The summer is heating up and so is TCM. The summertime isn’t just celebrating the end of school or the beach, for TCM fans it’s about amazing movies leading up to August’s Summer Under the Stars. To tide you over before then, TCM is airing their Summer of Darkness, an all-noir lineup every Friday for the next two months. I didn’t want to load up on those films, so here’s ten movies worth seeking out this month. Beat the heat with TCM!
**All times are Eastern. TCM can change the schedule at their discretion.**
You’ll probably hear me say this several times throughout this top ten: I could have sworn I’d included this in a previous column, but apparently, according to my list of all TCM Top Ten selections, it hasn’t arrived yet. It doesn’t appear that A Lost Lady (1934) is based off the Willa Cather novel, but I could be wrong. The always lovely, and constantly in this column, Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman who swears off love and marries an impulsive man. (Now, last month saw someone bring up that my synopsis of a Stanwyck movie was wrong. I’m going off TCM ‘s premise so hopefully this is what the movie’s really about.) I’m all for giving anything with Ms. Stanwyck a try. A Lost Lady kicks off the month, June 1st, at 6:30am.
Long-time readers of the site know, Fred Astaire doesn’t immediately get my attention. I’ve never been a fan of him as an actor, but I’m a sucker for dance movies…and Rita Hayworth. I must confess, I haven’t seen nearly enough from our redheaded bombshell; I also wouldn’t peg her as a dancer, although she did famously do a bit of a jig during her “Put the Blame on Mame” sequence in Gilda (1946). You Were Never Lovelier (1942) puts Hayworth in the role of an Argentine heiress and Astaire as the penniless dancer confused as her secret admirer. You Were Never Lovelier airs on June 3rd at 3:15am (apologies for the early-morning movies!).
It’s not her birthday but TCM celebrates Merle Oberon on June 3rd with a slate of her films. There was no special reason I picked ‘Til We Meet Again (1940) other than it pairs Oberon with George Brent….and has one of the most depressing premises I’ve read: “A dying woman shares a shipboard romance with a criminal on his way to the gallows.” Honestly, how can Hollywood give that a happy ending? I haven’t watched any of Oberon’s other work outside of Wuthering Heights (1939), and I’m intrigued to see whether she was able to cast off the role of Cathy that she’d immortalized one year earlier. ‘Til We Meet Again airs June 3rd at 2:45pm.
Everything about Boys’ Night Out (1962) screams of misogynistic, 1960s “comedy” a la Bachelor Flat, which came out the same year. Why then would I watch this? James Garner. Garner’s become one of my classic film crushes and I’ll give anything he starred in a shot. The film also stars Kim Novak and Tony Randall in a story about a psychology student researching infidelity through being a kept woman for a group of men. The boys can stay in when Boys’ Night Out airs June 4th at 4pm.
As with Fred Astaire, I don’t tend to watch and review classic foreign films. I don’t avoid them entirely, but it’s often hard catching the context and nuances of the unfamiliar and harder to articulate my thoughts for a review (briefly, I really enjoyed The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964). La Bete Humaine (1938) was recommended to me by a few people for my adoration of Simone Simon and my literary background; it’s based on a novel by Emile Zola, master of the depressed. Here we have a story filled with Zola’s favorite things: adultery and amorality. Knowing what I know about his books, I’m expecting everyone to end up dead in grand fashion. I’m sure Simon makes a beautiful corpse. La Bete Humaine is the morning movie on June 5th, starting at 8am.
Like with A Lost Lady, I could have sworn I watched Conflict (1945). You’d be seeing double two if you’ve watched The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947). Both it and Conflict star Humphrey Bogart and Alexis Smith, with Bogart desiring Smith’s character so much he’s willing to murder his wife; Barbara Stanwyck played his wife in The Two Mrs. Carrolls. Maybe I’ll enjoy Conflict more than I did the previous film. Conflict runs during a tribute to actress Alexis Smith on June 8th at 5pm.
Debbie Reynolds is usually good for a few hours of entertainment. Her bubbly blend of comedy and romance defines the term rom-com, and while not every movie she’s done is gold, they’re at least entertaining. It Started With a Kiss (1959) pairs Reynolds with Glenn Ford as a mismatched couple struggling to make it work. Again, nothing particularly innovative, but it sounds cute. It Started With a Kiss airs June 11th at 6:15pm.
Leave it to Robert Osborne to give us a gothic melodrama starring Ida Lupino, but that’s just what Ladies in Retirement (1941) is. The film sees Lupino struggling to cover up a murder as well as manage her employer and emotionally disturbed sister. It also costars Evelyn Keyes, who I’m interested in seeing more of after watching The Prowler (1951). Robert Osborne picks the movies on June 16th and Ladies in Retirement starts at 9:45pm.
TCM knows me so well. I mean, why else would they schedule a night devoted to Hollywood biopics, a topic I cover weekly in Biopic Theatre? Okay, maybe I’m tooting my own horn a bit too loudly. But I had to pick one of their Hollywood biopics this month, and I went with another Kim Novak film. Jeanne Eagels was a silent film actress whose fall from grace was one of the first Hollywood “cautionary tales.” I’ve heard the film version from 1957 is about as accurate as most Hollywood biopics – as in, not very – but it’s one of the few I’ve been meaning to see. Jeanne Eagels airs during a night devoted to Hollywood as depicted by Hollywood, June 22nd at 8pm.
We’ll round out the month with another movie from the 1940s involving a less than stellar husband, 1947’s They Won’t Believe Me. Robert Young stars as the aforementioned husband charged with a murder he didn’t commit. It also stars the luminous Jane Greer and Susan Hayward. Not too much to say about this one. They Won’t Believe Me airs June 26th at 8am.
THE TCM TRIO
TCM gets real on June 22nd, honoring the movies about what went on behind the scenes…or at least what everyone thought. The night kicks off as Errol Flynn plays John Barrymore in Too Much, Too Soon (1958) at 10pm; then, Jessica Lange snaps as Frances Farmer in Frances (1982) at 12:15am; finally, Ken Russell is the only director who could detail the life of Latin love, Rudolph Valentino in Valentino (1977) at 2:45am.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.