This month was TCM’s annual Summer Under the Stars when they spend 24 hours each day honoring a different classic film actor. I made it a point to watch films featuring Ava Gardner, Melvyn Douglas, Shirley Temple, Buster Keaton and a couple of hard to find titles starring Irene Dunne. By default I also saw a few more of Randolph Scott’s and Robert Young’s films.
August 2019 Breakdown
- 29 films/series total
- 18 new classic films
- 5 TV series
- 3 re-watches
- 2 documentaries
Favorite Discovery: The Indian Doctor and Wee Willie Winkie
Biggest Disappointment: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Grantchester Season 4– I never thought I’d say it, but good riddance to Sydney Chambers. I wasn’t sad to see him replaced with a new and interesting vicar. Also, I loved the episode where Leonard and Geordie work together on a case. And I must confess, Leonard is currently my favorite character this season. He’s such a sweet little dumpling. I was so sad about the rift between him and Mrs. M.
Suits Season 9 – Am I sad this is the last season of Suits? Yes. But that means we finally get to see Donna and Harvey together! Also, I loved seeing Samantha and Alex’ friendship develop. I have watched this series since its’ debut. Sadly, as I will be moving soon, I will miss the last several episodes of this final season. I guess I will have to read the recaps instead. Boo!!
Murder Mystery (2019) – I watched this with my sister and it was good, lighthearted fun. I was happy to see Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler paired up together again, because I love their chemistry. I didn’t even care too much about the whodunit. I just enjoyed the ride.
Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) – Um.. I just had to go read the synopsis again to remember what this one was about. It has a good cast with Robert Young, Ruth Hussey, Lew Ayres and Lana Turner in their early years. Young is a wealthy business man trying to win the approval of his fiancee’s working class family. Obviously it isn’t too memorable.
Cold Turkey (1971) -This was an odd little comedy that made me laugh out loud. Dick Van Dyke plays a preacher who motivates his entire Iowa town to give up smoking for a month for a large cash prize. It took a while to get going, but once it did the tongue-in-cheek humor made me a fan. It may not be the best or my favorite of the movies I watched this month, but it certainly is the most memorable!
Mary Burns, Fugitive (1935) – As a fan of Sylvia Sydney I have to say this may be my favorite of her films. She has never looked more beautiful or innocent than as a naïve young woman who goes to prison thanks to her relationship with her gangster boyfriend. Melvyn Douglas doesn’t show up until a third of the way in, but I really liked him as a gruff explorer recovering from an eye injury in the hospital Mary works at after her escape. This also features a young Brian Donleavy. The only downside is that the actor playing the gangster is completely wooden.
Susannah of the Mounties (1939) – Not my favorite of Shirley Temple’s films. Still, you can never go wrong with a Temple flick and I did enjoy seeing Randolph Scott and Margaret Lindsey.
Ava Gardner: The Gypsy of Hollywood (2018) – Though I didn’t learn many new facts about Ava’s life, I really enjoyed the perspective of this documentary covering her years living in Spain. It gave a different context to the actress herself as well as Spanish history in the years after their Civil War.
There’s Always a Woman (1938) – I love Joan Blondell and am ambivalent about Melvyn Douglas. I thought I would love this comedy about husband and wife detectives. But Douglas’ performance felt flat and Blondell’s character really got on my nerves.
Ride, Vaquero! (1953) – I watched this Western for Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner. But wow, I was completely mesmerized by Anthony Quinn as the bad guy with a soft spot for his adopted brother (Taylor). Howard Keel is completely wasted here as a rancher who takes on Quinn’s lawless bandit.
I Met Him in Paris (1937) – This little rom-com has its’ charms, but isn’t one of my favorites. Claudette Colbert reminded me once again that she was an underrated comedic actress in this film with Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young. But the story line and the love triangle are not my favorite.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1952) – I’ve been wanting to watch this Ava Gardner feature for a while. Despite good reviews and an interesting plot, I just didn’t love it. The sexy Gardner had zero chemistry with co star James Mason for a story which is supposed to make me believe in a love which spans centuries. Not to mention her other male co-stars were equally uninspiring.
Wonder Woman (2017) – Watched this super hero movie for the first time since the theater. It is definitely the best of the DC Comic films. I love the ultimate message in this film about love and sacrifice. And Gal Gadot’s Diana is such an endearing blend of strength, bravery and naivety.
Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) – Goodness! Shirley Temple is as adorable as ever in this sweet story about a young heiress who pretends to be one of her favorite fictional characters (an orphan) going on a holiday. I’m always surprised that I forget how talented she was. I do not think the supporting character Alice Faye played did her any favors.
Walking on Air (1936) – I used to think Gene Raymond was so dull, but have found a new appreciation for him recently. I got a kick out of him as a working man playing a count in order to deceive an heiress’ father. Ann Southern’s character was a bit obnoxious at first, but overall this was a fun lesser known comedy.
Breakthrough (2019) – I always want to support faith based films, but find the quality of some of them sadly lacking. I didn’t get a chance to see this one in the theater unfortunately. Chrissy Metz (This is Us) carries this film as the mother who fights for her son’s life after he drowns. I was engrossed in this true story adaptation and am so happy to say it was very well done.
My Life is Murder (2019) – This new murder-lite mystery series on Acorn stars Lucy Lawless. I’ve seen the first few episodes already and like it so far. It’s still in the character and series set up stage, so I’ll need to see more before deciding if it is one I will continue watching. I do love Lawless’ sassy, vacuum loving assistant.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) – Another day, another Shirley Temple movie. Why did I wait so long to become a fan? I really like the chemistry between Temple and Randolph Scott here. Also, I enjoyed the medley Temple does of songs from her previous films and found myself humming some of the movie’s original songs days later.
When Tomorrow Comes (1936) – Irene Dunne is a working class woman who falls in love with a wealthy but married pianist. Dunne is one of those actresses that makes everyone else look better without allowing them to overwhelm her performance. If Cary Grant is her best comedy co-star, then I think Charles Boyer was her equal match in dramatic films. Though this isn’t the best of their three pictures together, they make this average melodrama better than it should be.
High Wide and Handsome (1937) – As a fan of Irene Dunne I’m working to complete her filmography and was thrilled to finally get a chance to see this obscure title. It’s a romantic, western musical and not really my cup of tea. But it has a great cast including Randolph Scott as Dunne’s leading man and an interesting story featuring the battle over oil in Western Pennsylvania.
The Fallen Sparrow (1943) – What a tense psychological drama this is! I also think it is my favorite of John Garfield’s performances as a tortured vet hunting for his friend’s killer. Maureen O’Hara has rarely been more beautiful, but something felt a bit lacking in her performance. Unfortunately, my TV cut out about ten minutes towards the end of the film, so I missed Garfield’s confrontation with the villain. But I was still impressed with this one and would love to watch it again.
Wee Willie Winkie (1937) – I think this may be my favorite of the Shirley Temple films I’ve seen so far. Of course, that may be due to John Ford’s direction. There is less focus on Temple’s cutesy factor and performing talent and more on developing a story. I loved her relationship with Victor McLaglen’s character and got teary when she sang Auld Lang Syne.
The Indian Doctor (2010 -) – My mother and I discovered this charming series about an Indian doctor and his wife who move to a small Welsh village in the Sixties. We quickly fell in love and binge-watched the whole series. The main characters are interesting and it’s also nice seeing familiar “faces” pop up. I liked how the series inverts stereotypes by having the Indian “outsiders” as the cultured educated ones who are also much more tolerant and understanding. My full review is coming.
The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018) – I’m a huge fan of Buster Keaton. He’s my favorite comedian. I also appreciate that Peter Bogdonavich has truly values classic films, so I was excited about this documentary he produced. I thought the format was a bit strange, but otherwise I enjoyed this. It provided a mix of facts I knew and some that I didn’t. I liked hearing about how Buster influenced modern day comedians and the film industry in general.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) – I’ve been waiting to see this highly praised Buster Keaton film for a while. And just as I expected it’s not only entertaining but full of his talent and genius.
Guys and Dolls (1955) – It’s nice to see Marlon Brando in something other than a drama. And even though he isn’t much of a singer, he’s still great in this musical. Of course Frank Sinatra CAN sing, but he’s also a very good actor even in this supporting role. Poor Jean Simmons though. Her role, just doesn’t give her much to work with but she makes the best of it. I rather enjoyed this movie more than I expected to.
The Battling Butler (1924) – This film features Buster Keaton as a rich but lazy heir who pretends to be a successful boxer to woo the woman he loves. It’s not my favorite of Keaton’s film, but it is still more fun than most other comedies I could name. The scene where he enters the practice ring is hysterical.
Union Pacific (1939) – I saw this Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck feature directed by Cecil B DeMille years ago and have been wanting to watch it again. It’s just as entertaining as I remember. I know others may disagree but I love Stanwyck as an Irish postmistress. I also think Robert Preston’s character steals the show from Joel McCrea. He’s such a lovable, complex rogue. Then there’s McCrea’s railroad enforcer sidekicks who add great humor to the story about the building of the Union Pacific railroad.
Doctor Thorne (2016) – I never grow tired of this Anthony Trollope adaptation by Julian Fellowes. It’s a great little social drama with lots to say. Tom Hollander gives an outstanding performance as the title character in what I believe is his best role.
What did you watch last month? Are you a fan of any of the titles I mentioned?