The Nominees – S1E1 – Best Picture 1939

We’re starting an impromptu film series in which we take a look at sets of films that were nominated for Academy Awards. We wanted to explore a random selection of good films from past, and what better way to splash into the history of film than to look at a curated list? In the first season, we’ll look that the nominees for Outstanding Production, or Best Picture from 1939, 1949, 1959, …2019.

Every year, a collection of films are nominated and we’d like to take a closer look, explore what makes a nominated film, and how the voice of film has changed over time.

Access to the films can be limited, so we will use a combination of the Academy site, Wikipedia, and one of our favorite sites, as our tools for exploration. If we find that we have access to the films, we’ll give them a good watching.

At the Eleventh Academy Awards celebration in 1939, Oscars were awarded to Deanna Durbin and Mickey Rooney for Juvenile Players, Bette Davis for Best Actress in Jezbel, and Walt Disney was awarded the special statuette and seven smaller Oscars for each of the seven dwarfs.

The nominees for Outstanding Production included a few familiar titles, but a good list of surprises. This is why we are here. We’re looking for surprises.

1939 films nominated for Outstanding Production



Frank Capra’s film with Jean Aurthor and James Stewart. It’s on our Watch List, especially after reading a few reviews at It sounds like the modern viewer could enjoy a fresh look at what’s important in life and what’s just – not. Fresh looks for 2021?

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – Warner Bros.-First National
BOYS TOWN – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
THE CITADEL – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
FOUR DAUGHTERS – Warner Bros.-First National
GRAND ILLUSION – Realization D’Art Cinematographique
JEZEBEL – Warner Bros.
PYGMALION – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
TEST PILOT – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Our Picks

None of the nominees are in our DVD collection, so we’ll have to rely on their availability on the streaming platforms.

Five of the films are streaming, but only two of them on services we currently have access to. So let’s discuss THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and PYGMALION which are both streaming on HBO Max.

From this list, most are not streaming at the time of this post. Two are available to cable subscribers who have Turner Classic Movies (TCM). If that’s you, the Watch TCM app will give you access to Jezebel and Four Daughters.
Our featured films for this episode will be the two films that are available on HBO Max:

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – Warner Bros.-First National
PYGMALION – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Adventures of Robin Hood – 3 Stars

I was introduced to Robin Hood by Disney’s 1973 animated feature in which the scoundrel/hero lead fox outwits and antagonizes the lion Prince John. This film took some time to grow on me. I admit that the editing in the first scenes was really poorly executed. The scene where a man is about to be arrested for hunting the royal deer was difficult to discern that the characters were even in the same locations. That is usually handled with a wide establishing shot where all or most of the characters are ‘placed’ together. It’s an easy error to make if you don’t have the footage to put the scene together, but I muddled through.

The story moves along a good pace. I was surprised that Marian seemed to be devoted to any man near by, especially when matched up with the villain’s right hand man, Sir Guy. Errol Flynn does what he does, sword fighting, bouncing around the scenery and batting his eyes at the ladies. I have not seen many of his films, so I had higher expectations for the fights and choreography. Remember, this is only 1938, so there are a lot more films to explore for the evolution of the film fight.

This is the film with the large spiral rock staircase, Hood crosses swords up and down. Red1 cringes seeing swords used for fencing. They had a fencing class a few years back and would easily take these imposters out in a blink. Or at least, so I’d like to imagine.

Pygmalion – 2.5 Stars
The film of the play that also inspired the musical and film, My Fair Lady (1964), is the story of, Eliza Doolittle, a woman who sells flowers from a basket, getting swooped into a wager by an arrogant man, Henry Higgins, who thinks he can transform the uncultured and unpolished girl into one who could pass as a duchess.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty familiar with the story and the music of My Fair Lady, but I am not sure that I have actually ever seen it. So I’ll react to this film alone and save MFL for another time. Henry is terrible. He is relentless in his verbal attacks on Eliza and even threatens physical beatings often. There are many montages where they pass time when the lessons take place. They look more like nightmares where Eliza is tortured by this man. In its time, I am sure it was not viewed that way, but for me it was hard to watch.

Wendy Hiller’s was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Eliza. What struck me in the transformation and her performance was that she really did remain that unpolished girl even when in polite society, repeating lines she was taught without really understanding the context. Later, when really put on stage to mix with the upper crust, her edginess won everyone over just as much as her beauty.

My consternation with the story was that the characters were destined to fall in love or depend on each other, but the film didn’t spend any time developing that story line, so it was ultimately unsatisfying as whole, but intriguing to see this version of the story to explore how it fits into the legacy of My Fair Lady.

Filmed at Pinewoods Studios, the film’s exterior locations are huge. The opening scenes on the streets of ‘London’ use a technique that I love. A tracking shot passes behind a column on set and allows the editor to use a soft wipe to blend two moving shots together. This allows the camera to move longer distances than physically possible. It’s used widely in films usually to bridge only a handful of shots together, but can be utilized to give a film the feeling of being entirely one long shot like Rope (1948) or 1917 (2019).

Where to Go From Here

Similar or related films suggested by the algorithms: I Married a Witch (1945) and of course, My Fair Lady (1964).

Find these films for rental, purchase, or streaming…
(Just Watch)

TEST PILOT (not listed)
list of films at

Explore the list at so you can look at more reviews, our full reviews, and make your own.

The Modern TV Guide

I used to love getting the new TV Guide in the mail. The listings in the grids in the newspaper just didn’t have enough information for me.

For a while, my dad subscribed to HBO. They’d send out a little movie guide for the month. It listed all the movies you’d be able to see in the next month, but better than that, they’d publish photos and descriptions of the movies.

Continue reading “The Modern TV Guide”

Film – Planet of the Humans — and Disappointment in Green Leaders

On Earth Day, 2020, the world looked and felt a lot different than it usually did each spring. The COVID-19 pandemic has us all quarantined, working from home, making and distributing cloth masks, and hoping to keep enough distance from the actual virus that it doesn’t come any closer to our families than the news. We aren’t all that lucky.

Continue reading “Film – Planet of the Humans — and Disappointment in Green Leaders”