Film historians to offer Bristol program on Hollywood's greatest year

Published on Monday, 13 May 2019 21:16


BRISTOL - Film historians Bob Adamczyk and Cortlandt Hull will offer an in-depth look at the stories behind classic films during the Bristol Historical Society’s Third Thursday program, “1939 Hollywood’s Golden Age,” on Thursday, May 16.

The program will be held at 7 p.m. at the Bristol Historical Society. Adamczyk and Hull will focus their presentation on the films Gunga Din, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Wuthering Heights and it will also touch on others, such as the animated Gulliver’s Travels by Fleischer Studios, which also famously produced Popeye and Betty Boop.

“Gulliver’s Travels was their answer to Snow White,” said Adamczykk. “It was a big development for the studio because most of their previous work had been black and white.”

Adamczyk said that the techniques which the movie industry had learned up to this point came to fruition in 1939.

“They did them bigger and better with these films,” said Adamczyk. “They took movies to another level.”

Adamczyk said that visitors to the program will learn how certain stars did or didn’t get roles in these famous films.

“You will learn which other actress was at one point considered for the Dorothy role in The Wizard of Oz,” said Hull. “Also, you will learn who was considered for the roles of The Wizard and The Tin Man.”

Hull said that many directors who created films in this era would go on to direct other famous films later in life. William Wyler, who directed Wuthering Heights, would also direct Ben-Hur in 1959.

Hull said he will also discuss incidents that occurred during film production which forever changed film.

“Merle Oberon, who played Cathy in Wuthering Heights, was being built up to make a big splash with the film,” he said. “However, Laurence Olivier ended up stealing the show. His wife Vivien Leigh starred in Gone with the Wind, so the two were in the two highest grossing films that year.”

Hull noted that during the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind, they were actually burning the MGM’s vault of films and old film sets – including the gate seen in King Kong.

Gone with the Wind was also the longest film made at the time and, since it was shot in full Technicolor, it was considered a milestone for that reason as well.

Gunga Din features Cary Grant, originally born Archibald Alec Leach, whom Adamczyk said came to the U.S. as part of an acrobat troupe. When they went back to England, he stayed and became an actor.

“He did most of his own stunts,” said Adamczyk.

Hull will be showing Gunga Din May 31 and June 1 at 7 p.m. as part of his Hollywood at the Bijou film series at the Bristol Historical Society, which has been focusing on the films of 1939 this year.

Adamczyk said that many current film directors still look to some of these films to study filmmaking techniques. James Whale, who directed Man in the Iron Mask, was the first to show one actor playing two characters on the same screen in that film - the king and the king’s brother - through use of a split screen.

Admission is a $5 donation. Refreshments will be served. Visitors will also get a raffle ticket for a drawing for five reproduction lobby cards.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol on Monday, 13 May 2019 21:16. Updated: Monday, 13 May 2019 21:19.