and go “Meh.”  That’s the case with John Hodiak…and under normal circumstances I’d probably go with Lifeboat (1944; 8pm).  But A Bell for Adano (1945) is on the schedule afterward at 10pm, and since I’ve never seen it that is my choice.  So there.  Thbth.

August 18, Monday – Claudette Colbert.  A similar situation has cropped up with Claudette; I’d probably go with It’s a Wonderful World (1939; 4:15pm) because it’s one of my favorite screwball comedies…but I’m kind of curious to check out Remember the Day (1941) at 2am.

August 19, Tuesday – Paul Newman.  Tempted to go with The Prize (1963; 11:15am), because it’s a guilty pleasure…but Dad and I never miss an opportunity to watch Cool Hand Luke (1967; 5:45pm).

August 20, Wednesday – Thelma Ritter.  I have always championed The Mating Season (1951; 8pm) as my favorite movie with Thel, and I don’t plan to stop now.

August 21, Thursday – Lee Tracy.  I got a bit of grief from a commenter on my review of Repeat Performance (1947) back in January when I suggested that Turn Back the Clock (1933; 6:30pm) “covers similar ground.”  So I’m going to watch Clock again because it’s been a while.

August 22, Friday – Audrey Hepburn.  None of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies made the TCM schedule, so I feel a little guilty about choosing The Lavender Hill Mob (1951; 8am) because Aud has but a mere cameo.  I’ll say a few novenas and feel better later.

August 23, Saturday – Ernest Borgnine.  Marty (1955; 8pm) might have The Essentials spotlight, but I’m going with The Catered Affair (1956; 9:45am) because it’s an underrated gem.

August 24, Sunday – Gladys George.  If I hadn’t watched Flamingo Road (1949; 10am) so recently I probably would have tabbed this as my Gladys pick.  Instead, I’ll go with The Roaring Twenties (1939; 6pm).

August 25, Monday – Dick Powell.  Murder, My Sweet (1944; 9:15pm).  No contest.

August 26, Tuesday – Sophia Loren.  None of the movies on the schedule really reach and shake my hand…but I’ve always had a preference for Two Women (1961; 8pm).

August 27, Wednesday – Edmond O’Brien.  I’m passing up White Heat (1949; 6pm) and D.O.A. (1950; 8pm) because An Act of Murder (1948) is premiering at 9:30pm…and I’ve never seen it.

August 28, Thursday – Arlene Dahl.  Kind of the female John Hodiak, to be honest.  But she’s in The Black Book (a.k.a. Reign of Terror – 1949; 2:30pm), so I’m going with that.

August 29, Friday – Joseph Cotten.  Tough sledding when you not only have Citizen Kane (1941; 2:15am) on the schedule but also The Magnificent Ambersons (1942; 5pm).  Fortunately, I have no qualms about choosing The Third Man (1949; 12:15am).

August 30, Saturday – Betty Grable.  I’m not much of a Grable devotee, so I was tempted to go with The Nitwits (1935; 8am)—because I do love Wheeler & Woolsey.  Since I haven’t seen I Wake Up Screaming (1941; 11:45pm) in a while, I’ll pick that.

August 31, Sunday – The channel closes out SUTS with Alan Ladd, and for me there can be only one choice: The Glass Key (1942; 12:45pm).

I have to confess, I’m a little more stoked about this year’s Summer Under the Stars because of the three movies mentioned above that have been on my must-see list for some time now.  Next month, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will return to the standard presentation of Coming Distractions…but in the meantime, see you at the movies!

*Rich says I qualify as a movie geek…who am I to argue?