1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year

Thomas S. Hischak. Rowman & Littlefield, $45 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4422-7804-2
Oft-published Hischak (100 Greatest American Plays) returns with this sizable account of a tremendous year in American film history. It's long been a truism that 1939 was the finest year for Golden Age Hollywood. It saw the release of Beau Geste, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz, among others. Hischak goes through 1939 day by day, juxtaposing national and world news with information on all 510 films Hollywood released that year. This is an interesting exercise, with one basic flaw: 1939 was a watershed year for film, but not every film—perhaps not even most of them—remains worthy of our attention. Likewise, when every film is elevated to the same status, each receiving a paragraph or so, the value of truly great films, and of neglected but deserving titles, is somewhat diminished. Nonetheless, the book's encyclopedism does a great job in providing context for some favorite films, and its inclusion of every single title makes the staying power of those like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz all the more extraordinary. It's likely that die-hard film buffs will appreciate Hischak's project here, but they might be lonely in this appreciation. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/17/2017
Release date: 06/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 430 pages - 978-1-4422-7805-9
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