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Hollywood's Greatest Year
What do Babes in Arms, Beau Geste, Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Only Angels Have Wings, and Young Mr. Lincoln all have in common? They are all classic films released in the same year, but none of them received Academy Award nominations for best picture. Why? In that same year, Hollywood produced Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Ninotchka, as well as two of the most beloved films of all time, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. In 1939 Hollywood created an unprecedented number of great films, a year that has yet to be surpassed in cinematic achievement.
In 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year, Thomas S. Hischak looks at the most remarkable 365 days in film history. Arranged chronologically from January 1 to December 31, 1939, each entry covers one day and features major news events (national and international) as well as minor curiosities or news items that would prove to be more important in the future. The activities on Broadway, radio, the music business, literature, and other arts are included, as are noteworthy sporting events. Most significantly, this book provides a full description and commentary on the Hollywood movies that were released on that day.
All 510 feature films from all the Hollywood studios are included in the book, along with notable shorts, cartoons, newsreels, and foreign releases. While others have looked at the movie highlights of this momentous year, Hischak evaluates Hollywood's entire screen output of 1939, from B pictures and serial installments to the international blockbusters-and every film in between. 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year is a captivating look at this phenomenon and will fascinate any film aficionado.
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Hischak (emer., theater, SUNY Courtland), author of 38 plays and multiple books on musical theater and film, such as Musicals in Film (CH, May'17, 54-4055) and The Jerome Kern Encyclopedia (CH, Nov'13, 51-1216), examines all the films produced during 1939, seeking to situate them within their historical and cultural context. Most of his thorough, detailed work (348 pages of 412) consists of dated entries-one for each day of the year-of two sections: historical events related to literature, art, theater, politics, crime, national/international news, and other topics of note; and the films released on that date, including a brief plot synopsis, mention of the actors/actresses, and a few words of commentary. The book includes three appendixes listing international films, short films, and Academy Award nominees of 1939. Entries are well written, clear, and concise, with useful, succinct commentary.... Summing Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. * CHOICE * Oft-published Hischak (100 Greatest American Plays) returns with this sizable account of a tremendous year in American film history. It's long been a truism that 1939 was the finest year for Golden Age Hollywood. It saw the release of Beau Geste, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, and The Wizards of Oz, among others. Hischak goes through 1939 day by day, juxtaposing national and world news with information on all 510 films Hollywood released that year. This is an interesting exercise.... [T]he book's encyclopedism does a great job in providing context for some favorite films, and its inclusion of every single title makes the staying power of those like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz all the more extraordinary. It's likely that die-hard film buffs will appreciate Hischak's project[.] * Publishers Weekly * With 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year, author Thomas S. Hischak has created a veritable film almanac of this year. He chronicles the release dates, important filming dates of certain movies, and a meticulous description of plots, cast and characters and a personal and press analysis of each film, short, or cartoon. His writing style and research is phenomenal. Not only has Hischak provided all of that he gives the reader [when a film wasn't opening on that day in 1939] a very informative glimpse of history outside the Hollywood gates. Whether it's the oncoming rise of Hitler in Germany, The Spanish Civil War or what was happening in Japan or China, his clarity and knowledge of the year puts it all into perspective. There are also cultural events in theater, literature and sports in the mix. There is no need to 'turn back time'; just realize that in 1939 a remarkable amount of silver screen history and world and cultural history was being made. Thomas S. Hischak takes you down the 'yellow brick road' in a fascinating way. * EDGE *