If you love old movies -- and even more specifically, old movie stars -- then August should be your favorite month of the year. It's always August during which the best of all cable channels presents its "Summer Under the Stars." That's when Turner Classic Movies devotes a non-stop 24 hours to a different movie actor -- both legends and lesser-knowns-but-still-vital -- every day. Obviously, when you stick that many great actors in one place, you're also going to wind-up with a fantastic selection of some of the greatest movies ever made.
This month kicks of today with a whole bunch of La Liz, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in just a manner of hours (at 4 PM EDT, to be exact) and A Place in the Sun at 8 PM. They follow Taylor tomorrow with Peter O'Toole, which of course means Lawrence of Arabia (at 1:30 PM) but also Becket at 8 PM. (If you missed the recent revival at Film Forum, here's your chance to catch it again.)
Friday brings a day of Joan Crawford, and on Saturday the fourth, it's time for William Holden. No Sunset Blvd. nor Network nor The Wild Bunch (and here's a list that could go on forever of great Holden titles), but they are showing the tremendous Stalag 17, airing at 5:45 PM. If you've never seen Billy Wilder's WWII P.O.W. satire -- which directly influenced the TV show Hogan's Heroes and is about to see its stage play source material restaged (for better or worse) by none other than never-directed-a-play-before Spike Lee -- set those DiVos or plop yourself in front of the set. It's well worth it.
The weekend wraps up on Sunday with Jimmy Stewart. I think it's actual federal law that they show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (8 PM); it should probably also be federal law that everyone in congress sit down to watch it. But more interesting to me this year is their late night double-feature of two Anthony Mann westerns: The Naked Spur (1 AM) and The Far Country (2:45 AM).
The rest of the month is as exciting, if not more so. This year seemingly more than ever before, TCM has focused on several stars who are probably much less recognizable to modern movie audiences. Sure, there are still days dedicated to Robert Mitchum (Aug. 6), Doris Day (Aug. 11), Elvis Presley (Aug. 16), Spencer Tracy (Aug. 18), Errol Flynn (Aug. 19) and Gary Cooper (Aug. 21), not to mention Kirk Douglas (Aug. 26, on which they'll show the phenomenal Ace in the Hole which I've been touting a lot recently because of Criterion's DVD release). But they're also shifting focus to a lot of actors who were among the biggest names of their day but would make the average 21st Century moviegoer say, "Who?"
Who, indeed! Dana Andrews, that's who. Or Alan Ladd, June Allyson (who just died last year), Joan Bennett, Broderick Crawford, Mary Astor ... and the names continue. They all were huge stars in their day with fantastic movie credits to their names. And if any of these names are strange to you, do yourself a favor and check them out.
The biggest highlight, however, may not come until the end of the month. On Aug. 30, TCM presents 24 hours of Buster Keaton! It's a veritable who's who (or would it be a what's what) of Keaton classics (alongside, weirdly enough, some not exactly Keaton classics but Avalon-Funicello beach movies). The entire day moves in reverse chronological order starting at 6 AM with Keaton's final on-screen appearance, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (released nearly nine months after he died in 1966), through the beach films and hitting his silents at 5 PM. The best-of-the-best pick-up at 8 PM and go all night long with the likes of Steamboat Bill Jr. and The General kicking things off. The artifact to DiVo, however, may be the two-reeler Coney Island (5:15 AM) which features Keaton alongside another comic great of the silent era, Fatty Arbuckle. The two icons worked together more than a dozen times during the period that Keaton was developing his talents and becoming the comic innovator, legend and genius we still recognize him to be.
After the jump is the full calendar of the month with links to each stars page featuring the daily lineup. Explore for yourself why TCM is such a wonderful cultural and educational resource for anyone who loves film.