Saturday, February 1, 2014

Classic Cinema: My List of the 9 Greatest Films of 1939, The Most Outstanding Year in the History of Film


The year 1939 is widely considered the greatest year in the history of cinema. The Academy Awards (Oscars)  acknowledge this on their web site which provides information on the upcoming awards event on March 2, 2014. We are now coming up to the 75th anniversary of the release of movie history giants from this year, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and Rules of the Game (La Regle Du Jeu). considered by many to be the greatest french language film ever.

I am giving you my list of my choices for the 9 best films from 1939. I wanted to list the 10 greatest films but I cannot make my mind up on what the 10th should be -- with Of Mice and Men, Dark Victory, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame all contending for that sport along with several others. I am adding the classic feminist movie The Women to my since it is so much of a personal favorite - it has to be the most caustic and downright bitchy movie with a beautiful Joan Crawford playing a slutty homewrecker named Crystal Allen.

The Star-Studded All Female Cast of 1939 The Woman with Gay Director George Cukor in the Middle. 

Note :I list the movies by their premiere date. The descriptions of the films are derived from their Wikipedia entries, which you can see by following the highlighted movie name. You can find out more about 1939 films here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1939_in_film

Here are my top 9 films from 1939:



Stagecoach

In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Stagecoach was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the western genre

Release Date:  February 15, 1939

Academy Awards Wins:
  • Best Supporting Actor - Thomas Mitchell
  • Best Music (Scoring) - Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director - John Ford
  • Best Art Direction 
  • Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) 
  • Film Editing 
Other Honors:
  • John Ford won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Director




Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is a 1939 American black-and-white film directed by William Wyler and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. It is based on the novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is widely considered to be one of the most passionate and best acted romances ever produced.

Release Date:  April 13, 1939

Academy Awards Wins:
  • Best Cinematography, Black and White
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director-  William Wyler 
  • Best Actor-  Laurence Olivier
  • Best Supporting Actress-  Geraldine Fitzgerald 
  • Best Screenplay 
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Art Direction 
Other Honors: 
  • New York Film Critics Circle - Award for Best Film





Goodbye Mr. Chips

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a 1939 British romantic drama film directed by Sam Wood and starring Robert Donat and Greer Garson. Based on the 1934 novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton, the film is about an aged school teacher and former headmaster of a boarding school who recalls his career and his personal life over the decades. Robert Donat won Best Actor for the film, beating out Clark Gable for his role as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind.

Release Date:  May 15. 1939 (UK)

Academy Awards Wins:
  • Best Actor-  Robert Donat 
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director-  Sam Wood
  • Best Actress - Greer Garson
  • Best Writing, Screenplay 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Sound Recording 
Other Honors:
  • Voted the 72nd greatest British film ever in the BFI Top 100 British films poll.





Rules of the Game (La Regle Du Jeu)

Release Date:  July 8, 1939 (France)

The Rules of the Game (original French title: La R├Ęgle du jeu) is a 1939 French film directed by Jean Renoir about upper-class French society just before the start of World War II.

Honors:
  • The Rules of the Game is often cited as the greatest French language film, and one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. The decennial poll of international critics by the Sight & Sound magazine ranked it the 4th greatest film of all time in 2012, behind Vertigo, Citizen Kane, and Tokyo Story.  It had been ranked as high as the second greatest film of all time, behind Citizen Kane.






The Wizard of Oz

Release Date:  August 15, 1939

The Wizard of Oz  is a 1939 American musical fantasy adventure film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the most well-known and commercial adaptation based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It is arguably the most famous film in the world as of today and has withstood the test of time. The black and white start of the film is considered to be one of the greatest films showing classic 19th century Americana ever produced.

Academy Awards Wins:

  • Best Song (Over the Rainbow)
  • Best Original Score 
  • Special Award - Judy Garland for Best Performance by a Juvenile
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Color Cinematography
Other Honors:
  • In June 2008, AFI revealed its "10 Top 10"—the best ten American films in ten genres—after polling over 1,500 film artists, critics and historians. The Wizard of Oz was acknowledged as the best film in the fantasy genre.





The Women

Release Date:  September 1, 1939

The Women is a personal favorite of mine.  Throughout The Women, not a single male is seen — although the males are much talked about, and the central theme is the women's relationships with them. The stellar cast includes Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Norma Shearer.  Lesbianism is intimated in the portrayal of only one character, Nancy Blake. The attention to detail was such that even in props such as portraits only female figures are represented, and several animals which appeared as pets were also female.


Honors:


  • Although it received no Academy Award nominations, many critics now describe it as one of the major films of what was a stellar year in Hollywood film production



Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Release Date:   October 17, 1939

Mr.Smith Goes to Washington is a Frank Capra 1939 American political comedy-drama film, starring Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart; the move made Stewart into a major movie star. The controversial film  is about one man's effect on politics. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was attacked by the press and politicians for being anti-American and pro-Communist and for its exaggerated portrayal of corruption in the American government. However, popular democracy wins out at the end. The film was banned in many totalitarian states around the world, including Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain and Stalin's USSR.

Academy Awards Wins:
  • Best Writing, Original Story
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director- Frank Capra
  • Best Actor- James Stewart
  • Best Supporting Actor- Harry Carey
  • Best Supporting Actor- Claude Rains
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music,Scoring
  • Best Sound Recording
Other Honors:
  • Jimmy Stewart won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
  • in 2006, The American Film Institute ranked it the 26th greatest film of all time




Ninotchka

Release Date : November 9, 1939

Ninotchka is Greta Garbo's first full comedy, and is considered by many to be her best acted and most famous film. Ninotchka was marketed with the catchphrase, "Garbo Laughs!", commenting on Garbo's serious and melancholy image. Ninotchka depicted the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin as being rigid and gray, and made fun of the communist system in a very lighthearted way. The film was banned in the Soviet Union as a result.

Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Actress- Greta Garbo 
  • Best Original Story
  • Best Screenplay
Other Honors:

  • Ranked at the 40th greatest film of all time by the AFI (American Film Institute)



Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind is the most famous epic produced about the United States Civil War.  It took home a remarkable 8 Oscars and dominated a year of outstanding films.  In terms of pure fame, Gone With The Wind is arguably the best known film of all time.   Adjusted for inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history. The film has been criticized for its historical revisionism and glorification of slavery, but nevertheless it has been credited for triggering changes to the way African Americans are depicted on film.

Release Date:  December 15, 1939

Academy Awards Wins:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director- Victor Fleming
  • Best Actress- Vivien Leigh
  • Best Supporting Actress- Hattie McDaniel
  • Best Cinematography, Color
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Art Direction
Other Academy Awards Nominations:
  • Best Actor- Clark Gable
  • Best Supporting Actress- Olivia de Havilland
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Sound Recording
Other Honors:
  • In 1977, Gone with the Wind was voted the most popular film by the American Film Institute (AFI), in a poll of the organization's membership. However, the movie slipped to the number 6 position in 2007 in the AFI's ranking of the 100 greatest films. Some film critics as of recent have not ranked the film in top lists, probably due to the film's dated racial views.

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