Watching 1939: Love Affair (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:  Love Affair (1939)

Release date:  March 16, 1939

Cast:  Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lee Bowman, Astrid Allwyn, Maurice Moscovitch, Scotty Beckett (uncredited), Frank McGlynn Sr. (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  Leo McCarey

French playboy Michel Marnay (Boyer) and American singer Terry McKay (Dunne) meet on cruise ship heading from Europe to America. Michel is engaged to be married and Terry is dating her boss, Kenneth Bradley (Bowman). Michel and Terry fall in love, but when they arrive in New York, they decide to separate for six months and tie up loose ends and meet six months later on top of the Empire State Building.

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Watching 1939: When Tomorrow Comes (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:  When Tomorrow Comes (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 11, 1939

Cast:  Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Barbara O’Neil, Onslow Stevens, Nydia Westman, Nella Walker, Fritz Feld, Inez Courtney (uncredited), Mary Treen (uncredited), Mickey Kuhn (uncredited), Delmar Watson (uncredited), Kitty McHugh (uncredited), Tommy Bupp (uncredited), Sonny Bupp (uncredited), Addison Richards (uncredited)

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Director:  John M. Stahl

Helen Lawrence (Dunne) is a waitress and meets pianist Philip Chagal (Boyer) while serving for him. Helen and Philip fall in love, but Philip is married. His wife Madeleine (O’Neil) is suffering from severe depression after giving birth to a stillborn child so Philip cannot leave her.

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Musical Monday: Stingaree (1934)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

StingareeThis week’s musical:

“Stingaree” –Musical #489


RKO Radio Pictures


William A. Wellman


Irene Dunne, Richard Dix, Mary Boland, Conway Tearle, Andy Devine, Henry Stephenson, Una O’Connor, Reginald Owen


Set in Australia in 1874, housemaid Hilda (Dunne) dreams of having a singing career. The mistress of of the household Mrs. Clarkson (Boland) also fancies herself as a singer, though she is terrible. Composer Sir Julian Kent (Tearle) is coming from England to Australia and Hilda wants to perform for him. Mrs. Clarkson also thinks singing for Sir Julian will be her break into opera. Outlaw Stingaree (Dix) also comes into town at the same time as Sir Julian and poses as Julian. After meeting and falling for Hilda, Stingaree is determined to help her become an opera star.


-Turner Classic Movies premiered this film on their channel for the first time in 2007. “Stingaree” was part of a “Lost and Found” preservation series of RKO films produced by Marion C. Cooper. Other films in the series included with other films such as “Rafter Romance” (1933), “Double Harness” (1933), “One Man’s Journey” (1933), “A Man to Remember” (1938) and “Living on Love” (1937). In 1946, Cooper obtained ownership of the films and were shown on a limited re-release in 1955 and 1956 in New York City, according to Turner Classic Movies.

-RKO original considered Jeanette MacDonald in the film, on loan out from MGM.

-Based on a 1905 novel by Ernest William Hornug.

-For the opera scenes, the standing set from Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) was used.


Notable Songs:
-“I Wish I Were a Fisherman” sung by Mary Boland (because it’s hilariously bad)

-“Once Your Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

-“Tonight is Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

Today’s highlights include a few scenes I enjoyed-

*Mary Boland is singing at a party and Stingaree enters with a gun to hold up the party and allow Irene Dunne to sing.

Sir Julian: My good man, being shot right now would be a favor.
Mary Boland: I will not sing for outlaws!
Richard Dix: Compassion for the outlaw!

*Mary Boland:…Why, the very foundation of empire is woman’s virginity.
Sir Julian: Chastity, madame, chastity. No empire would get very far with virginity.


My Review

I first saw “Stingaree” back in 2007 when TCM aired it along with the other Marion C. Cooper films. For whatever reason, I didn’t write it down as a musical in my musical list- which explains why this is my 488 musical.

When I revisited this film recently, I realized that it was categorized as a musical-and while it was not a flashy musical in the style of “Broadway Melody of 1936”-the film is much like “San Francisco” (1936). The bulk of the film is the romantic, melodramatic story sprinkled with quality operatic numbers.

The story of “Stingaree” may be far-fetched, but I love this movie and think it’s a lot of fun. I guess you could say Stingaree the outlaw is like Robin Hood of Australia. Rather than stealing from the rich to give to the poor, he steals the rich people’s maid to make her an operatic star. It also has a few hilarious lines in it (see: Highlights).

Irene Dunne is mostly known today for her comedic roles, but she had a beautiful singing voice in a few musicals during the 1930s. Though I love MacDonald, I’m happy Dunne was the star of this film. She brought the sweetness that was needed to Hilda. This was her second teaming with Richard Dix after “Cimarron” (1931). Frankly, Dix drove me crazy in “Cimarron,” but he’s charming and very appealing as Stingaree.

Mary Boland plays her usual character as the fretting, dizzy and selfish woman. Her terrible opera singing is pretty hilarious. And as always, Henry Stephenson makes you want to give him a hug.

I would honestly put “Stingaree” on your ‘must see’ list. For folks who don’t like musicals, the songs are not overwhelming. It’s a fun romp that is forgotten and under-appreciated.

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“But first and foremost, I remember mama”

An actress won an Academy Award in 1948 for not saying a word.

But the actress I feel should have won, spoke with a Norwegian accent.

Jane Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role as a deaf/mute in “Johnny Belinda.”

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

“I accept this very graciously for keeping my mouth shut once, I think I’ll do it again,” Wyman said when she accepted the award.

While I enjoy the movie “Johnny Belinda” and think Wyman did a good job, she isn’t the actress I would have picked.

The nominations that year were:

•Jane Wyman for “Johnny Belinda

•Ingrid Bergman for “Joan of Arc

•Olivia de Havilland for “The Snake Pit

•Irene Dunne for “I Remember Mama

•Barbara Stanwyck for Sorry, Wrong Number

Of the five women, I would have picked Olivia de Havilland or Irene Dunne.

I’m a huge Stanwyck fan, but her performance in “Sorry, Wrong Number” annoys me. I’ve never seen “Joan of Arc.” Olivia de Havilland gives a convincing, heartbreaking performance of a woman who can’t remember how she got into a state asylum in “The Snake Pit.”

But today I’m here to recognize Irene Dunne for her role as Martha “Mama”Hanson in “I Remember Mama.”

The movie, narrated by her daughter Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), follows a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco as they grow up and face joys and sadness.

“For long as I could remember, the house on the Larkin Street Hill had been home. Papa and Mama had both born in Norway but they came to San Francisco because Mama’s sisters were here, all of us were born here. Nels, the oldest and the only boy, my sister Christine and the littlest sister Dagmar but first and foremost I remember Mama,” she narrates.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

And every night the family would gather together, counting their expenses and the money brought into the house. The family never wanted to go “to the bank,” a little box kept in a closet with money that was supposed to be saved to get Mama a warm winter coat.

When the family wouldn’t have to take money from the bank, Mama would sigh happily and say, “It’s good, we do not have to go to the bank.”

The movie is filled with memorable scenes:

•Dagmar (June Hedin) has surgery and Mama isn’t allowed to see her. “I’m not a visitor, I’m her mama,” she says. Mama knows Dagmar is afraid staying in the hospital overnight, so pretends to be a cleaning woman and cleans the hospital floors working her way to the children’s ward. She then sings Dagmar, and all the other children to sleep.

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

•Papa (Philip Dorn) is watching as his son Nels (Steve Brown) tries to smoke a pipe for the first time. He lights the pipe for Nels, knowing his son will get sick, and then comforts him when he does-teaching him a lesson in smoking.

•Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) wants to marry Mr. Thorkelson (Edgar Bergen), the shy funeral director, and her sisters make fun of her. Mama makes them stop by subtly reminding them about how one cried all night on her wedding night and the other’s husband tried to run away before the wedding.

•Mama (Dunne) goes to see famous writer Florence Dana Moorhead (Florence Bates) to help Katrin with her writing. Mama gives Miss Moorhead, a lover of food, recipes in exchange for Miss Moorhead to read Katrin’s stories.

I found Dunne’s role to be heartwarming and believable. In the film she handled situations firmly, with tenderness or humor.  The warm nature of the film may not have made it memorable to the Academy, but I like movies about families. I suppose it makes me think of my own and how my mother likes this movie as well.

This was Dunne’s last of five Oscar nominations she would receive. The others were “Cimarron,” “Theodora Goes Wild,” “The Awful Truth” and “Love Affair.”

While the performances by Jane Wyman and Olivia De Havilland were good, for me “first and foremost, I remember mama.”


This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.