best film: The Rules of the Game is renoir’s lyrical masterpiece of pure perfection. He glides in and out of the lives of an enchanting ensemble giving us the best film of the entire decade.
most overrated: only angels have wings at #224 is maybe 100 or 200 slots overrated. I love this film so it pains me to put it here. Cary Grant, Thomas Mitchell and Jean Arthur have rarely been better.
most underrated: gunga din. We’re going from one cary grant film that meditates on masculinity to another one. I think gunga din (a clear inspiration to Indiana jones and the action film genre in general) is incredibly underrated. It’s one of the best films of the genre and to not be able to find a slot on the entire top 1000 for TSPDT is a shame and flat wrong.
gem I want to spotlight: the roaring twenties is raoul walsh’s second best film, wonderfully edited, and features great performances from cagney and bogart. If I didn’t have gunga din slightly higher it would be my most overrated because it’s a Must-See top-5-of-the-year quality film and still isn’t on the top 1000 of all-time.
trends and notables: 1939 is a behemoth of a year. For example, stagecoach is my #4 film of 1939 but it’s my #7 film of the entire decade. 1936 also gave us 30 archiveable films but we’re well into the 30+ here with our overall archive count and there are top 5 of the year quality films at the bottom of a top 10 and top 10 quality films that can’t find a spot at all. Ninotchka isn’t on my current top 10 of 1939. That’s unreal. It would be in the top 5 of any other year from the 1930’s. I’ll get to the performances below but picking just one is impossible. I do have to pause and highlight the work of Thomas Mitchell. He’s in 5 archiveable films from 1939 but not only that he plays significant roles in 4 films in the top 10. These are not cameos. The 1940’s would not fully continue the momentum of 1939 but we also had a war breaking out and happening in much of the world. Victor Fleming and the auteur theory (or counter-theory) are front and center as he directs both gone with the wind and the wizard of oz.
best performance male: I’m going with clark gable in gone with the wind. This was not easy. The rules of the game is more of an ensemble piece and wizard doesn’t have a lead male candidate but it’s hard not to pick Jimmy Stewart in mr. smith goes to washington. He’s easily my #2 and behind him we have other good options like the star-marking performance of John Wayne in stagecoach and Laurience Olivier’s genius performance in wuthering heights.
best performance female: it’s even harder to pick the best female performance of the year. I’ve changed my mind a few times already prior to writing but I’m going to go with judy garland in the wizard of oz. Her performance here is deserving of her iconic status. You could also go with plenty of others including Garbo in Ninotchka or Jean Arthur in either mr smith or only angels. Clearly though the biggest debate with Garland is Vivien Leigh who gives one of the best performances of the decade— the only problem is—so does Garland.
- The Rules of the Game
- Gone with the Wind
- The Wizard of Oz
- The Story of Late Chrysanthemums
- Smith Goes To Washington
- Gunga Din
- The Roaring Twenties
- Le Jour Se Leve
- Only Angels Have Wings
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|Babes in Arms||R|
|Dark Victory- Goulding||R|
|Destry Rides Again- Dietrich||HR|
|Dodge City- Curtiz|
|Drums Along the Mohawk- Ford||R|
|Gone With the Wind- Fleming||MP|
|Goodbye Mr. Chips- S. Wood||HR|
|Gunga Din- Stevens||MS|
|It’s a Wonderful World- Van Dyke||R|
|Jamacia Inn- Hitchcock||R|
|Jesse James- H. King||R|
|Le Jour Se Leve- Carne||MS|
|Love Affair- McCarey||R|
|Made For Each Other|
|Mr. Smith Goes To Washington- Capra||MS|
|Of Mice of Men- Milestone||R|
|Only Angels Have Wings- Hawks||MS/HR|
|Son of Frankenstein||R|
|The Hunchback of Notre Dame- Dieterle||R|
|The Oklahoma Kid||R|
|The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex- Curtiz||R|
|The Roaring Twenties- Walsh||MS|
|The Rules of the Game- Renoir||MP|
|The Story of Late Chrysanthemums- Mitzoguchi||MS|
|The Wizard of Oz- Fleming||MP|
|The Women- Cukor||R|
|They Made Me a Criminal||R|
|Wuthering Heights- Wyler||HR|
|Young Mr. Lincoln- Ford||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives