August is one of the favorite months of the year for big fans of Turner Classic Movies with the classic film network’s Summer Under the Stars programming that features films from a specific actor all-day long each day of the month.
While a fan-favorite, TCM’s annual Summer Under the Stars programming is usually a mixed bag with the network trying to mix acting legends like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Marlon Brando with lesser known actors. It’s understandable that the network isn’t going to throw the same 31 legends out there every year for the schedule, but is it really necessary to dedicate an entire day’s programming to names like Alexis Smith, Herbert Marshall and John Hodiak, whom even big classic film buffs might scratch their heads in confusion at the sight of their names?
Anyway, if you don’t have enough time on your hands to pay attention to TCM all month long or are just looking for the highlights, here are 10 legendary actors being spotlighted this year that you should be sure to set your DVRs for …
10. Ernest Borgnine – Saturday, August 23rd
The great thing about Ernest Borgnine was that he was a movie star who made us all feel good because he looked like us. Just an Ordinary Joe in many of his roles, none more so than his terrific Oscar-winning performance in Delbert Mann’s 1955 Best Picture winning “Marty,” in which Borgnine became a star in the title role.
Recommendations: “Marty,” “The Wild Bunch” and “Bad Day at Black Rock”
9. Jane Fonda – Friday, August 1st
Summer Under the Stars kicks off this year with Jane Fonda, the most recent recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement honor. TCM gets a lot of mileage out of the AFI honor broadcast, which initially aired last month on fellow Turner station TNT, airing it twice (when they should’ve simply aired another Fonda movie during the repeat). Fonda is one of the most honored actresses in cinema history and her first Oscar-winning performance in 1971’s “Klute” is the highlight of her day.
Recommendations: “Klute,” “Cat Ballou” and “AFI Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda”
8. Faye Dunaway – Friday, August 15th
One of the sexiest faces and voices to ever appear on the silver screen Faye Dunaway is honored on Friday, August 15 with a schedule that includes quite possibly her two most famous performances as Bonnie Parker in Arthur Penn’s 1967 classic “Bonnie & Clyde,” which launched her into stardom, and Evelyn Mulwray in Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir “Chinatown.” Unfortunately, her Oscar-winning performance in “Network” isn’t scheduled.
Recommendations: “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Chinatown” and “Little Big Man”
7. Cary Grant – Wednesday, August 13th
One of the most iconic and maybe the most suave faces in Hollywood history, Cary Grant is showcased on Wednesday, August 13 with a slate that is unfortunately devoid of any of his pairings with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. However, if you’re a fan of screwball Cary Grant the schedule is filled with his numerous comedies like “His Girl Friday” and “Bringing Up Baby.”
Recommendations: “His Girl Friday,” “Bringing Up Baby” and “Gunga Din”
6. Joseph Cotten – Friday, August 29th
Frequently throughout his career it seemed that Joseph Cotten was outshined by the larger-than-life Orson Welles, whom he teamed up with many times, whether in “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man” where he shared the stage with him or “The Magnificent Ambersons,” in which he was directed by him. But, Cotten proved to be quite the actor himself, most especially in the lead role in Carol Reed’s 1949 classic “The Third Man,” even though Welles’ performance of villain Harry Lime is often mostly remembered. Friday, August 29 is Cotten’s time to shine and it’s certainly about time.
Recommendations: “The Third Man,” “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons”
5. Audrey Hepburn – Friday, August 22nd
Audrey Hepburn may be the most iconic actress in film history; after all, in 2014 her face still seems to appear everywhere. However, the image most associated with her Holly Golightly from the 1961 classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” isn’t on Hepburn’s Summer Under the Stars schedule. Still classic performances such as “My Fair Lady” and “Roman Holiday,” her Oscar-winning role, highlight the day’s showings.
Recommendations: “My Fair Lady,” “Roman Holiday” and “Wait Until Dark”
4. Marlon Brando – Monday, August 11th
Marlon Brando is one of the most iconic and important actors in the history of film, because he’s the guy most associated with modernizing acting through method acting. His oozing sensuality and bad boy persona led to him taking Hollywood by storm in the 1950s. His second Oscar-winning performance in “The Godfather” is not showcased here, but his first in Elia Kazan’s 1954 classic “On the Waterfront” is included, as well as classics “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Wild One.”
Recommendations: “On the Waterfront,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Wild One”
3. Paul Newman – Tuesday, August 19th
Paul Newman is one of my personal favorites and a guy who really could do it all, often all at the same time, by making you smile, cry and laugh. His performances in both “Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” rank very highly on my list of greatest film performances of all-time, and thankfully both are included on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars schedule this year. Like his title character in “Cool Hand Luke,” Paul Newman certainly was a world-class earth shaker.
Recommendations: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
2. Barbara Stanwyck – Tuesday, August 5th
I probably haven’t seen Barbara Stanwyck in enough roles, but I love, love, love her in the roles I have seen. I feel as if she’s one of the all-time greats, and one of the most underrated actresses in film history all at the same time. Her most memorable and best role as Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” is unforgivably omitted from TCM’s schedule, but be sure to catch her with Gary Cooper in Howard Hawks’ sublime 1942 screwball comedy “Ball of Fire.”
Recommendations: “Ball of Fire,” “Meet John Doe” and “Stella Dallas”
1. James Stewart – Thursday, August 7th
James Stewart is, in my opinion, the greatest actor in the history of film and probably the one actor I’ve seen in the most movies. He’s one of those legendary actors that I feel TCM should almost include on their Summer Under the Stars schedule every August. I’m thrilled to see him on the schedule this year, but dumbfounded by the movies scheduled for him. None of his Alfred Hitchcock classics like “Rear Window” (his best in my opinion) or “Vertigo” appear. Only one of his classic Westerns with Anthony Mann appears (“The Naked Spur”) and his classics with Frank Capra like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are also missing. This is the greatest actor in film history and most of his classics are missing from the schedule. TCM has me scratching my head on this one, but Stewart still deserves your undivided attention.
Recommendations: “The Naked Spur,” “The Shop Around the Corner” and “Firecreek”