Aug 3, 2006

Summer Under the Stars

Where have I been all this summer? Certainly not under the stars, that's for sure - and most definitely not lounging vigilantly in front of Turner Classic Movies. Keep on your toes, though, because TCM is bringing us their Summer Under the Stars all throughout August. Cary Grant, Hedy Lamarr, Jimmy Stewart, and Jane Powell are just a few of the glorious stars whose films are played in blocks, with an evening for each star's mini-marathon - so peruse TCM's schedule to find your favorite upcoming movies, or visit TVNow to search for your favorite stars' lineup.

Don't miss the August 4th Gregory Peck marathon, featuring such greats as To Kill A Mockingbird, How The West Was Won, and Cape Fear!

Update: I've compiled a pretty comprehensive listing of the stars featured in August (I've boldened the weekend dates to help you see, at a glance, what their schedule will mean for your schedule). Remember, each gets an entire day of programming devoted to showcasing a variety of his or her best films - so don't miss out!

John Garfield - 8/10
Katharine Hepburn - 8/11
Rock Hudson - 8/12
Walter Matthau - 8/13
Lana Turner - 8/14
Richard Dix - 8/15
Joseph Cotten - 8/16
Carole Lombard - 8/17
Bela Lugosi - 8/18
Audrey Hepburn - 8/19
Lee Marvin - 8/20

David Niven - 8/21
Rita Hayworth - 8/22
Van Johnson - 8/23
Ann Sothern - 8/24
James Stewart - 8/25
Cary Grant - 8/26
John Wayne - 8/27
Hedy Lamarr - 8/28
Ingrid Bergman - 8/29
Sidney Poitier - 8/30
Barbara Stanwyck - 8/31

All this means, essentially, is that though I'm registered to begin classes in about two weeks, they won't be seeing anything of me until at least September first. I mean seriously, a Barbara Stanwyck day! They expect to see me on Barbara Stanwyck day?!

Dee Day

A model at twelve, an actress at fifteen, and a superstar at an age when most girls would have been thrilled to graduate high school: Sandra Dee seemed to have it all. After her popularity exploded in 1959 with teen classics Gidget and A Summer's Place, she married singing sensation Bobby Darin, her brassy, boorish co-star on 1961's Come September, at just eighteen - he claimed that the angered reactions his teasing produced were better than no reaction at all - and a year later, the couple welcomed their only child, son Dodd. But as the sixties wore on, offers for work waned and tensions arose at home; by 1967, both her career and her marriage were over. It seems she had barely been initiated into the halls of Tinseltown before she was crowned Queen of Teens and, soon after, Sandra Dee slipped gracefully away to retire in the annals of Hollywood history.

Despite the fact that her career spanned nearly thirty years, Dee appeared in but twenty-three films, lending her talents to an additional dozen television movies and guest appearances in the 1970's and 80's. Though most recall her as the sexually-stifled teenager in the weepy (but very dated) A Summer's Place, Dee shines in light comedies like Take Her, She's Mine opposite Jimmy Stewart and plays solidly in heavier fare - her performance in 1959's Imitation of Life shows impressive range for a seventeen-year-old. In terms of my childhood, she is warmly remembered as boy-crazy, surf-happy Gidget, before Sally Field's spunk re-ignited the Gidge character on television nearly a decade later, and as a young woman I relish her in roles opposite her real-life husband (Come September is definitely a giddy, guilty pleasure). Dee worked sporadically after wrapping her final films in the late 1960's, choosing instead to tend to her young son, particularly after ex-husband Darin died suddenly in 1973. Aside from two tiny television appearances in the 1990's, Dee, who never remarried, lived outside of the limelight for the second half of her life; she died of kidney disease in February of 2005.

For a woman whose career seems barely a whisper in the shadow of such legends as Greta Garbo and Bette Davis, it seems unthinkable that young Sandra Dee created a sensation and earned a legion of devoted fans with her wholesome beauty and scandal-free public life. Today, though, she remains a star, and, come September, she'll still have her place in the cinema firmament.

Check out the Sandra Dee Fans website for beautiful photographs, vintage magazine articles, and wonderful fan tributes to the incomparable Miss Dee.

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Very Fonda Fonda

Half Price Books, the only place in the world in which I would voluntarily spend enough to cause my own bankruptcy without a second thought, further tempted my wallet with a 20%-off sale this weekend - and I walked off with three used-but-like-new condition, hardcover biographies of classic movie stars totalling less than $16. Of my fantastic finds, Fonda: My Life proved an incredibly worthy read on a desperately drizzly, freezing Saturday afternoon (we don't have many days like that in southern Arizona). Written like a delicious fiction novel and based on over 200 hours worth of audio-interviews with Henry Fonda himself, Howard Teichmann's hardcover is so juicy and engrossing that I nearly finished it in the better part of a day.
The best part? Hilarious recollections of Hank's life by luminaries and stars like best friend Jimmy Stewart, former girlfriend Lucille Ball, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Fonda's former wives, and his own children, Jane and Peter Fonda. Absolutely fascinating look at the man who became the face of stoic American integrity in movies like 12 Angry Men, The Ox-Bow Incident, and The Grapes of Wrath (Fonda's three favorite of all his films).
Check out the Half-Price Books website to find a U.S. store near you, or click the Fonda link above to order this book off of for much less than its retail price.

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