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 Four Feathers
Release date: April 18, 1939
Cast: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez, Allan Jeayes, Jack Allen, Donald Gray, Donald Gray, Frederick Culley, Clive Baxter
Studio: London Film Productions
Director: Zoltan Korda
Plot: Set in 1902, Harry (Clements) resigns from the military right before he is supposed to go to Africa to serve, shirking tradition. He never wanted to serve in the military decides he won’t now that his father has died and he no longer has to follow his wishes. Before his friends travel to Egypt, they send him white feathers signifying that he’s a coward.
When it comes to Friday the 13th films, audiences generally recollect horror films involving a man in a ski mask. But before those gory films came to be, British film released by Gainsborough Pictures follows a group on a bus just minutes before the clock strikes midnight on Friday the 13th.
Directed by Victor Saville, Friday the Thirteenth (1933) the film begins with the following statement:
“You hear of an accident. There are victims. Strangers to one another. Supposing we could put back the clock and see how chance made these strangers share this appalling moment.”
The film begins as we see people riding a bus on a rainy night with the clock ticking closer to Friday the 13th. Lightning strikes a crane, and the bus driver has to swerve to miss the falling debris and wrecks. Newspapers flash on the screen with headlines about the wreck and that two people were killed. Before we know further, Big Ben ticks back to the beginning of Thursday the 12th and we see what lead everyone to get on this bus.
Like most of us, I grew up on classic Christmas films—from White Christmas to The Bishop’s Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. And as I realized new-to-me pre-1968 Christmas movies were dwindling, I began scrounging for more. Surely there were still some left to discover!
That’s how I stumbled upon “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952) last Christmas while browsing Amazon. But much to my dismay, the only DVDs sold were Region 2 (not able to play on U.S. devices) and it didn’t appear to be streaming online.
So as the holidays rolled around again this year, I searched and found someone selling a DVRed copy of this English film and I snatched it up.
Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Denholm Elliott, Margaret Leighton, Hugh Williams, Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delaney, the film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. And in the midst of the bright holiday, none of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles.