Have one? I'm curious to see which year was the most stunning in terms of movie production. Or, at least, who here thinks which year has been the most creative. I believe the industry consensus is 1939 but I wouldn't go that far back. Is it even possible to make such a claim? If so, would national/world events of that year have contributed or is the industry immune to such influences?
I like the mashup (on the left) for 2011 but for me last year seemed a fairly dim year for film. My favorite year is 1962. Perhaps I'll do a similar mashup - it's probably the best way to put your case across.
Take 1939, the year I was born. Like most of the great golden years of Hollywood – to my taste they turn slowly to some lesser metal toward the end of the Fifties – it is simply too rich to easily categorize or safely pigeonhole. The big movie news was a little something David Selznick put together called Gone With the Wind. It won eight Oscars, including one for director Victor Fleming, even though George Cukor, Sam Wood and Selznick himself had directed various lengthy sequences; but then Fleming had also guided Judy Garland through another of that year’s favourites, The Wizard of Oz. Selznick also brought Ingrid Bergman to America that year in Intermezzo (Gregory Ratoff directing), and Wood directed Robert Donat’s Oscar-winning performance inGoodbye, Mr. Chips. William Wyler, with the help of writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, producer Samuel Goldwyn, photographer Gregg Toland, Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, turned Miss Brontë’s Wuthering Heightsinto a successful movie which the New York Film Critics voted the best of the year. Hecht and MacArthur also had a hand in reshaping Mr. Kipling for George Stevens’ Gunga Din. Garbo laughed for Melvyn Douglas in Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka and Dietrich got shot for Jimmy Stewart in George Marshall’s Destry Rides Again. Stewart also gave what most people – including the New York Film Critics but not the majority of those in the Academy –considered the best performance of the year in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (As often happens, Academy members made up to Jimmy the following year by giving him an Oscar for a much less impressive job in The Philadelphia Story.)
For cultists of various sorts, the year may be memorable for other reasons: the first Henry Aldrich movie perhaps. (Remember the radio version? "Heeenry! Heenry Aldrich!" "Co-oming, Mother!") A quite nice little comedy it was too, called What A Life, directed by a gentleman named Jay Theodore Reed, and written by two now somewhat more famous names, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, who also worked on the divine Ninotchka that year, not to mentionMidnight, a delightful semi-screwball comedy Mitchell Leisen directed. W.C. Fields’ fans will remember 1939 as the year of You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (George Marshall directed), and Busby Berkeley buffs will think of Babes in Arms with Miss Garland and Mickey Rooney. For Bette Davis admirers it was, of course, a vintage four-handkerchief year, as Bette went gallantly blind in Dark Victory, sacrificed herself nobly for her daughter in The Old Maid(both under Edmund Goulding’s tender hand) and had a fling with Errol Flynn in a bit of Warner Bros. historicalresearch, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (directed by Michael Curtiz). About on the same level, and also for Warner’s, Mr. Paul Muni (that was his billing) distinguished himself even more dubiously than ever in William Dieterle’s Juarez, while the big “political” movie came from Burbank too with Anatole Litvak’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy.John Cromwell directed Carole Lombard in two uncharacteristically teary vehicles she managed to transcend, with Jimmy Stewart’s help in Made for Each Other and Cary Grant’s in In Name Only. Charles Laughton didn’t live up to Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Dieterle again), nor did Zoltan Korda’s remake of Four Feathers to memories of the original.
But what were really the best American films of 1939, now that we’ve had thirty-three years to live with them? Well, the New York Film Critics gave their Best Direction Award to John Ford for his first sound western, Stagecoachand, happily,they weren’t far wrong. In fact, it is debatable whether he should have got it for that film or for another one of his released that year, Young Mr. Lincoln. Iprefer the second myself, but I wouldn’t want to live on the difference, since Stagecoach not only revitalized westerns, but actually revolutionized the genre. Inspired by de Maupassant’s Boule-de-suif, Stagecoach was the first “adult” western, made John Wayne a star in respectable pictures (as opposed to Republic programmers), gave us our first look at Monument Valley (Ford has since been back there for eight other movies, more memorably each time), and brought an almost expressionistic artistry to a form that had until then been likable but hardly profound.
Young Mr. Lincoln, seen now in the perspective of Ford’s work since 1939,is a considerably more personal work, which is one of the main reasons I like it so much. Not only does Henry Fonda give a classic performance in the title role, distilling the very essence of the Lincoln myth, but it is as beautiful a piece of American folklore as has ever been made – a poetic vision of Lincoln’s youth and destiny that is as simple in its telling as it is complex and poignant in its reverberations.
As if Stagecoach and Young Mr. Lincoln were not enough to make Mr. Ford the film maker of the year, he also directed Drums Along the Mohawk, his first color movie, and a much more potent piece of Americana than Gone With the Wind, though both are based on best sellers of small literary distinction. (Actually I also prefer to the Selznick landmark two other films of quasi-American history that came out that year: King Vidor’s Northwest Passageand Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific.)
Another of my favorite movies, Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings, was released in 1939; his first since Bringing Up Baby, it also starred Cary Grant. An evocative and richly dramatic picture about the flying of primitive planes through dangerous weather at a fogbound South American airport, it brings to fruition most of the Hawksian themes of friendship among men which he’d been developing since A Girl in Every Port in 1928, and which he continued to explore in later films like Air Force, To Have and Have Not and Rio Bravo.
As we get to this ten-best list of 1939, bear in mind that the game is always a little suspect (even after thirty years), since the pictures are often too dissimilar to compare or rate beside one another, and that the films – particularly those at the top of the list – are all of such quality that the distinctions must be purely personal.
I prefer The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
We've had this argument before.
1939 is often cited. It seems like every studio came out with a classic.
My own choice is 1941.
Okay, everyone's naming films. Here are a few from my year:
How Green Was My Valley
The Maltese Falcon
The Little Foxes
The Lady Eve
All That Money Can Buy
The Road to Zanzibar
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
The Devil and Miss Jones
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Ball of Fire
Pride of the Yankees
I Wake Up Screaming
Hold Back the Dawn
Meet John Doe
The Sea Wolf
Year of the first Woody -
I would plead my case for 1977 with Close Encounters, Annie Hall, Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Jacqueline Bisset and her nipples in The Deep, Black Sunday, Suspiria, Semi-Tough, Smokey and The Bandit, High Anxiety, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Telefon, The Gauntlet, Slap Shot, and Rolling Thunder.
Rolling Thunder looks promising, PTF. The Paul Schrader script sold me. Thanks.
Jesus. Tarantino heaven. Approached Peckinpah territory but stayed away (but not for lack of talent).
The Shawshank Redemption
Bullets Over Broadway
Trois couleurs: Rouge
The Lion King
Natural Born Killers
Four Weddings and a Funeral
La Reine Margot
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Madness of King George