Just in time to save viewers from shameless, scheming house-bound reality TV wretches, Turner Classic Movies once again unveils an ambitious “Summer Under The Stars” schedule this week.
Each day during the month of August, the Atlanta-based classic film outlet devotes 24 hours to an individual star’s galaxy of work.
Sure, there are days devoted to the usual fan favorites, including Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman and Ingrid Bergman. But for TCM host and Oscars historian Robert Osborne, it’s the days dedicated to the less well known actors that particularly delight him (Osborne even rolled up his well-tailored sleeves to personally program the days dedicated to Lauren Bacall and Gene Tierney).
For example, the 2010 edition of “Summer Under The Stars” kicked off Sunday with 24 hours of Basil Rathbone pictures.
The British actor, best known for portraying Sherlock Holmes in 14 films also had a brilliant knack for playing villains (his opening scene as the Marquis St. Evremonde in 1935’s “A Tale of Two Cities” depicts Rathbone’s hard-charging carriage striking and killing a child as St. Evremonde complains to villagers about potential damage to his horses. . .).
“Unfortunately, Basil Rathbone is really only known now for playing Holmes or trying to kill Tyrone Power,” says Osborne. “But he was a really well-rounded actor. “
On August 5, TCM devotes the day to actor Woody Strode, a star draped in thick cloud cover with modern audiences.
“Woody Strode is one of those supporting actors you know on sight,” Osborne explains. “He was most famous for a few seconds in ‘Spartacus’ but he was around forever. I love when we have the opportunity like this to showcase an underrated actor in this detailed way.”
Another now-eclipsed star given her own day on August 30? Nineteen Thirties screen siren Thelma Todd, who was found dead in her garage after an all-night party in 1935. According to who you talk to, she either killed herself or was murdered.
“She had a very popular career,” says Osborne. “But today, she’s best remembered due to the scandal when she died. It became like Fatty Arbuckle. The scandal is all anyone remembers. But in the 1930s, she made many films and was very popular with audiences.”
And since Osborne writes all of his own intros for TCM, the veteran Hollywood Reporter columnist was able to weave in a personal piece of reporting he once obtained from Olivia de Havilland, August 27’s star of the day.
Osborne recalls how de Havilland followed up her Oscar-nominated turn in “The Snake Pit” with 1949’s “The Heiress,” a role that did win her the coveted gold guy.
“Very few people know this but Olivia de Havilland actually found that property for herself,” Osborne explains. “She was at a party and a director asked her how she was going to follow up her harrowing role in ‘The Snake Pit.’ He told her to consider ‘The Heiress’ that was then running on Broadway as a play. She told me, she got on a train for New York in Hollywood, traveled across the country to see the play and called her agent at intermission and asked him to secure the film rights for her.”
Adds Osborne with a laugh: “That’s how things operated in Hollywood before computers and the Internet.”
For the complete TCM “Summer Under The Stars” line-up, go to TCM’s official website.