Robert Osborne on Summer Under the Stars
When we first did it on August 1, 2003, with a 12-film salute to Jimmy Stewart, we had no idea what an enthusiastic reaction this kind of programming would receive; you've let us know it now ranks up there alongside our annual 31 Days of Oscar® salute as one of the two most eagerly-awaited events we do on the channel.
So get out the trumpets: this year we're back with 31 more stars, 14 of whom we've never celebrated before, that list consisting of our cover girl Marilyn Monroe; Oscar® winners Anthony Quinn, Van Heflin, Eva Marie Saint and Lionel Barrymore; the actor often described as "illegally handsome," Tyrone Power; red-headed singer-supreme Jeanette MacDonald; the venerable Lillian Gish, whose long career encompassed everything from The Birth of a Nation in 1915 to facing down Bob Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter in 1955, and beyond; also '30s child star Freddie Bartholomew; '70s leading man James Caan; the elegantly gowned and eternally angst-ridden Kay Francis; velvety-voiced Warren William; the great Japanese star Toshiro Mifune; and the Olympic swimming champ who became the movies' most famous jungle swinger, Johnny Weissmuller. (How's that for a mix of talent?)
Many of the popular reliables are back as well, including Katharine Hepburn, who is now numero uno as the star we've saluted most often during these past 10 years of August salutes. We've focused on the Hepburn career during seven different Augusts; the closest runners-up to that record are Cary Grant, James Stewart and John Wayne, who've made the SUTS list six times. Wayne is back again this year along with, alphabetically speaking, Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Irene Dunne, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Jack Lemmon, Myrna Loy, James Mason, Sidney Poitier, Elvis Presley, Claude Rains and Ginger Rogers.
But if the stars add the spice, it's the films that add the substance, and this year we will be showing not only great pop classics in the league of 1956's The Searchers (airing August 1) and 1942's Casablanca (August 29) but also 27 films we've never shown on TCM before, including David O. Selznick's Night Flight (1933) from the novel The Little Prince by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which for reasons having to do with the Exupéry estate hadn't been shown publicly for over 70 years (until our TCM Classic Film Festival in 2011, where it received a rousing reception). We'll be giving it a TCM premiere during our August 10 salute to Lionel Barrymore, who co-stars in it along with (get this cast!) John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Helen Hayes and Robert Montgomery.
All that, my friends, is but the tip of the iceberg. We guarantee you many magical movies and, to quote the title of a film we'll be showing on August 24, hopefully Never a Dull Moment.
by Robert Osborne