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FLICK PICKS: TCM's Summer Under the Stars
August 2, 2010  | By Diane Werts
 
john gilbert garbo queen christina.jpg

It's here -- Turner Classic Movies' big annual month that daily devotes 24 hours to a single star. Wish I could say that August's Summer Under the Stars is one of my favorite cinephile events, but the truth is, I dread it.

The movie mix of TCM is what I love -- Sunday night silents, Friday night "underground" flicks, blockbusters followed by foreign films followed by early talkies followed by late-late-night R-rated frankness. But that's all out the window each August, when you just have to hope that some of your Hollywood faves are among the anointed 31, so that the month isn't a total loss.

I'm a Cagney nut, but Jim doesn't get a day this time. Neither does Cary Grant. Nor Carole Lombard or Barbara Stanwyck. While Greta Garbo doesn't get the spotlight, I'm happy to see her frequent costar John Gilbert (on Aug. 24), the under-appreciated silent star turned talkie tragedy, which at least brings a few silent flicks into the mix (along with a sound classic like 1933's Garbo-Gilbert Queen Christina, pictured at top). And Warren Beatty (on Aug. 9) interestingly bridges the studio system into '60s openness and on into his own '80s "auteur" years.

woody strode once upon time west.jpg

There's also the occasional cult pick, like Woody Strode (Aug. 5, seen above at right in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West Thursday at 10 p.m. ET) or early '30s shooting star Thelma Todd (Aug. 30). But there's no Gene Kelly, no Fred Astaire, not even an Esther Williams or Donald O'Connor.

Too many days are wall-to-wall taken up by people who just don't interest me that much. Certainly not 24-hours-much. Ethel Barrymore (Aug. 4)? Robert Stack (Aug. 16)?

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So I make myself try to spot interesting films lined up under those (to me) uninteresting names. Barrymore is the reason for Wednesday's '50s Humphrey Bogart newspaper tale Deadline U.S.A. (Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. ET). And Stack's late-career lampoon in 1980's Airplane! (late Aug. 16 at 1:15 a.m. ET) sort of makes up for TCM not scheduling his immortal '40s comedy with Lombard and Jack Benny, To Be or Not to Be.

Ah, well, a good month to catch up with DVD and Netflix . . .

 
 
 
 
 
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