Watching 1939: Wings of the Navy

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: Wings of the Navy

Release date:  Feb. 3, 1939

Cast:  George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, John Payne, Frank McHugh, John Litel, Victor Jory, Henry O’Neill, John Ridgely, Regis Toomey, Donald Briggs, John Gallaudet, Edgar Edwards, Alberto Morin

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Lloyd Bacon

Plot:
Brothers Cass (Brent) and Jerry Harrington (Payne) come from a military background. Cass is a star aviator, like their father was, and Jerry leaves the submarine service to become a flight cadet to be like his father and brother. The brothers start to share more than the same profession when Jerry falls in love with Cass’s girl, Irene (de Havilland).

1939 Notes:
• Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote the song “Wings Over the Navy” for this film. This was Warren’s last film song written for Warner Brothers after starting there in 1932.
• Lloyd Bacon directed six films in 1939.
• Character actor John Rigdely was in 31 films released in 1939.
• Still early in his career, John Payne was in three full-length films in 1939.
• Victor Jory was in 10 films released in 1939
• Olivia de Havilland was in five films in 1939
• George Brent was in four films released in 1939

Character actor John Ridgely, who was in 31 films in 1939 including “Wings of the Navy.” (Screen cap by Jessica P)

Other trivia: 
• Filmed at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, and the Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California.

Olivia de Havilland and John Payne in “Wings of the Navy”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Wings of the Navy” isn’t anything special. But it’s enjoyable. It has the zest and excitement of a military-themed film, complete with the danger of learning how to fly a plane and test pilots risking their lives. We also have romantic rivalries within a family.

For leads like Olivia de Havilland and George Brent, this movie was just a filler contractual obligaion compared to the other films they starred in that were released in 1939. But for some supporting characters, this film was helping build their career. This year gave John Payne larger roles, like this one, and his first primary lead (Kid Nightingale).

This movie also is a good example of Warner Brothers with their usual character actor round-up: Henry O’Neill, John Litel and John Ridgely. Now, to date, John Ridgely, has been in the most 1939 films since I started this feature with 31 film credits.

Songwriter Harry Warren wrote a the song “Wings Over the Navy” with Johnny Mercer, which is played over the credits and throughout the film. Warren started with Warner Brothers in 1932 and scored 32 more musicals, including “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade.” “Wings of the Navy” marked his last film for Warner Brothers and he left the studio in 1939.

While I enjoyed “Wings of the Navy,” if you are looking for a good romantic plot, this isn’t the film for you. While the most plot summaries make it seem like this romantic rivalry is the main point of the film, it really takes a backseat to the trials and tribulations of becoming a Navy flyer.

George Brent, Olivia de Havilland and John Payne in a publicity photo for “Wings of the Navy”

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Watching 1939: Dark Victory

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:  Dark Victory (1939)

Release date:  April 20, 1939

Cast:  Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers, Cora Witherspoon

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Edmund Goulding

Plot:
Socialite Judith Traherne (Davis) has been behaving erratically. Many people believe she’s drinking and partying, but her friend Ann King (Fitzgerald) tries to get her to see a doctor. Judith finally sees Dr. Frederick Steele (Brent), who diagnoses Judith with a brain tumor. Dr. Steele does surgery, but will Judith live?

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Watching 1939: The Secret of Dr. Kildare (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 Secret of Dr. Kildare”

Release date: Nov. 24, 1939

Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, Lionel Atwill, Helen Gilbert, Sara Haden, Nat Pendleton, Samuel S. Hinds, Emma Dunn, Walter Kingsford, Marie Blake, Alma Kruger, Robert Kent, Grant Mitchell, Martha O’Driscoll, Nell Craig, Frank Orth, George Reed, Walter Baldwin (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Harold S. Bucquet

Plot:
Dr. James “Jimmy” Kildare (Ayres) is helping Dr. Gillespie (Barrymore) with research pneumonia causes and cures. At the same moment, Blair General Hospital’s medical head Dr. Carew (Kingsford) wants the doctors to help cure an heiress, Nancy Messenger (Gilbet), when her wealthy father Paul Messenger (Atwill) comes to Dr. Carew for help. Nancy has odd mood swings that are injuring her social and love life. Dr. Gillespie is ill with cancer and is very tired, but wants to continue driving on with the research. To let Dr. Gillespie rest, Dr. Kildare takes Nancy’s case, not letting her know he’s a doctor. Dr. Gillespie is angry about his decision and so is Dr. Kildare’s girlfriend, Nurse Mary Lamont (Day).

1939 Notes:
• This is the fourth Dr. Kildare film out of the 9-film series. This is one of two Dr. Kildare films released in 1939.
• Lionel Barrymore was in four films released in 1939.
• Marie Blake was in eight films released in 1939.
• 1939 helped get Laraine Day her start because she was signed to MGM this year where she found more success. This was her second “Dr. Kildare” film released that year.

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Watching 1939: Four Wives (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:  Four Wives (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 22, 1939

Cast:  Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Gale Page, Claude Rains, Jeffrey Lynn, May Robson, Dick Foran, Eddie Albert, Henry O’Neill, Vera Lewis, John Qualen, Hobart Cavanaugh (uncredited), Ruth Tobey (uncredited), Olin Howland (uncredited), George Reeves (uncredited)
Archived information: John Garfield

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Michael Curtiz

Plot:
After the death of her husband, Ann (Priscilla Lane) struggles when she learns she is pregnant with his child. She is haunted by his memory, which makes her engagement to Felix (Lynn) difficult and strained. Her sisters Emma (Page) and Thea (Lola Lane) are both trying to become mothers and Kay (Rosemary Lane) falls in love with a young doctor (Albert).

1939 Notes:
• The Lane sisters (Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola) were in two movies together released in 1939. Rosemary Lane was in five films released in 1939, and Lola Lane was in two films released in 1939.
• Priscilla Lane was in five movies released in 1939 and she co-starred with Jeffrey Lynn in four of them: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties. Jeffrey Lynn was in six films in 1939.
• Gale Page was in six films released in 1939.
• The second in the trilogy of films starring the Lane Sisters and Gail Page. The movies include “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” (1939) and “Four Mothers” (1941)
• One of four films directed by Michael Curtiz released in 1939.
• Eddie Albert’s third film. Albert made two films in 1939.
• Dick Foran was in four films released in 1939.
• Claude Rains was in five films released in 1939.

Jeffrey Lynn and Priscilla Lane in “Four Wives”

Other trivia: 
• While John Garfield’s character died in “Four Daughters,” he makes an appearance in memories in “Four Wives.”
• Based on a magazine story called “Sister Act” by Fannie Hurst, published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
• In response to the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers” (1941) followed in the trilogy. “Daughters Courageous” was made in 1939 in response to the success of “Four Daughters.” “Daughters Courageous” was not part of the trilogy but had a similar formula and the same cast. Michael Curtiz directed “Four Wives” and “Daughters Courageous” in 1939.
• Michael Curtiz only directed the first two films, “Four Daughters” (1938) and “Four Wives” (1939). “Four Mothers” (1941) was directed by William Keighley.
• Working titles were Family Reunion, Family Affair, American Family and Sister Act.

John Garfield appears briefly in “Four Wives” from clips from “Four Daughters”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
With the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), starring the Lane Sisters and Gale Page, a few films followed: two more films in the series “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers,” and another separate film “Daughters Courageous.”

Priscilla Lane, Lola Lane, Gail Page, Rosemary Lane in a publicity photo for “Four Wives”

While some film sequels (like some of the Gidget films) aren’t great, “Four Wives” is a good sequel to “Four Daughters.” When I first saw the movie in high school, I remember feeling frustrated that the romance between Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn wasn’t picture-perfect. However, now I think it makes it more interesting that we see Priscilla Lane’s character struggle with the death of her husband and having his child, though their marriage wasn’t ideal.

However, for me the highlight was Eddie Albert in his third film role and looking as handsome and adorable can be.

While Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn were in several films together throughout the 1930s and 1940s, 1939 paired them together four times: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties.

The film has plenty of dramatic moments, but there are also several humorous ones, particularly with May Robson, Eddie Albert. Frank McHugh and Lola Lane.

The film leaves off with the sisters and their new babies, leaving room for a third film: “Four Mothers,” which was the last film pairing of the Lane sisters and Gail Page.

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Watching 1939: Fast and Loose (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:  Fast and Loose (1939)

Release date:  Feb. 17, 1939

Cast:  Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Reginald Owen, Ralph Morgan, Etienne Girardot, Alan Dinehart, Jo Ann Sayers, Joan Marsh, John Hubbard, Tom Collins, Sidney Blackmer, Ian Wolfe, Frank Orth (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Edwin L. Marin

Plot:
Eccentric Christopher Oates (Girardot) wants to buy a rare William Shakespeare manuscript from rare book collector Nick Torrent (Morgan). Oates seeks the help a pair of married booksellers, Joel (Montgomery) and Garda Sloane (Russell). However, as the Sloanes try to make a sell, murders start to occur and their job switches to sleuthing.

1939 Notes:
• Character actor Etienne Girardot who acted in this film died in Nov. 1939. He was in eight films released this year.
• Robert Montgomery’s only film released in 1939.
• Rosalind Russell was only in two films released in 1939. The other film was “The Women.”
• Jo Ann Sayers was in 11 feature films and shorts in 1939. She acted in a total of 15 credits from 1938 to 1953.
• Tom Collins was in nine shorts and feature films in 1939. He only acted in a total of 14 films from 1939 to 1940.
• Frank Orth was in 18 films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• “Fast and Loose” is part of a trio of films that follows a married couple, Joel and Garda Sloan, solving mysteries. Each film has different leads playing the Sloans: “Fast Company” (1938) stars Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice, and “Fast and Furious” (1939) stars Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern.
• The “Fast” trio was created in response to the popularity of the sophisticated detective films, “The Thin Man” series, and from complaints that “Thin Man” films weren’t being released fast enough, according to Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell by Bernard F. Dick.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Fast and Loose” was part of a three-part series to mimic the style, humor and sophistication of the “The Thin Man” mystery films.

And while “Fast and Loose” (and the other “Fast” films) were noted to be a carbon copy, they still stand on their own and enjoyable, humorous, and intriguing mystery films.

Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell are wonderful in their films (individually and together) and while “Fast and Loose” may not be a film either is remembered for, they both still bring their A-game. While they play a married detective team, Montgomery is the main focus here. We see less of Russell in the middle of the film until she reappears at the end.

I can attest for the other two “Fast” series films that they are just as enjoyable as this one. If audiences were upset that the “Thin Man” movies weren’t coming out fast enough, these were a decent substitute. They were funny, had sophistication, and kept the viewer stumped of “who done it.” I honestly didn’t know who the criminal was in this film until the end, similar to how “The Thin Man” movies keep you guessing.

As far as films released in 1939, Montgomery and Russell were in few compared to other actors. “Fast and Loose” was Montgomery’s only film released in 1939 and was one of two for Russell. While Russell’s role was small here, her next film gave her a much juicier role: “The Women.”

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Watching 1939: Bad Lands (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:  Bad Lands (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 8, 1939

Cast:  Robert Barrat, Noah Beery Jr., Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Andy Clyde, Paul Hurst, Robert Coote, Francis Ford, Addison Richards, Douglas Walton, Francis McDonald

Studio: RKO Radio Picture

Director:  Lew Landers

Plot:
Set in Arizona in 1875, a sheriff and his posse are traveling through the desert trying to find a killer. The group is short on water and Apaches are a threat to the group.

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Watching 1939: Code of the Secret Service (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:  Code of the Secret Service (1939)

Release date:  May 27, 1939

Cast:  Ronald Reagan, Rosella Towne, Eddie Foy Jr., Moroni Olsen

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Noel M. Smith

Plot:
Lt. ‘Brass’ Bancroft (Reagan) is an agent in the United States Treasury Department trying to hunt down a counterfeit money ring who stole plates from the U.S. Treasury to launder the money.

1939 Notes:
• Ronald Reagan starred in seven films released in 1939.
• Shot on location in Mexico and some of the Mexican extras were borrowed from Juarez (1939), also filmed that year at Warner Brothers.
• This film is the second in a four-part series, which includes: Secret Service of the Air (1939), Smashing the Money Ring (1939) and Murder in the Air (1940).

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Watching 1939: Yes, My Darling Daughter (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:  Yes, My Darling Daughter

Release date: 
Feb. 25, 1939

Cast: 
Priscilla Lane, Jeffrey Lynn, Roland Young, Fay Bainter, May Robson, Genevieve Tobin, Ian Hunter, Robert Homans

Studio: 
Warner Brothers Studios

Director: 
William Keighley

Plot:
Trying to follow in her mother’s feminist footsteps, Ellen (Lane) decides that she and her boyfriend Doug (Lynn) will spend a weekend alone in a cabin before he goes to Belgium for two years for a job. Though her mother Ann (Bainter) lived a single life in Greenwich Village, she isn’t thrilled at the prospect of her unmarried daughter staying the weekend with a man.

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Watching 1939: Henry Goes Arizona

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: Henry Goes Arizona (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 8, 1939

Cast: 
Frank Morgan, Virginia Weidler, Guy Kibbee, Slim Summerville, Douglas Fowley, Owen Davis Jr., Porter Hall (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Edwin L. Marin

Plot:
Henry (Morgan) is a down-on-his-luck New York vaudeville actor. He thinks he has a stroke of luck when he inherits his half-brother’s ranch in Arizona. But he may not be so lucky when he finds out his brother has been murdered.

1939 Notes:
• Douglas Fowley was in nine films released in 1939
• Frank Morgan was in four films released in 1939
• Virginia Weidler was in 10 films released in 1939.
• Slim Summerville was in four films released in 1939

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Watching 1939: They All Come Out (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:  They All Come Out (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 4, 1939

Cast: 
Rita Johnson, Tom Neal, Bernard Nedell, George Tobias, Edward Gargan, John Gallaudet, Addison Richards, Frank M. Thomas, Ann Shoemaker, Charles Lane, Paul Fix (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited)
Themselves: U.S. Attorney General Homer Stille Cummings, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons James V. Bennett

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Jacques Tourneur

Plot:
Kitty (Johnson) meets jobless and down-on-his-luck Joe (Neal). After paying for his meal, Kitty hires him to be the driver for the gang she’s in, lead by Reno (Nedell). When the whole gang goes to jail, Kitty and Joe try to lead a crime-free life, but their past follows them.

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