Watching 1939: Stronger Than Desire (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: 
Stronger Than Desire (1939)

Release date: 
June 30, 1939

Cast: 
Virginia Bruce, Walter Pidgeon, Lee Bowman, Ann Dvorak, Ilka Chase, Ann E. Todd (billed as Ann Todd), Rita Johnson, Richard Lane, Paul Stanton, Ferike Boros, Barbara Bedford (uncredited), Tom Neal (uncredited),

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
Leslie Fenton

Plot:
Elizabeth Flagg (Bruce) is the wife of successful lawyer Tyler Flagg (Pidgeon). Tyler stays busy with his cases and Elizabeth gets bored. To pass the time, she is courted by Michael McLain (Bowman). On the eve of traveling to Europe with her family, Michael blackmails Elizabeth for letters she wrote him. She shoots him, but Michael’s wife Eva (Dvorak) is accursed of killing her husband.

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Watching 1939: On Trial (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:  On Trial (1939)

Release date: 
April 4, 1939

Cast: 
Margaret Lindsay, John Litel, Edward Norris, Janet Chapman, James Stephenson, Larry Williams, Nedda Harrigan, John Ridgely (uncredited)

Studio: 
Warner Bros.

Director: 
Terry O. Morse

Plot:
Robert Strickland (Litel) is on trial for killing Gerald Trask (Stephenson), who was his best friend. Stickland’s attorney is young and inexperienced Arbuckle (Norris), who took the case to further his career. The film follows the testimonies of Trask’s wife (Harrigan), Trask’s assistant (Williams), Strickland’s six-year-old daughter (Chapman), and Strickland’s wife (Lindsay).

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Watching 1939: The Saint Strikes Back (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 Saint Strikes Back (1939)

Release date:  March 8, 1939

Cast:  George Sanders, Wendy Barrie, Jonathan Hale, Jerome Cowan, Barry Fitzgerald, Neil Hamilton, Robert Elliott, Russell Hopton, Edward Gargan, Nella Walker, James Burke, Willie Best

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  John Farrow

Plot:
On New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, an underground leader is killed at a nightclub celebration. Simon Templar, the Saint, (Sanders) and Val Travers (Barrie) are both connected to the killing and were seen by witnesses. New York police inspector Henry Fernack (Hale) is enlisted to help solve the gangland crime. Templar works with Inspector Fernack to solve the crime and clear Travers’ name.

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Watching 1939: Full Confession (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:
Full Confession (1939)

Release date:
Sept. 8, 1939

Cast:
Victor McLaglen, Sally Eilers, Joseph Calleia, Barry Fitzgerald, Elisabeth Risdon, Pamela Blake (as Adele Pearce), Malcolm ‘Bud’ McTaggart, George Humbert (uncredited)

Studio:
RKO Studios

Director:
John Farrow

Plot:
Near Christmas, Pat McGinnis (McLaglen) kills a police officer during an attempted robbery, but then is is arrested for stealing a fur coat (to throw police off the trail of his other crime) and sent to prison for the theft. Months later, night watchman Michael O’Keefe (Fitzgerald) is arrested for being drunk and disruptive while celebrating his son’s wedding. While arrested, police hold O’Keefe for the murder of a police officer who was shot with his gun, which also had his fingerprints on it. While McGinnis is working toward parol, O’Keefe is going to be sent to the electric chair. Priest Father Loma (Calleia) tries to help both men, receives a confession that could help O’Keefe, but struggles with his religious ethics of sharing that confession or not.

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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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