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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Watching 1939: Invisible Stripes (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: Invisible Stripes

Release date: Dec. 30, 1939

Cast:  George Raft, Jane Bryan, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, Flora Robson, Paul Kelly, Lee Patrick, Henry O’Neill, Frankie Thomas, Moroni Olsen, Margot Stevenson, Marc Lawrence, Leo Gorcey, Bruce Bennett (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited), William Hopper (uncredited), John Ridgely (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Lloyd Bacon

Plot:
After he’s paroled from Sing Sing, Cliff Taylor (Raft) finds life is hard as an ex-con. His girl leaves him, and he can’t find work. Even after he finds work, employers get nervous around an ex-con and fire him or police accuse him for crimes. His younger brother Tim (Holden) is disheartened by what he sees with his brother and becomes hard. Because of his hardships, Cliff falls back into crime, which causes problems for the rest of his family.

1939 Notes:
• George Raft was in four films released in 1939
• William Holden’s second credited role released in 1939. He was in three films total
• 1939 gave Margot Stevenson her first full-length films. She was in two films released that year: this one and “Smashing the Money Ring”

Other trivia: 
• Originally supposed to star James Cagney and John Garfield
• Flora Robson plays George Raft’s mother, though she was six years younger than Raft
• One of the last films released in 1939
• The only film that George Raft was directed by Warner Bros. director Llyod Bacon, according to George Raft: The Films by Everett Aaker

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Invisible Stripes” is an interesting crime film. It isn’t just “well here is a gangster committing crimes” or the upstanding citizen being brought into a life of crime.

It’s about an ex-con, played by George Raft, sincerely wanting to “go straight” and live a truthful, honest life and make money honestly, but society won’t let him. Employers don’t want to hire him because of his criminal background, or they are suspicious of him after he’s hired. If he is hired, other employees pick fights.

But society also doesn’t want him to commit crimes, which is the only way he can make money. The message is very much “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

The film gives a sympathetic look at what people deal with after they are released from a stretch in jail. George Raft plays this character well, and the plot unsurprisingly turns him back towards a life of crime.

But while George Raft is the star of “Invisible Stripes,” William Holden was the standout star of 1939. This is the year that Holden’s career really began and it started out with a bang. Holden was coming off the success of “Golden Boy” (1939), which quickly made him a star. Warner Bros. borrowed Holden from Paramount to play the role of the eager younger brother becomes bitter as he watches the treatment of his brother.

What no mention of Humphrey Bogart? Bogart is in this film, but has a fairly small role and not as much screentime as Raft or newcomer Holden. At this point in his career, Bogart still wasn’t the star that he later became but 1939 slowly boosted him until he found fame.

“Invisible Stripes” isn’t the most memorable film of 1939, or the most memorable Warner Bros. gangster movie, but it’s interesting to see Holden early in his career and Raft and Bogart together.

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Watching 1939: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (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:Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Release date: Oct. 17, 1939

Cast: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Thomas Mitchell, Eugene Pallette, Beulah Bondi, Harry Carey, H.B. Warner, Astrid Allwyn, Ruth Donnelly, Grant Mitchell, Porter Hall, H.B. Warner, Larry Simms (as Baby Dumpling), Billy Watson, Delmar Watson, Garry Watson, Harry Watson, Edward Brophy (uncredited), Jack Carson (uncredited), Craig Stevens (uncredited), Robert Sterling (uncredited), Milton Kibbee (uncredited), Dickie Jones (uncredited), Frances Gifford (uncredited), Ann Doran (uncredited)

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Frank Capra

Plot:
When a senator dies, corrupt political boss Jim Taylor (Arnold) needs to fill the position with someone he can control. Patriotic but unexperienced Jefferson Smith (Stewart) is appointed in the place by his governor (Kibbee) and he is guided by Senator Paine (Rains), who is also controlled by Taylor, in his journey to Washington, D.C. Smith’s secretary Clarissa Saunders (Arthur), thinks Smith’s patriotism is bunk and tries to railroad him with a bad press story, but once she sees he is sincere supports him. While Smith is supposed to be a “Yes” man, he becomes determined to fight the corrupt senate politics.

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Watching 1939: Sweepstakes Winner (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:  Sweepstakes Winner (1939)

Release date:  May 20, 1939

Cast: 
Marie Wilson, Johnnie Davis, Allen Jenkins, Charley Foy, Jerry Colonna, Granville Bates, Vera Lewis, Frankie Burke, Sam McDaniel

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  William C. McGann

Plot:
Jennie (Wilson) gets a $1,000 inheritance from her grandfather and is convinced to give it to bookies Tip (Jenkins) and Jinx (Foy) to bet on a horse. She wants to buy a horse named Firefly with the winnings, but Tip and Jinx lose her money. Broke, Jennie gets a job as a waitress but Jinx and Tip convince her to buy an Irish Sweepstakes ticket and she wins.

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Watching 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss

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 Meets the Boss

Release date:  March 8, 1939

Cast:  Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Danny Mummert, Jonathan Hale, Daisy the Dog, Dorothy Moore, Inez Courtney, Joel Dean, Dorothy Comingore, Stanley Brown, Don Beddoe

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Frank R. Strayer

Plot:
Blondie (Singleton) and Dagwood (Lake) are ready to go on vacation with their Baby Dumpling (Simms). The day they leave, Dagwood’s boss Mr. Dithers (Hale) said he has to go out of town on urgent business and needs Dagwood to stay and work and cancel his vacation. Outrage, Dagwood resigns. Blondie begs Mr. Dithers for Dagwood’s job. Dithers strikes a deal with Blondie: she works in Dagwood’s place while he is on the business trip.

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Watching 1939: Stand Up and Fight (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:  Stand Up and Fight

Release date:  Jan. 6, 1939

Cast:  Wallace Beery, Robert Taylor, Florence Rice, Helen Broderick, Charles Bickford, Barton MacLane, Charley Grapewin, John Qualen

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  W.S. Van Dyke

Plot:
Starting in 1844 in Maryland, Blake Cantrell (Taylor) is a plantation owner who is broke and has to sell his property. He’s in love with Bostonian Susan Griffith (Rice), who loses interest when he has no means of taking care of himself. Blake has never worked for a living and ends up working for a stagecoach line run by Capt. Boss Starkey (Beery), which is also owned by Amanda Griffith (Broderick), who is Susan’s aunt.

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Watching 1939: Sued for Libel

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:  Sued for Libel

Release date:  Oct. 27, 1939

Cast:  Kent Taylor, Linda Hayes, Lilian Bond, Morgan Conway, Richard Lane, Roger Pryor, Thurston Hall, Emory Parnell, Roy Gordon, Keye Luke

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  Leslie Goodwins

Plot: Albert Pomeroy (Conway) is being tried for the murder of Edward Webster and the news is suspicious that Webster’s widow Mrs. Muriel Webster (Bond) because she insists that Pomeroy is guilty. However, Pomeroy is found not guilty, but reporter Maggie Shane (Hayes) plays a joke on nuisance reporter Smiley Dugan (Lane) and says Pomeroy was found guilty. Smiley calls the story into Steve Lonegan (Taylor), saying Pomeroy is guilty and broadcasts it on national radio news. Steve’s broadcast company is sued for libel.

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Watching 1939: Remember?

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: Remember? (1939)

Release date: Dec. 14, 1939

Cast:
Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, Lew Ayres, Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, George Barbier, Henry Travers, Richard Carle, Laura Hope Crews, Sig Ruman, Sara Haden

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Norman Z. McLeod

Plot:
Sky (Ayres) is engaged to Linda (Garson), but Linda falls in love with his best friend of 21 years, Jeff (Taylor). Jeff and Linda get married, and when things aren’t working out, Sky tests an amnesia drug on the couple.

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