1939 January to March

1st January – DEVIL’S PARTY

On the screen – for seven days – DEVIL’S PARTY – from Universal Pictures, a 1938 American crime film directed by Ray McCarey based on the Borden Chase novel ‘Hells’ Kitchen Has a Pantry’. Four boys and a girl form a gang in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City, and in the course of committing a crime they start a fire, leading to one of them being caught and sent to the reformatory. Years later, the five of them make a practice of meeting once a year. Marty, the one who had been caught, now runs a night club and gambling house, while Helen is a singer who performs there. Jerry is now a priest, while the two O’Mara brothers have become policemen. On the nigh t of their reunion, the O’Mara brothers are called to investigate the death of one of Marty’s. Marty knows that two of his enforcers are responsible, so he sends them back to cover up the evidence. But one of the O’Mara brothers confronts them, with violent results that will set the former friends against one another. Starring Victor McLaglen, William Gargan and Paul Kelly.

Watch the entire movie here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fekFJheYVs

In support was THREE MEN AND A GIRL – another 1938 film from Universal Pictures.

8th January – CRIME SCHOOL

On the screen – for seven days – CRIME SCHOOL – a 1938 Warner Bros. film directed by Lewis Seiler and starring the Dead End Kids and Humphrey Bogart. As this was a Warner Bros film and not a United Artists’ film like Dead End, they advertised the kids as ‘The Crime School Kids’ in this film, and their next, Angels with Dirty Faces. However, the name did not catch on and they remained ‘The Dead End Kids’.Before the film was released, Halop, Dell, Hall, and Punsly were released from their contracts by Warner Brothers and they went on to make a film at Universal, Little Tough Guy. The success of this film caused Warner to reconsider and they were rehired at a substantial raise. The Dead End Kids received top billing over Humphrey Bogart for Crime School, with their typeface also larger than Bogart’s in posters and advertising.

See the trailer

PENNY PARADISEis a 1938 British comedy film from Associated British, directed by Carol Reed and starring Edmund Gwenn, Betty Driver and Jimmy O’Dea.[1] It was an early directorial assignment for Reed, and along with many other British productions of the era such as the same year’s better-known Reed-directed Bank Holiday, is described as: “…belonging to a wider studio tradition of modest representation of ordinary British life.”

15th January – FOOLS FOR SCANDAL

On the screen – for seven days – FOOLS FOR SCANDAL – a 1938 Warner Brothers screwball comedy film starring Carole Lombard and Fernand Gravet, and featuring Ralph Bellamy, Allen Jenkins, Isabel Jeans, Marie Wilson and Marcia Ralston. It was produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy and was written by Herbert Fields and Joseph Fields with additional dialogue by Irving Brecher and uncredited contributions by others, based on the unproduced 1936 play Return Engagement by Nancy Hamilton, James Shute, and Rosemary Casey. The songs are by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Fools for Scandal is now best remembered as one of Lombard’s worst films and one that set her on the course for seeking dramatic roles for the next few years.

See the original trailer

Support was WIVES UNDER SUSPICION a 1938 American crime film based a Ladislas Fodor play that was previously adapted into the film, The Kiss Before the Mirror. This version was directed by James Whale and stars Warren William, Gail Patrick, Ralph Morgan, and Constance Moore. It was released by Universal Pictures.

22nd January – THE LADY VANISHES

On the screen – for seven days – THE LADY VANISHES – is a 1938 British mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady’s disappearance.

The Lady Vanishes was filmed by Gaumont-British in the Gainsborough Studios at Islington, London and released by United Artists. Hitchcock caught Hollywood’s attention with the film and relocated to Hollywood soon after its release. Although the director’s three previous efforts had done poorly at the box office, The Lady Vanishes was widely successful, and confirmed American producer David O. Selznick’s belief that Hitchcock indeed had a future in Hollywood cinema.The British Film Institute ranked The Lady Vanishes the 35th best British film of the 20th century. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the 31st best British film ever.

The 1939 trailer

In support was MY BILL a 1938 drama film starring Kay Francis as a poor widow raising four children. It was based on the play Courage by Tom Barry.


on the screen – for seven days – THE AMAZING DR CLITTERHOUSE – a 1938 American crime film directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor and Humphrey Bogart. It was distributed by Warner Bros. and written by John Wexley and John Huston, based on the first play written by short-story writer Barré Lyndon.

Dr. Clitterhouse (Edward G. Robinson) is a wealthy society doctor in New York City who decides to research the medical aspects of the behavior of criminals directly by becoming one. He begins a series of daring jewel robberies, measuring his own blood pressure, temperature and pulse before, during and afterwards, but yearns for a larger sample for his study. From one of his patients, Police Inspector Lewis Lane (Donald Crisp), he learns the name of the biggest fence in the city, Joe Keller. He goes to meet Keller to sell what he has stolen, only to find out that “Joe” is actually “Jo” (Claire Trevor). The doctor impresses Jo and a gang of thieves headed by ‘Rocks’ Valentine (Humphrey Bogart) with his exploits, so Jo invites him to join them, and he accepts. Dr. Clitterhouse pretends to take a six-week vacation in Europe. As “The Professor”, he proceeds to wrest leadership of the gang (and the admiration of Jo) away from Rocks, making him extremely resentful. When they rob a fur warehouse, Rocks locks his rival in a cold-storage vault, but Clitterhouse is freed by Butch (Maxie Rosenbloom), a gang member that Jo had assigned to keep watch on him. Afterwards, Clitterhouse announces he is quitting; he has enough data from studying the gang during their robberies, and his “vacation” time is up. He returns the gang to Rocks’ control.

However, Rocks learns Dr. Clitterhouse’s real identity and shows up at his Park Avenue office. Rocks tries to blackmail the doctor into using his office as a safehouse as they rob the doctor’s own wealthy friends. Clitterhouse learns that Rocks will not let him publish his incriminating research, and also realizes that he has not studied the ultimate crime – murder – which will be the final chapter to his book. So, he gives a poisoned drink to Rocks, and he studies his symptoms as he dies. Jo helps dispose of the body in the river, but it is recovered and the poison is detected by the police. The doctor is ultimately caught by his friend Inspector Lane and placed on trial. He insists that he did everything for purely scientific reasons and claims that his book is a “sane book” and that it is “impossible for an insane man to write a sane book”. His determination to show that he is sane, and therefore willing to face the death penalty, convinces the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity.

The trailer for The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

In support was THE CHEAT (also known as BLONDE CHEAT) a 1938 film directed by Joseph Santley and starring Joan Fontaine, Derrick De Marney, and Cecil Kellaway. The film was produced by William Sistrom, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The original story is by Aladar Lazlo. The screenplay is by Harry Segall, Charles Kaufman, Paul Yawitz, and Viola Brothers Shore. The tagline for the movie was: “A happy blend of blackmail, robbery, treachery, and love!”

5th February – THE RAGE OF PARIS

On the screen – for seven days -THE RAGE OF PARIS is a 1938 American comedy film made by Universal Pictures. The movie was directed by Henry Koster, and written by Bruce Manning and Felix Jackson. It won the Venice Film Festival for Special Recommendation.

In New York City, Frenchwoman Nicole de Cortillon (Danielle Darieux) seeks modelling work and manages to steal a name and address from a modelling agency by lying about her qualifications, but it is the wrong information. She starts undressing in the advertising office of a very puzzled Jim Trevor (Douglas Fairbanks Jr). When she finally realises he is not a photographer, she storms out.

Nicole is locked out of her room by her landlady for being behind on her rent, but her friend Gloria (Helen Broderick) helps her out by paying the arrears. Gloria suggests she try to snare a rich husband. Gloria is good friends with Mike (Mischa Auer), the head waiter at the ritzy Savoy Grand Hotel, so she tries to get him to hire Gloria. Mike has no openings, but mentions that he has saved $3000 to open a restaurant. He needs another $2000, so Gloria convinces him to finance a scheme to have Gloria attract the attention of Bill Duncan (Samuel S. Hinds), a regular hotel guest who “owns half of Canada”. Nicole and Gloria settle into a suite across the hall from Bill’s.

The plan hits a snag when Bill’s good friend Jim Trevor recognizes her. Jim demands she tell Bill the truth. She agrees, but reneges. When Jim tells Bill, Bill does not believe him, as they have both lied before to steal each other’s girlfriends. Jim blackmails Nicole into dining with him and gets her to confess that she needs $3000 in front of his butler Rigley. He departs to inform Bill, but she escapes Rigley’s custody and gets to Bill first. When Bill introduces Nicole to his family, Jim brings Rigley to the reception, but Bill remains unconvinced and punches Jim in the jaw. Ashamed, Nicole follows after Jim and offers to confess all, but he does not believe her. She gets into Jim’s car to see if he has been injured. He then drives off with her, taking her to his isolated country retreat, where his caretaker mistakes her for his new wife.

That night, Nicole confesses to Jim that she has fallen in love with him, but he only asks her when she found out he is richer than Bill. She slips out and hitches a ride back to New York.

Bill finally discovers the truth and becomes worried about a breach of promise lawsuit. Mike promises to get Nicole to leave the country … in exchange for his money back ($5000). Nicole boards a ship bound for France. There she finds Jim, who is arranging for the captain to marry them.

Watch the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pFof6Z779o

The supporting feature was DANGER ON THE AIR a 1938 American crime film directed by Otis Garrett. In the late 1930s, Universal Pictures made a deal with Doubleday to use The Crime Club imprint for a series of 11 Crime Club mystery films. These films were released from 1937 to 1939, starting with The Westlake Case, as B movies. This was the fourth in the series. Danger on the Air was based on The Crime Club novel Death Catches Up with Mr. Kluck, by Xantippe (Garden City, NY, 1935).

12th February – THAT CERTAIN AGE

On the screen – for seven days – THAT CERTAIN AGE – is a 1938 American musical film directed by Edward Ludwig and starring Deanna Durbin and Melvyn Douglas. Based on a story by F. Hugh Herbert, the film is about a dashing reporter who returns from covering the Spanish Civil War and is invited to spend time at his publisher’s home, where his adolescent daughter develops a crush on him. The family does their best to sway the young girl’s feelings away from the reporter, but it is a challenge, as she is at “that certain age”. Distributed by Universal Pictures, the film received Academy Award nominations for Best Music and Best Sound Recording.

Deanna Durbin sings one of the Academy Award nominated songs

The second feature was BREAKING THE ICE, a 1938 American film directed by Edward F. Cline starring child star Bobby Breen. A young Mennonite boy runs away from home to earn money for his widowed mother

19th February – MARIE ANTOINETTE

On the screen – for seven days – MARIE ANTOINETTE – is a 1938 American historical drama film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starred Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette. Based upon the 1932 biography of the ill-fated Queen of France by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, it had its Los Angeles premiere at the legendary Carthay Circle Theatre, where the landscaping was specially decorated for the event. The film was the last project of Irving Thalberg who died in 1936 while it was in the planning stage. His widow Norma Shearer remained committed to the project even while her enthusiasm for her film career in general was waning following his death.

With a budget close to two million dollars, it was one of the more expensive films of the 1930s, but also one of the biggest successes.

In 1769 Vienna, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria tells her daughter Maria Antonia she is to marry the Dauphin Louis-Auguste. Marie is excited to become the future Queen of France but grows dismayed upon learning her husband is a shy man more at home with locksmithing than attending parties. After countless attempts to please him, Louis reveals he cannot produce heirs, prompting Marie to associate with the power-hungry Duc d’Orleans.

On her second wedding anniversary, Madame du Barry, King Louis XV’s mistress, gifts Marie with an empty cradle and a poem critical of her inability to produce an heir. Despite Marie’s outrage, Louis proves to be too weak to stand up to his grandfather. Sometime later, Marie meets Swedish Count Axel Fersen at a costume ball, during which she wagers and loses an expensive necklace. Count Mercy, the Austrian ambassador, scolds her for her wanton behaviour but she pays him little mind.

Marie then hosts a ball in an attempt to make amends with du Barry and please Count Mercy. The attempt fails, however, when du Barry draws attention to Louis’ absence and Marie responds with a reference to du Barry’s past. The King decides to annul the marriage, prompting Louis to defend Marie. Marie, meanwhile, flees to Count Mercy’s residence after learning she is to be sent back to Austria. While there, she reunites with Fersen, who professes his love for her.

Realising she too has fallen in love with Fersen, Marie goes to tell Louis but learns she cannot leave him as the King is dying of smallpox and Louis himself is still fond of her. She agrees to remain and they ascend to the throne following the King’s death. Despite Marie’s attempts to continue their relationship, Fersen refuses to risk ruining her reputation and tells her to fulfil her duties as France’s Queen. She goes on to give birth to daughter Marie Thérèse and son Louis Charles.

Some years later, when the Dauphin has grown into a young boy, peasants throw stones at Marie’s carriage while she has taken her children for a drive. She is shocked at the intense dislike displayed by the people of France. She blames d’Orleans for inciting them. Marie later rejects a jeweller’s expensive and elaborate necklace, but she is framed by court insiders plotting to acquire the necklace for themselves, and the Affair of the Diamond Necklace erupts. Marie is outraged, but d’Orleans tells the royal couple to abdicate the throne in favour of the Dauphin under the regency of d’Orleans.

The French Revolution comes, and the royal family is taken prisoner. Fersen returns with a plan of escape, but when the Dauphin tells a guard that his father is a locksmith, the King is recognised and arrested after a former priest at Versailles identifies him. The King is put on trial and sentenced to death, and spends his last night with his family, his children not realising this is the last night they will spend with their father. Marie is heartbroken, but is then separated from her children, put on trial and condemned to death. The Dauphin, too young to understand what is going on around him, is forced to testify against his mother. The night before she is executed, Fersen goes to the prison and they pledge their love to each other, with Marie telling him that she will never say goodbye. The next morning she goes bravely to her execution, which Fersen witnesses from a distance.

The original trailer

With Marie Antoinette running at 2½ hours the only support was an animated ‘ Silly Symphonies’ film – Farmyard Symphony.

26th February – CAREFREE

On the screen – for seven days – CAREFREE – is a 1938 musical film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With a plot similar to screwball comedies of the period, Carefree is the shortest of the Astaire-Rogers films, featuring only four musical numbers. Carefree is often remembered as the film in which Astaire and Rogers shared a long on-screen kiss at the conclusion of their dance to “I Used to Be Color Blind,” all previous kisses having been either quick pecks or simply implied. Carefree was a reunion for the team of Astaire and Rogers after a brief hiatus following Shall We Dance and six other previous RKO pictures.

Psychiatrist Dr. Tony Flagg (Fred Astaire) does his friend Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy) a favor by taking on his fiancée, Amanda Cooper (Ginger Rogers), as a patient. Amanda, a singer on the radio, can’t seem to make a decision about Stephen’s many proposals of marriage, so Tony probes with her subconscious mind. He is to interpret her dreams. When Amanda dreams of dancing with her doctor, she’s convinced that she’s in love and to avoid telling Tony about the dream, makes up a wild dream. This leads Tony to believe that Amanda has serious psychiatric problems and he hypnotizes her to act on her impulses. By some chance, Stephen comes by, not knowing that she’s under the spell and Amanda is crazy in public. The next day, there is a party and Amanda gets Tony to dance with her (the Yam) and in the process of trying to tell Stephen that she’s in love with her doctor, Stephen thinks that she’s saying that she’s in love with him. Amanda then dances with Tony, telling him that “something terrible has happened, and you’re mixed up in it.” So, good old Tony hypnotizes Amanda again, saying that Tony does not love her and that “Men like him should be shot down like dogs.” Alas, Amanda gets out again and finds a gun at the country club and starts shooting at Tony. Suddenly, Tony realizes that he’s in love with Amanda and desperately tries to undo his doing. Stephen accuses him of trying to take his wife away. At Amanda and Stephen’s wedding day, he sneaks in and wants to punch Amanda so that she is unconscious and he can hypnotize her but can’t bring himself to do it. Stephen barges in, aims a punch at Tony but smacks Amanda unconscious instead. Tony then tells Amanda that he loves her, and they’re married.

A scene from the film

BORDER G-MAN is a 1938 American RKO adventure film directed by David Howard and written by Oliver Drake. The film stars George O’Brien, Laraine Day, Ray Whitley, John Miljan and Rita La Roy.

5th March – MY LUCKY STAR

Sunday and all week on the screen – MY LUCKY STAR – an American 20th Century Fox comedy starring Norwegian ice skater Sonja Henie in her 4th film, Cesar Romero and British actor Richard Greene (who in the 1950s was tv’s Robin Hood). The programme was completed with a Chester Morris thriller – SMASHING THE RACKET.

Watch MY LUCKY STAR – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTxuJq5ds54

12th March – IT’S IN THE AIR

Film presentation for 7 days – It’s In The Air – a British comedy film written and directed by Anthony Kimmins and starring George Formby, Polly Ward and Jack Hobbs. (It was released in the United States with the alternative title George Takes the Air in 1940). A case of mistaken identity leads to accident-prone George Brown (George Formby) entering the Royal Air Force and falling in love with the Sergeant Major’s daughter. It was an ABC release and just 2 weeks into its release so would have been unusual playing the Empire (a Gaumont house).

An excerpt from the film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoSUe1o9v4s

The supporting film was ‘On The Great White Trail’ an American adventure with music featuring ‘The singing Mountie’, James Newell, off on another thrill hunt in the Land of the Frozen North.

19th March – SUEZ

On the screen from Sunday for seven days – SUEZ – an American romantic drama film released by 20th Century Fox, with Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production, directed by Allan Dwan and starring Tyrone Power, Loretta Young, and Annabella. It is very loosely based on events surrounding the construction, between 1859 and 1869, of the Suez Canal, planned and supervised by French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps. The screenplay is so highly fictionalized that, upon the film’s release in France, de Lesseps’ descendants sued (unsuccessfully) for libel.

It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Cinematography (Peverell Marley), Original Music Score (uncredited Louis Silvers) and Sound Recording (uncredited Edmund H. Hansen).

Here is a poor copy of the film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcHhwHxekyM

The supporting feature was – ROAD DEMON – a 1938 American crime drama film directed by Otto Brower and starring Henry Arthur, Joan Valerie, and Henry Armetta.


On the screen for seven days – YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU – a 1938 American romantic comedy film from Columbia Pictures, directed by Frank Capra, and starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart and Edward Arnold. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the film is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

The film received two Academy Awards from seven nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra. This was Capra’s third Oscar for Best Director in just five years, following It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). It was also the highest-grossing picture of the year. It was also one of the most successful films of the year at the Empire.

Watch the original trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WY9RAroTS0

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