Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Best Actress Oscar Nominated Films of 1939 - Hollywood's Best Year

Five Best Actress Films of 1939

Reviews by:
Jenny Taliadoros, Eileen Rudisill (Rudy) Miller, David Wolfe and Sally Biondi

Our Best Actress Movie Club is growing! David Wolfe's sister Sally has joined us to watch and review films from 1939. Sally was David's first fashion muse. In the 1960s he created trend-setting looks for her, even choosing her hairstyle and makeup. Her look was so fabulous she was signed by The Ford Modeling Agency in New York! Today Sally is a professional artist, selling her watercolor landscapes and house portraits from her home base in Virginia.

Arguably the best year in cinematic history, David chose 1939 so he could re-visit some of his favorite films of all time. This year is so inspiring to David that he created an entire paper doll book on the subject, 1939 Paper Dolls: Hollywood's Golden Year, available from paperdollreview.com

Shown above along with David's 1939 book are paper dolls of our best actress nominees: Vivien Leigh by Marilyn Henry, Bette Davis by Jim Howard, Greta Garbo by Norma Lu Meehan and Greer Garson (1944 reproduction). The Vivien Leigh book was the very last paper doll published by Merrill in 1980. It's hard to find on the collector's market and I'm glad I have a copy of my own. Bette Davis (2011) and Greta Garbo (2009) were both done through my publishing company, Paper Studio Press, but I'm sorry to say the licensing has expired and they're both out of print. One of my favorite memories: When her friends would ask what she was working on, Norma Lu would very proudly respond, "I'm doing Garbo!" 

It's astonishing to consider the number of great films produced in that one year: The Wizard of Oz, The Women, Wuthering Heights, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Only Angels Have Wings, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback of Notre Dame—just to name a few. 

But here we're focusing on the Best Actress Oscar nominated films from 1939: Gone With the Wind, Love Affair, Dark Victory, Ninotchka and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Visit Be Kind Rewind to learn more about these actresses.

Would you like to watch with us? Next we're jumping to 1980.

BEWARE: Reviews contain spoilers.

Vivien Leigh WINNER for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton
Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes
A southern belle’s survival of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Directed by Victor Fleming.
Vivien Leigh Paper Doll (Merrill, 1980) by Marilyn Henry
Jenny's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Every facet of Vivien Leigh. She acts with every aspect of her being—her voice, her face, her eyes, her gestures, her posture, her movement, even her hair communicates her mood, thoughts, and desires. Every inch exudes Scarlett O’Hara.
2. The production is phenomenal! And it was 1939! It’s a brilliant adaptation of the book. The clothes!! Thank you, Walter Plunkett.    
3. This very well could be my favorite film. My appreciation grows with each viewing. 

Two things I disliked:
 1. Well, it is very long.   
 2.  It’s frustrating to watch Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage fall apart basically due to lack of communication. But if things were tied up in a neat bow the story would not be as compelling.    

One thing that surprised me:
I’m surprised how modern Scarlett is. She’s outspoken, determined, fearless, driven, manipulative, selfish, and yet she can be selfless and compassionate. She’s one hundred percent herself.   

Who should have won the Oscar? I bow down to Vivien Leigh. 

Rudy's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

 Rudy's Scarlett design
for The Franklin Mint.
Three things I liked:
1. GWTW is just a gorgeous, grand, well done epic of a movie!  
2. Walter Plunkett's costumes!!! I drew them all so many times in the years when I worked as a product designer for The Franklin Mint. I watched the movie and replayed scenes over and over again. We did a million GWTW projects. Figurines, mini figurines, bell jars, decorated and sculpted eggs, and dolls! 
3. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Are there two more iconic movie roles? Clark Gable was my mother's favorite actor, so whenever I watch GWTW I think of her. 

Two things I disliked:
1. I first saw GWTW when I was a teenager. It was probably its 30 year anniversary re-release and my mom took me. I hated it! I couldn't stand Scarlett. I found her a most annoying and unappealing heroine. When I saw the film again in my thirties, I was a single working girl and I loved her!! I found her to be a strong female character and I admired her cunning, her resilience and her bravery. Now, later on in life, I still feel that way. She is an interesting, complex character played to perfection by Vivien Leigh. Who, by the way was British, which makes her take on a Southern belle in the 1800s even more impressive. 
2. It's really long!! 

One thing that surprised me:
The last time I saw GWTW was a few years ago with my husband, who had never seen it (!), and another couple. For the first time I felt a bit uncomfortable with the whole subject of nostalgia for the glorious days of the Old South and slavery and the plantations like Tara. I understand there are many sides to every story, but in today's culture it's hard not to be mindful of the damage that history inflicted on a whole race of Americans. That being said, the losses incurred by the southerners were indeed painful and well portrayed in this story.    

Who should have won the Oscar?  VIVIEN LEIGH.

David's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked: 
1. I feel that Gone With the Wind is somehow imbedded in my DNA. It was my favorite movie before I even saw it. Being a voracious reader as a kid, I was allowed to borrow books in the adult section of the local library (my favorite hang-out). I was eleven years old when first I read GWTW, undaunted by the 1,000 or so pages in the heavy tome. When Rhett famously said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” I simply went back to the beginning and read it again. I knew there had been a movie and I wished I could see it, but this was before the days of VHS and DVD. I bugged my parents with endless questions about the film. I found a record of the magnificent musical score and played it over and over again. I found a few, very rare stills from the film and copied them in drawings that I pinned up on my bedroom wall. My favorite was the silhouette of Scarlett against the sunrise, vowing to “never be hungry again.” You cannot imagine how excited I was when the film was revived in theaters (I guess that was in the '50s or '60s), I think I’ve watched it a dozen or so times, never growing tired of it. I realized long ago that the reason I like it is so understandable. GWTW is simply the best movie ever made. It is the jewel in the crown of great movies made in 1939, a year generally regarded as the peak perfection of motion picture storytelling. 
2. When I discovered the paper doll artist/collector community, I was delighted to discover that GWTW is very popular with the group and was even the theme for the 1989 convention in Atlanta. Sidebar story: Ann Rutherford, '40s teen star, came to many LA paper doll parties and at one she told of how as a teen she played Scarlett’s kid sister, Careen, and shared this tidbit. She said that she’d told David O. Selznick NOT to allow the make-up man to give Vivien Leigh the pencil line brows that were generally popular in the 1930s. Nice bit of trivia, isn’t it?
3. More things I like about GWTW: The musical score—so evocative and symphonic. The adherence to the novel despite having to edit, edit, edit. The artistic visuals, the silhouettes and special visual effects. Vivien Leigh’s breathtaking beauty. 

What I disliked about GWTW:
Absolutely NOTHING! 

Best Actress Performance Comparison: 
In my opinion, Vivien Leigh out-classed the other ladies with a multi-dimensional portrait of a survival-heroine you just gotta love. She got a role that demanded a tour de force and she delivered, deserving the Oscar. Her role was more complex than the other excellent nominees. Bette was only dramatic. Irene Dunne was only soignee. Garbo was only funny. Greer was only heartful.

Sally's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What can be said about a flawless motion picture? I have viewed this film numerous times and each time I am taken with its perfection. The adaptation and writing are wonderfully crafted, the direction is seamless although directed by two different directors. Could there be a better casting of characters? I think not. The times certainly dictated a Hollywood star to have the lead, but the choice of Vivien Leigh is so astounding. The makeup is timeless which keeps this movie totally watchable when trends and fashion could have dictated hair styles and make up. 
2. Vivien Leigh's performance is so subtle. With the slightest raise of an eye brow, or a sideway glance she evokes the anger, disgust and even fright that Scarlett exhibits. While Scarlett is a self absorbed, selfish, and somewhat immature girl, we cheer her on because she is so strong and a true survivor.  
3. Then there is the musical score. Max Steiner's score is haunting but not overwhelming. It, too, is perfection. 

What I disliked:
Is there anything that bothers me about this film?I am hard pressed to say.  However, Clark Gables's midwestern accent is troublesome. While all the other actors, although many were English, mastered a Southern accent, Clark seems to have felt that he just needed to be Clark.

Best Actress commentary:
Vivien Leigh won hands down. BUT I cannot help to think if the Academy had not given Judy Garland a "special Academy Award" for The Wizard of Oz would I feel as convinced? Judy's performance is so wonderful, and the idea of Shirley Temple playing Dorothy makes me cringe. Judy was able to play Dorothy with such genuine naivety, and sweetness that it is a performance that should be acknowledged.

Bette Davis nominated for Best Actress as Judith Traherne
George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, Humphrey Bogart as Michael O’Leary, 
Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Ronald Reagan as Alec 
A socialite is diagnosed with brain cancer and falls in love with her doctor.
Directed by Edmund Goulding 
Bette Davis Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2011) by Jim Howard

Jenny's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis - watching her personality change from headstrong socialite to grateful patient to drunken brat and finally a content country wife.

2. The ridiculousness of another era - Driving a car against an obvious video backdrop. Everyone smoking everywhere. Attire for a doctor’s appointment: patient in a fur trimmed dress, doctor in a formal suit. “Tell me, doctor, on what part of my head will you operate?” “Now, now. That’s my worry.”

3. It was fun to see Ronald Reagan as Judith’s tipsy society friend. 

Two things I disliked:

There really isn’t anything I dislike about this film. I appreciate it for what it is: A melodramatic story from another time.

What surprised me:
The expression of love between Judy and Ann - when they said “I love you” before Judy’s surgery, and their dramatic scene together in the garden. 

Bette Davis or Vivien Leigh for the Oscar?

Vivien Leigh for sure. Vivien was Scarlett O’Hara and Bette Davis was still Bette Davis.

Rudy's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

As far as Bette Davis melodramas go, this one is good fun, but I am more partial to Now, Voyager. 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis (even though she is a consummate over-actor) is fascinating to watch.
2. I liked the supporting cast ( although I'm not sure I liked Bogart as the Irish horse trainer) and the great chemistry between George Brent and Bette Davis.
3. The costumes with the fur trim. To die for!!! I found a fun blog with most of the costumes: The Blonde at the Film. The  I've not yet done a Bette Davis paper doll, but it's on my list. Would love to draw some of those outfits!!

Two things I disliked:
1. So over-the-top melodramatic!!! But I guess that was the point. Cheesy death scene.
2. The white halter dress. Davis was too busty to pull it off.  And the acorn beanies she wore to cover her surgery were silly looking.

One thing that surprised me.
Seeing Ronald Reagan on screen. Funny to see him in the movies knowing he would later be president. His hair was the same throughout his entire life!!!

Who should have won the Oscar?
I haven't seen any of the other films yet, except GWTW, but I imagine Vivien Leigh as Scarlett would be hard to top.

David's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
1. Bette Davis! A “woman’s picture” that allowed (and encouraged) Bette’s larger-than-life emotional tsunami. Whereas sometimes she seemed to be over-acting in many of her roles, this movie had such mellow dramatic highs determined by medical and romantic circumstances that anybody would be forgiven for reacting (or over-reacting) as the sorrowful story unfolds. I hate to be shallow, but I must confess that Bette’s wardrobe impressed me… her lavish furs and bejeweled t-shirt top, but not the beanie hat that looked like an acorn top. 

What I disliked:
Geraldine Fitzgerald’s superlative performance was spoiled by her mis-matched false eyelashes (her left-eye lashes were too long and reached her brow, distracting in close-ups. OK, so I’m being shallow again). 

What surprised me: 
Humphrey Bogart cast as a randy horse trainer with a lust-crush on Bette. Ronald Reagan as a society playboy who also was smitten by Bette. Unlikely POTUS, but who can second-guess politics? 

The Oscar? 
I think Bette’s sensitive, but over-the-top portrayal of doomed Judith gave Vivien Leigh a run for her money. The source material mattered. GWTW was a sprawling epic while Dark Victory was a tear-jerking novella. 

Sally's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
I have seen this film many times, and always enjoyed it. It is a Bette Davis movie, and I would watch it as just that. This time I looked at it with a critical eye and realized her performance while usually over the top, made this a melodramatic performance, while it could have been a truly touching and moving one.  When she finally trudges up the  stairs I was not shedding a single tear, not because I am cold hearted, but I just didn't really care. Is that what she wanted to convey? I think not.  I felt more empathy for her supporting cast. Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Brent play their parts with sympathy and make you truly feel the gravity of the situation.  Humphrey Bogart gives an exceptional non-ganster performance that is so beautifully underplayed. 

What I disliked:
What was disturbing was the way cigarettes were used. I realized only the women were smoking in almost every scene, not the men, not even Humphrey! Geraldine Fitzgerald is holding and smoking even though she must not have smoked in real life as she looks oddly awkward. Bette of course uses them as part of her image. I think the tobacco industry may have helped finance this film, and truly wanted to convince the American woman that smoking was glamorous and acceptable in the best homes. When Bette tells the doctors to help themselves to cigarettes in the other room, I realized it was a very brainwashing suggestion.

The Oscar?
I do not think Bette deserved an award for this role. 

Irene Dunne nominated for Best Actress as Terry McKay 
Co-Starring: Charles Boyer as Michel Marnet, 
Maria Ouspenskaya as Grandmother Janou. 
Directed by Leo McCarey. 
A shipboard romance ends with a plan to meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building.
Irene Dunne Paper Doll from Classic Drama Queens (Paper Studio Press, 2016) by David Wolfe.

Jenny's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. This is a simple, sweet story. Watching this film is a gentle sedative to overproduced movies of today. The love affair between Terry and Michel is primarily nonverbal. We know exactly how they feel about each other through their eyes.
2. I enjoyed “getting to know” Irene Dunne. Although I’ve watched a few of her films, including I Remember Mama (1948) and The Awful Truth (1937), she didn’t stick in my memory like other actresses of her era such as Lana Turner and Bette Davis.
3. Maria Ouspenskaya is terrific as Michel’s grandmother.

What I disliked:
There’s nothing to dislike!

What surprised me:
I’m surprised that I prefer this version over the 1957 remake, An Affair to Remember, in which I found Cary Grant to be a little too Cary Grant.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar?
No one had a chance against Vivien Leigh.

Rudy's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. I have not seen a lot of films with Charles Boyer or Irene Dunne. I loved them both in this.
2. The scene where they kiss behind the door is stunning. I believe it's the only kiss in the whole film. After the kiss, he leaves and she is standing alone wearing a drop-dead backless halter gown and the camera freezes on her looking off into the distance. It's really gorgeous.
3. I love the repartee between Michel and Terry.

Two things I disliked:
1. That scene where she sings in the nightclub. Ugh! That singing style makes me cringe.
2. I've always had a hard time with Terry's decision not to tell Michel about her accident. It makes no sense to me. But, obviously we need it to be that way to make his discovery at the end so moving.

One thing that surprised me:
I adore An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. It's been a favorite since I first saw it as a teenager on the late show. I'd never seen the original until now, and I found it just as charming. So romantic!

Who should have won the Oscar?
Still going with Vivien Leigh.

David's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

What I liked: 
 As always, I liked Irene Dunne and was able to put up with Charles Boyer, but found them to be an unlikely couple, thereby making me unable to suspend disbelief. Irene gave her usual sprightly performance and Monsieur relied upon his smarmy French accent that apparently made the ladies swoon in 1939. I didn’t dislike the movie, but I will never watch it again and I am likely to repair my memory by re-watching Cary and Deborah fall in love and bring me to tears for the all-time great romantic ending. 

What I disliked: 
I was looking forward to seeing Love Affair once again, having seen it many, many years ago. I remembered it as being elegant, glamorous and super-sophisticated. My recollection is evidently faulty and I was very disappointed. I think I must have scrambled my memory and confused it with the '50s remake retitled An Affair to Remember. That remake, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, was indeed elegant, glamorous and super sophisticated. The 1939 version was obviously a low budget, rather maudlin, corny soap opera romance from cheapie RKO Radio Pictures. 

What surprised me: 
I was surprised (and delighted) that I HAD remembered an over-the-top, oversize, monster of a fur jacket that looked like it could be yeti fur. I was surprised by the archaic cinematography, the pedantic, plodding script and the faked rear-projection scenery. How could this old-fashioned effort be made the same year as the brilliant screenplay, visual artistry and performances in Gone With the Wind?

Who should have won the Oscar? 
It’s a big surprise to me that Irene Dunne was even nominated for this film. She delivered an adequate performance, but is the least likely to have won against Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Greer Garson and especially Vivien Leigh’s pitch perfect portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara. 

Sally's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

This film is so bewildering on many levels. While the story is a good story, as it proved in two remakes, this version is really dreadful. It seems that Irene was not told that this was not a comedy. She is smug and delivers a performance that doesn't fit the story at all. Then there are the tedious musical numbers that are too long and uninspired. Perhaps the most bewildering aspect is that she should be nominated for an Academy Award for this performance. The musical score is dreadful and sounds as if it should be cartoon background music. 

Somehow the director has made a movie that should have been released no later than 1930, it is so visually "old fashioned." However, the performance that Charles Boyer gives is touching and solid. He is a likable cad in the beginning of the movie and although the plot is heavy handed at times, he is believable. When he confronts Terry about her absence and is sarcastic (while Irene acts coy and silly) his hurt and anger seem genuine, and finally when he realizes the truth he is touching without being too sentimental. 

I would not recommend this film to anyone who is not a true movie buff.

Greta Garbo nominated for Best Actress as Ninotchka
Melvyn Douglas as Count Leon d’Algout
Ina Claire as Grand Duchess Swana
Directed by Earnst Lubitsch.
A Russian diplomat goes to Paris to assist in the sale of confiscated jewels and discovers love along the way.
Greta Garbo Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2009) by Norma Lu Meehan.

Jenny's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
There are a lot of witty lines in this film. (Billy Wilder was one of the screen writers):
1. Grand Duchess Swana at her dressing table, chatting incessantly to Leon: “It’s really a wretched morning… wretched. I can’t get myself right. I wanted to look mellow and I look brittle. My face doesn’t compose well. It’s all highlights… How can I dim myself down, Leon? Suggest something. I am so bored with this face. I wish I had someone else's face. Whose face would you have if you had your choice? Oh, well, I guess one gets the face one deserves.” 
 2. Ninotchka noticing a strange, cone-shaped hat in a Parisian shop window: “Tsk, tsk, tsk, how can such a civilization survive which permits women to put things like that on their heads.” 
3. Waiter: “Now what shall it be?” Ninotchka: “Raw beets and carrots.” Waiter: “Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.” 

Two things I didn't like:
1. Leon’s wooing is rather disgusting: “Look at the clock. One hand has met the other hand, they kiss… Why do doves bill and coo? Why do snails, coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other? Why do flowers slowly open their petals.” Gross, but hey, it was eighty years ago. 
2. The mock firing squad conducted by the two lovers. Yikes. 

What surprised me: 
I was expecting to see cinema’s most beautiful woman step onto the screen, but instead was introduced to a severe Russian agent in drab dress, barking out orders in a dull, measured cadence. But the writing is on the wall—or script as the case may be. Garbo falls under the spell of love and transforms from drab diplomat to chic sophisticate, topped off with the high fashion hat she previously poo-pooed in the shop window. Her hair style is hilarious. Most of it is quite normal—simple, straight, curled under at the chin, but things take a turn at her forehead with crazy, curly curtain-like bangs. In other words: it’s a party in the front, business in the back. 

Before watching I only knew two things about his movie: the title and Garbo’s Best Actress nomination. Expecting a serious drama, I was delighted to find myself watching a comedy, a political satire to be precise. Although the story is light and silly, it is shadowed by the brutalities of Russia’s dictatorship. Released at the time war was breaking out in Europe, I wonder how audiences responded. Perhaps, like Garbo, they just had a good laugh. 

Who should have won the Oscar? 
Vivien Leigh for sure. Although Garbo was terrific as Ninotchka, her acting is more on the surface, whereas Vivien acts from the inside out. Perhaps Garbo displays more acting chops in her other roles. 

Rudy's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Overall, I liked and enjoyed the film, but I wasn't totally won over. Actually, I fell asleep twice and had to go back and rewatch parts of it. 

Three things I liked: 
1. I loved the three Russian sidekicks who eventually became Ninotchka's friends. (That counts as three things, doesn't it?) 

What I disliked:
1. It was interesting watching Garbo. I've not seen many of her movies and I enjoyed studying her. She's got a brain. That being said, I must confess, I've never quite gotten the whole Garbo fascination. I still don't. There's nothing soft about her, even when her character lightens up later in the film.  
2. I wasn't crazy about Melvin Douglas. He played his part well, but I don't find him that attractive.

What surprised me:
I was surprised at how political it was. And very smart. 

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh gets my vote so far. 

David's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. I was captivated by the simple romantic tale that was as intoxicating as the champagne which played an important role in liberating Ninotchka. I loved the film’s determination to have faith in romance even as civilization was about to suffer a cataclysmic war. 
2. Garbo’s carefully nuanced performance was sensitive and believably comic. I so enjoyed the supporting cast of characters—the three comic comrades, the wise butler, the calculating Grand Duchess—all superb. 
3. I felt the aura of sophistication propelled the story arc beautifully. And Garbo is always incandescent, in my eyes. 

What I disliked:
That hat! It should have been giddy but instead it looked like a hollow sweet potato. 

The Oscar? 
I believe the Oscar rightly went to Vivien Leigh. “Garbo laughs!” was the famous tagline used to promote the film and it was fun to see her so gleeful but not worthy of the prize (which should have been hers often in the past). 

Sally's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
1. This film is a delightful experience. Garbo is exactly perfect as Ninotchka, and made a fan out of me. I have always found her "silent movie acting" somewhat embarrassing. It often was passable because of her roles, but in Ninotchka she has great comic appeal and a softness she never exhibited before. 
2. Melvyn Douglas is wonderful as a besotted playboy fascinated with this odd creature, and of course her three comrades make the film a delight. 

What I disliked: 
The only fault is the wardrobe. Surely they could have designed better clothes for her. 

The Oscar? 
Comic performances seldom, if ever, get Academy Awards, and the fact that Garbo was in the running with Vivien Leigh makes it obvious that Ms. Leigh should win. 

Greer Garson nominated for Best Actress as Katherine
Co-starring Robert Donat as Mr. Chips
The love of a wonderful woman brings out the best in a shy school teacher.
Directed by Sam Wood. 
Greer Garson 1944 Reproduction Paper Doll (2007 Paper Studio Press)

Jenny's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Along with the characters in the film I instantly fell under the spell of Greer’s performance. I was truly enchanted by her fairy-godmother-like persona. 
2. I liked watching the decades-long growth of Mr. Chips’ character, going from meek school teacher to happy husband to respected headmaster. 
3. I enjoyed observing the Victorian era—how people interacted with each other and the language used. Then, an orgy was a tea party! 

Two things I disliked:
1. At the beginning of the film, Robert Donat’s exaggerated portrayal of elderly Mr. Chips was so contrived, reminding me of Dick Van Dyke as the old banker in Mary Poppins. However, watching Mr. Chips’ progression through a series of flashbacks, I became more accepting of Donat’s performance. 
2. Yawn! The gentle story put me right to sleep. I needed popcorn and three viewing installments to get through the movie.   

One thing that surprised me:
I was not expecting such impertinent behavior from school boys of the 1800s. Apparently, if they can get away with it, kids will be bad whether it’s 1879 or 2019.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar? 
Although her appearance in the film was short, I found more depth in Greer’s performance than some of the other nominees, but still no match for Vivien Leigh. 

Side note: On David’s recommendation I watched MGM’s 1969 musical remake starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark. Unlike David who adores this movie, I did not care for it. Mr. Chips and Katherine were given more dynamic storylines, but the “thought sequence” songs were cringeworthy, sung very slowly with little melody.

Rudy's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What a sweet movie!! I had not seen it before.
2. I loved the characters. They were all so kind-hearted.
3. Greer Garson is so warm and beautiful.
4. I thought the way they aged Robert Donat was very successful.

What I disliked:
Greer Garson's role was too brief. I was devastated when she and the baby died. So sad.

What surprised me: 
I had never even heard of Robert Donat before and I was surprised to read that he won an Academy Award for this movie. Not that he didn't deserve it, but I'm just mystified that I had never heard of him.

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh

David's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked?
There is very little to like about this oddly bland and boring movie that (belatedly) launched Greer Garson’s impressive career. She had been “discovered” on the London stage by Louis B. Mayer who was on a talent-scouting trip in Europe. Greer was already in her 30s, too mature for the usual “starlet” treatment. After a long wait in Hollywood, Greer landed the ridiculously brief role of Mrs. Chips, a sweet little vignette that brings a bit of life to the otherwise plodding film. 

Greer’s charm is evident even though her sweetheart make-up and curly coiffure leaves her looking like a Busby Berkeley doll-like chorus girl. It seems likely to me that the studio may have orchestrated Greer’s nomination for this insignificant role, the first step up to well-deserved regal stardom with box office clout. Soon she was cast as Mrs. Miniver, winning the Oscar and looking like the beauteous Queen of MGM for the following decade. 

What I disliked:
Robert Donat. His portrayal had two notes. As a young professor he was charmless, unpopular and effete until he meets Greer and instantly falls in love. As an elderly Head Master he switches to a somewhat comic performance, looking a bit daffy, beloved by his pupils. 

The plot is so expected that I was never surprised. 

Oscar for Greer’s screen debut? 
Not for this thankless role that should not have been nominated. Vivien’s Oscar deserves her well-deserved award. 

Suggestion: I recommend the brilliant, heartfelt musical version made in the '60s and starring Peter O’Toole as a lovable, loving Mr. Chips who falls for Petula Clark, an adorable soubrette. 

Sally's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
If I am only reviewing the Greer Garson aspect of this movie, I would give it thumbs up without any hesitation. The moment she appears, like a beacon in a foggy sea of a mediocre script and performances, the film is so enjoyable, She always has a wonderful presence, but there is an earthy quality to her in this role. The fact that the film is nostalgic about World War l seems quaint, knowing that in 1939 World War II was looming around the corner makes those of us from the future feel sorry for the poor souls living their safe lives in Britain.  

What I disliked:
The only thing I don't like is the script. I never read the book, but may just do that to see if there is some explanation for Chips' reclusiveness. Also I am not a fan of Donat in any role, so that, too, detracts from my liking the film.

The Oscar?
There is too little of Greer Garson, who truly lit up the screen. Her tiny role hardly seems to deserve a Best Actress award.

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