In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.
1939 film: Off the Record (1939)
Release date: Jan. 21, 1939
Pat O’Brien, Joan Blondell, Bobby Jordan, Alan Baxter, William B. Davidson, Morgan Conway, Moroni Olsen, Tommy Bupp (uncredited), David Gorcey (uncredited), Barbara Pepper (uncredited), Pat Flaherty (uncredited)
Director: James Flood
When his mother dies, Mickey Fallon (Jordan) has no one to care for him. Just before he is sent to an orphanage, Mickey’s gambler brother Joe (Baxter) returns home and promises to watch Mickey. Mickey gets involved with Joe’s gambling contacts. Reporter Jane Morgan (Blondell) spots Mickey gambling with pinball machines and writes about it in her column. Her column sparks citywide concern and Mickey will be sent to reform school. Feeling guilty, that he will go to reform school, Jane marries her reporter boyfriend Breezy (O’Brien) so they can adopt Mickey, which brings its own bought of issues.
• One of Joan Blondell’s last films at Warner Bros. When Joan Blondell realized newer Warner Bros. stars were getting more attention, she decided to leave the studio for better roles, according to Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy.
• Director James Flood’s last film until 1947.
• Alan Baxter was in six films released in 1939.
• Bobby Jordan was in six films released in 1939.
• Moroni Olsen was in 13 films released in 1939.
• Pat Flaherty was in 16 films released in 1939.
• Working titles were Unfit to Print and Love Bites Man.
My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Joan Blondell and Pat O’Brien were two of Warner Bros. stop stars throughout the 1930s. But by 1939, the quality of the films they were cast in was starting to slip.
For Blondell, 1939 was her last year under contract at Warner Bros. Frustrated with her roles and that other new stars were getting better roles, she left the studio after 1939 for leading lady roles, according to Matthew Kennedy’s book.
For O’Brien and Blondell, “Off the Record (1939) was not a new type of film and is similar to other Warner Bros films of this era. It had a mix of comedy with gritty crime, and was similar to the plot of another film they co-starred in, “Back in Circulation” (1937).
The comedy comes into play with O’Brien and Blondell’s romance and jobs at the newspaper. Alan Baxter brings the crime element and convincing his brother to join him.
Though “Off the Record” isn’t a Dead End Kids film, it stars Bobby Jordan, who was one of the Dead End Kids.
While “Off the Record” is a run-of-the-mill story, it’s still enjoyable and funny. O’Brien and Blondell have great chemistry, and it’s good to see one of the Dead End Kids featured. It isn’t the most a standout film of 1939, but it’s enjoyable.