Cinema 1940: You Must Remember This….Events, Trends, Movies, Stars

Research in Progress (April 19, 2021)

Cineliteracy: What You Need to Know about 1940 as a Movie and Pop Culture Year

Top-Grossing Films (U.S.)
The top ten 1940 released films by box office gross in North America are as follows:

1 Boom Town Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $3,664,000
2 The Great Dictator United Artists $3,500,000
3 Rebecca United Artists/Selznick International Pictures $3,000,000
4 Strike Up the Band Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,265,000
5 Northwest Passage $2,169,000
6 Andy Hardy Meets Debutante $1,945,000
7 North West Mounted Police Paramount Pictures $1,900,000
8 The Fighting 69th Warner Bros. $1,822,000
9 Santa Fe Trail $1,748,000
10 Kitty Foyle RKO Radio Pictures $1,710,000


February 10:

Tom and Jerry make their debut in the animated cartoon Puss Gets the Boot.

February 23:

Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, is released.  Though not a box office success upon initial release, the film received critical acclaim and won two Oscars, including one for Best Original Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Over the years, Pinocchio has gained cult following; it’s now considered one of the greatest films of all time.

March 21:

Hitchcock’s first American film Rebecca is released, under the production of David O. Selznick. It would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture the following year.

May 17:

My Favorite Wife, a Cary Grant comedy, is released.

July 27:

Bugs Bunny makes his official debut in the animated cartoon A Wild Hare.

October 15:

Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, a satirical comedy starring him, premieres in New York City. It is a critical and commercial success and goes on to become Chaplin’s most financially successful film.

November 13: World premiere of Disney’s animated Fantasia at the Broadway Theatre in New York City, the first film released in multi-channel sound format.

The film also marks the first use of the click track while recording the soundtrack, overdubbing of orchestral parts, simultaneous multitrack recording. Like Pinocchio, the film is box-office failure, though it recoups its cost years later and becomes one of Disney’s most highly regarded films.

December 5:

The Thief of Bagdad, pioneering use of chroma key effects, is released.

Oscar Awards:

13th Academy Awards

Best Picture: Rebecca – David O. Selznick, United Artists

Best Director: John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath

Best Actor: James Stewart – The Philadelphia Story

Best Actress: Ginger Rogers – Kitty Foyle

Best Supporting Actor: Walter Brennan – The Westerner

Best Supporting Actress: Jane Darwell – The Grapes of Wrath


Major 1940 Film Releases:

January 26

The Fighting 69th

February 2

March 21


April 20
‘Til We Meet Again

August 30, 1940
Boom Town

October 15
The Great Dictator (limited)

Other Significant Films:

His Girl Friday

My Favorite Wife