August 2017 Recap

It was Summer Under the Stars month on TCM, and over the course of my self-imposed challenge to watch at least one film from every star being honored--and watching quite a few more than that for my favorites--I managed to watch more films than I've ever watched in a single month before. The grand total is pretty ridiculous, but then, I'm going to be very busy over the next few months between work and university, so I can't begrudge myself this epic movie binge during my last month of freedom. I'm also proud to say that this is the first month ever that I didn't watch a single film from the 2010s--in fact, I didn't watch a single film released past 1977! See details and a breakdown of my epic month of classic Hollywood below the cut.

First-Time Viewings: 77
Re-Watches: 0
  1. Niagara (1953)
  2. River of No Return (1954)
  3. Love Nest (1951)
  4. Clash by Night (1952)
  5. Panic in Year Zero! (1962)
  6. Alias Nick Beal (1949)
  7. Oliver Twist (1922)
  8. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  9. The Blackbird (1926)
  10. Mr. Wu (1927)
  11. Where East is East (1929)
  12. Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
  13. West of Zanzibar (1928)
  14. The Ace of Hearts (1921)
  15. The Unholy Three (1925)
  16. Tell It to the Marines (1926)
  17. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
  18. The Unholy Three (1930)
  19. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
  20. Cover Girl (1944)
  21. The Pirate (1948)
  22. Summer Stock (1950)
  23. Going Home (1971)
  24. Angel Face (1952)
  25. The Locket (1946)
  26. When Strangers Marry (1944)
  27. Crossfire (1947)
  28. Never Say Goodbye (1946)
  29. The King Steps Out (1936)
  30. The Wife Takes a Flyer (1942)
  31. Gidget (1959)
  32. The Restless Years (1958)
  33. The Bedford Incident (1965)
  34. Goodbye, My Lady (1956)
  35. Edge of the City (1957)
  36. The Defiant Ones (1958)
  37. Chance at Heaven (1933)
  38. Star of Midnight (1935)
  39. Dreamboat (1952)
  40. Tight Spot (1955)
  41. They Were Expendable (1945)
  42. These Wilder Years (1956)
  43. All I Desire (1953)
  44. Jeopardy (1953)
  45. So Big! (1932)
  46. Julia (1977)
  47. Battleground (1949)
  48. Mystery Street (1950)
  49. On an Island with You (1948)
  50. Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
  51. Jailhouse Rock (1957)
  52. They Met in Bombay (1941)
  53. Auntie Mame (1958)
  54. The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)
  55. The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1971)
  56. 36 Hours (1964)
  57. The Harvey Girls (1946)
  58. Kind Lady (1951)
  59. State of the Union (1948)
  60. I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
  61. Walk Don't Run (1966)
  62. The Flame Within (1935)
  63. When Ladies Meet (1933)
  64. Condemned (1929)
  65. The Life of Vergie Winters (1934)
  66. The Violent Men (1955)
  67. Experiment in Terror (1962)
  68. The Hard Way (1943)
  69. Adventure (1945)
  70. Room at the Top (1959)
  71. Casque d'Or (1952)
  72. The Confession (1970)
  73. The Gallant Hours (1960)
  74. Jimmy the Gent (1934)
  75. Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
  76. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
  77. Captains of the Clouds (1942)
By Decade:
  • 20s: 12
  • 30s: 11
  • 40s: 18
  • 50s: 25
  • 60s: 7
  • 70s: 4
  • 80s: 0
  • 90s: 0
  • 2000s: 0
  • 2010s: 0

Panic in Year Zero! (1962) (image via IMDB)

Ray Milland is a special kind of actor. He doesn't wow you with big, show-stopping performances--instead, he delivers this very human, world-weary honesty that, while it can easily go unnoticed, always enhances the films he appears in. Panic in Year Zero! is notable because it doesn't just star Milland, but is also directed by him, and I think this unique quality to his acting becomes part of the overall feeling of this film. It's indeed very human, a disaster film that focuses on the plight of a single family, the world at large penetrating the narrative only through the occasional radio broadcast. I was especially taken with it because Milland's character gets to be something characters in disaster films almost never are: smart. This film still feels very relevant today and is a great, compelling little story about human survival--a showcase of Milland's talents both in front of and behind the camera.

Phantom of the Opera (1925) (image via YouTube)

I watched 12 of Lon Chaney's films this month, and I was tempted to highlight one of the lesser-known ones--there really wasn't a single bad film in the bunch--but I had to be honest with myself and pick my favorite, however cliche it may be. The Phantom of the Opera is really just that good. I've always been interested in this story, with its complex villain and eerie, evocative setting, and the gorgeously tinted, silent-era film stock is the perfect means of bringing it to life. It's so beautiful to look at, and Lon Chaney puts in such a convincing performance, making us feel for him even with his expressive face hidden behind a mask. This is truly one of the greats of the silent era and an essential watch for anyone interested in classic moies.

Going Home (1971) (image via TCM)

This is a special movie, the kind that's apparently completely unremarkable to basically everyone else who has ever seen it but that really struck a chord with me. Not to get too personal, but I have a lot in common with the protagonist of this film who seeks out his father 13 years after the court separated them because of criminal acts on the part of the father, and watching his struggle play out on-screen was actually really therapeutic for me. It seems like the kind of story that's been told a thousand times, but I've never seen it like this, packaged in a way that I could relate to so fully--and never with such a fantastic performance as the one put in by Robert Mitchum as the father. He never lost it, even at this late stage of his career, and while the film admittedly does go off the rails at the very end, it accomplishes so much good before that point that I know it's going to stick with me for a long time to come.

The Locket (1946) (image via Toronto Film Society)

Another movie from Mitchum day, because he's just that great. The Locket is a film I'm shocked isn't more well-known, primarily because it's just so unique. I say that about a lot of films, but this time I really mean it: the structure of this film is unlike anything I've ever seen before, especially in a studio-era film. It begins with a man on his wedding day, who is approached by a stranger who wants to tell him a story. We jump into a flashback, and partway through it, the stranger is approached by his own stranger (played by Mitchum), also with a story to tell, so we jump into his flashback. Then, partway through this flashback, Mitchum is speaking with his girlfriend who has a story to tell him, so we jump into her flashback. At the halfway point of the film now, we then spend the rest of it coming back up through the layers until we return to the wedding day, an event that suddenly has a completely different meaning. The story is alright, but like Memento or Pulp Fiction, it's the way it's told that offers it true brilliance--and the icing on the cake is that this is a pretty great early role for Mitchum, too. This is an under-seen, underrated little film that comes highly recommended if you can find it.

Gidget (1959) (image via IMDB)

Yes, I'm serious. I'm as surprised as you are: I watched this only because it seemed wrong to go through Sandra Dee's day without seeing the film everyone remembers her for today. Is it a good film? No, not really. But man is it fun! It has the perfect amount of silly teenage drama, cheesiness, and the absolutely adorable Sandra Dee to make this perfect summertime viewing. I'm sure many will have trouble stomaching this film and I don't blame them, but if you're in the right mood--or if you have a soft spot for silly teen girl films--there really is a lot of enjoyment to be had with this slice of beach fluff.

Jeopardy (1953) (image via TCM)

Barbara Stanwyck is one of those rare performers who was truly excellent at every stage of her career. You can cherry-pick any film and whatever the quality of the production as a whole, you will see a stunning talent giving it her all. This film is no exception, and it also happens to be very good as a whole. It's one of those small films with a very simple, yet high-stakes plot: Stanwyck's husband is trapped on an isolated beach, and she has to go find someone, or something, to help her rescue him. If she doesn't return in time, the tide is going to come in and her husband will drown. She manages to find someone, but he has other motivations for getting in her car than helping some poor sap on a beach. Will she get back to her husband in time? See Stanwyck playing her trademark tough, determined, and desperate woman in Jeopardy to find out.

36 Hours (1964) (image via TCM)

I don't normally enjoy war films, but I decided to go out of my comfort zone this month and watched quite a number of them--and coincidentally, most of them took place in WWII. This is my favorite of the bunch, a film about the Nazis going to absolutely outrageous lengths to gather information from their POWs in a plot that is essentially the WWII/Nazi version of The Truman Show. The Nazis are represented by Rod Taylor, and he really steals the show from protagonist James Garner, playing what is perhaps the first likable Nazi character I've ever seen in a film--you can't help rooting for him (personally, not ideologically) after seeing what trouble he's gone to creating this perfect, non-violent means of gathering information. This is one of the most high concept, out-there war films you're ever going to find, and it's definitely worth a watch.

I Was a Male War Bride (1949) (image via

Screwball comedy is one of my favorite genres, and I get a special thrill out of watching a great one for the first time. I Was a Male War Bride may not be quite on the same level as the previous Hawks/Grant screwball collaborations--Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday--but it's a masterpiece of the genre in its own right, a hilarious gender role-reversing romp that sees Cary Grant becoming, well, a male war bride. And as with the two aforementioned films, this one manages to be surprisingly progressive in its depiction of gender--a lesser film would glean all of its laughs simply from the absurdity of Grant running around explaining to people that he's a war bride, but this one goes a bit deeper, highlighting the sexism of the law (why has it not been updated to reflect the fact that women can now join the army?) and the ridiculousness of the people who can't understand Grant as a bride no matter how many times the legalese is explained to them because, well, how can a MAN be a BRIDE! It's a very smart, fun film that definitely deserves a spot on the essential Screwball list.

August was a great month, and probably the last really great month of movies I'll have for awhile, depending on how much movie time I can squeeze in between university and work. However, I'm not without plans for when that free time does come around: I'm spending these first few days of September finishing up my Summer Under the Stars recordings, and I'm planning to watch as many Jennifer Jones movies as I can during her September Star of the Month spotlight. Given that I've never seen a single one of her films, this seems like the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with her! So here's to a great September, full of new experiences and great films.


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