'The best year in American cinema' sparks moviegoers' memories

Films of 1939

Film historian Judy DeBolt shares her enthusiasm for "The Films of 1939" Feb. 4 at the Crestview Public Library.

BRIAN HUGHES / News Bulletin
Published: Monday, February 10, 2014 at 17:10 PM.

CRESTVIEW — Film historians may differ on the best film ever made — art being a matter of personal taste — but they generally agree that 1939 was the best year in American cinema.

Multiple factors made the year such an important one for movies, film historian Judy DeBolt said.

Among them, America was climbing out of the Great Depression, Hollywood resolved union disputes, and technological advances — including three-strip Technicolor and high fidelity sound — enhanced American films' quality.

In addition, the rise of Nazi Germany forced an exodus of top European stars, film composers and directors who settled in Hollywood.

Topping the year in box office receipts and audience popularity, and DeBolt's personal favorite, was "Gone With the Wind," followed closely by "The Wizard of Oz," a commercial failure when first released, she said.

DeBolt said she intended to share her personal top 10 best films of '39 list, "but I actually have 14. I couldn't stop at 10."

For resident Virginia Kemp, DeBolt's Feb. 4 presentation, "The Films of 1939" at the Crestview Public Library brought back a flood of memories of walking to neighborhood cinemas in her native Philadelphia.



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