Best Film
Deaths Scenes

1939


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Film Title/Year and Description
Screenshots

Dark Victory (1939)

Young socialite and heiress Miss Judith Traherne (Bette Davis), with a brain tumor, died a quiet upstairs death.

The death scene began at the foot of the stairs, where she told housekeeper Martha (Virginia Brissac): "I'm going up to lie down now." Feeling her way along, she started climbing the stairs - one last time - she stopped midway to embrace and say goodbye to her two dogs Daffy and Don.

She haltingly climbed further toward her bedroom, knelt and offered a final prayer by her bedside. Martha had followed her and pulled the blind on the window, shutting out the rays of sunlight. Judith asked: "Is that you, Martha?" She eased herself onto her bed and lied down, telling her housekeeper to be dismissed, without hysterics:

I don't want to be disturbed.

Martha covered her with a comforter and then respectfully left the room and closed the door. Judith triumphantly and victoriously faced the end alone and died in a dignified manner. A camera framed a close-up of Judith's sightless, staring face and then slowly blurred out-of-focus, signifying the end of her vision - and death. A heavenly chorus of voices accompanied her entrance into the void.

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Bawdy saloon singer "Frenchy" (Marlene Dietrich) made a heroine's sacrifice for deputy Tom Destry (James Stewart), in the final scene.

Frenchy was helping to defend Destry against unscrupulous Kent (Brian Donlevy) who stalked him from the Last Chance Saloon's second story balcony. She cried out to attempt to warn him about the ambush: "Look out, Tom!" She forced her way over to Destry and fearlessly lept into the line of fire to block the bullet meant for him. She was mortally wounded in the back as she threw her arms around him. Destry shot Kent, but Frenchy collapsed and died in his arms. Before dying, she let him know that she loved him, gasping:

Would you kiss me goodbye?

Before their last kiss, she wiped away her lipstick - as he had suggested - as a final gesture. She expired and her head rolled away from Destry just as their lips touched.

Gone With the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) shot - at point blank range - a confrontational, armed Union deserter (Paul Hurst) on Tara's staircase. He was there to loot her mother's jewelry, and to menace and possibly rape-assault Scarlett.

When he responded to Scarlett's cold attitude with: "Regular little spitfire, ain't ya," the soldier was shot in the face with Rhett's pistol - a close-up of Scarlett's face immediately after the killing showed her shocked and sullen face. She was only protecting the plantation household of Tara.

Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), who had dragged herself from a sickbed with her brother's sword to help defend Scarlett, saw the body at the foot of the stairs. Although they covered up the killing from other family members, they secretly planned to bury the body to avoid repercussions from the North.

Melanie gently asked Scarlett an unexpected question: "Do you think it would be dishonest if we went through his haversack?" Scarlett reluctantly admired her sister-in-law's suggestion: "I'm ashamed I didn't think of that myself." After finding gold pieces, Melanie removed her nightgown to wrap the bloody head of the dead soldier. In a discomforting sequence, Scarlett dragged and removed the body so that it could be buried. Scarlett postponed contemplating what she had done:

Well, I guess I've done murder. I won't think about that now. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Gunga Din (1939)

Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe) suffered a sacrificial death while blowing a bugle to warn British troops of an ambush.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

In the film's final nostalgic scene, elderly schoolmaster Mr. Charles Chipping (or "Mr. Chips") (Robert Donat) was ill on his deathbed and in his eighties. In response to overhearing that he was a poor chap and must have had a lonely life by himself - with regrets because he never had children of his own, Mr. Chips stirred and refuted the remark:

I thought I heard you say 'twas a pity, a pity I never had children. But you're wrong...I have...thousands of them...thousands of them...and all boys!

He closed his eyes while smiling, as the camera rose up when he passed on. He dreamily remembered many schoolboys filing past to repeat their names at call-over, while the music of the school song swelled in volume in the background.

The final lad, the superimposed image of the last Peter Colley, appeared and spoke directly into the camera:

Goodbye, Mr. Chips...Goodbye...

The Roaring Twenties (1939)

In this fatalistic story of rise and fall, rough gangster Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) was bound to die a self-sacrificial, bloody death.

In the memorable finale set on New Year's Eve, Eddie fled from rival gangsters into the snowy street, where he was shot in the back and mortally wounded. He found sanctuary outside a nearby church, where he stumbled, climbed, wobbled, and then tumbled down a flight of snow-covered steps. Weeping Panama Smith (Gladys George) came upon him and cradled his head in her arms as he expired on the steps of the church - the image evoked Michelangelo's Pieta.

She answered a curious cop's inquiries about the deceased man's identity ("Who is this guy?") and laconically provided his epitaph and eulogy in the film's final poignant line:

Panama: This is Eddie Bartlett.
Cop: Well, how are you hooked up with him?
Panama: I could never figure it out.
Cop: What was his business?
Panama: He used to be a big shot.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

# 13

Without a way to escape from the mad pursuit, Dorothy (Judy Garland), the Lion (Bert Lahr), the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), and the Tin Man (Jack Haley) were soon trapped, cornered and surrounded by the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West's (Margaret Hamilton) guards holding spears:

Ring around the rosey. A pocket-full of spears. Thought you'd be pretty foxy, didn't ya?

They were held at the evil Witch's mercy - her plan to do away with each of them had arrived:

WELL - the last to go will see the first three go before her - and her mangy little dog too.

First, the Witch set the Scarecrow's straw arm on fire by jabbing it with the lighted end of her broomstick: "How about a little fire, Scarecrow?" Dorothy tossed a nearby bucket of water on his arm to extinguish the flame, also accidentally splashing and drenching the Witch's face.

She shrieked piteously in horror, her cries trailing off as she slowly dissolved, twisted, and melted in a memorable death scene. Her "wickedness" was reduced to a puddle of vaporous clothing in front of everyone by the application of a simple substance - water:

Oh! You cursed brat. Look what you've done. I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness. Oh, I'm gone, I'm gone, I'm going. Oh. Oh.

Toto sniffed around her black cloak and hat, the only remaining parts of the Witch. Dorothy was confronted by the head of the Winkies:

She's dead. You killed her.

She meekly stammered an apology but was unexpectedly hailed and congratulated as the liberator from the evil forces of a witch: "Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!" Dorothy was presented with the defunct witch's broomstick after freeing herself and her friends - she turned excitedly to them: "Now we can go back to the Wizard and tell him the Wicked Witch is dead."

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Earlier, the Wicked Witch of the East died when she was crushed by Dorothy's (Judy Garland) farmhouse landing on her after a tornado, with only her feet (and the Ruby Slippers) protruding from under the structure.

Wuthering Heights (1939)

In a memorable deathbed scene, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) vowed to stay with his dying love Cathy (Merle Oberon) as her strength ebbed. He heard her claim that he was always the only man she ever loved: "When you went away that night in the rain, I told you I belonged to him, that he was my life, my being...It's true. It's true. I'm yours, Heathcliff. I've never been anyone else's." She requested:

Take me to the window. Let me look at the moors with you once more, my darling. Once more.

He carried her in his arms to her bedroom window, where they looked out on the moors and Peniston Crag where they had played together as children.

Before slumping into his arms after breathing her last breath, they made a pact to be together for eternity. She promised to wait for him there in death until they were reunited again one day:

Heathcliff, can you see the Crag over there where our castle is? I'll wait for you 'til you come.

Distraught by Cathy's death, Heathcliff gave an impassioned plea to his deceased beloved to haunt him for the rest of his days. He wished that he wouldn't have to suffer a long separation:

What do they know of Heaven or Hell, Cathy, who know nothing of life? Oh, they're praying for you, Cathy. I'll pray one prayer with them - I repeat 'til my tongue stiffens - Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest so long as I live on! I killed you. Haunt me, then! Haunt your murderer! I know that ghosts have wandered on the Earth. Be with me always. Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me in this dark alone where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul!

It was claimed that after desperately searching for Cathy's ghost in the snowy cold storm, Heathcliff froze to death. His soul joined his love in death at their favorite place forevermore.

In the final memorable image, the young, ghostly spirits of Cathy and Heathcliff were re-united for eternity (super-imposed as they walked over the snow) in death on Peniston Crag, where they had spent many happy hours together in their childhood walking joyously across the heath.



Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
1950-1952 | 1953-1955 | 1956-1957 | 1958-1959
1960-1961 | 1962-1963 | 1964-1966 | 1967-1968 | 1969-1970
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