Cinema 1938: You Must Remember This….Events, Trends, Movies, Stars

Cineliteracy: What You Need to Know About Movie Year 1938

Top-Grossing Films:

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney/RKO Radio Pictures $4,200,000
2. Boys Town, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,828,000
3. Alexander’s Ragtime Band. 20th Century Fox $2,630,000
4. Test Pilot, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,431,000
5 . You Can’t Take It with You (Best Picture winner) Columbia Pictures $2,137,575
6. Sweethearts Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,017,000
7. In Old Chicago. 20th Century Fox $1,964,000
8. The Adventures of Robin Hood, Warner Bros. $1,928,000
9. Tie: Marie Antoinette/If I Were King MGM/Paramount Pictures $1,800,000
10. The Adventures of Marco Polo, United Artists/Goldwyn Productions $1,700,000

You can read our reviews of the above films.

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MGM casts Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy Gale in the upcoming The Wizard of Oz film. Ray Bolger is cast as the Tin Woodman and Buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow. At Bolger’s insistence, the roles are switched between the two actors. Bert Lahr is cast as the Cowardly Lion, in July.

February 4:

Six weeks after its premiere in Los Angeles, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is released nationally in the United States. The film is a massive box office success and briefly holds the record as the highest-grossing sound film of all time.

April 5:

Noel Langley completes the first script for The Wizard of Oz.

April 20:

Leonard Slye appears in his first starring role as Roy Rogers in Under Western Stars. He became one of the most popular Western stars being ranked number one from 1943 to 1952 and would become known as “King of the Cowboys”.

May 7:

Lyricist Edgar Yipsel Harburg and composer, Harold Arlen, begin work on the musical score for The Wizard of Oz.

October 13

Shooting starts on The Wizard of Oz on the MGM studio lot in Culver City, California, initially with Richard Thorpe as director.

October 21:

Buddy Ebsen suffers from a near fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his Tin Woodman make-up on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Ebsen is replaced by Jack Haley.

December 23:

Margaret Hamilton is severely burned during a mishap on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Hamilton, who was cast in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, leaves the film for six weeks.

Orson Welles makes Too Much Johnson, starring Joseph Cotten. It is never completed and first released only in 2013.

Producer George Minter establishes Renown Pictures, a British film distributor.


Popular Movie Stars (rank-ordered by US distributors)

Shirley Temple

Clark Gable

Sonja Henie

Mickey Rooney

Spencer Tracy

Robert Taylor

Myrna Loy

Jane Withers

Alice Faye

Tyrone Power

Academy Awards: Oscar Year 11

Best Picture: You Can’t Take It with You – Columbia
Best Director: Frank Capra – You Can’t Take It with You
Best Actor: Spencer Tracy – Boys Town
Best Actress: Bette Davis – Jezebel
Best Supporting Actor: Walter Brennan – Kentucky
Best Supporting Actress: Fay Bainter – Jezebel

Best Actress in Various Groups:

Oscar: Bette Davis, Jezebel

N.Y. Film Critics Circle: Margaret Sullavan, Three Comrades

Venice Film Fest: Norma Shearer, Marie Antoinette


Best Actor in Various Groups:

Oscar: Spencer Tracy, Boys Town

N.Y. Film Critics Circle: James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces

Venice Film Fest: Leslie Howard, Pygmallion