And who could blame them? Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Dark Victory, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, The Women, & Ninotchka were just some of the films on offer that year! If I had been alive back then, I would have been going absolutely ga-ga (I'm not even joking).
All this has left me wondering WHY 1939 was such a successful year. I mean, was it all just coincidence? Or was it because the studio system had finally reached its peak that year? It's possible that after the great depression, the advent of the production code and the incessant publicity campaigns that promoted or destroyed Hollywood's stars, the studios finally found a movie-making formula that worked. Another popular theory for Hollywood's success that year states that because WWII was imminent (and finally declared in September 1939), audiences wanted to escape their real-life horrors and fears by buying a ticket for a feature film, and burying themselves in safe, dark theatres.
So what happened afterwards (after 1939 that is)? The Hollywood studios still continued to produce excellent films but no movie line-up ever matched the intensity or greatness that 1939's ever did. I mean, just look at the Academy Award's Best Picture nominations list for that year: Dark Victory, Gone With the Wind, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice & Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, & Wuthering Heights. If I had been an Academy voter, it would have been extremely difficult for me to make a decision and pick just one feature! Now, granted my two favourite films of all-time are Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, most of you are probably thinking that I would have picked one out of those two, but you'd be wrong! Ha!
Yes, they are my two favourites, but that doesn't mean that I consider them THE BEST of what was nominated that year. I'm tricky like that. I like to keep you all on your toes! So ... if it boiled down to me picking a winner -- oh man, this is going to be hard! -- I think I'd have to pick
|Jean Arthur, James Stewart, & Thomas Mitchell in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington|
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington had an all-star cast (James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Thomas Mitchell) and an incredible director (Frank Capra). It also had a passionate and very real storyline, one that many people could relate to. The first time I saw this film, I was literally blown away. Stewart's performance alone was incredible; so much drama, so much realism, so much PASSION! My God, what I wouldn't give to have been in a movie theatre in 1939 seeing this film for the first time!
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ended up being nominated for eleven Academy Awards that year and, in 1989, the Library of Congress added this film to the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
So, you see, even though Mr. Smith isn't listed as one of my favourite films of all time, I believe that it was the best film produced and released that year. If I had been an active Academy member in 1939 I would definitely have cast my vote for Capra's phenomenal film. Then, once my ballot was cast I probably would have shed a tear for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz for neglecting them and cheating on them with James Stewart!