Welcome to week 2 of Turner Classic Movie’s Summer Under The Stars! I knocked out a few more big blind spots this week. What’s on your list?
And if you’re just joining us, feel free to look at my picks from week 1 here.
Day 8 – Charlie Chaplin
The Great Dictator (1940)
Chaplin speaks! In duel roles! He plays both the titular dictator and a Jewish barber who’s been in a coma since the First World War while his country turns into a nightmare around him. I’m definitely not the first person to say this, but watching this in our current political climate made it eerily impactful. I only with that the famous inspirational speech given at the end had any semblance of being closer to reality than in 1940.
Day 9 – Goldie Hawn
The First Wives Club (1996)
I feel like every nearly every gay person in my life has been flabbergasted that I’ve never seen this. I now understand why. There are few things gayer than 3 famous middle-aged actresses finding their self worth while destroying the men who wronged him. Plus, Bette Midler’s daughter in this is a lesbian and the three gals end up in a dyke bar at one point. Lea Delaria is there and flirts with Goldie Hawn. Debra Monk is crying alone at the bar over her girlfriend leaving her. I would feel so at home here. And obviously, the final sing-along is iconic.
Day 10 – Norma Shearer
Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Even though I’m a die-hard Shakespeare fan, this one particularly took me so long to see because I grew up on the 1968 version. All I knew about this one was how people nowadays dismissed it for the leads being WAY too old for their parts. And like, they are, but who cares? Every time I witness a new staging of Romeo seeing Juliet for the first time as music swells, I’m reverted back to my preteen self thinking this is the epitome of love. It works this time because Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer sell it. The one benefit of having older experienced actors in these teenage roles is they handle the text and prose better than the youths ever could. Plus, Cukor extracts some of the often-missed humor in small places. It’s a fine companion piece to the more well-known adaptations.
Day 11- Sammy Davis Jr.
Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
A musical version of Robin Hood set in 1920s gangster-ridden Chicago starring the Rat Pack. It’s a bit of a mess, but a fun one. The pacing is weird and not all of the songs are winner. However, the ones that are shine through. Star of the day Sammy Davis Jr. gets a delightful solo complete with tap dancing and going trigger happy on bottles of booze. The other highlight, “Mr. Booze,” involves the gang hiding their speakeasy with a front as a prohibition rally. Then of course there’s dear Peter Falk, who cannot sing but steals the show as Guy Gisborne anyway.
Day 12 – Lana Turner
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
A drifter (John Garfield) finds a job at a roadside diner and ends up falling for the boss’ wife (Lana Turner). But since this is a noir, they can’t just run off together and call it a day. One thing leads to another, and by another I mean murder plot. Things go awry. A cat dies. A lawyer and district attorney have such a friendly rivalry that it definitely made myself and the friend I watched it with think something was going on there. Help us greenlight a spin-off, please. The cat will live in our story.
Day 13 – John Barrymore
Dinner at Eight (1933)
Given that I love Cukor and ensemble pieces, I wish I liked this more. I think it’s just very different from what I expected (they never even had dinner) and would like to give it another go knowing to anticipate something slower and even dark at times. Barrymore’s performance also intrigued me enough to want to check out more of his work in the future.
Day 14 – Steve McQueen
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Can someone please explain to me why I should care about a heist movie with zero stakes? I love this genre, but the protagonist has no need for the money and is never in danger of being caught. He’s always miles of steps ahead in everyone after him, so it’s basically just watching a rich guy be smug for 102 minutes. Maybe I’m already supposed to like Steve McQueen going in to properly enjoy it, but this was my first watch of any of his films.
See you all in week 3!