Best Music Movies of 1939
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
In 1911, minor stage comic, Vernon Castle meets the stage-struck Irene Foote. A few misadventures later, they marry and then abandon comedy to attempt a dancing career together. While they're performing in Paris, an agent sees them rehearse and starts them on their brilliant career as the world's foremost ballroom dancers. However, at the height of their fame, World War I begins.
At the Circus
Jeff Wilson, the owner of a small circus, owes his partner Carter $10,000. Before Jeff can pay, Carter lets his accomplices steal the money, so he can take over the circus. Antonio Pirelli and Punchy, who work at the circus, together with lawyer Loophole try to find the thief and get the money back.
Babes in Arms
Mickey Moran, son of two vaudeville veterans, decides to put up his own vaudeville show with his girlfriend Patsy Barton. But child actress Rosalie wants to make a comeback and replace Patsy both professionally and as Mickey's girl.
Some Like It Hot
Nicky Nelson is a fast-talking sideshow barker with a wax-and-alive concession on Atlantic City's boardwalk. Even with the band of his friend, struggling musician Gene Krupa, playing on the sidewalk to attract the customers, "The Living Corpse" and other low-rent acts aren't enough to lure the seen-it-all boardwalk strollers, and the landlord closes the show in lieu of never-paid rent. Nicky, always promoting, goes to Stephen Hanratty, head of the pier's Dance Pavilion, to plug Krupa's band as an attraction, but Hanratty won't even listen to them. But, while there, he meets singer Lily Racquel, who knows he is a phoney but might have the ability to to talk a radio-station manager into giving her an audition. She gives him a ring to help finance the project; he promptly loses it in a crap-game.
In this reworking of Cinderella, orphaned Connie Harding is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle after graduating from boarding school. She's hardly received with open arms, especially by her snobby cousin Barbara. When the entire family is invited to a major social ball, Barbara sees to it that Connie is forced to stay home. With the aid of her uncle, who acts as her fairy godfather, Connie makes it to the ball and meets her Prince Charming in Ted Drake, her cousin's boyfriend.
In this Puppetoon animated short film, a variety of music styles are heard as, in various locations, characters dance or sing.
Three Smart Girls Grow Up
Three sisters who believe life is going to be easy, now that their parents are back together, until one sister falls in love with another's fiancé, and the youngest sister plays matchmaker.
In a mythical Japan, Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, has been appointed Lord High Executioner and must find someone to execute before the arrival of the ruling Mikado. He lights upon Nanki-Poo, a strolling minstrel who loves the beautiful Yum-Yum. But Yum-Yum is also loved by Ko-Ko, and Nanki-Poo, seeing no hope for his love, considers suicide. Ko-Ko offers to solve both their problems by executing Nanki-Poo, and an agreement is reached whereby Ko-Ko will allow Nanki-Poo to marry Yum-Yum for one month, at the end of which Nanki-Poo will be executed, in time for the arrival of the Mikado. But what Ko-Ko doesn't know is that Nanki-Poo is the son of the Mikado and has run away to avoid a betrothal to an old harridan named Katisha. The arrival of the Mikado brings all the threads of the tale together
Gone to the Dogs
George is a disaster-prone zoo attendant who accidentally discovers a substance that accelerates motion, enabling his greyhound to run faster. This attracts the interest of a gang of criminals, who kidnap George's dog and plan to substitute their own in an important dog race. George and his friends defeat the crooks and their dog wins the race.
Man About Town
Producer Bob Temple, who's brought an American show to London, loves his star Diana, but she won't take him seriously as a lover. To show her, he picks up stranger Lady Arlington, whose financier husband neglects her. On a weekend at the Arlington country house, Bob is used by both Lady A. and her friend to make their husbands jealous; this works all too well, and Bob is in danger from both husbands.
They Shall Have Music
The future is bleak for a troubled boy from a broken home in the slums. He runs away when his step father breaks his violin, ending up sleeping in the basement of a music school for poor children.
Gene Autry and his sidekick Frog look into a phony oil scam being perpetrated on a mission orphanage.
Let Freedom Ring
A Harvard man fights a railroad baron with a disguise and the power of the press.
Ealing comedy starring music hall star George Formby. An eager newspaper reporter (Formby) goes undercover to expose a gang of counterfeiters. Posing as a wrestler and waiter in his investigative efforts, George proves a greater menace to public order than the criminals he is chasing.
Paradise in Harlem
It is the story of a comedian Lem Anderson who dreams of playing in Shakespeare scenes but he is applied only role in Harlem Vaudeville. One day he is the witness of a crime and the mobster strongly advised him to leave the town...
Stars and Stripes
An abstract animation by Norman McLaren, who was born in Scotland in 1914. His interest in filmmaking began early in life after he became acquainted with works by the great Russian filmmakers Eisenstein and Pudovkin and the German animator Oskar Fischinger.
Naughty But Nice
Donald Hardwick (Dick Powell) is a stuffed-shirt, classical music professor. His family and small-town music college that he works are of equal mindset. When Don visits his black-sheep aunt in New York in order to find a buyer for his Rhapsody he is exposed to her shocking swing music crowd. His life begins to make dramatic changes after drinking a "lemonade" that turns out to be a Hurricane.
A temperamental director multiple times completely changes the concept during a movie's production.
Artie Shaw's Class in Swing
This film is less a typical musical short and more like an educational film. It consists of a narrator describing the music, composition and style of a big band.
Let's Be Famous
An Irishman sets out to become famous as a singer on the radio. Due to a mix up he is instead entered as a contestant on a quiz show.
A waiter becomes a singing prizefighter.
A married singer, pianist/composer team are struggling to hit it big in New York. Finally, they audition before a Broadway producer, but the producer only wants the singer, leaving the husband without a job and feeling a failure.
Million Dollar Legs
At Middleton College, controlled by rich donor Melton, only paying sports are allowed. But Freddie Frye, conniving student body president, has to get a letter in some sport to win back his girl Susie; he schemes to revive crew boat racing. Sinking boats, no money, and his own waistline stand in his way. Can they win the big race with State University?
The Great Victor Herbert
In his last film assignment, portly Walter Connolly fills the title role (in more ways than one) in The Great Victor Herbert. Very little of Herbert's life story is incorporated in the screenplay (a closing title actually apologizes for the film's paucity of cold hard facts); instead, the writers allow the famed composer's works to speak for themselves. In the tradition of one of his own operettas, Herbert spends most of his time patching up the shaky marriage between tenor John Ramsey (Allan Jones) and Louise Hall (Mary Martin). Many of Herbert's most famous compositions are well in evidence, including "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life", "March of the Toys" and "Kiss Me Again", the latter performed con brio by teenaged coloratura Susanna Foster. Evidently, the producers were able to secure the film rights for the Herbert songs, but not for the stage productions in which they appeared, which may explain such bizarre interpolations as having a song from Naughty Marietta.
Way Down South
In the pre-Civil War South, a plantation owner dies and leaves all his possessions, including his slaves, to his young son. While the deceased treated his slaves decently, his corrupt executor abuses them unmercifully, beating them without provocation, and he is planning to sell off the father'e estate--including the slaves--at the earliest opportunity so he and his mistress can steal the money and move to France. The young boy doesn't want to sell his father's estate or break up an of the slave families, and he has to find someone to help him thwart the crooked executor's plans.
JAZZ HOT is a major discovery, a unique sync sound film recorded of Django Reinhardt, greatest of jazz guitarists, here with violinist Stephane Grappelli and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France.
In Old Caliente
Americans come west to California in the hope of peaceful settlement. Roy and Gabby sing a duet: "We're Not Coming Out Tonight." Other songs include "Sundown on the Rangeland" and "Ride on Vaquero."
A Russian prince disguised as a worker and a cafe singer secretly involved in revolutionary activities fall in love.
The Ice Follies of 1939
Mary and Larry are are a modestly successful skating team. Shortly after their marriage, Mary gets a picture contract, while Larry is sitting at home, out of work.
Short musical subject featuring the work of composer Hoagy Carmichael performed by him and featuring Jack Teagarden and his Orchestra, as well as vocalist Meredith Blake.
The Girl from Mexico
Carmelita Fuentes is a fiery-Latin singer/dancer in Mexico City who has designs on Dennis Lindsay, an American publicity agent, for unclear reasons, while Lindsay's shiftless uncle Matthew Lindsay aids and abets her every step of the way to the marriage altar.
A carefree playboy with an aversion to marriage falls for a lass he meets in the French Alps.
Code of the Fearless
When it appears that Fred Jamison is a member of Red's gang, he is kicked out of the Rangers. But it's just a plot between Fred and the Ranger Captain. Fred then gets into Red's gang and makes plans that will enable the Rangers to bring them all in. But his message to the Captain is intercepted and the hoax revealed.
For some unexplained reason, sales of waffle irons have plummeted. Evelyn Foster, president of the Magic Circle Waffle Iron Company, and Richard Wright, president of the Four Square Waffle Iron Company, decide to merge their companies and get married as well. When Richard insists that the new company make square waffle irons rather than round ones, Evelyn calls off the marriage and the company merger. Richard meets a Hindu yogi, who helps him win Evelyn back.
Love on Tap
In this musical short, a man tries to woo the manager of a dance troupe.
Ride, Cowboy, Ride
Dinny and his cowhand friends rescue Laura from a runaway stagecoach after it is robbed by outlaw Pancho Dominguez and his gang. Dinny is attracted to Laura, who isn't interested in him at all. The climax arises when Pancho's gang raids the town and robs the bank.
Rancher Autry takes a job singing on the radio to aid farmers and ranchers whose lands were destroyed by raging floods. Blaming crooked politicians, he goes to Washington and tries to put through a food control bill and finds he has a lot to learn. In this classic release, Gene introduces his immortal theme song, "Back in the Saddle Again," which has gone on to become a piece of American History.
Blue Montana Skies
Gene Autry follows a clue written on a rock by his murdered partner and discovers a fur smuggling operation near the Canadian border.
The Royal Rodeo
A young monarch, bored with responsibility and craving excitement, invites a traveling rodeo show to perform at his palace.
That's Right - You're Wrong
J. D. Forbes, head of the almost-bankrupt Four Star Studios in Hollywood contacts band leader Kay Kyser, who puts on a radio and-live theatre program called "The Kollege of Musical Knowledge," to appear in films. When manager Chuck Deems gets the studio offer, he and band members Ginny Simms, Sully Mason, Ish Kabiddle, Harry Babbitt and the others are all fired up at the prospect of going to Hollywood and working in the movies, but band-leader Kay is all against it and says his old grandmother has told him to stay in his own back yard, but he relents. Once there, Stacey Delmore, a Four Star associate producer left in charge of the studio while Forbes is out of town, discovers that the screenplay writers have prepared a script that has Kay Kyser playing a glamorous lover in an exotic European setting.
The Lambeth Walk
Bill Snibson, a chancer from Lambeth Walk in South London, is informed that he has been discovered to be the long-lost heir to a title and castle which he can claim provided he is able to convince his new relations that he has enough aristocratic bearing. Things soon begin to go awry however, particularly when Sally, Bill's girlfriend from Lambeth, turns up.
Spoilers of the Range
Hero Jeff Strong (Starrett) comes to the rescue of a group of victimized ranchers. The villains are a gang of crooked gamblers, who demand a valuable dam as payment for a $50,000 debt. The ranchers hope to earn the money by getting their cattle to market on time, but head bad guy Cash Fenton (Kenneth MacDonald) and his flunkey Lobo (Dick Curtis) intend to prevent this.
Mendelssohn's Wedding March
This short film provides a fanciful account of how Felix Mendelssohn came to compose "The Wedding March".
Rose of Washington Square
Rose Sargent, a Roaring '20s singer, becomes a Ziegfeld Follies star as her criminal husband gets deeper in trouble.
This film was not based on the famous one-act opera of Pietro Mascagni but rather on the original story by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. It's the story of Santuzza, her love Turiddu, and his passion for the married Lola that leads to his death in a duel when Lola's husband Alfio exacts satisfaction.
St. Louis Blues
A Broadway musical comedy star tires of the same old grind and flees the city. She runs into the skipper of a showboat who befriends her, and they make plans to put together a musical revue. But a competing carnival owner hatches a scheme to put an end to the show before it begins.
Swanee River is a 1940 American biopic about Stephen Foster, a songwriter from Pittsburgh who falls in love with the South, marries a Southern girl, then is accused of sympathizing when the Civil War breaks out. Typical of 20th Century Fox biopics of the time, the film is more fictional than factual biography.
Eddie Carroll and His Orchestra
Two young jazz guitarists cannot believe their luck when they are stumbled upon by their idol while playing in the park.
On the Air
The setting is a radio broadcast with the bands of Leith Stevens and Bobby Hackett, the vocals by Nan Wynn and a speciality bit by Leslie Lieber playing a toy whistle. Future-and-long-time-voice of the New York Yankees baseball team, Mel Allen (as Melvin Allen), served as the announcer.
Riders of the Frontier
The Rancho Grande, a Texas border ranch, cut off from the law by a gang of outlaws led by ranch foreman Bart Lane, who is holding the elderly owner of the ranch, Sarah Burton, a prisoner. Tex Lowery (Tex Ritter), an undercover Texas Ranger, rescues Martha Williams, a nurse sent for by the ailing Sarah, from a stagecoach holdup by Lane's henchmen. He later convinces Laner that he is a wanted outlaw named Ed Carter, and gains entry to Rancho Grande. But the real Ed Carter shows up.