Watching 1939: In Name Only (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:  In Name Only (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 4, 1939

Cast: 
Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson, Katharine Alexander, Jonathan Hale, Nella Walker, Peggy Ann Garner, Maurice Moscovitch, Alan Bates, Spencer Charters, Grady Sutton (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  John Cromwell

Plot:
Widowed mother and artist Julie Eden (Lombard) meets wealthy Alec Walker (Grant). As the two become friends and fall in love, Julie learns that he’s married to Maida (Francis), who Alec’s parents (Coburn, Walker) adore. Alec has long been unhappy with Maida, who he knows married him for his money, but Maida is unwilling to let him go.

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Franksgiving: A tale of two Thanksgivings

The year 1939 is filled with notable dates in history.

World War II was declared in Europe on Sept. 3, 1939. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians recorded “Auld Lang Syne” for the first time on March 7, 1939. Lou Gehrig retired from the Yankees on June 21, 1939. Considered Hollywood’s greatest year, films like “Gone with the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz” were released.

And there were two Thanksgivings that November.

On Aug. 15, 1939, newspapers announced that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was going to move Thanksgiving up a week to the third week of November, rather than the fourth. In 1939, that made Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23 rather than Nov. 30.

The move was to help boost holiday sales after the president received complaints that the last Thursday in November was too late for Thanksgiving. The date was too close to Christmas and cut down on Christmas shopping, according to an Aug. 15, 1939, Associated Press (AP) article, “Thanksgiving Moved Up A Week.”

President Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt at Thanksgiving dinner in 1939 in Warm Springs, GA.

The change met some praise but mostly criticism.

Not only did the change affect when families gathered for a large meal, it also threw a wrench into calendars like academic schedules and the football industry.

“The precedent-shattering change … promised to upset the nation’s multi-million dollar Turkey day football industry,” according to the AP article. “Some of the season’s biggest and oldest grid games are scheduled for Nov. 30, which the schedule makers thought would be Thanksgiving Day. Moving the games back to Dec. 2 or up to Nov. 23 will be impossible in some cases.”

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Watching 1939: The Return of Doctor X (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 Return of Doctor X (1939)

Release date: 
Nov. 23, 1939

Cast: 
Humphrey Bogart, Rosemary Lane, Wayne Morris, Dennis Morgan, John Litel, Lya Lys, Huntz Hall, Charles C. Wilson, Vera Lewis, Olin Howland, John Ridgely, William Hopper (as DeWolf Hopper), Ian Wolfe (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Bros.

Director: 
Vincent Sherman

Plot:
Reporter Walter Garrett (Morris) starts discovering strange murders where each victim seems drained of their blood, and each has the same blood type. The police and Walter’s editors don’t believe him about the murders. With the help of doctor Michael Rhodes (Morgan), the two try to uncover the murderer. They go to hematologist Dr. Francis Flegg (Litel) and meet his strange, pale assistant Marshall Quesne (Bogart).

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Watching 1939: Torture Ship (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: 
Torture Ship (1939)

Release date: 
Oct. 28, 1939

Cast: 
Lyle Talbot, Irving Pichel, Julie Bishop (as Jacqueline Wells), Sheila Bromley, Anthony Averill, Russell Hopton, Skelton Knaggs

Studio: 
Sigmund Neufeld Productions

Director: 
Victor Halperin

Plot:
Dr. Herbert Stander (Pichel) who wants to do experiments to learn more about the criminal mind. He charters a ship captained by his nephew, Lt. Bob Bennett (Talbot), who was unaware of his uncle’s plans. All of the passengers on the ship are criminals and will be tested by Dr. Stander. Joan Martel (Bishop/Wells) mistakenly gets on the boat and Bob tries to keep her from going under Dr. Stander’s knife.

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Watching 1939: The Gorilla (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 Gorilla (1939)

Release date:  May 26, 1939

Cast:  Jimmy Ritz, Harry Ritz, Al Ritz (the Ritz Brothers), Anita Louise, Patsy Kelly, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Joseph Calleia, Edward Norris, Paul Harvey, Art Miles

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Allan Dwan

Plot:
The Gorilla is a murderer on the lose, and Walter Stevens (Atwill) is warned that he has just 24 hours to live. His niece Norma (Louise) and her finance Jack (Norris) come to visit on the eve of this threat. Stevens hires the Ritz Brothers of the Acme Detective Agency to protect him.

1939 Notes:

  • “The Gorilla” (1939) resulted in the end of The Ritz Brothers’ relationship with 20th Century Fox. The film was delayed when The Ritz Brothers’ father died. Because of this, Fox placed a $150,000 suit against the Ritz brothers for a breach of contract as the film was slated to start production. “The Gorilla” is one of three films the Ritz Brothers were in in 1939.
  • Lionel Atwill was in nine films released in 1939.
  • Patsy Kelly’s only film of 1939.
  • Anita Louise was in six films released in 1939.
  • Joseph Calleia was in five films in 1939.
  • Paul Harvey was in nine films released in 1939.

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Watching 1939: Miracles for Sale (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:  Miracles for Sale (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 10, 1939

Cast: 
Robert Young, Florence Rice, Frank Craven, Henry Hull, Lee Bowman, Cliff Clark, Astrid Allwyn, Walter Kingsford, Gloria Holden, Frederick Worlock, William Demarest, Harold Minjir, Richard Loo (uncredited), Chester Clute (uncredited), Charles Lane (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Tod Browning

Plot:
Michael Morgan (Young) is a former magician who has created “Miracles for Sale,” a business of selling illusions and magic tricks. Morgan also works to expose fake spiritualists and psychics. Morgan gets caught up in a series of murders after demon expert Dr. Sabbatt (Worlock) is killed. As other murders follow, Morgan and the police are stumped by the mysterious and magical ways people are killed.

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Watching 1939: The Family Next Door (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 Family Next Door (1939)

Release date:  March 31, 1939

Cast: 
Hugh Herbert, Ruth Donnelly, Joy Hodges, Eddie Quillan, Juanita Quigley, Benny Bartlett, James Bush, Thomas Beck, Cecil Cunningham, Frances Robinson, Delmar Watson (uncredited)

Studio:  Universal Studios

Director:  Joseph Santley

Plot:
Frazzled plumber George Pierce (Herbert) doesn’t make quite enough for his family. His wife, Rose (Donnelly) worries that their lack of money will prevent their oldest daughter Laura (Hodges) from catching a wealthy husband. The family’s home is badly in need of repair and their furniture is old. In an effort to look like they are in the social scene, Rose rents fancy furniture for their home to throw a party, and also invests in a construction deal her son Sammy (Quillan) is in. Rose’s cupid plans for Laura backfire, the land Sammy was sold is faulty, and her two youngest children (Quigley, Barlett) are constantly in trouble.

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