This year marks the 70th anniversary of the greatest year in Hollywood history, 1939. Of all the outstanding pictures that year the ten that follow are among the most beloved films in all of cinema.
- Gone With The Wind, M-G-M, Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia deHavilland, Thomas Mitchell. Director: Victor Fleming, Producer: David O. Selznick. Screenwriter: Sidney Howard. Selznick poured his heart and soul into the filming of Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller about the Old South, the Civil War and Reconstruction. The burning of Atlanta was a high-water mark for screen excitement, as well as Rhett Butler’s delivery of Hollywood’s first four-letter word, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn! Master composer Max Steiner creates perhaps his most memorable score
- The Wizard of Oz. M-G-M, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan. Director: Victor Fleming. Producer: Mervyn LeRoy. Screenwriters: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf. Garland’s Dorothy Gale is transported from her black-and-white Kansas home to the colorful land of Oz via tornado. From here she journeys down the Yellow Brick Road and is helped by a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion on their way to see the Wizard. The Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg score is highlighted by Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Columbia, James Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold. Director and Producer: Frank Capra. Screenwriters: Sidney Buchman, Lewis R. Foster. Appointed to the US Senate because the power brokers believe they’ve got a hayseed on their hands, Jefferson Smith surprises everyone with his honesty and gravitas. Framed by the political machine that cleverly twists the truth, Smith almost waves a white flag, but Clarissa Saunders gives him a fast lesson in civics. Filibuster!!!
- Stagecoach, United Artists, John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine. Director: John Ford. Producer: Walter Wanger. Screenwriter: Dudley Nichols. Ford’s first of 12 films shot in his favorite location, Monument Valley, the picture single-handedly reinvented the Western genre. The movie also made a star out of Wayne, a vengeance-seeking fugitive transformed when he boards the stagecoach.
- Ninotchka, M-G-M, Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas. Director and Producer: Ernst Lubitsch. Screenwriters: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Melchior Lengyel. Communism collides with capitalism in this “Lubitsch Touch” comedy when staunch party member Garbo comes to Paris to discipline some wayward comrades and falls in love with Douglas’ suave aristocrat.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips, M-G-M, Robert Donat, Greer Garson. Director: Sam Wood. Producer: Victor Saville. Screenwriters: R.C. Sherriff, Claudine West, Eric Maschwitz. James Hilton’s story of a beloved classics teacher parallels life at an English public school with changing social mores from the late 19th century through the mid-1930s.
- Gunga Din, RKO, Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Victor McLaglen, Sam Jaffe. Director: George Stevens. Producers: Pandro S. Berman, George Stevens. Screenwriters: Fred Guiol, Joel Sayre, Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur. Based loosely on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Stevens directed this rousing saga of three mischievous, high-spirited British soldiers in 19th century India. But it is Gunga Din, the loyal water-carrier who dreams of becoming a regimental bugler, who saves their lives from the notorious Thuggees. “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”
- Destry Rides Again, Universal, Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart. Director: George Marshall. Producers: Joe Pasternak, Islin Auster. Screenwriters: Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell, Henry Myers. In a western town, peace-loving sheriff Stewart combats lawlessness with homilies along with some help from saloon singer Dietrich, who rallies the town’s womenfolk to take up their rolling pins in his support. The film’s “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” became Dietrich’s signature songs.
- Only Angels Have Wings, Columbia, Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Thomas Mitchell. Director: and Producer: Howard Hawks, Screenwriter: William Rankin. Bush pilot Grant struggles to run a fly by night airline by the seat of his pants in Ecuador. Responsible for the death of Mitchell’s son, Barthelmess redeems himself. Dimitri Tiomkin’s heroic score completes this wonderful aviation adventure.
- Wuthering Heights, United Artists, Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Donald Crisp, David Niven. Director: William Wyler. Producer: Samuel Goldwyn. Screenwriters: Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht. Olivier stars as the brooding master of Wuthering Heights, who roams the English moors in search of his lost love, Cathy, played by Oberon. Gregg Toland’s moody cinematography combines with Alfred Newman’s highly romantic score to infuse the Emily Brontë-based film with a haunting atmosphere.
So many great stars are featured in these films: Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Lawrence Olivier, James Stewart, Greta Garbo, Vivian Leigh, Olivia deHavilland, Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich. However, one character actor plays unforgettable roles in four of these films—Thomas Mitchell.
Among the other outstanding films that year : Beau Geste, Dark Victory, The Women and Young Mr. Lincoln.