TCM's brilliant month of programming continues with what, for my money, is the best weekdn of the entire month. One really can't ask for more than a Spencer Tracy Saturday paired with a William Holden Sunday. Several of each stars best performances are included in the daily lineup, and anyone who has read this blog more than twice knows that Sunset Blvd. and Network are required viewing any time they're on (unless you already watch your own personal DVDs regularly like I do), and while you're spending Sunday with Bill, you may as well see his other Billy Wilder-directed triumph, the great 1954 romantic comedy Sabrina. (Obviously the original one with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Not the abysmal remake. Greg Kinnear. Feh!) In fact, it's too bad they're not showing a third Holden-Wilder collaboration: Stalag 17, a great WWII P.O.W. satire which set the stage for future films like Catch-22 and MASH, not to mention the obvious influence it had on '60s television hit Hogan's Heroes.
Aug. 26 -- Randolph Scott is another actor who would be almost completely forgotten today by anyone not a huge fan of the Hollywood western if it wasn't for TCM. Scott was one of Hollywood's biggest stars from the '30s through the '50s, but when westerns started going out of style, so did Scott. (Although he certainly didn't act only in westerns, even appearing in some musical comedies, including Follow the Fleet (8 AM) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) His last performance was a fitting conclusion as he starred opposite Joel McCrea in Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (which is showing on Aug. 3 as part of McCrea's day at 8 PM). But the most fascinating curiosity on the TCM schedule has got to be Western Union, an oater directed by German expressionist and film noir master Fritz Lang. I'm pretty it's one of only three westerns the prolific Lang made in over 40 years of filmmaking.
Aug. 27 -- Spencer Tracy: I was surprised to look back at last year's "Summer Under the Stars" and see that there was no Tracy-day. Tracy was a consummate actor, and one of the best to ever appear on the Silver Screen. TCM spends this day really showing the range of Tracy's career starting with a few of his first films from the early '30s and going all the way through his last performance in the great Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (12 AM). Tracy was ill throughout shooting, and in fact he died before the film was released in December of 1967. Can you imagine the recent trifle of a remake Guess Who being considered an important film? I'm sorry but first of all, Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher are no Tracy and Poitier. Second, while Guess Who's Coming to Dinner can be very funny, it also was a very important film at the time being the first one to deal with an interracial marriage in America that doesn't lead to tragedy simply because of the couple's skin colors. It also dealt honestly with the issues of family acceptance and prejudice by people who would not think themselves otherwise prejudiced. Many of the issues are certainly still relevant today, and while the 1967 sensibility might seem a bit clean-cut to a 2005 audience, it still plays better than the unfortunate attempt in Guess Who. That's actually too bad, because an honest, more straightforward, less stereotypical and cliche approach to a 2005 version of this story, even one that still switched places to have the daughter's family be black, could have been interesting. Watch the original, and revel in Tracy's talent and mastery of characterization, even as he was literally dying.
Aug. 28 -- William Holden: This is conceivably the best day of the entire month, and I say that only because TCM has programmed two of my all-time top five movies which both happen to star Holden even as they're from very different points in his career. I've mentioned both films on this site repeatedly: Sunset Blvd. (10 PM) and Network (2:30 AM). They are always worth watching, no matter how many times they've been seen, and I keep discovering too many people who have seen neither, particularly the latter which somehow presents a commentary on major media that gets more relevant every day even as we find ourselves nearly 30 years removed from when it was made. There's a wonderful selection of films throughout Holden-day, but aside from the previously-mentioned givens, you might want to check-out Picnic, Joshua Logan's adaptation of the classic William Inge Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Inge was a master of representing small-town middle America, and Logan (who also won a Tony for directing the stage version) expertly translates Inge's story of a drifter's arrival in a small Kansas town, and how he shakes something up. The '50s was a time, thanks to the politics of the era and the Communist witch-hunts, when stories of someone different encroaching on secluded puritan America were all the rage, and Picnic was one of the best.
Aug. 29 -- Constance Bennett: I'm probably less familiar with Bennett than I am with Maureen O'Hara. In fact, I'm not sure that I've seen her in anything other than Topper (8 PM), so I can't really make any other "suggestions. (Although Topper is certainly worth watching.) However, I'm very curious to see What Price Hollywood? (12:45 PM), the 1932 George Cukor-directed price-of-fame tale that was the inspiration for every A Star Is Born film which has followed.