By Anthony G. Puzzilla
Film historians generally agree that 1939 was a banner year for Hollywood movies during its Golden Era (1915-1963), including such classics as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Gunga Din, Stagecoach, and many more.
Author and film buff Anthony Puzzilla wouldn’t argue that point, but he has published a new book, HOLLYWOOD’S VICTORY LAP: THE FILMS OF 1940, which sets out to prove that the following year was just as exemplary. In essence Puzzilla says, Hollywood took a “victory lap” in 1940, a year that produced its share of films that have become iconic classics due to its continuance of the superlative cinematic productions, creative strides, and technical advances realized in 1939.
Puzzilla’s short list of great movies from 1940 includes The Grapes of Wrath, The Philadelphia Story, Rebecca, The Great Dictator, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Knute Rockne: All American, Fantasia, and The Letter. An astute film historian and an unabashed movie fan, Puzzilla also expresses a fondness and deep appreciation for 1940’s serials such as Flash Gordon; the hilarious shorts made by the Three Stooges, including A Plumbing We Will Go; animated cartoons produced by Warner Bros., such as You Ought to Be in Pictures; and the animated, full-length features created by the Disney studio, which released Pinocchio and Fantasia that year.
“Although 1939 was undoubtedly Hollywood’s greatest triumph during its Golden Age, much of the directorial vision and skill, profound and talented acting, superb writing, and technological advances witnessed in the films of 1939 continued unabated in those produced in 1940,” Puzzilla says.
The ideal readership for HOLLYWOOD’S VICTORY LAP: THE FILMS OF 1940, Puzzilla notes, would be composed of “people who appreciate the way movies were made before special effects, car chases, and unabated violence became the main reasons the general public attends movies today.”
But Puzzilla’s accessible, non-academic writing style makes the book equally user-friendly to a wide, general readership. To sweeten the pot, Puzzilla has profusely illustrated his history with evocative photos of “old” Hollywood, as well as scenes from classic movies, shorts, and animated features.
Both in subject and style, HOLLYWOOD’S VICTORY LAP: THE FILMS OF 1940 would easily lend itself to film adaptation for theatrical or cable/streaming service release.