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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

RKO Rarities from 1939 Available on DVD

The Warner Archive is a great online resource for finding just about anything produced by Warner Bros. They have listings by new releases, pre-orders, best sellers, Blu-ray, and DVD. You can also filter your search by price range, Studio (the vaults of several production entities are now owned by Warner), and release date! That last category is particularly of interest to all cinephiles dedicated to the classics.

If you love old movies, or even new, you likely want to sign up for the newsletter. Not only will you get the latest information on what's available when, but you'll get $5 off your first purchase. If you're a true collector it only makes sense. And be sure to check out the VOD selection as well as the Warner Archive podcast. There are over 300 episodes available that reach back to 2011 and are available to listen to for FREE. The podcast offers a wealth of information on a variety of subjects from behind the scenes info on your favorite old movies to interviews with actors featured in the latest releases. And of course you can follow the archive on twitter @WarnerArchive.

As you may know, I'm a huge fan of the production year 1939. So, any time movies from that particular annum become available I like to tell the world about it. Now, these three films Warner has chosen to make available are in no way on par with Gone With The Wind, or The Wizard of Oz, but they are worth checking out if only to see what else was happening during this golden year. After all, popular culture can tell you a lot about a time, about what's important, what's of concern, what's the average mind set and so much more. And of course, you're likely to see some stars on their way up, or on their way out in the lessen know films. These films function as time capsules. So, dive in and enjoy. By the descriptions, these films sound like a lot of fun!

Beauty for the Asking (1939) is new to DVD. Queen of the B's Lucille Ball (long before I Love Lucy) infuses all the complications of this romantic business comedy with pure delight. The society pages are shocked by the news that "millionairess" Flora Barton (Frieda Inescourt) has abruptly married an unknown salesman Denny Williams (Patric Knowles) but not as shocked as humble manicurist Jean Russell (Lucille Ball), Denny's intended. Reeling at Denny's callous treatment, Jean redoubles her efforts to crack into the beauty biz and teams up with his now-wife Flora, who is seeking a project for her restless husband to run. Befriending Flora, Jean dispatches Denny to her West Coast salon and drafts Flora into a beauty school crash course to help Flora keep her man. Behind Jean's selfless acts, however, beats a selfish heart that still loves Denny. I've actually seen this film, and as sordid and tempestuous as the description sounds, the film ends up being a rather forward thinking feminist tale, with the ladies realizing their lives don't have to be all about men.

Full Confession (1939), directed by John Farrow (Mia's dad) is also new to DVD. From its nearly silent, searing opening, tracking a desperate man as he first falls into crime and then killing, Full Confession plunges us headlong into the externalized world later synonymous with Film Noir. Victor McLaglen (The Informer, The Quiet Man) stars as Pat McGinnis, a brute with a sensitive soul who falls afoul of fate thanks to wanting to impress his love, Molly Sullivan (1930s favorite, Sally Eilers). Getting sent up on a minor charge to avoid a murder wrap, Pat becomes the pet project of Father Loma played by the ever reliable, Joseph Calleia (The Glass Key, Touch of Evil). Befriending Molly, Loma brings her to see Pat and begins Pat's process of parole. After a near-fatal incident brings a full confession out of Pat, Loma now knows that Pat did the deed for which an innocent family man, Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way, The Catered Afair) faces the chair. With his silenced sealed by the sanctity of confession, Father Loma begins a relentless pursuit of Pat's soul.

Sorority House is the third new to DVD 1939 film of the month. Working class grocer gal Alice Fisher (Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables fame) thinks her post-secondary school life will be spent stocking shelves at her dear old dad's market when he surprises her with the funds to attend her dream school, Talbot College. Alice soon gets caught up in campus cat shenanigans when an errant article of her undergarments catches the eye of Big Man on Campus Bill Loomis (James Ellison) and the ire of Bill's 'pin,' sorority queen Neva Simpson (Doris Davenport). While Neva works to keep Alice exiled, Bill conspires to make the simple lass a hot commodity with the class-conscious society snobs of the sororities. Meanwhile, Alice's roommates cynical Dotty (Barbara Read) and sorority wannabe Merle (Adele Pearce) provide the Greek chorus to Alice's dilemma. This one is also directed by John Farrow and has a screenplay by legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Spartacus).

If you like the sound of these three films, be sure to check out the Warner Archive regularly for more special releases. With nearly a hundred years of history to the Studio, there are bound to be many more DVDs coming out to tickle your fancy. Start watching!

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