A Case of Bad Timing

WE ARE NOT ALONE, Paul Muni, 1939

Everyone knows 1939 was a banner year in American cinema and probably the peak of the studio system. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Women, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind were just a few of the iconic American movies that premiered that year. In fact, so many films of superior quality were released in 1939 that it was inevitable that a few of them would fall between the cracks and go undiscovered. One of these was We Are Not Alone which was virtually ignored by the public despite appearing on several critics’ top ten lists. Yet, it seemed to have all the necessary ingredients for Best Picture nominee.

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For the Boys

Between 1941 and 1945 as World War II engulfed the world most major studios in Hollywood demonstrated their patriotism by producing numerous flag-waving musicals in support of the troops and to raise money for the war effort. Warner Bros. was represented by This is the Army (1943), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) and Hollywood Canteen (1944); Paramount served up Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Here Come the Waves (1944); Universal had a major hit with Buck Privates (1941) starring Abbott & Costello and The Andrew Sisters; 20th-Century-Fox unveiled the mind-warping visual excess of Busby Berkeley’s The Gangs All Here (1943) and MGM brought their signature gloss and glamor to Thousands Cheer (1943) and Anchors Aweigh (1945). But probably one of the biggest extravaganzas of all in terms of star cameos and musical guests was Stage Door Canteen (1943), released by United Artists.   Continue reading