There’s a reason 1939 is referred to as one of the greatest individual years in the history of cinema. Legitimately half this list is among the greatest films of the decade and all time. And it’s not just the choices on top. This year goes deep.
You have one of the greatest westerns ever made, perhaps Frank Capra’s finest achievement, and one of the most uplifting movies ever made, an all-time classic that is one of the most beloved films ever made and has become so iconic that it’s become part of the lexicon and a cultural touchstone for every single person. Oh, let’s not also forget the landmark achievement of 1939, what still may be the finest achievement in the history of American moviemaking.
The important thing about this year isn’t just to fete the classics, it’s to talk up all the other great stuff that got released alongside them. There’s gonna be some great stuff here you haven’t heard of. (more…)
This is another one of those years that I don’t much understand, that I try to explain by figuring the Academy went, “Well, it worked once before, let’s try it again!” It’s not that You Can’t Take It With You is a bad film — it’s terrific — it’s just that it’s a weak winner.
Frank Capra also winning Best Director for the film (talked about here), while it makes sense, is not a particularly good decision. Though it does fit with their Best Director choices over this first decade of the Oscars. Best Actor this year was Spencer Tracy for Boys Town (talked about here), which I consider the single worst Best Actor winning performance ever. He’s not the lead, and he barely does anything in the film. Him winning this is beyond laughable to me. Best Actress was Bette Davis for Jezebel (talked about here), which I think is also a poor decision, though an acceptable one. Fay Bainter won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here) as well, which makes sense. She was nominated twice this year. And Best Supporting Actor was Walter Brennan for Kentucky (talked about here), which — it’s Walter Brennan, so it’s acceptable, but on the other hand, Basil Rathbone was so much better.
You can see why I consider this a year of, “Well, it worked the first time…” Capra, Tracy, Davis, Brennan — it’s almost like the Academy doubting themselves, having gone out on the tightrope and, midway through, looking down, and then holding onto where they are just because it’s safer there. I don’t care for this year much at all. It’s one of those things that holds the Academy back in my mind. Their reliance on safe things and fear of bold decisions.
BEST PICTURE – 1938
And the nominees were…
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros.)
Alexander’s Ragtime Band (20th Century Fox)
Boys Town (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The Citadel (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Four Daughters (Warner Bros., First National)
Grand Illusion (R.A.O., World Pictures)
Jezebel (Warner Bros.)
Test Pilot (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
You Can’t Take It With You (Columbia) (more…)
1939 is the golden year of cinema. The amount of great (not good, great) films that came out in 1939 has never been matched in any other year, ever.
And as an Oscar year, this is also a year that, in terms of achievement, will never be matched. Gone With the Wind is the perhaps the greatest cinematic achievement in history. This is, to me, the quintessential Best Picture winner and the best Best Picture of all time. It also won Best Director for Victor Fleming (talked about here), who was basically a figurehead for what was essentially a David O. Selznick film, Best Actress for Vivien Leigh (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel (talked about here), all of which are perfect decisions. Best Actor was Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (talked about here), which, while he was great in the film, Jimmy Stewart really should have won for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. And Best Supporting Actor was Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach (talked bout here), which was an awesome decision, as much as I love Claude Rains and would have liked to see him win.
This is the finest year of American cinema, and there was a guaranteed winner. Really, what you do with this year is just marvel at how great everything is. Don’t think, just marvel.
BEST PICTURE – 1939
And the nominees were…
Dark Victory (Warner Bros.)
Gone With the Wind (Selznick, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Love Affair (RKO Radio)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Columbia)
Of Mice and Men (Roach, United Artists)
Stagecoach (United Artists)
The Wizard of Oz (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Wuthering Heights (Goldwyn, United Artists) (more…)
1939 is the best year for American movies. The Golden Year, as they call it. And it really was. And the best thing about a year that’s this strong is when it has a definitive Best Picture winner, like this one does.
Gone With the Wind wins Best Picture, Best Director for Victor Fleming (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel (talked about here). Best Actor this year went to Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which, as I said here, is an award that should have went to Jimmy Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and the Academy realized it so much that they gave him an Oscar the year after this for an unworthy performance. And Best Supporting Actor was Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach, which, as I said here, is a brilliant decision (with my deepest condolences to Claude Rains).
And then there’s this category, which — it’s Gone With the Wind. It’s Scarlett O’Hara. Come on now.
BEST ACTRESS – 1939
And the nominees were…
Bette Davis, Dark Victory
Irene Dunne, Love Affair
Greta Garbo, Ninotchka
Greer Garson, Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind (more…)
1939 was the greatest year in the history of movies. Bar none. There has never been so many great movies released in the same year outside of this one. It’s incredible. And the best thing about such a great year is, despite all the great movies, there was a definitive Best Picture winner: Gone With the Wind.
Gone With the Wind wins Best Picture, Best Director for Victor Fleming (talked about here), Best Actress for Vivien Leigh, and here. All perfect decisions. The only awards the film didn’t win were Best Actor, which went to Robert Donat for Goodbye Mr. Chips, which as I said here, is an award that should have went to Jimmy Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (and the Academy knew it because they blatantly gave him an Oscar the year after this), and Best Supporting Actor, which went to Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach, which, as I said here, I love (despite also loving Claude Rains).
And that brings us to this historic category, which features the first black actress (or black anyone) to win an Academy Award. This one needed to happen, and I approve.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1939
And the nominee were…
Olivia de Havilland, Gone With the Wind
Geraldine Fitzgerald, Wuthering Heights
Hattie McDaniel, Gone With the Wind
Edna May Oliver, Drums Along the Mohawk
Maria Ouspenskaya, Love Affair (more…)
1939 is the best year in the history of movies. That’s not an embellishment. 9 of the 10 Best Picture nominees are legit classic (and amazing) films (Dark Victory is just okay). Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair (later remade as An Affair to Remember), Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights. All pretty strong, right? Yeah? Now listen to this half of the Best Picture nominees. Stagecoach. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The Wizard of Oz. Oh, and a little film called Gone With the Wind. Yeah. It’s pretty famous.
Gone With the Wind rightfully wins Best Picture, Best Director for Victor Fleming (talked about here), Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel. Automatically these are top three decisions of all time in their respective categories. (Well, maybe not Best Supporting Actress. That’s definitely a top ten, though, since she was the first black actor to win an Oscar.) This is a perfect film and deserved every award it won (and even more). Best Actor this year was Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which, as I said here, is a pretty bad decision. Jimmy Stewart really should have won for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was so bad they blatantly gave him a makeup Oscar the year after this for a performance that should never have won an Oscar in a hundred years.
So that’s 1939. A brilliant year all around. And then we have this category, which is amazingly strong.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1939
And the nominees were…
Brian Ahene, Juarez
Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste
Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach
Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (more…)
1939. The “Golden year.” This one will be a quick one. I think we can all agree that — whomever the “director” was — Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood or David O. Selznick, that Gone With the Wind was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, directorial achievements of all time. Nothing was going to beat it, as nothing should have. I also think it should be mentioned — do you see this Murderer’s Row of directors we have here? That’s impressive, isn’t it?
Also, for context’s sake, Gone With the Wind won Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress this year, while Best Actor was Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Best Supporting Actor was Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1939
And the nominees are…
Frank Capra, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Victor Fleming, Gone With the Wind
John Ford, Stagecoach
Sam Wood, Goodbye, Mr. Chips
William Wyler, Wuthering Heights (more…)
Since today is the birthday of the man who won this award, I figured it would be an optimal time to pick this one.
1939 is widely considered one of the best single years for movies in the history of Hollywood. You’ll understand why when we get to Best Picture, but just looking at the nominees here, you can get a pretty good understanding of why that is.
Best Picture went to Gone With the Wind, in one of the least exciting races and most deserving (if not most deserving) choices of all time. Best Director went to Victor Fleming, who was the director that lasted long enough on the film to receive the nomination. Really it was David O. Selznick’s film, but, we’ll get to the details of Best Director when we come to it. Best Actress went to Vivien Leigh — once again, probably the most deserving choice of all time there. I’m not even going to sugar coat who I’m voting for in these races. Gone With the Wind is in one of my top ten, if not top five, favorite films of all time, and, I think only a fool would argue against the brilliance that is the performance of Scarlett O’Hara. The interest when I go over them will be what else was nominated, because there is a tendency to just see — “Oh, Gone With the Wind,” and move on. There’s some great stuff nominated in the other areas as well. This wasn’t “the golden year for film” for nothing. Oh, yeah, Best Supporting Actor went to Thomas Mitchell for a little film called Stagecoach. Oh, yeah, The Wizard of Oz was up for Best Picture this year too. Just sayin’. (more…)