Niles-Maine District Library


Celebrating 1939 in Cinema: A 75th Anniversary Retrospective


When looking back throughout the history of cinema, there are years that standout: 1941 (Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, How Green Was My Valley, Ball of Fire, The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels (both from Preston Sturges) and Joan Fontaine’s Oscar-winning performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion), 1951 (The African Queen, A Streetcar Named Desire, An American in Paris, A Place in the Sun), 1969, (Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch) and 1974 (Chinatown, The Conversation, The Godfather, Part II, A Woman Under the Influence and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (both by Mel Brooks)) are all good film years. But, 1939 stands alone as the film year to beat all other film years.

Here’s a list of noted films that were released 75 years ago in 1939:

Babes in Arms

Beau Geste

Dark Victory (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Destry Rides Again

Gone with the Wind (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) winner) (Blu-ray)

Goodbye Mr. Chips (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Gunga Din


Love Affair (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Ninotchka (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Of Mice and Men (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Only Angels Have Wings

Stagecoach (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee) (Blu-ray)

The Wizard of Oz (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee) (Blu-ray)

The Women

Wuthering Heights (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Young Mr. Lincoln

All ONE YEAR. Five movies that were on the American Film Institute’s 100 Movies…100 Years greatest American movies of all time list…more than any other year (Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights).

Two John Ford movies (Stagecoach and Young Mr. Lincoln). Three movies with sole or partial contributions by George Cukor (he directed The Women but also began production with Gone with the Wind, before being replaced by Victor Fleming and was an advisor on The Wizard of Oz). These days, if a director makes a movie every two years, he’s working fast.


Will we ever see another 1939 in cinema?

With how long it takes to make a movie now and how expensive productions are, chances are no. But, that does not mean we cannot relive the heyday of movie-making magic that was 1939.

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