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

Cineliteracy: What You Need to Know about 1938 as a Movie Year

Top-grossing films (U.S.)

The top ten 1938 released films by box office gross in North America are as follows:

1 Boys Town Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,828,000

2 Alexander’s Ragtime Band, 20th Century Fox $2,630,000

3 Test Pilot Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,431,000

4 You Can’t Take It with You Columbia Pictures $2,137,575

5 Sweethearts Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,017,000

6 In Old Chicago 20th Century Fox $1,964,000

7 The Adventures of Robin Hood Warner Bros. $1,928,000

8 Marie Antoinette and If I Were King, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures $1,800,000

9 The Adventures of Marco Polo United Artists/Samuel Goldwyn Productions $1,700,000

10 Love Finds Andy Hardy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, $1,637,000


January –

MGM announces that Judy Garland will be cast 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. On July 25, MGM announces Bert Lahr has been cast as the Cowardly Lion.
February 24 – The entertainment trade newspaper Variety reported that the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had bought the rights to adapt L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the screen
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 –

Filming starts on The Wizard of Oz on the MGM studio lot in Culver City, 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.

Oscar Awards

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 (by Different Groups)

Oscar: Bette Davis, Jezebel

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

Venice Film Fest: Norma Shearer, Marie Antoinette


Best Actor:

Oscar: Spencer Tracy, Boys Town

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

Venice Film Fest: Leslie Howard, Pygmallion