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: 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: 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: 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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Watching 1939: Rough Riders’ Round-Up (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: 
Rough Riders’ Round-up (1939)

Release date: 
March 13, 1939

Cast: 
Roy Rogers, Trigger, Lynne Roberts (billed as Mary Hart), Raymond Hatton, Eddie Acuff, William Pawley, Dorothy Sebastian, George Meeker, Duncan Renaldo, Jack Rockwell, Guy Usher

Studio: 
Republic Pictures

Director: 
Joseph Kane

Plot:
At the end of the Spanish-American War, Roy (Rogers) and his unit of Rough Riders are reassigned as border patrol near Mexico. The Border Patrolmen are trying to stop outlaws from smuggling gold from stay coaches. In the process, Dorothy Blair (Hart/Roberts) is kidnapped during a raid.

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Watching 1939: Mr. Wong in Chinatown (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: 
Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)

Release date: 
Aug. 1, 1939

Cast: 
Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers, Huntley Gordon, George Lynn (billed as Peter George Lynn), William Royle, James Flaven, Lotus Long, Lee Tung Foo, Bessie Loo, Richard Loo, Angelo Rossitto (uncredited)

Studio: 
Monogram Pictures

Director: 
William Nigh

Plot:
Chinese Princess Lin Hwa (Lotus Long) is killed in the San Francisco home of detective James Lee Wong (Karloff). Wong helps Inspector Bill Street (Withers) determine why the princess was killed, with reporter Bobbie Logan (Reynolds) also trying to crack the case. Their only clue is the note “Captain J” written on a slip of paper by the princess before she died.

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Watching 1939: Timber Stampede (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: 
Timber Stampede (1939)

Release date: 
June 30, 1939

Cast: 
George O’Brien, Chill Wills, Marjorie Reynolds, Morgan Wallace, Robert Fiske, Guy Usher, Earl Dwire, Bob Burns, Elmo Lincoln (uncredited)

Studio: 
RKO Radio Pictures

Director: 
David Howard

Plot:
Disguising it as bringing law and order to the west, Jay Jones (Usher) and Foss Dunlap (Wallace) promise to bring a railroad to the town of Wagon Wheel, when really their plan is just to strip the town of its timber. People are also filing fake claims on the land. To help write that Jones and Dunlap are bringing progress, reporter Anne Carr writes the stories they feed her, thinking she’s doing right. Scott Baylor (O’Brien) and his friend Whopper Hatch (Wills) are both cattlemen, and their livelihood is threatened by the changes in town. When Baylor tries to work with the sheriff, the sheriff is killed by one of Jones and Dunlap’s men who then takes the position for himself. Baylor has to investigate on his own.

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Watching 1939: First Love (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: 
First Love (1939)

Release date: 
Nov. 8, 1939

Cast: 
Deanna Durbin, Robert Stack, Helen Parrish, Eugene Pallette, Leatrice Joy, Lewis Howard, Mary Treen, Frank Jenks, June Storey, Kathleen Howard, Charles Coleman, Thurston Hall, Marcie Mae Jones

Studio: 
Universal Studios

Director: 
Henry Koster

Plot:
Connie Harding (Durbin) was orphaned when her parents died, and her Cncle James Clinton (Pallette) has been paying for her go to boarding school. When she graduates, Connie goes to New York to live with her uncle and his family – her flighty Aunt Grace (Joy), glamour girl brat cousin Barbara (Parrish) and lazy cousin Walter (Howard). No one seems interested in Connie, who becomes lonely but befriends the household staff (Treen, Howard, Coleman). Connie happens to meet Ted Drake (Stack), while she is doing a favor for Barbara (who bosses her around). Connie develops a crush on Ted and is excited when she is going to attend a ball with her family that the Drakes are throwing. Barbara, who also likes Ted, tries to prevent Connie from going to the ball. But with the help of the servants, Connie is able to attend.

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