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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCM's Summer Under the Stars

TCM dedicates every day in August to a single star. The unique programming offers viewers a chance to see favorite stars in their most popular films, as well as expose lesser known gems of which even the biggest fan may not even be aware.

So for anyone that doesn’t already know, August is the month when the old movie network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) dedicates every day to showing the films of a single star. For example, on August first the channel only presented films that featured the classic film actress Gene Tierney (Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). On August second it was Olivia de Havilland films (The Adventures of Robin Hood), and so forth and so on. The unique programming offers viewers a chance to see their favorite stars in their most popular films, but also offers an opportunity to expose fans to lesser-known gems. You know the ones in which even the biggest fan may not have been aware the star had appeared, such as first screen appearances or the B-films they had to schlock through until they were discovered. Who knows!

That’s the real fun of August on TCM – seeing the rare films that just otherwise might not get the due they really deserve. Okay, there will be some dogs, but just seeing a favorite star in a questionable film will make it worth the while. And it’s always fun to see a now known mega-superstar struggle in a bit role before their stardom, credited well passed the so-called stars of the film that are now long forgotten. Of course we’re not just talking major stars when it comes to the daily programming on TCM in August. Forgotten, as well as less remembered stars are also honored. This is the time of year when TCM creates a delightful mix of films with personalities who made a name for themselves at some point, and the proof is in their performances.

The big well-known names this year include Katharine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, Groucho Marx, Robert Mitchum, Greta Garbo and John Wayne. The names that were big, but that are not so commonly recognized today include Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Shelley Winters, Robert Walker, George C. Scott and Patricia Neal. You’ll also see big stars in younger days, such as Michael Caine, Ann-Margret, Debbie Reynolds, and Alan Arkin. There are the character actors you recognize but can’t always name such as Lee J. Cobb, Adolphe Menjou, Teresa Wright, Monty Woolley, and Raymond Massey. However, what I’m really looking forward to are the days featuring stars I know very little about, including Rex Ingram (Talk of the Town, Sahara), Mae Clark (The Public Enemy, Frankenstein), Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch, Stripes) and Virginia Bruce (The Great Ziegfeld, The Invisible Woman). It’s fun to watch the favorites, but it’s a whole lot more fun to discover new favorites who will lead me to discovering films I might otherwise never have seen.

I realize it’s summer and we should all be out enjoying the season. But I live in an area where temperatures regularly get well over a hundred this time of year. So I feel absolutely no guilt sitting in a nice air-conditioned room while I watch the history of cinema unfold before my eyes. I highly recommend it become a seasonal tradition in your home too.

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