Watching 1939: The Man Who Dared (1939)

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:
The Man Who Dared (1939)

man who dared

Release date:
April 4, 1939

Jane Bryan, Henry O’Neill, Charley Grapewin, Johnny Russell, Elisabeth Risdon, James McCallion, Dickie Jones, Frederic Tozere, John Gallaudet, Grace Stafford, Tommy Bupp (uncredited)

Warner Bros.

Crane Wilbur

When their neighbors are killed in an explosion, the Carter family witnessed the event and can identify the criminals. When Matthew Carter (O’Neill) speaks to the police to try and identify them, his family faces consequences. The whole family refuses to speak in court for their own safety, but their grandfather (Grapewin) isn’t afraid to speak up — especially when one of their children is kidnapped.

1939 Notes:
• By the number:
– Jane Bryan was in six films released in 1939.
– Henry O’Neill was in 14 films released in 1939.
– Charley Grapewin was in eight films released in 1939.
– James McCallion was in four films released in 1939. He started in feature films in 1939.
– Johnny Russell was in four films released in 1939.
– Dickie Jones was in 11 films released in 1939.
– John Gallaudet was in 10 films released in 1939.
– First film of Frederic Tozere. Billed as Fred Tozere, he was in eight films released that week.
– Elisabeth Risdon was in 10 films released in 1939.

Other trivia:
• Remake of “The Star Witness” (1931)
• Also under the title of “City in Terror”
• Former Los Angeles mayor, Frank Shaw, filed a $1 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. Shaw was removed from office in 1938 and said the movie was about him. Warner Bros. said that the film was a remake of the 1931 film, STAR WITNESS.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
In just one hour, THE MAN WHO DARED (1939) nearly sums up a story about a fearful family, not wanting to talk to the police, because they fear retaliation from the criminals. It’s the family’s grandpa that helps identify the criminals, and rescue his kidnapped grandson.

If the story seems familiar, it’s because you may have seen it before. This 1939 film is a remake of THE STAR WITNESS (1931) and is told in eight minutes fewer.

This isn’t an outstanding film, but with actors like Jane Bryan, Henry O’Neill and Charley Grapewin, it’s a comfy Warner Bros. crime film. This type of Warner Bros. B-picture is like a warm blanket in my opinion.

Charley Grapewin is a major highlight, especially as he compares running up the stairs to charging San Juan Hill.

There are some interesting points about this film:
-With the onset of World War II closing in, Grapewin’s grandfather character compares not reporting criminals to giving in to fascists like Hitler and Mussolini.
-In 1938, former Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw became the first American mayor to be recalled from his elected seat. His administration was seen as corrupt for: “Police misconduct and the mayor’s mishandling of public funds.” When this film came out, Shaw thought the film was about him and sued the studio. Warner Bros. was able to say the film was a remake.
-Though this film was approved by the production code, we don’t exclusively see the bad guys receive their punishment, which was required for a film to be passed.

While this is a pretty fun film, I think the background may be even more interesting. But if you love these brief Warner Bros. films like I do, you will enjoy this one too.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at

Thank you for reading! What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.