Gone With the Wind
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Destry Rides Again
The Wizard of Oz
Mr Smith Goes to Washington
The Lady Vanishes
Goodbye Mr Chips
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Rules of the Game
Babes in Arms
Well, I have seen them all. Some of them are rather good :-) Many of them have excellent roles for women. The thing is ... they were all made in the same year. And I only mentioned 18 ... there were more:
Only Angels have Wings
Le Jour Se Leve
Of Mice and Men
The Four Feathers
Drums Along the Mohawk
The Old Maid
The Man in the Iron Mask
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
The Roaring Twenties
Maybe these 30 or so films were the best of that year - I am sure there were a few I forgot. It just blows my mind that so many classics all happened in the one year. Not to mention Bette Davis, who was in at least 4 of them.
While some of them were action movies, most of them were black and white, and there was little location shooting. Some were original scripts, some were from plays or books, some were historical fiction. I suppose they cost a lot in their day (e.g. GWTW), but there were no computer-generated special effects et al. So why do they endure?
Maybe I am just being nostalgic for what seems a better time. This would be quite stupid of me, considering what was happening in the world at that time. On the other hand, it was precisely what movies were for in those days - a way of coping with the economic and social problems all around. The protagonists triumph over adversity, whether filibustering in the senate, following a yellow brick road, finding a missing old lady, dancing together, getting the information to the colonel, or putting on a show. The good guys get a happy ending, and the anti-heroes teach us a lesson.
Don't get me wrong, I am usually delighted to see a rom-com with 2 beautiful people (say George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer), set in a great city (say New York with lots of shots of the Chrysler Building). At the beginning they dislike each other intensely, or have some other reason for not getting together. There are a few misunderstandings. The audience roots for them and in the end they reconcile. "Sleepless in Seattle is a good example. Almost as good as "An Affair to Remember" :-)
I suppose I may find even more escapism in retreating into the past as well as into a romantic comedy. Or maybe I am still waiting to find the contemporary Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Vivian Leigh, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, Paulette Goddard, Joan Crawford, Jean Arthur; Cary Grant, James Stewart, Clark Gable, James Cagney, Fred Astaire, David Niven, John Wayne, Robert Donat, Claude Rains and Gary Coopers.
Who knows? Meanwhile, back to 1939 and fond memories of those who have given me so much pleasure through their work.
PS It occurs to me I mentioned only star actors. Directors also, and all the others (although one is far less likely to see the names of women in those lists) could make this post much longer. Can I resist more names? No. George Cukor, Frank Capra, John Ford, Ernst Lubitsch Howard Hawks, Garson Kanin, William Wyler and Busby Berkeley come to mind. Ok. Done now.