Watching 1939: Blondie Brings Up Baby (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:  Blondie Brings Up Baby (1939)

Release date:  Nov. 8, 1939

Cast:  Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Jonathan Hale, Danny Mummert, Daisy the Dog, Peggy Ann Garner, Robert Middlemass, Olin Howland, Fay Helm, Roy Gordon, Grace Stafford, Helen Jerome Eddy, Irving Bacon, Bruce Bennett (uncredited), Willie Best (uncredited), Robert Sterling (uncredited), Ian Wolfe (uncredited)

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Frank R. Strayer

Plot:
A traveling salesman (Howland) convinces Blondie (Singleton) that Baby Dumpling is a genius after he takes a test. Blondie and Dagwood (Lake) immediately enroll him in school. Meanwhile, at the office, Dagwood flubs a deal when he changes the architecture of an apartment building his company is designing.

1939 Notes:
• The fourth Blondie film of the 28 film series from 1938 to 1950.
• One of two films Peggy Ann Garner made in 1939. The other was “In Name Only.” It was Garner’s third film.
• Three Blondie films were released in 1939.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Blondie Brings Up Baby” is the last of three Blondie films released in 1939. But these three were just a drop in the bucket of the 28 films made based on the Blondie comic strips.

In “Blondie Brings Up Baby,” the plot seems that it would revolve around Baby Dumpling being declared a genius, but the plot shifts to losing Daisy while Baby Dumpling is at school and the genius plot is lost. A smattering also focuses on Dagwood losing his job.

Dagwood’s boss Mr. Ditfor hers always gets mad at Dagwood because he’s not very smart. But let’s face it, Mr. Dithers should take responsibility for hiring such a knucklehead.

The plot and comedy are no different than the other films in the series, however, this film has a special appearance from an actor – future star Peggy Ann Garner.

Just in her third film, Garner plays a little girl who is wheelchairbound after an illness. She is given Daisy the Dog and then she and Baby Dumpling play together. Rather than being goofy, Garner’s scenes were rather sweet because then she walks again.

I think “Blondie Brings Up Baby” may be a little better than others because it’s more focused on the children rather than the adults. Outside of the storyline, Peggy Ann Garner is the bright spot of this short film, even though the film is short.

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Watching 1939: The Hound of the Baskervilles (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 Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

Release date:  March 24, 1939

Cast:  Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, Barlowe Borland, Barlowe Borland, Morton Lowry, Ralph Forbes, E. E. Clive, Mary Gordon, Eily Malyon

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Sidney Lanfield

Plot:
Legend has it that most heirs of the Baskerville estate die as a result of a demon hound. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the moor potentially due to a hound, his friend Dr. Mortimer (Atwill) seeks out the help of Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) to get to the bottom of Sir Charles’s death. Holmes also is protecting Sir Charles’s nephew, Sir Henry Baskerville (Greene), who is arriving from Canada to claim the estate and may be in danger.

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TCMFF Watching 1939: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (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: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Release date: May 15, 1939 (New York City premiere)

Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, Paul Henreid, John Mills, Judith Furse

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Sam Wood

Plot:
Long-time and beloved teacher, Mr. Chipping (Donat) reflects on his teaching career and life, looking back on 1870 to 1933. Starting out as a stuffy young man, his wife (Garson) helps bring him out of his shell and shows him how to be a better teacher, which endears his students to him.

1939 Notes:
• Greer Garson’s first film.
• This was the only film Robert Donat acted in that was released in 1939
• Paul Henreid’s only film of 1939 and he is billed as Paul Von Hernried
• Terry Kilburn was in five films released in 1939.

Robert Donat and Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Other trivia:
• Based on a novel by James Hilton
• Myrna Loy was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Chips but, when she went to 20th Century Fox. Elizabeth Allan was also considered for the role, according to the biography A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was interested in making a film version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” as early as 1934, but Irving Thalberg’s production schedule put the film on the backburner. Over the years before it was made, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton were considered for the role. The film idea was shelved when Thalberg died in 1936, and James Hilton was interested in Wallace Beery, according to Tryon’s book.
• Remade as a musical in 1969 with the same title starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark
• Premiered in New York City in May and London in June
• Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor and was not present for the awards ceremony. Director Victor Saville accepted the accolade on his behalf.
• Donat ages from 25 to 88 in the film.
• Filmed at MGM’s London studio

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
When it comes to the top films of 1939, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is one I would consider one of the top films.

Not only do I say this because it’s a lovely and sweet story, but also because of the career, it launched.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the story of an elderly teacher at an English boy’s school looking back on his life and career. It begins when he’s 25 and starting off as a teacher with no experience. For many years, the teacher, Mr. Chipping played by Robert Donat, isn’t popular with his students. His punishments are rough, sometimes affecting the whole school, and his manner is aloof. Mr. Chipping’s attitude even causes him to miss out on a promotion. It’s not until he meets his wife, Katherine played by Greer Garson, that she teaches him to soften and joke with his students and act human. Though Mrs. Chipping passes away in childbirth, Mr. Chipping (called Mr. Chips now by his students) continues to be popular among his students. Even after he retires, he returns to help the school during World War I.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a quiet film but is sweet and engaging. Robert Donat plays the role of the teacher well, from his haughty youth, shy middle age to sweet elderly years. And you also have to give kudos to Jack Dawn, the makeup artist who effectively aged Donat from 25 years old to 88 years old. Donat was already a star by the time this film was released, particularly after starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps” (1935), but this was his only film released in 1939.

Donat also won his only Academy Award for this film, beating out Clark Gable for “Gone with the Wind,” Mickey Rooney for “Babes in Arms,” Laurence Olivier for “Wuthering Heights,” and James Stewart for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” This would be his last Academy Award nomination, his other came a year earlier for “The Citadel” (1938)

Though Donat was the Academy Award winner, his co-star is also notable. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the first film role for Greer Garson. Her biographer Michael Tryon wrote that Garson was reluctant to take the role, because it is brief. However, Greer Garson is a bright spot in the film and her character is pivotal in the transformation in the main character.

For her screen debut, Greer Garson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her warmth comes across on screen and Garson glows as she helps Donat realize that not everything in life has to be quite so formal.

The film also showcases other new talents. Paul Henreid co-stars as a fellow teacher in one of his early film roles. We also see child star Terry Kilburn in his fifth role-playing several characters. Kilburn appears at the beginning and returns playing the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of those who came before him.

I had the opportunity to see “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” on 35mm film at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It was wonderful to revisit this film after several years on a 35mm print that came from the British Film Institute.

James Hilton’s lovely “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is such a heartwarming film and you may need a tissue or two to get through it. But it’s a wonderful movie and brightened even more by Greer Garson. It’s incredible to think this was her first film, as she fits in like she belonged on screen.

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

 

Watching 1939: Love Affair (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:  Love Affair (1939)

Release date:  March 16, 1939

Cast:  Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lee Bowman, Astrid Allwyn, Maurice Moscovitch, Scotty Beckett (uncredited), Frank McGlynn Sr. (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  Leo McCarey

Plot:
French playboy Michel Marnay (Boyer) and American singer Terry McKay (Dunne) meet on cruise ship heading from Europe to America. Michel is engaged to be married and Terry is dating her boss, Kenneth Bradley (Bowman). Michel and Terry fall in love, but when they arrive in New York, they decide to separate for six months and tie up loose ends and meet six months later on top of the Empire State Building.

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Watching 1939: Zenobia (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:  Zenobia (1939)

Release date:  April 21, 1939

Cast:  Oliver Hardy, Harry Langdon, Billie Burke, James Ellison, Jean Parker, Alice Brady, June Lang, Olin Howland, J. Farrell MacDonald, Hattie McDaniel, Stepin Fetchit, Hobart Cavanaugh, Zenobia the elephant

Studio:  Hal Roach Studios

Director:  Gordon Douglas

Plot:
Set in 1870, Dr. Tibbett (Oliver) is a country doctor who no longer cares for the rich people in town. His daughter Mary (Parker) becomes engaged to Jeff Carter (Ellison), whose mother Mrs. Carter (Brady) is one of the high society people Dr. Tibbett used to care for and Mrs. Carter doesn’t believe Mary is good enough for her son. Mrs. Carter schemes for her son to marry Virginia (Lang). Amidst the engagement news, Dr. Tibbett tries to care for a carnival elephant, Zenobia.

 

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Watching 1939: Idiot’s Delight (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: Idiot’s Delight (1939)

Release date:  Premiered Jan. 27, 1939

Cast:  Norma Shearer, Clark Gable, Edward Arnold, Charles Coburn, Joseph Schildkraut, Burgess Meredith, Laura Hope Crews, Richard ‘Skeets’ Gallagher, Peter Willes, Pat Paterson, Hobart Cavanaugh (uncredited), Mitchell Lewis (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited)
Les Blondes: Virginia Grey, Virginia Dale, Paula Stone, Bernadene Hayes, Joan Marsh, Lorraine Krueger

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Clarence Brown

Plot:
After World War I, Harry Van (Gable) hopes to break into show business. He travels around the country performing and runs into an acrobat, Irene (Shearer). After a brief acquaintance, the two are separated for more than 20 years. Harry is later traveling through Europe in 1939 with his dance group, Les Blondes en route to Geneva. Their train is stopped and can’t cross the frontier because of the political climate and the impending possibility of war. Harry and his troupe have to stay at an Alpine hotel with other stopped due to the conflict including a scientist (Coburn), honeymooners (Paterson, Willes), a political activist (Meredith), and a munitions tycoon (Arnold) and his mistress, Russian countess, who Van thinks he recognizes as Irene.

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Watching 1939: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (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: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939)

Release date:  July 18, 1939

Cast:
Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden, Ann Rutherford, Helen Gilbert, Terry Kilburn, John T. Murray, Sidney Miller, Addison Richards, Charles Peck, Robert Kent, George P. Breakston, Sidney Miller, Ivan Miller (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  W.S. Van Dyke

Plot:
Judge Hardy (Stone) owns some land that he can’t sell until he learns it contains aluminum bauxite. Meanwhile, while the Judge is elated, Andy Hardy (Rooney) is heartsick. His girl Polly Benedict (Rutherford) is being courted by a Naval officer (Kent) who is staying with her family. However, his heart is quickly mended when he falls in love with his theater substitute teacher (Gilbert). The Judge’s excitement also is turned upside down when it turns out the business deal he made may not be what it seems.

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