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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Watching 1939: Inquest (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: 
Inquest (1939)

Release date: 
Dec. 1939

Cast: 
Elizabeth Allan, Philip Friend, Harold Anstruther, Herbert Lomas, Malcom Morley, Jean Shepherd, R. Watts-Philipp, Richard Coke, Charles Stevenson, Jack Greenwood, Jack Madren, Hay Petrie, Basil Cunard, Olive Sloan, Barbara Everest, Basil Cunard

Studio: 
Highbury Studios London

Director: 
Roy Boulting

Plot:
A gun is found in the ceiling of an old cabin where the Hamilton couple used to live. Margaret Hamilton (Allan) moved after the death of her husband Tommy. When the new owner finds the gun and sees the gun has two empty shells (indicating that it was once fired), he calls the police. Margaret is then contacted by the police and her deceased husband is exhumed. Margaret is then tried in Coroner’s Court, which is accusing her of killing her husband.

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Watching 1939: Winter Carnival (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: 
Winter Carnival (1939)

Release date: 
July 28, 1939

Cast: 
Ann Sheridan, Richard Carlson, Helen Parrish, James Corner, Alan Baldwin, Robert Armstrong, Marsha Hunt, Joan Leslie (billed as Joan Brodel), Jimmy Butler, Virginia Gilmore, Cecil Cunningham, Morton Lowry, Robert Walker (uncredited)

Studio: 
Walter Wanger Productions, released through United Artists

Director: 
Charles Reisner

Plot:
After a well-publicized divorce to Count Olaf Von Lundborg (Lowry), Jill Baxter (Sheridan) visits Dartmouth College during its Winter Carnival. Upon her return, she finds her old boyfriend, John Wilden (Carlson), who is now a professor at the school and was jilted by Jill when she was crowned queen of the Winter Carnival years earlier. Jill’s younger sister Ann (Parrish) is also attending the carnival and falls for the head of the ski team, Mickey Allen (Corner), but as she receives attention from the other athletes, it looks like Ann may follow in Jill’s footsteps.

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Watching 1939: The Spirit of Culver (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 Spirit of Culver (1939)

Release date: 
March 8, 1939

Cast: 
Jackie Cooper, Freddie Bartholomew, Andy Devine, Henry Hull, Tim Holt, Jackie Moran, Gene Reynolds, Kathryn Kane, Walter Tetley, Pierre Watkin, John Hamilton, Irving Bacon (uncredited), Lon McCallister (uncredited), Charles Smith (uncredited)

Studio: 
Universal Pictures

Director: 
Joseph Santley

Plot:
Tom Allen (Cooper) is an orphan who’s father was killed in World War I and his mother died shortly after. Now living on the streets, Tom meets Tubby (Devine) who works at an American Legion soup kitchen for teens. Tubby gives Tom a job and learns that Tom’s father was a war hero and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Because of this, Tom is given a scholarship to attend Culber Military Academy. Starting off with a chip on his shoulder, Tom isn’t well-liked by the students. But his roommate Bob Randolph (Bartholomew) works past his differences with Tom to help him fit in and warm up to the other students.

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Watching 1939: Broadway Serenade (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: 
Broadway Serenade (1939)
Musical No. 413

Release date: 
April 7, 1939

Cast: 
Jeanette MacDonald, Lew Ayres, Ian Hunter, Frank Morgan, Florence Rice, Virginia Grey, William Gargan, Wally Vernon, Katharine Alexander, Al Shean, Esther Dale, Franklin Pangborn

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
Robert Z. Leonard

Plot:
Mary Hale (MacDonald) and Jimmy Seymour (Ayres) are a team on the stage with Jimmy playing the piano and Mary singing. They are also an off-stage team – the two are married though they hide that from many employers. When Broadway producer Larry Bryant (Hunter) hears Mary sing, he is smitten and convinces Cornelius Collier, Jr. (Morgan) to put her in his next show. Unfortunately, this offer isn’t a package deal and hot-tempered Jimmy is left behind. As her fame grows, the two also grow apart.

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Watching 1939: Mystery Plane (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: 
Mystery Plane (1939)

Release date: 
March 8, 1939

Cast: 
John Trent, Marjorie Reynolds, Milburn Stone, Jason Robards Sr., George Lynn (billed as Peter George Lynn), Polly Anne Young, Lucien Littlefield, Tommy Bupp, Betsy Gay

Studio: 
Monogram Pictures

Director: 
George Waggner

Plot:
As a child, “Tailspin” Tommy Tompkins idolizes World War I aviation hero, ‘Brandy’ Rand (Lynn), who became a stunt flier after the war. After meeting Brandy as a child, Tommy doesn’t hear about his whereabouts again and Tommy himself becomes an aviator as an adult. Tommy and his aviation partner Skeeter (Stone) design a radio-controlled bombing device, which they would like to present to the U.S. Army. Little do they know that a ring of spies is also eager to get their hands on the device – including Tommy’s childhood hero.

1939 Notes:
• By the Numbers:
– John Trent was in four films released in 1939. In all of those films, he was billed as “Tailspin Tommy.” Trent was an aviator who went into films and left films by 1941.
– Peter George Lynn was in 10 films released in 1939. Later billed as George Lynn, in 1939, he was billed as Peter Lynn and Peter George Lynn.
– Polly Ann Young was in four films released in 1939.
– Lucien Littlefield was in seven films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• One of four “Tailspin Tommy” films released in 1939, all released by Monogram Pictures. Prior to the feature-length 1939 series, there were Tailspin Tommy serials in 1934.
• The character of Tailspin Tommy is based on a comic strip by Hal Forrest and Glenn Chaffin.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
In the 1930s, Hollywood talent scouts seemed to pluck any every day (but good-looking) person from their daily life and put them in front of the cameras.

One of those people was John Trent, a commercial pilot noticed by a film executive on a flight. Trent was given a screen test, signed a contract, and made 15 films from 1931 to 1941 before giving up on his film career.

Towards the end of his career, Trent was cast as the comic strip character Tailspin Tommy, which followed a young aviator’s adventures.

Tailspin Tommy was first seen in serial shorts in the mid-1930s, and Trent brought the character to screen in four feature-length films in 1939.

The first of these films is today’s 1939 film, “Mystery Plane.”

The film begins in the 1920s as we see former World War I hero, Brandy Rand, performing aviation stunts with a group of children marveling at his performance. One of those children is Tommy, who gets the opportunity to meet his hero and is encouraged to work towards an aviation career.

As an adult, Tommy is working his dream job as a pilot and inventing aviation materials to aid the Army. Enemy spies are also interested in Tommy’s work – including Brandy Rand.

For a low-budget Monogram film, “Mystery Plane” is a fun film. I had never heard of Tailspin Tommy before watching “Mystery Plane,” so it was interesting to learn about that character. I also love discovery stories like John Trent’s.

The film co-stars Marjorie Reynolds (who has recently been in several of our 1939 features) as a female aviator. We also see Loretta Young’s sister, Polly Ann Young, who sounds just like her sister if you close your eyes.

Running at only an hour, this film does jump around a bit and potentially have some plot holes, but if you are looking for mindless, brief entertainment, this won’t disappoint.

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