Watching 1939: Slightly Honorable (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. 

slightly honorable1939 film: 
Slightly Honorable (1939)

Release date: 
Dec. 22, 1939

Cast: 
Pat O’Brien, Edward Arnold, Broderick Crawford, Ruth Terry, Claire Dodd, Alan Dinehart, Eve Arden, Phyllis Brooks, Douglass Dumbrille, Bernard Nedell, Douglas Fowley, Evelyn Keyes, Willie Best, Janet Beecher

Studio: 
United Artists

Director: 
Tay Garnett

Plot:
Lawyer John Webb (O’Brien) works to clear his name when his ex-girlfriend (Brooks) is killed.
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Watching 1939: 6,000 Enemies (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. 

6000 enemies1939 film: 

6,000 Enemies (1939)

Release date: 

June 9, 1939

Cast: 

Walter Pidgeon, Rita Johnson, Paul Kelly, Nat Pendleton, Harold Huber, Grant Mitchell, John Arledge, J.M. Kerrigan, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Tom Neal, Arthur Aylesworth, Willie Fung, Esther Dale, Helena Phillips Evans, Ernest Whitman

Studio: 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 

George B. Seitz

Plot:

District attorney Steve Donegan (Pidgeon) usually wins his cases; sending thousands to prison. But when Steve is framed by gangster Joe Silenus (Huber) for taking brides, he is sent to jail where he is surrounded by everyone he has imprisoned.

1939 Notes:
• By the numbers:
– Walter Pidgeon was in four films released in 1939.
– Rita Johnson was in seven films releaed in 1939.
– Paul Kelly was in six films released in 1939.
– Harold Huber was in nine films released in 1939.
– Nat Pendleton was in eight films released in 1939.
– John Arledge was in five films released in 1939.
– Arthur Aylesworth was in 18 films released in 1939.
– Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams was in nine films released in 1939.
– Grant Mitchell was in seven films released in 1939.
– Willie Fung was in 10 films released in 1939.
– Helena Phillips Evans was in two films released in 1939.
– Tom Neal was in 12 films released in 1939.
– Ernest Whitman was in five films released in 1939.
– Bernadene Hayes was in eight films released in 1939.
– J.M. Kerrigan was in 15 films released in 1939.
– Esther Dale was in 13 films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• During the boxing fight, Walter Pidgeon’s rib was broken. Nat Pendleton was pulling a punch but lost his balance. The scene where Walter Pidgeon is in a hospital bed with a broken rib was filmed before this incident occurred, according to an April 23, 1939, news brief.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
I went into this film, assuming it would be like most low-budget, 60-minute prison film. But I walked away blown away by the storytelling, camera work and surprised by how gritty this little picture is.

Walter Pidgeon stars as Steve, a district attorney who is framed for bribery and sent to jail. While shouting he is framed, he is reminded that he recently has told the accused that there is no such thing as being framed.

While in jail, Steve quickly finds that he is not going to be making any friends, since most of the prisoners are there because of him. Several prisoners are planning their own revenge plans, while the prison’s physician, Dr. Malcolm Scott (played by Paul Kelly), tries to protect Steve, or give him tips on how to survive. While Steve is in jail, his younger brother Phil (John Arledge), is trying to clear his name.

The title of course refers to the prisoners who dislike Walter Pidgeon.

While Walter Pidgeon is now best known for his Academy Award-nominated roles in “Mrs. Miniver,” and his stalwart, leading man prescience. News briefs leading up to this film note that this was one of Pidgeon’s first and best leading dramatic roles, after often playing “the other man” to Clark Gable or Nelson Eddy.

It is a surprisingly gritty film for Walter Pidgeon. Usually dressed in a white dinner coat while smoking a pipe, here he’s in a prison uniform and doing hard labor in jail.

One of the most compelling scenes is during a boxing match with Walter Pidgeon and Nat Pendleton (who won an Olympic silver medal for wrestling before his acting career). The fight is meant for Pidgeon’s character to prove himself to the other prisoners. George B. Seitz’s direction is really interesting during this scene, as he makes each punch the point of view of the camera. The camera shows quick closeups as Pidgeon is punched in the face, showing the intensity of the fight.

Pidgeon did sustain an injury from this fight, according to a news brief, when Pendleton stumbled while trying to pull a punch.

My only complaint is that the rest of the film is wrapped up very quickly. Also this is a spoiler, but it’s becoming a film fact: John Arledge dies in nearly every movie I watch with him. That is all the more sad since he died young at age 40.

“6,000 Enemies” (1939) isn’t one of 1939’s best films, but it’s an intriguing MGM B-level movie that was a better film than I expected it to be.

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Watching 1939: They Made Me a Criminal (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: 
They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

they made me a criminal2

Release date: 
Jan. 21, 1939

Cast: 
John Garfield, Claude Rains, May Robson, Gloria Dickson, Ann Sheridan, The Dead End Kids (Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsly), Louis Jean Heydt, Robert Gleckler, John Ridgely, Barbara Pepper, Ward Bond, Irving Bacon (uncredited), Ronald Sinclair (uncredited), Janet Shaw (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Bros.

Director: 
Busby Berkeley

Plot:
Johnnie Bradfield (Garfield) is a successful boxer. When a reporter is found dead, Johnnie is falsely accused of the murder. But police also think Johnnie is dead when the burned body of a man is found in the wreckage of a car with Johnnie’s girlfriend (Sheridan). Johnnie is advised to change his identify and travel west. While traveling across the country, he comes across a farm in Arizona run by Grandma Rafferty (Robson) and Peggy (Dickson). The women are guardians of teenagesr (the Dead End Kids), who work on the farm rather than go to reform school. While Johnnie begins to enjoy life on the farm, a New York detective (Rains) doesn’t believe Johnnie is really dead and is investigating the case.

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Watching 1939: Eternally Yours (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: 
Eternally Yours (1939)

Release date: 
Oct. 7, 1939

Cast: 
Loretta Young, David Niven, Hugh Herbert, Eve Arden, C. Aubrey Smith, Billie Burke, Zasu Pitts, Raymond Walburn, Broderick Crawford, Virginia Field

Studio: 
United Artists

Director: 
Tay Garnett

Plot:
On the eve of her wedding to Don Burns (Crawford), Anita Halstead (Young) attends a performance of magician Tony, or Arturo the Great (Niven). Anita and Tony marry and travel the world as Tony performs his acts. Anita is unhappy, as Tony comes home every night with lipstick on his collar, and performs dangerous stunts – like jumping out of a plane blindfolded. She dreams of returning to the United States and living in a private cottage. Anita finally leaves him, and Tony pursues her to get her back.

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Watching 1939: Harlem Rides the Range (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: 
Harlem Rides the Range (1939)

Release date: 
Feb. 1, 1939

Cast: 
Herb Jeffries, Lucius Brooks, F.E. Miller, Artie Young, Clarence Brooks, Spencer Williams, Leonard Christmas
Specialty Acts: The Four Tones, The Four Blackbirds

Studio: 
Hollywood Pictures Corporation

Director: 
Richard C. Kahn

Plot:
Bob Blake (Jeffries) and his pal Dusty (Brooks) come across an empty ranch Jim Dennison (Christmas) where it appears a murder may have taken place. Jim isn’t dead, but hiding after the event. Bob finds a photo of Jim’s daughter (Young), saying she’s beautiful, and accidentally drops his glove at the ranch by accident. Bob and Dusty are then hired at a nearby ranch while they try and figure out what happened to Jim. When Bob’s glove is found, he is accused of murder.

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Watching 1939: Tell No Tales (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: 
Tell No Tales (1939)

Release date: 
May 12, 1939

Cast: 
Melvyn Douglas, Louise Platt, Gene Lockhart, Douglass Dumbrille, Florence George, Halliwell Hobbes, Zeffie Tilbury, Harlan Briggs, Sara Haden, Hobart Cavanaugh, Oscar O’Shea, Theresa Harris, Esther Dale, Phillip Terry (uncredited)

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
Leslie Fenton

Plot:
On the 75th anniversary of The Evening Guardian newspaper, the publisher Matt Cooper (Dumbrille) tells editor Michael Cassidy (Douglas) that the newspaper is being shut down. Cooper also owns a scandal paper that Cassidy thinks is trash. To help prove The Evening Guardian’s value, Cassidy works on solving a prominent kidnapping case by tracing a $100 bill tied to the case. He seeks out Ellen Frazier (Platt), a teacher who was the only witness to the kidnapping. Cassidy and Frazier work together to solve the case so that Cassidy can save the newspaper.

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Watching 1939: Private Detective (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: 
Private Detective (1939)

Release date: 
Dec. 9, 1939

Cast: 
Jane Wyman, Dick Foran, Gloria Dickson, John Eldredge, Maxie Rosenbloom, John Ridgely, Morgan Conway, Joseph Crehan, Vera Lewis, Joseph Crehan, Willie Best, Henry Blair, Leo Gorcey (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Bros.

Director: 
Noel Smith

Plot:
Ex-husband and wife Millard Lannon (Eldredge) and Mona Lannon (Dickson) are fighting for custody of their son Bobby (Blair), with Millard trying to take the son from his wife. When Millard is killed, Mona is suspected, and private detective Myrna Winslow (Wyman) takes the case to prove she’s innocent. This is to the chagrin of her police officer boyfriend, Jim Rickey (Foran), who just wants to get married.

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Watching 1939: King of the Underworld (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: 
King of the Underworld (1939)

Release date: 
Jan. 7, 1939

Cast: 
Humphrey Bogart, Kay Francis, James Stephenson, John Eldredge, Jessie Busley, Murray Alper, Arthur Aylesworth, Mickey Kuhn (uncredited), Richard Quine (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Bros.

Director: 
Lewis Seiler

Plot:
Drs. Niles (Eldredge) and Carole (Francis) Nelson are married doctors who primarily work for a clinic. But the two soon become society doctors after Niles takes a deal with gangster Joe Gurney (Bogart) to help treat other criminals. When Niles is killed in a raid, the district attorney tries to charge Carole with involvement in the gang. Carole moves with her aunt (Busley) to uncover Gurney’s gang and prove her innocence.

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Watching 1939: Nick Carter, Master Detective (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: 
Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939)

Release date: 
Dec. 13, 1939

Cast: 
Walter Pidgeon, Rita Johnson, Henry Hull, Stanley Ridges, Donald Meek, Addison Richards, Sterling Holloway, Frank Faylen, Henry Victor, Milburn Stone, Martin Kosleck, Andrew Tombes (uncredited)

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
Jacques Tourneur

Plot:
Undercover detective Nick Carter (Pidgeon) is hired to investigate how top-secret blueprints continuously go missing from the Radex Airplane Factory. The airplane plant is working to develop a high-speed plane for the government, and spies are working to get their hands on the plans.

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Watching 1939: Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (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: 
Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

Release date: 
March 24, 1939, in the UK
March 29, 1939, in the US

Cast: 
John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, Reginald Denny, E. E. Clive, Elizabeth Patterson, Leo G. Carroll (billed as Leo Carroll), Forrester Harvey, Elspeth Dudgeon

Studio: 
Paramount Pictures

Director: 
James P. Hogan

Plot:
After several failed attempts, Bulldog Drummond (Howard) and his girlfriend Phyllis (Angel) are finally getting married; traveling to an old family mansion in Rockingham for the occasion. However, their nuptial efforts are thwarted when Drummond is informed by guest Professor Downie (Harvey) that there is a fortune buried somewhere on the estate. While he’s curious about finding the money, so is everyone else. In the process, guests are killed as someone inside the house is trying to get the money.

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