1939 Timelines: 1930 to 1939

An International Film Festival is held for the first time at the French town of Cannes.


In New York City the film critic for the communist newspaper, The Daily Worker , has been dismissed because the editors thought he wasn’t harsh enough in his review of “Gone With the Wind”. The paper considers the film to be an apology for slavery.


RKO signs the New York actor, director and producer, Orson Welles, to a film contract. His contract allows him to work as a producer, director, actor and scriptwriter on film projects of his own choosing. Welles is 25 years old.


Shirley Temple slips to #5 in popularity polls after being #1 for four years. Mickey Rooney becomes the new number–one box–office draw. His Andy Hardy pictures for MGM are the biggest money–makers, in ratio to investment, in the studio’s entire history. Claudette Colbert and Bing Crosby are Hollywood’s highest paid actors, each earning over $400,000 during the year.


“Gone With the Wind” costs over $4 million to make, more than any picture has ever cost in the history of the American film industry. Its length, its fidelity to the source, and the way it pushes the frontiers of Technicolor photography are also innovative. The gross receipts from the film’s initial release sets a record that will stand for over twenty years.


Significant Films:

United Artists releases the Western “Stagecoach”. Directed by John Ford, it stars John Wayne, Claire Trevor and Thomas Mitchell.

MGM releases “Wuthering Heights”. Directed by William Wyler, it stars Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.

MGM releases the Technicolor film “The Wizard of Oz”. Starring Judy Garland, it is the most expensive production in the studio’s history.

David O. Selznick releases “Intermezzo”, starring Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman.

Frank Capra releases “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. It stars James Stewart and Jean Arthur, and is now considered a cinema classic.

RKO releases “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara.

Universal releases the classic Western “Destry Rides Again”, starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

RKO releases “Gunga Din”, starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Sam Jaffe.

MGM releases “Ninotchka”, starring Greta Garbo. The advertisements for the romantic comedy proclaim, “Garbo Laughs!”

MGM’s British unit releases “Goodbye Mr. Chips”, starring Robert Donat and Greer Garson.

David O. Selznick releases the most eagerly–awaited film of the year, “Gone With the Wind”. Starring Clark Gable and the English actress, Vivien Leigh, the movie premieres in Atlanta after the most intense publicity campaign ever mounted by Hollywood. The movie goes on to set a new Academy Award record by winning 8 Oscars, including the Award for “Outstanding Production”.


The Picture Show Man website was established in 2004 to be a comprehensive and free resource for anyone interested in vintage movies. Our focus is the history of motion pictures from the beginning of its development in 1890, to the end of 1960.

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