Review by C.J. Bunce
We’re just a little over the midway point of Summer 2021, so there’s plenty of time to squeeze the pulp out of the sun and fun. Summer means movies, often big movies, and Turner Classic Movies’ latest in-depth research into the best of classic and genre films continues in the new book, TCM’s Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics available now here at Amazon. Think about it–What would you recommend for the 30 best summer movies of all time? Writer John Malahy makes his selections, and pulls in an additional 30 movies as suggested “double features,” meaning you have 60 key suggestions that will either re-affirm your own picks, or more likely, provide at least a few new films you may want to try out. Over the past decade I have reviewed most of the books from publisher Running Press’s chronicle from the TCM library, and this latest is on the heels of TCM’s The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter and its sequel (reviewed here and here least year). Today I’m reviewing and previewing the new volume in what has become a major film library for the film historian. You may quibble with some of the picks, but I bet you’ll find at least 20 movies that make your own list of movies or at least help get you in the spirit of summer.
Readers may find some of Mahaly’s selections obvious, others unusual. These aren’t movies that are the biggest summer blockbusters (although a few make the cut), but movies you want to watch in the freezing cold dead of winter to remind you of the good and bad of summer: summer heat, summer vacations, summer pastimes, and summer romance. The obvious pick to me is Jaws, the first declared blockbuster summer movie. Other picks I love: Caddyshack–Kenny Loggins’ soundtrack is the accompaniment to many summers since, and National Lampoon’s Vacation is another solid choice. But from there the list leans into what summer really means. Summer heat is the background or driving force behind selections like Rear Window, Do the Right Thing, Picnic, The Seven-Year Itch, and Key Largo.
One of the surprises is the must-watch documentary that is a perfect film for the list: Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer from 1964, a unique film and one of the greatest U.S. documentaries ever created. It’s one of the summer pastime subsets of Malahy’s selections, which also include two of my favorite films of all time in any category, both musicals: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original State Fair from 1945 and Meredith Willson’s The Music Man from 1962. What do you do over the summer? Your answers may parallel Summer Stock, Gidget, The Parent Trap, Dirty Dancing, Moonrise Kingdom, or if you’re really checked out for the summer like Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate.
Mahaly seeks out earlier black and white selections and foreign films, too, many you can best find on Turner Classic Movies by adding them to your DVR. Some of the “also-rans” or “double features” are as good or better than the 30 main picks, including Splendor in the Grass from 1961, A Summer Place from 1959, a Deanna Durbin feature Three Smart Girls, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart, and the 1979 summer camp classic Meatballs starring Bill Murray.
TCM’s Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics includes a foreword by film critic Leonard Maltin, and a sidebar feature for every selection describing the current status of the location that inspired each film. This film reference continues the TCM film library and should be an indispensable addition to the film history shelf of any film buff. TCM’s Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics is available in a hardcover with black and white and color photographs, from publisher Running Press. Get your copy now here at Amazon. Keep an eye out at the TCM website for future airings of films from the book. And don’t forget to check out the other books in the TCM library reviewed here at borg, 52 Must-See Movies That Matter, 52 More Must-See Movies That Matter, Must-See Sci-Fi, Dynamic Dames, Forbidden Hollywood, Christmas in the Movies, and Fright Favorites.