Throughout the month of August, TCM dedicates a 24-hour movie marathon each day to one star. For me personally, there’s a good number of stars featured this year that I adore, as well as a few others who I’m eager to watch more of. Just as I did with my recommendations for the 31 Days of Oscar festival this year, I’m only picking one film that I encourage you all to check out if you have the chance. My recommendations either showcase essential films for the day’s star, or they’re just movies that I think are underrated in general and deserve to be more widely seen.
All times listed are Eastern and Central (as I live in that time zone), so be sure to check your local listings and visit TCM’s website for additional information. Keep in mind that according to TCM’s schedule, a day starts at 6:00 AM (EST) and ends at 5:59 AM (EST). If you miss any of the films when they air, you can check to see if they’ve been added to the Watch TCM app, which is how I usually catch a lot of their films. And feel free to give me recommendations on movies to watch (or revisit); you can view the PDF schedule here. Also, all images and information are taken straight from TCM’s Summer Under the Stars website here.
Five Star Final (1931)
Airing on Monday, August 1st at 9 AM (EST)/8 AM (CST)
An unscrupulous newspaper editor searches for headlines at any cost.
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, H. B. Warner
An early newspaper movie, released shortly after The Front Page (on which His Girl Friday is based), this story is a much more ruthless tale filled with unsavory characters. It’s similar in vein to Sweet Smell of Success, with Edward G. Robinson playing a newspaper editor who’ll stop at nothing to get the story he wants, no matter who he hurts along the way.
The Dark Corner (1946)
Airing on Tuesday, August 2nd at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
A secretary helps her private eye boss when he’s framed for murder.
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Starring Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, William Bendix
An intriguing film noir with a couple of the genre’s most frequent actors, plus a spunky Lucille Ball. As is often the case with noir, it features some fantastic cinematography and a witty script.
The Country Girl (1954)
Airing on Wednesday, August 3rd at 10:15 PM (EST)/9:15 PM (CST)
While trying to help her husband make a comeback, an alcoholic singer’s wife fights her love for another man.
Directed by George Seaton
Starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, William Holden
Bing Crosby stretches his acting talents here with a much more dramatic performance than we’re used to seeing (and he was rewarded for it with an Oscar nomination). This movie also features Grace Kelly’s Oscar-winning role.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Airing on Thursday, August 4th at 3:15 AM (EST)/2:15 AM (CST)
A big game hunter decides to stalk human prey.
Directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack
Starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks
An adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story, this film does a good job of keeping the story tense within a short running time. King Kong, the film Fay Wray is most known for, was made shortly after this and uses some of the same jungle sets.
On the Waterfront (1954)
Airing on Friday, August 5th at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
A young stevedore takes on the mobster who rules the docks.
Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Three years after winning an Oscar under Elia Kazan’s direction, Karl Malden earned another one for this film with a compelling performance as a priest who tries to be a voice of reason amidst the chaos of the docks. His co-star Marlon Brando (who also starred alongside him in A Streetcar Named Desire) won his first Oscar for this film.
The Search (1948)
Airing on Saturday, August 6th at 4 PM (EST)/3 PM (CST)
An American soldier in post-war Europe becomes attached to a homeless child.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Starring Montgomery Clift, Aline MacMahon, Wendell Corey
This was the movie that introduced audiences to Montgomery Clift for the first time (though Red River was his film debut, it was released after). It’s an incredibly tender film without being overly sentimental, and Clift earned an Oscar nomination for his compassionate performance.
Red Dust (1932)
Airing on Sunday, August 7th at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
A plantation overseer in Indochina is torn between a married woman and a lady of the evening.
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Mary Astor
One of the pre-code era’s most definitive films, it’s also one of six films that paired Jean Harlow with Clark Gable. Harlow easily steals the show as a saucy woman trying to keep Gable’s attention.
Thrill of a Romance (1945)
Airing on Monday, August 8th at 4 AM (EST)/3 AM (CST)
A soldier returning from World War II finds love with a lady swimmer.
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Starring Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Frances Gifford
This is the first film that paired Esther Williams with Van Johnson as her love interest. It doesn’t feature any big musical water numbers as most of her films usually do, but she and her leading man are simply charming together in this little romance.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Airing on Tuesday, August 9th at 10:15 PM (EST)/9:15 PM (CST)
A possessive son’s efforts to keep his mother from remarrying threaten to destroy his family.
Directed by Orson Welles
Starring Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter
Though Tim Holt isn’t one of the top-billed actors, he’s the central character of the story, as his actions have a strong effect on the film’s events. Holt effectively gets on your nerves as the spoiled son, who does everything he can to keep his widowed mother from marrying the love of her life.
Come Live with Me (1941)
Airing on Wednesday, August 10th at 1:15 AM (EST)/12:15 AM (CST)
A Viennese refugee weds a struggling author platonically so she can stay in the U.S.
Directed by Clarence Brown
Starring James Stewart, Hedy Lamarr, Ian Hunter
An endearing romantic comedy in which Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart make a great pair. Lamarr is luminous in her role, and it’s not hard to see why Stewart and others are so drawn to her.
Desk Set (1957)
Airing on Thursday, August 11th at 6 PM (EST)/5 PM (CST)
A computer expert tries to prove his electronic brain can replace a television network’s research staff.
Directed by Walter Lang
Starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Gig Young
This was Spencer Tracy’s penultimate film with frequent leading lady Katharine Hepburn, released 10 years before their final film together, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (which was also Tracy’s last overall film). It’s one of the better films the pair made together and is an equally fascinating look at what it was like to look up information before the Internet existed.
A Star Is Born (1937)
Airing on Friday, August 12th at 2 PM (EST)/1 PM (CST)
A fading matinee idol marries the young beginner he’s shepherded to stardom.
Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou
Made a few years after What Price Hollywood?, this was the first film made under what’s now one of Hollywood’s most popular titles. Janet Gaynor and Frederic March give heart-wrenching performances that earned them both Oscar nominations.
The Fallen Idol (1948)
Airing on Saturday, August 13th at 10:15 PM (EST)/9:15 PM (CST)
A neglected child thinks the servant he idolizes has committed murder.
Directed by Carol Reed
Starring Ralph Richardson, Michele Morgan, Bobby Henrey
Ralph Richardson gives a top-notch performance in this film, working well alongside child actor Bobby Henrey to create a believable bond between their two characters. Director Carol Reed earned his first Oscar nomination for this film, which he made a year before his most beloved film, The Third Man.
Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)
Airing on Sunday, August 14th at 8 AM (EST)/7 AM (CST)
A ballerina becomes a gambler’s lucky charm.
Directed by Roy Rowland
Starring Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Agnes Moorehead
This is one of Cyd Charisse’s lesser-seen films, as she appeared in a few of the musical genre’s most celebrated films of all time. She exhibits a number of superb dance routines and has great chemistry with Dan Dailey, whom she co-starred with alongside Gene Kelly in It’s Always Fair Weather the year before.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Airing on Monday, August 15th at 9:45 PM (EST)/8:45 PM (CST)
A faithful collie undertakes an arduous journey to return to her lost family.
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Starring Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty
Roddy McDowall got his start in show business at a young age, and proved to be a competent actor through his youth, and found much success as he grew older. This is one of his best films as a child actor, and in it, he shares a few scenes with a young Elizabeth Taylor, who also became one of McDowall’s lifelong friends.
Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
Airing on Tuesday, August 16th at 2:45 AM (EST)/1:45 AM (CST)
A British corporal goes undercover to infiltrate Field Marshall Rommel’s command.
Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff
In one of Anne Baxter’s earlier films, she has a supporting role as a bitter maid at a rundown hotel in which Franchot Tone is hiding undercover. This propagandist war film is also Billy Wilder’s second directorial effort, made just a year before Double Indemnity.
Men in War (1957)
Airing on Wednesday, August 17th at 4:15 PM (EST)/3:15 PM (CST)
Two enemies join forces to save their men during a retreat from the North Koreans.
Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Robert Keith
This is a stirring anti-war film filled with an excellent cast of characters, led by first-rate performances from Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray. While James Edwards has a small role in this film, there’s one quiet scene he’s in that’ll tug at your heartstrings.
Point Blank (1967)
Airing on Thursday, August 18th at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
A gangster plots an elaborate revenge on the wife and partner who did him dirty.
Directed by John Boorman
Starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn
A riveting crime drama that sees Lee Marvin as possibly the most tenacious character he ever played (which is saying something because his career was filled with them). Angie Dickinson is a commendable screen partner for him, matching him in strength and style.
Footlight Parade (1933)
Airing on Friday, August 19th at 1:30 AM (EST)/12:30 AM (CST)
A producer fights labor problems, financiers, and his greedy ex-wife to put on a show.
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler starred in a number of musicals that featured intricate choreography by Busby Berkeley, and this film is one of the best to feature both their talents. Along for the ride are Keeler’s frequent co-stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, as well as an energetic James Cagney, who shares a memorable tap routine with Keeler.
Dark Passage (1947)
Airing on Saturday, August 20th at 4 PM (EST)/3 PM (CST)
A man falsely accused of his wife’s murder escapes to search for the real killer.
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett
This was the third of four movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. It’s a somewhat off-kilter noir, as we don’t see Bogart’s face at all during the beginning of the movie and instead view the film’s events from his point of view.
It’s Love I’m After (1937)
Airing on Sunday, August 21st at 7:30 AM (EST)/6:30 AM (CST)
A squabbling stage couple gets mixed up with an amorous fan and her jealous suitor.
Directed by Archie Mayo
Starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland
This screwball comedy was the third and final film Bette Davis made alongside Leslie Howard, but the first of four she made with good friend Olivia de Havilland. The three lead actors are primarily known for their dramatic work, so it’s a lot of fun seeing them display their comedic talents.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
Airing on Monday, August 22nd at 2 AM (EST)/1 AM (CST)
A quarrelsome couple discovers their marriage isn’t legal.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond
The unlikely director of this lighthearted comedy is none other than the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, who took on the job as a favor to his good friend Carole Lombard. Robert Montgomery stars alongside the queen of screwball comedy here, and together they make a vivacious couple.
…And God Created Woman (1956)
Airing on Tuesday, August 23rd at 6:15 PM (EST)/5:15 PM (CST)
A young woman loves one brother but marries the other.
Directed by Roger Vadim
Starring Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Curd Jürgens
Admittedly this isn’t a terribly great film, but it’s one in which Brigitte Bardot has a particularly bewitching presence. And though this wasn’t Bardot’s first film, it was the one that turned her into an international star and cemented her “sex kitten” persona.
American Madness (1932)
Airing on Wednesday, August 24th at 11:15 PM (EST)/10:15 PM (CST)
A banker fights to keep his independence and protect his customers.
Directed by Frank Capra
Starring Walter Huston, Pat O’Brien, Kay Johnson
Constance Cummings plays the banker’s high-spirited secretary in this gripping drama in which her fiancé, an ex-convict turned bank teller played by Pat O’Brien, is framed for a deadly robbery. This is a great early directorial effort from Frank Capra, and the film’s bank run scene serves as a precursor to the one featured in his acclaimed film It’s a Wonderful Life.
Airing on Thursday, August 25th at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege just before the Battle of the Bulge.
Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalbán
Led by the always amiable Van Johnson. this film displays a great sense of camaraderie between the characters as they try to survive the war together. It also features some exquisite black-and-white cinematography, making the film appear as though it really was filmed on war terrain instead of on a studio backlot.
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Airing on Friday, August 26th at 1:45 AM (EST)/12:45 AM (CST)
To continue his medical experiments, a doctor must buy corpses from a grave robber.
Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell
Boris Karloff gives one of his finest performances in this Val Lewton production, playing a person who has very dark tendencies and yet maintains a chillingly calm demeanor. This was also the last film he made with frequent co-star, and fellow Universal monster, Bela Lugosi.
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Airing on Saturday, August 27th at 10 AM (EST)/9 AM (CST)
A British war widow falls for an opportunistic American sailor during World War II.
Directed by Arthur Hiller
Starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas
This is a wonderful early pairing of James Garner and Julie Andrews, who famously went on to star together in Victor/Victoria. The film expertly balances between comedy and drama and features a clever script written by Paddy Chayefsky (who later won one of his three Oscars for Network).
Easy Living (1937)
Airing on Sunday, August 28th at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
When a working girl tries to return a lost fur coat, she gets caught up in a wealthy family’s battles.
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Starring Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland
Jean Arthur is a pure delight in any movie she’s in, but this is perhaps her most delightful outing on-screen. She spews a number of the film’s funniest lines, stemming from a script written by the hilarious Preston Sturges.
The Earrings of Madame de… (1953)
Airing on Monday, August 29th at 12 PM (EST)/1 PM (CST)
When a woman sells her earrings to pay a gambling debt, it leads to a string of betrayals.
Directed by Max Ophüls
Starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica
Charles Boyer speaks in his native French tongue for this captivating romantic drama, which finds him in a love triangle with his wife and an Italian aristocrat. Along with outstanding performances from the three lead actors, it’s a visually engrossing film.
So Long at the Fair (1950)
Airing on Tuesday, August 30th at 3:45 PM (EST)/2:45 PM (CST)
A woman searches for her missing brother in Paris despite the fact that nobody believes he exists.
Directed by Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher
Starring Jean Simmons, Dirk Bogarde, David Tomlinson
Set against the 1889 Paris Exhibition, this British mystery film sees a young Jean Simmons desperate to find out what happened to her brother, who disappeared from their hotel without a trace. It has a similar tone to films like The Lady Vanishes and Bunny Lake Is Missing, and features some great suspenseful moments and a surprising plot twist.
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
Airing on Wednesday, August 31st at 8 PM (EST)/7 PM (CST)
An answering service operator gets mixed up in her clients’ lives.
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Starring Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Fred Clark
This film pairs up Dean Martin and Judy Holliday, both highly charismatic performers, and together they deliver a fun-loving romantic comedy musical. Directed by vibrant musical master Vincente Minnelli, this is an underseen film from his vast filmography that deserves more discovery.
Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film will also be hosting the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon throughout the month of August, so be sure to check out her site throughout the month to read posts celebrating TCM’s 2016 honorees (including some written by yours truly)!