Events in Film & Television in 1939

Film Release

Jan 24 Adventure film "Gunga Din", based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling and starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is released

Film Premiere

Feb 10 "Stagecoach" western film directed by John Ford, starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne, premieres in Miami

Film & TV History

Feb 14 Victor Fleming replaces George Cukor as director of film "Gone With The Wind"

Theater Premiere

Feb 15 Lillian Hellman's play "The Little Foxes" premieres in New York City

Academy Awards

Feb 23 11th Academy Awards: "You Can’t Take It With You", Spencer Tracy & Bette Davis wins

Sports History

Feb 23 Lou Thesz beats Everett Marshall in St Louis, to win the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight C'ship for a 2nd time

Film Premiere

Mar 24 "Wuthering Heights" film based on the Emily Brontë novel, directed by William Wyler and starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier, premieres in Los Angeles

Film Release

Mar 31 "The Hound of Baskervilles" first of 14 films starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson is released

  • Apr 17 SN Behrman's "No Time for Comedy" premieres in NYC

Television Debut

Apr 30 NBC/RCA 1st public TV demo with FDR at opening of NY World's Fair

  • May 17 1st televised baseball game is broadcast on NBC, with Princeton defeating Columbia 2-1
  • Jun 1 First major boxing match on US television is the heavyweight bout from NY's Yankee Stadium between former world champion Max Baer and Lou Nova; Nova wins by TKO in 11th round
  • Jun 10 MGM cartoon character Barney Bear debuts
  • Jun 12 Shooting begins on Paramount Pictures' Dr. Cyclops, the first horror film photographed in three-strip Technicolor.

Sports History

Jun 23 Bronko Nagurski beats Lou Thesz in Houston, to win National Wrestling Association world heavyweight title

  • Jul 7 "The Rules of the Game", French film directed by Jean Renoir, starring Nora Gregor and Paulette Dubost, premieres in Paris

Music History

Jul 13 Frank Sinatra makes his recording debut, with The Harry James Orchestra, singing "From the Bottom of My Heart" and "Melancholy Mood"

Radio Premiere

Aug 6 1st broadcast of "Dinah Shore Show" on NBC-radio

Venice Film Festival

Aug 8 7th Venice Film Festival opens with a United States boycott due to Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italian regime

The Wizard of Oz

Aug 15 "The Wizard of Oz", American musical fantasy film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's book, premieres at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood; directed by Victor Fleming and King Vidor with cast featuring Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion), Frank Morgan (Wizard), Billie Burke (Glinda), and Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch); songs by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg

Music Premiere

Aug 17 Musical film "The Wizard of Oz", starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, and Margaret Hamilton opens at Loews Capitol Theatre, NYC

  • Sep 30 In the first televised college football game, Fordham beats Waynesburg, 34-7 at Randalls Island, NY

Theater Premiere

Oct 11 Samson Raphaelson's play "Skylark" starring Gertrude Lawrence premieres in NYC

Music History

Oct 16 George Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy "The Man Who Came to Dinner" opens at the Music Box Theatre, NYC; runs for 739 performances

Film Release

Oct 17 "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur, is released

  • Oct 22 NBC becomes first network to televise a pro football game; Brooklyn Dodgers beat Philadelphia Eagles, 23-14 at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field
  • Nov 6 WRGB TV channel 6 in Schenectady-Alby-Troy, NY (CBS) 1st broadcast

Film Premiere

Nov 9 Romantic comedy film "Ninotchka" directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Greta Garbo premieres

Music Premiere

Nov 17 Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical "Very Warm for May", featuring June Allyson, Eve Arden, and Vera-Ellen, and directed by Vincente Minnelli opens at the Alvin Theatre, NYC; runs for 59 performances, inspiring 9-year old audience member Stephen Sondheim's love for musical theater

Film Premiere

Dec 15 "Gone With The Wind", drama film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, premieres in Atlanta (Best Picture 1940, inflation not adjusted highest-grossing film of all time)

Film Release

Dec 30 "Of Mice and Men", starring Burgess Meredith as George, Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie, is released