I thought I would, today, though, initiate a review of crucial years. I will start with 1939, 70 years ago and two years before I was born.
1939 was a year when the Great Depression was finally being overcome. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped four points for the year to 150. Thanksgiving was moved ahead a week to lengthen the holiday shopping season. The average annual wage was $1730, gasoline cost 10 cents/gallon, a loaf of bread was 8 cents and a new car cost $700. That's a 1939 Ford on the right. Kind of looks like some of the models of today, doesn't it?
There is a general sense that Amelia Earhart flew into the Pacific War. Yes, she did, but Pearl Harbor did not happen until December of 1941, and she was declared dead in 1939. In Bombay, Gandhi began his fast (the prevailing remembrance is that this was initiated after WW2).
Nuclear fission was achieved by Otto Hahn, a German chemist. That's Otto on the left. He certainly looks like someone I know. (Hahn won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944.) In reaction, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, initiating the Manhattan Project (most think this did not begin until WW2 started). Hitler was beginning to conquer the world, with Shell Oil a strong supporter. Yes, Royal Dutch Shell infused considerable funds to support the Nazi Party and, it is reported, saved Hitler.
There was the New York World’s Fair. It has been said that this
was the best Expo of all time, as it portended the Wonderful World of the Future. Siam became Thailand. World War 2 began in Europe. The first jet plane was flown. Nylon stockings were first sold. Sigmund Freud died and Tina Turner was born.
The top three songs were: #1 “Over the Rainbow” (Judy Garland, and this song was recently selected as the most popular tune of all time), #2 “Moonlight Serenade” (Glenn Miller) and #3” God Bless American (Kate Smith)
The state of our society was reflected in the movies being produced that year. The top three grossing films were: #1 Gone With the Wind (which also was the Academy Award winner, with Vivien Leigh as Best Actress), #2 The Wizard of Oz (from which came “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and #3 Ninotchka (where Greta Garbo starred in her first comedy, and laughed). Victor Fleming was named best director, for he was responsible for #1 and #2.
Those other films in this incredible year were: The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, Babes in Arms, Beau Geste, Dark Victory, Dodge City, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Four Feathers, Goodbye Mr. Chips (Robert Donat won Best Actor), Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Intermezzo, Jamaica Inn, Jesse James, Love Affair, Mexicali Rose, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (and if you are disappointed with Congress today, see this 70 year old film), Of Mice and Men, Only Angels Have Wings, The Three Musketeers, The Women, Union Pacific, Wuthering Heights, and Young Mr. Lincoln.
The average cost of a movie was 23 cents and Technicolor was invented. CBS Television began to broadcast, and with the coming war, forever changed the landscape of entertainment.
Why, then, was 1939 so important? This is just a start. 1776 was certainly monumental, and so was 1945, or 1492 or 5 BC (birth of Jesus Christ) or 1439 (Gutenberg press) or 1991 (end of Cold War). 1939 is worthy of a first look because it was transitional and, frankly, I picked it because that was the best year for movies.
Super Typhoon Nida is still a potent 160 MPH, but is moving away from Guam and Japan.