TCM’s annual Summer Under the Stars has been a longtime fan favorite, offering 24-hour film marathons pegged around a single star. Perennial icons Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor brilliantly bookend this year’s event that will also see 12 newbies getting their due on the esteemed 31-day calendar. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz is thrilled at some of this year’s selections.
“Every year, when I look at the number of people who we’re doing for the first time, I find myself surprised,” he shares. “When we’ve been doing it as long as we have [14 years!] and I look at this list, and I’m like, ‘We never did George Sanders? People love George Sanders. Our audience loves George Sanders. I love George Sanders!’ I’m stunned that we haven’t done George Sanders.”
Sanders, of course, is known for his Academy Award-winning role opposite Bette Davis in All About Eve, as well as Journey to Italy, A Shot in the Dark and many others. Sanders was also known for his four wives (one being Zsa Zsa Gabor) and, sadly, his tragic suicide note that read “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored.”
In addition to Sanders, other first-timers are Eleanor Parker, Franchot Tone, Sandra Dee, Vanessa Redgrave, Ricardo Montalban, Rod Taylor, Ann Harding, Dennis Morgan, Simone Signoret, Leslie Caron and Slim Pickens.
— TCM (@tcm) July 31, 2017
“I am most pleased to see that we’re doing Eleanor Parker, who’s one of my favorite actresses who I sort of came to appreciate [more] in just the past couple years,” Mankiewicz says. “I was ready to complain to our head of programming that we didn’t have her first starring movie. She was in some B pictures and she’d been a supporting actress but we didn’t have The Very Thought of You [on her calendar day], which was the first movie she really sort of starred in, but that’s because we’re showing it during Dennis Morgan’s night. …We’re showing Caged at 4 [Eastern] in the afternoon on Monday the 7th. Everybody should stop what they’re doing at 4 on Monday and watch that movie.”
With TCM’s robust film library, narrowing the calendar to just 31 stars proves challenging every year. Fan feedback definitely plays into the calendar’s development, as do significant anniversaries. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, so TCM is dedicating Aug. 16 to the King. “My favorite … I love Ann-Margret so I particularly love Viva Las Vegas,” says Mankiewicz. “Any time you have a star that can nearly match Elvis in terms of magnetism, it just helps.”
Mankiewicz has built a career around being a steward of the classic film genre and has had the distinguished honor of interviewing many film legends of the past, but only a handful have truly left him starstruck. “In terms of taking-my-breath-away starstruck? Sophia Loren. I’ve never seen more people make an excuse to be in a green room than when Sophia Loren was [in attendance at TCM’s festival]. There is this regal quality to her and you just can’t help it when you walk into a room and you know she’s going to be there and you see her and you have to turn to whoever you’re with and be like, ‘That’s Sophia Loren!’ I waited forever to go up and talk to her and I was interviewing her later. And she was, as you might imagine, she was delightful and kind and sweet and so smart and funny. All the energy in the room is around her.”
While Loren isn’t a star on the calendar this year (believe us, she’s had a few turns), there are 31 other stars who will provide plenty of shine.