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This year marks the 75th anniversary of 1939. That year is widely acknowledged as the greatest year in Hollywood cinema, although fans of 1944, 1950, 1968, 1972 and even 2007 may have a few points in their favor. Still, there's no denying that the year that saw both The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind released was easily the best the Studio System ever gave audiences.
While Warner Bros. Home Video might like today's consumers to think that these are the only two great movies released that year, the fact is that they weren't. In order for an entire 12-month period to be great, there has to be a lot more than two examples to prove the theory. Hollywood was a bustling world unto itself, with all the major studios – not just MGM – producing unbelievably good films with the best talent available.
In 1939, John Ford, William Wyler, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Cecil B. DeMille, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Michael Curtiz were directing stars like Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert and more.
That year gave us not one great John Ford film, but three. There were more great Westerns beyond Stagecoach and there were more great dramas beyond Gone with the Wind. After all, there were TEN movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar that year, but that just scratches the surface. So, it's time to take a personal trip on the “Great Movie Ride” that is 1939.