As if July isn’t crazy enough for myself, there’s a whole world of fantastic content on TCM this month. The calm before Summer Under the Stars sees TCM celebrating both America in the 1970s and Olivia de Havilland’s centennial. Here are ten films I’ll be sitting down for this month.
**All times listed as Eastern. TCM can change the schedule at their discretion.**
A recent commenter asked why Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) wasn’t on my Best Dance Sequences list, and my sad answer was…because I’ve never watched it. Despite an appreciation for Howard Keel and Jane Powell, the concept of a musical involving kidnapping brides for a bunch of lumberjack brothers made me feel icky. Now, I know feminism is different through the ages, so why not give the film a try? Seven Brides for Seven Brothers airs during an evening devoted to Musical Americana, July 2nd at 10:30pm
So if Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was chosen based on a need to please a commenter, why did I pick The Music Man (1962)? The reasons are cheaper. Robert Preston and Shirley Jones have excelled for me in other films, and I’ve waffled about putting this on past TCM Top 10’s in the past. If Robert Preston could convince the world Julie Andrews was a man in Victor/Victoria (1982) then I’m sure he could seduce a small-town into buying musical instruments, right? Really, what changed my mind was a discussion on Twitter about who could star in a remake, and one of my celebrity
obsessions loves was mentioned, ergo I have to watch it to see if the comparison is accurate. The Music Man airs on 4th of July at 8pm along with a wealth of other America-themed musicals.
TCM in July is devoting four weeks to the history of the Western hosted by Keith Carradine, a man always gracious enough to stop and chat with me at the TCM Film Festival, so I feel like I should at least include a title on this list. (If you’ve read JCF for any length of time you know I equate watching a Western with a trip to the doctor; it’s necessary, but I try to avoid it.) And if one goes with a Western, why not pick one directed by the hyper-violent Sam Peckinpah? I’m a Peckinpah fan – albeit I’ve watched a handful of his films – but Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) boasts the distinction of being a film aware of the death of the Western and the coming changes the ’70s ushered in. It also includes Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” a song I consider one of the saddest ever written. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid airs July 7th at 4:15am so set those DVRs.
It was hard narrowing down to just one film in TCM’s month-long tribute to America in the 1970s. The decade was such a watershed era in terms of politics and gender issues, so nearly every film they’re screening is one I hope to take in. I went with a film that’s not available on DVD for this list, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). This Diane Keaton-starrer is based on the true story of the unsolved murder of a schoolteacher that ended up focusing on the victim’s social life more than the murder itself. Keaton in the ’70s is enough of a reason to watch, especially in a dramatic role, but considering this isn’t available to watch any other way…you might want to snag it and save it for later. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is part of TCM’s America in the ’70s tribute on July 15th at 12:15am.
Between the 1970s, a Western, and now this you might be thinking, “Kristen’s lost her mind.” Nope, just trying to mix things up. I’ve included my fair share of strange sci-fi films, B-pictures, and the odd horror film starring a once A-list star in this column, but I’ve avoided the drug pictures that littered the landscape in 1930s like so many illegal substances. Similar in tone to the schlocky Reefer Madness (1936), airing prior to this, Cocaine Fiends (1935) tells about the dangers of the Columbian marching powder and its effects on a small-town waitress. Safe to assume this isn’t a 1980s look at cocaine, but one rife with murder, suicide and sin? Count me in! Cocaine Fiends airs at 4am on July 17th.
The Big Steal (1949) reteams the scintillating duo of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer after their landmark film noir Out of the Past (1947). Can lightening strike twice? I doubt this film has the immortality of something like Out of the Past, but there’s no doubt the two stars will deliver. The Big Steal sees Mitchum playing the good guy this time around, hunting down a thief who’s absconded with an Army payroll. Let me guess, Greer is the woman possessing dubious intentions? The Big Steal airs July 19th at 3:15am.
Let’s go back to the world of studio era cinema, shall we? I’ve been enchanted by the swashbucklers of Errol Flynn, but it’s time I watch a few more. The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) has been remade several times, and I’ve watched none of them. The all-star cast includes Ronald Colman and (future Fridays With… recipient?) Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The Prisoner of Zenda airs July 21st 3:30pm.
Hold Back the Dawn (1941) is one of two films I’ve included in honor of Olivia de Havilland’s centennial, another film unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray currently, and, despite not listed as such on the TCM guide, appears to be a network premiere. Charles Boyer stars as a gigolo – I’m assuming a classy, non-sexual one…this is 1941 after all – fleeing the Nazis who comes upon a shy schoolteacher he hopes to marry in order to secure citizenship. The cast here personifies class: Boyer, de Havilland and Paulette Goddard. I’m a sucker for romances fraught with complications, and, again, this isn’t available to watch at home. Hold Back the Dawn is presented in honor of Olivia de Havilland’s centennial on July 23rd at 1:45am.
Okay, so while Cocaine Fiends took my “weirdo” spot for this month, I couldn’t pass up putting Donovan’s Brain (1953) on this list. Lew Ayres is a mad scientist quite literally brainwashed by the brain of a tycoon he’s been saving. I can’t pass up a plot like that, pure and simple! You, too, can meet Donovan’s Brain on July 29th at 3:30pm.
The amazing Laura of Miscellaneous Musings looked at Olivia de Havilland’s films and mentioned that Princess O’Rourke (1943) has a lot in common with the Audrey Hepburn romantic comedy, Roman Holiday (1953) and actually came out before Hepburn and Gregory Peck took that wild scooter ride. Both features tell of a princess and the average Joe that makes them question their love for country versus the need for personal affection. Though I doubt this will take up the spot Roman Holiday made there, who could doubt that de Havilland is a princess? Princess O’Rourke airs July 30th at 7:45am.
The TCM Trio
Celebrate Olivia de Havilland’s 100th birthday three of her legendary films with nine-time costar Errol Flynn. First, Olivia teams up with Errol Flynn to star as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) at 1:15am. Then, de Havilland and Flynn get mixed up with The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) at 3:15am. Finally, de Havilland and Flynn sail the high seas in Captain Blood (1935) at 5:15am.
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.