My favorite books about 1939 Hollywood

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing books about film, theatre, and popular music since 1991 but my love of old movies goes back much further. Before VCRs, DVDs, and streaming, one could only catch these old films on television (often cut to allow for commercial time) or revival houses. Today even the more obscure movies from 1939 are attainable. Writing 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year gave me the opportunity to revisit dozens of old favorites and to see the many also-rans of that remarkable year.


I wrote...

1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year

By Thomas S. Hischak,

Book cover of 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year

What is my book about?

This book looks at all 510 Hollywood feature films that were released in 1939 in the context of what was happening in the U.S. and the world. The format is a day-by-day chronicle covering major news events (national and international) as well as the activities on Broadway, radio, the music business, literature, and other arts, and sporting events. This is followed by a full description and commentary on the Hollywood movies that were released on that day. Also included are many notable shorts, cartoons, and foreign releases.

While other books look at the movie highlights of this momentous year, I wanted to evaluate Hollywood’s entire screen output of 1939, including B pictures, serial installments, and memorable international releases.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939

Thomas S. Hischak Why did I love this book?

It might seem presumptuous to call 50 films from 1939 "classics" but I agree with Vieira that these 50 movies deserve that distinction. This book is filled with all the pertinent information, fun facts, and great visuals. Movie stills, behind-the-scenes candid photos, portraits, and poster art make this a memorable volume to treasure. I particularly like the attention Vieira gives to the many outstanding movie directors working in 1939.

By Mark A. Vieira,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Majestic Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1939 was a watershed year. The Great Depression was barely over economics, politics, and culture braced for war. There was a lull before the storm and Hollywood, as if expecting to be judged by posterity, produced a portfolio of masterpieces. No year before or since has yielded so many beloved works of cinematic art: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, Only Angels Have Wings, Destry Rides Again, Beau Geste, Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Women , and of course, Gone With the Wind . Majestic…


Book cover of 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood's Greatest Year

Thomas S. Hischak Why did I love this book?

Because this book concentrates on only six 1939 movies – Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Adams is able to go into much more detail about the making of each film and the critical reaction each received. I'd be hard-pressed to pick only six movies from that eventful year and movie fans will disagree with Vieira's choices somewhere down the line. But once you get past that, this book is filled with important information and plenty of trivial details that it is a great read.

By Charles F. Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Film critics and historians are virtually unanimous in considering 1939 the greatest year in the history of motion pictures. This one year produced many of the greatest films of all time, including “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and marketed the height of the careers of such legendary stars as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Judy Garland.   To commemorate the 75th anniversary of this amazing year in Hollywood history, “1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year” profiles of six of the greatest films of the year:…


Book cover of Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration

Thomas S. Hischak Why did I love this book?

Ted Sennett is one of the most prolific and widely-read writers about Hollywood and this book on 1939 is one of his very best works. It is filled (one might even say, stuffed) with behind-the-scenes stories. The writing is sometimes critical and analytical rather than gushing as in some of Sennett's many coffee table books. He concentrates on only seventeen 1939 movies so one doesn't get a full picture of that amazing year of movies. It's good to see some lesser-known classics like Midnight and Angels Have Wings included in the seventeen.

By Ted Sennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book on the famous year 1939 an epic year for great classic films.


Book cover of The Making of Gone with the Wind

Thomas S. Hischak Why did I love this book?

This book grew out of a 2014 exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind. The exhibition included rarely-seen material from the archives of producer David O. Selznick and his business partner John Hay “Jock” Whitney. So even if you've read one of the handful of previous books about the making of this movie classic there is much here that is new. The behind-the-scenes deals, battles with the censors, and the controversies surrounding the film are all covered in this fascinating book.

By Steve Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Making of Gone with the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gone With The Wind is one of the most popular movies of all time. To commemorate its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2014, The Making of Gone With The Wind presents more than 600 items from the archives of David O. Selznick, the film's producer, and his business partner John Hay "Jock" Whitney, which are housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. These rarely seen materials, which are also being featured in a major 2014 exhibition at the Ransom Center, offer fans and film historians alike a must-have behind-the-camera view of the production of this classic.…


Book cover of The Making of the Wizard of Oz

Thomas S. Hischak Why did I love this book?

Released for the 75th anniversary of another 1939 classic, this book about the beloved favorite The Wizard of Oz is probably the best of the handful written over the years. All the familiar stories are here, a few myths are debunked, and some new information is brought to light. The story of the making of this classic is as engaging as fiction. In addition to interviews with surviving production crew personnel, the book also has some rarely seen photos. 

By Aljean Harmetz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Making of the Wizard of Oz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Released in conjunction with the 75th-anniversary DVD release of The Wizard of Oz, this book is the definitive story of how one of America’s most beloved movies was made and a marvelous, unprecedented examination of how Hollywood used to make movies. This updated edition includes numerous photos and shares hundreds of interviews with cameramen, screenwriters, costume designers, directors, producers, light technicians, actors, and more to reveal how the factory-like Hollywood system of moviemaking miraculously produced one of the most enduring films ever made. From the scandalous headlines of Munchkin orgies at the Culver City Hotel and the Witch’s (accidental) burning…


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By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

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What is my book about?

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The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

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The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…


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