Book Review: Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939
It’s definitely a cliche and almost a joke at this point – 1939 was the greatest year of American movie production – period. While some may scoff at this preposterous statement, classic filmophiles know that it is true. By some strange confluence of art, commerce and culture more movies now considered “classics” were produced in 1939 than in, well, ever. Thanks to Mark Vieira and Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939, you can have a potent weapon in your arsenal to counter any skeptics about the greatness of 1939.
Note that the title is the greatEST films of 1939. This is not a catalogue of the entire industry output of this very special year, but rather an A-list. Just skimming the inclusions – Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, The Women, They Made Me a Criminal – demonstrates what an embarrassment of riches 1939 really is. From big budget “prestige pictures” to shocking B thrillers, from Cecil B. de Mille to John Ford, from Vivien Leigh to John Wayne, Majestic Hollywood demonstrates that 1939 was not only “great” but varied and wide ranging.
Majestic Hollywood is also one of those rare compendium books that will appeal both to new cinephiles and the die-hards alike. Vieira does a remarkable job of being engaging by including current events, audience approvals, and behind-the-scenes production gossip, all of which contribute to the potent melange that is 1939 at the movies. All of the entries are chronological, based on release dates, and include a brief plot synopsis and mini-essay about the making of the film.
Perhaps most pleasing is the stunning photography included in Majestic Hollywood. Each entry features gorgeous production stills and publicity photos, many by Hollywood’s famed glamour photographer George Hurrell (making Majestic Hollywood a must-have companion volume to George Hurrell’s Hollywood). The visual elements of the book raise the bar, making it a treasure to just leaf through on a rainy afternoon as well as a book to be read.
Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939 is available at amazon.com.