THE BEST YEAR?

Re-reading Mark A. Vieira ’s excellent 2013 book, “MAJESTIC HOLLYWOOD:THE GREATEST FILMS OF 1939”, there certainly is an argument that 1939 was Hollywood’s greatest year for movies.
Mark Vieira’s books always have a wonderful selection of photographs. In this one, he covers 4 to 6 films released each month from January to December, 1939, ending with the Christmas release of GONE WITH THE WIND.

For each film  there are production  highlights and critical reviews.
Philip K.Scheuer of the L.A.Times on IDIOT’S DELIGHT:

“Gable, tongue in cheek, is really excellent. Here is at last is an intelligent film that was not made in England.”

Frank Nugent of the New York Times on ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS:

“……..Fairly good melodrama, nothing more.”

Edwin Schallert on IN NAME ONLY:

It’s a remote descendent of ‘Back Street’ and ‘ Only Yesterday’, meeting with the current censorship demands.”

 

Alexander Woollcott on GOODBYE MR. CHIPS:

In a year in which the great nations of the world are choosing partners in a dance of death…….the most moving of all motion pictures is “Goodbye Mr. Chips.”

Some of Mark Vieira’s rare photos:

Victor McLaglen,Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant . GUNGA DIN.

 

Paul Muni, Bette Davis.JUAREZ.

 

Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis. IN NAME ONLY.

 

James Cagney in THE ROARING TWENTIES.

 

Top marks if you can identify all the stars seen here from FIVE  CAME BACK.

 

From the book, “Scarlett Fever”(1977) by William Pratt, I love this description of 1939:

Nineteen hundred and thirty nine……Ninotchka laughed, Mr. Smith took a trip to Washington and Dorothy soared over the rainbow…..John Ford rode  a Stagecoach to glory, Bette Davis was victorious and Emily Bronte’s vision materialised…….

“……..the rains came and so did Ingrid Bergman, William Holden and even Greer Garson (who said goodbye to Mr. Chips………Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer had a love affair worth remembering, while Beau Geste’s new sweetheart was Susan Hayward.”

“……..it was a world of idiot’s delight, mice and men, babes in arms, the women and Shirley  Temple in Technicolor……there were drums  along the Mohawk and more of Fred and Ginger, while Gulliver, Juarez, Destry, Gunga Din and Jesse James were in the company of Elizabeth and Essex……..”

“………throughout the real world , tremors of destruction prevailed and the need for escape had never been so great, as Americans realised their safe civilisation could soon end…….it may have been the last completely romantic time  for Hollywood  films  – to be cherished for decades thereafter………

It was the year of GONE WITH THE WIND.”

 

Some of the other classics from that magical year.

 

 

 

 

 

So 1939 has this reputation  and is considered by many to have the largest number of memorable films of any of Hollywood’s classic years.
I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to dispute its reputation.
I had a quick look at Wikipedia’ listing of films by year. 1937 seems to have had its share of good features:

NIGHT MUST FALL…..KNIGHT WITHOUT  ARMOUR…..100 MEN AND A GIRL……..THE AWFUL TRUTH….STAGE DOOR……A STAR IS BORN……DEAD END……THE PRISONER OF ZENDA…….CONQUEST…. HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT……..LOST HORIZON…..TOPPER…..EASY LIVING…..CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS…..SHALL WE DANCE…….NOTHING SACRED…..MARKED WOMAN…….THE FIREFLY…..MAYTIME.

 

Or is all down to personal taste. I’d probably pick 1946 over 1939, possibly because it was the era of Noir – more great titles – NOTORIOUS…..THE KILLERS…..THE BIG SLEEP…….THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES…..THE YEARLING……GILDA…….IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE…….THE JOLSON STORY.

 

Comments welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

8 responses »

  1. Hi vienna… For me 1959 is remarkable for the number of great influential films that summed up the end of the decade.. But its gard to beat 1939 with a wizard of oz and GWTW

    On Sat, 14 Aug 2021, 20:58 Vienna’s Classic Hollywood, wrote:

    > Vienna posted: ” Re-reading Mark A. Vieira ’s excellent 2013 book, > “MAJESTIC HOLLYWOOD:THE GREATEST FILMS OF 1939”, there certainly is an > argument that 1939 was Hollywood’s greatest year for movies. Mark Vieira’s > books always have a wonderful selection of photographs” >

  2. Though I do believe 1939 was a fantastic year, I think 1941 was even better: Citizen Kane, Maltese Falcon, The Lady Eve, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Little Foxes, The Wolf Man, How Green Was My Valley, Sullivan’s Travels, Dumbo, Ball of Fire, Sergeant York, etc. What do you think?

  3. I also agree that 1939 was a banner year, but what about 1953? Roman Holiday, How to Marry a Millionaire, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Kiss Me Kate, Stalag 17, Pickup on South Street, The Blue Dahlia, The Band Wagon, Genevieve, The Titfield Thunderbols (I’m a fan of British comedies) and so on.

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