Watching 1939: Espionage Agent (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:  Espionage Agent (1939)

Release date:  Sept. 23, 1939

Cast:  Joel McCrea, Brenda Marshall, Jeffrey Lynn, George Bancroft, Stanley Ridges, James Stephenson, Nana Bryant, Martin Kosleck, Vera Lewis (uncredited), George Reeves (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Lloyd Bacon

Plot:
Barry Corvall (McCrea) and Lowell Warrington (Lynn) work to identify government spies. Barry marries Brenda Ballard (Marshall) and soon realizes that Brenda is a spy. Barry and Brenda combine forces to battle the rising forces of Nazis.

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Watching 1939: What a Life (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. 

Betty Field and Jackie Cooper in “What a Life” (1939)

1939 film:  What a Life (1939)

Release date:  Oct. 6, 1939

Cast:  Jackie Cooper, Betty Field, James Corner, John Howard, Janice Logan, Hedda Hopper, Sidney Miller, Vaughan Glaser, Lionel Stander, Dorothy Stickney, Kathleen Lockhart, Sheila Ryan, Janet Waldo, Marge Champion (uncredited)

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Director:  Jay Theodore Reed

Plot:
Henry Aldrich (Cooper) is a flustered teenager who always gets blamed for what other people do and is considered the worst student at school. He also gets accused for stealing musical instruments. Barbara Peterson (Field) likes Henry, though he is oblivious. Barbara isn’t popular or considered pretty because of her braces and flat hair. When she gets a permanent and her braces off, Henry’s enemy George (Corner) asks Barbara to the school dance first.

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Watching 1939: Pacific Liner (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:  Pacific Liner (1939)

Release date:  Jan. 6, 1939

Cast:  Victor McLaglen, Chester Morris, Wendy Barrie, Barry Fitzgerald, Alan Hale, Emory Parnell, Halliwell Hobbes, Allan Lane, Paul Guilfoyle, Cy Kendall, Florence Lake (uncredited), Douglas Walton (uncredited), Ernest Whitman (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  Lew Landers

Plot:
Set in 1932, Crusher “The Dragon” McKay (McLaglen) is the engineer of a cruise ship heading from Shanghai to San Fransisco. McKay is no-nonsense and works his men hard, especially in the boiler room, so that the ship will run at a fast pace and make good time. When there is a cholera outbreak in the decks below, Doctor Craig (Morris) takes over and calls the shots.

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Watching 1939: Blondie Takes a Vacation (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: Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939)

Release date: July 20, 1939

Cast: Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Danny Mummert, Daisy the Dog, Donald Meek, Donald MacBride, Thomas W. Ross, Elizabeth Dunne, Robert Wilcox, Harlan Briggs, Irving Bacon, Milton Kibbee (uncredited)

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: Frank R. Strayer

Plot:
After originally missing their vacation, Blondie (Singleton), Dagwood (Lake) and Baby Dumpling (Simms) head to the mountains on vacation and meet a series of issues. After their reservations are canceled at their first hotel, they end up as the only guests at a mountain resort whose business is failing. The family helps get the resort back up on its feet, making their trip more work than a vacation.

1939 Notes:
• The third Blondie film of the 28 film series from 1938 to 1950.
• Three Blondie films were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, Blondie Brings Up Baby

Other trivia:
• Harry Davenport was originally going to co-star in this film but had to drop out due to his role in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), according to the Hollywood Reporter.
• Filmed at Cedar Lake and Big Bear in California

Larry Simms, Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake in “Blondie Takes a Vacation”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
The Blondie comic strip was re-created as a radio show and then a film series.

The film series, starring Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton and Larry Simms, had 28 films, and three of those were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, and Blondie Brings up Baby.

“Blondie Takes a Vacation” is the usual mad-cap story with Blondie (played by Penny Singleton) putting up with Dagwood (played by Arthur Lake) being a knucklehead. Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling probably has the most sense of anyone in the family.

While “Blondie Meets the Boss” had some painful moments, “Blondie Takes a Vacation” is better. There are some slapstick moments that are predictable, like Baby Dumpling thinking he finds a “kitty,” but it’s a skunk. Or a vacuum bag swelling up like a balloon and floating to the ceiling. But I like this one because it puts the family in a different setting – on vacation.

The family goes to the mountains on the vacation that they were denied in the last film (“Blondie Meets the Boss”). But things, of course, run afoul. On the train to vacation, they irritate a man sitting near them (Donald MacBride) who happens to own the resort they are going to. When he sees the family enter, he kicks them out and refuses to house them. The family finds a nearby hotel, which is nice but failing because of the other resort. Rather than resting during their vacation, Blondie and Dagwood spend their trip working to help the elderly couple make their hotel a success.

This series of films can be tiresome to me, but these serial films were generally cheap to make and did alright in theaters. There were 28 blondie films in all. This one is more interesting because they are out of their home and also helping others.

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Watching 1939: Miracle on Main Street (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:  Miracle on Main Street (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 19, 1939

Cast:  Margo, Walter Abel, Jane Darwell, Lyle Talbot, William Collier Sr., Veda Ann Borg, Wynne Gibson, Jean Brooks (billed as Jeanne Kelly), Pat Flaherty, George Humbert

Studio:  Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:  Steve Sekely

Plot:
On Christmas Eve in the Spanish quarter of Los Angeles, Maria (Margo) is performing as a hoochie coochie in her husband Dick’s (Talbot) show. When one of the attendees is a police officer, the couple run from the police, but Dick says they should separate so they aren’t caught. Maria hides in a church where she finds an abandoned baby. While her husband remains absent for a year, Maria’s life is changed for the better by the baby and a new man she meets, Jim (Abel).

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Watching 1939: Streets of New York (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:  Streets of New York

Release date:  April 12, 1939

Cast:  Jackie Cooper, Marjorie Reynolds, Martin Spellman, Dick Purcell, George Cleveland, Sidney Miller, George Irving, Robert Emmett O’Connor, David Durand

Studio:  Monogram Pictures

Director:  William Nigh

Plot:
Jimmy Keenan (Cooper) owns a newsstand in New York, takes care of orphaned
Gimpy (Spellman) and goes to night school with dreams of being a lawyer. He tries to practice the ideals of Abraham Lincoln as he faces challenges such as, dealing with his rich, racketeer older brother Tap (Purcell), and a gang who tries to bring him trouble and take over the newsstand. While Jimmy tries to stay kindhearted, young Gimpy is rough and jaded. Jimmy befriends Judge Carroll (Irving), who invites Jimmy, Gimpy and his friends to his home for Christmas, showing them that life doesn’t always have to be rough and cruel.

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Watching 1939: You Can’t Get Away with Murder (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:  You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939)

Release date:  March 24, 1939

Cast:  Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, Billy Halop, Harvey Stephens, John Litel, Henry Travers, Harold Huber, Joe Sawyer, George E. Stone, John Ridgely, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Lewis Seiler

Plot:
Teen Johnnie Stone (Halop) is raised by his sister Madge (Page). Madge worries about Johnnie who has fallen in with tough characters, like Frank Wilson (Bogart). Madge hopes her upcoming marriage to her boyfriend Fred (Burke) will help Johnnie when the three of them move away for Fred’s job. On the eve of announcing their wedding plans, Johnnie goes on “a job” with Frank, and someone is killed with a gun Johnnie stole from Fred. Fred is accused of murder and sent to jail in Sing Sing, along with Frank and Johnnie who are booked for another crime. Johnnie has to pick between saving Fred’s life or putting his own life in danger by confessing.

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