Classic film fans worldwide are aware of the influence the year 1939 on film had with the release of Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, and The Women; and those are just the ultra-legendary ones! Mark Vieira is well-regarded for his movies, and the illuminating images accompanying them. You might have purchased his book, George Hurrell’s Hollywood last year. Majestic Hollywood is great for the novice film fan interested in a crash course on the sheer amount of spectacle that was the year 1939 with the full-page images also making it worthy of a purchase for the film connoisseur.
It’s hard to remember that all these classic movies are right at our fingertips. Imagine the audiences of 1939 being inundated with fantastic movie after fantastic movie. The release date patterns back then were so different now, it often took months for certain movies to wind their way past the major metropolises. The power of hindsight also leaves the reader finding humor in the less praiseworthy reviews Vieira inserts. It’s hard to fathom anyone could critique these movies negatively. There’s also slight discussions about certain films being box-office duds like The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.
This is a fun book to read if you’ve skipped certain movies during this decade. I was interested in reading about the formulation of certain movies I’ve yet to experience like The Cat and the Canary or Destry Rides Again. The bigger movies-Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, etc-I skipped entirely. This is, partly, because Vieira isn’t giving any new information on these films. What’s contained within the pages are basic plot details, information on the making-of and casting, etc. Four pages is the most any one movie is written about, with the bare minimum being a page. Often, the page count for a movie is filled with a whole page of images. There’s also little consistency in what’s included about a given movie, leaving a majority of information on the bigger movies and next to nothing on the ones people might not know about. The Wizard of Oz was the only movie to include quotes from people who saw it opening day, a technique I really wish was included in every movie. The book also could have benefited from exploring box office trends of the time, how they’ve changed, and the film’s overall gross to show us which were successes and failures in 1939.
Majestic Hollywood does a wonderful job of living up to the title. 1939 in Hollywood was truly a majestic time we’ll never get the chance to experience first-hand. Despite its flaw, Mark Vieira creates a gorgeous photo book detailing a near-perfect cinematic period in Hollywood history. If you’re interested in reading about the overabundance of filmic excellence, pick up a copy.
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.