It isn't all about music, but inevitably, a "Summer Under the Stars" involves some.
The annual Turner Classic Movies festival that presents a different actor's movies each day of the month begins anew Sunday, Aug. 1. This time, the highlighted performers start with Basil Rathbone and end with Clint Eastwood, with everyone from James Stewart and Ingrid Bergman to Warren Beatty and Lauren Bacall in between.
Thanks to Bergman, it doesn't take long for music to come in. Her TCM "day" -- Friday, Aug. 6 -- includes "Intermezzo: A Love Story," the 1939 classic about a violinist (played by Leslie Howard) who falls for his daughter's piano teacher (Bergman, reprising her role from the 1936 Swedish version) and begins an affair with her.
Later that day (technically, very early on Saturday, Aug, 7), Bergman goes musical again in the 1978 drama "Autumn Sonata," directed by arguably the other most famous Bergman in movie history: fellow Swedish native Ingmar Bergman. The actress takes up the keyboard again as a concert pianist facing a reunion with the daughters she basically gave up for her career.
By far, though, the two biggest music days of the 2010 "Summer Under the Stars" are Aug. 10 and Aug. 15. Respectively, those days spotlight Kathryn Grayson and Margaret O'Brien, whose professional heydays were at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ... the studio that at the time of that duo's prime popularity, boasted it had "more stars than there are in heaven."
The day celebrating Grayson -- who died this past February -- opens with the music-driven "Seven Sweethearts" (1942). That's followed by 1941's "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary," but after that, it's a much more tuneful Grayson for the rest of her 24 hours of "Summer."
"Two Sisters From Boston" (1946) teams her with fellow MGM staple June Allyson in the story of a woman whose fib about being a Broadway star catches up to her. "Anchors Aweigh" (1945) features Grayson and Frank Sinatra, but it's a good bet the movie's best-remembered pairing is Gene Kelly and Jerry the mouse (of "Tom and Jerry" fame) in a dance sequence.
"It Happened in Brooklyn" (1947) also teams Grayson with Sinatra, and adds Jimmy Durante, in the story of a military veteran seeking musical glory. "Grounds for Marriage" (1950) casts Grayson as an opera star who finds she still has strong feelings for her ex-husband (Van Johnson).
"The Desert Song" (1953) involves Grayson with the Foreign Legion, then "Show Boat" (1951) presents the star in one of her greatest films, placing her alongside Ava Gardner, Howard Keel and the "Old Man River"-crooning William Warfield in the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II saga based on Edna Ferber's novel.
"So This Is Love" (1953) gives Grayson a big vocal workout in the role of opera star Grace Moore -- with Merv Griffin as her leading man -- and "That Midnight Kiss" (1949) gives her a would-be opera star to work opposite in Mario Lanza. "Kiss Me Kate" (1953) is another towering Grayson credit, and "Lovely to Look At" (1952) closes out her TCM marathon.
Though Margaret O'Brien also is known for MGM musicals, she did substantial dramatic work, and her TCM day is a definite split between the two genres. It includes the musical she's best known for: "Meet Me In St. Louis" (1944), about a family just before the 1904 World's Fair.
A highlight of the picture is Judy Garland and an absolutely adorable young O'Brien in a duet of "Under the Bamboo Tree" ... such an enduring charmer that it remained a showstopper 30 years later when MGM included it in the "That's Entertainment!" compilation feature. "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" are among the other major numbers in "St. Louis."
The other "Summer Under the Stars" title that marries music and O'Brien is "Music for Millions" (1944), with June Allyson as her older music-making sister.
Other musicals are admittedly sparse on TCM's August schedule. It's thanks mainly to Powell and O'Brien, then, that the month is not only a "Summer Under the Stars" -- it's a showcase for some songs, too.