1938 in film


  • January – MGM announces that Judy Garland will be cast in the role of "Dorothy" in the upcoming The Wizard of Oz film. Ray Bolger is cast as the "Tinman" 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".
  • 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.
  • October 21 – Buddy Ebsen suffers from a near fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his "Tinman" 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", 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.[1]

Top-grossing films (U.S.)[2]

At the time, box office numbers were reported as a percentage of business for each theater in comparison to 'normal' business. For example, Alexander's Ragtime Band performed at 227% and The Adventures of Robin Hood at 170%. This is why exact dollar grosses for films are unreliable at best.

1. Alexander's Ragtime Band 20th Century Fox
2. Test Pilot MGM
3. Boys Town MGM
4. The Adventures of Robin Hood Warner Bros.
5. You Can't Take It with You Columbia
6. Sweethearts MGM
7. Marie Antoinette MGM
8. Happy Landing 20th Century Fox
9. Angels with Dirty Faces Warner Bros.
10. Out West with the Hardys MGM
11. Too Hot to Handle MGM
12. That Certain Age Universal
13. Mad About Music Universal
14. The Girl of the Golden West MGM
15. Bluebeard's Eighth Wife Paramount
16. The Buccaneer Paramount
17. The Dawn Patrol Warner Bros.
18. Stablemates MGM
19. Suez 20th Century Fox
20. Kentucky 20th Century Fox

Academy Awards

Notable films released in 1938

United States unless stated












Comedy film series

Animated short film series





  1. McFarlane, Brian (2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1887. ISBN 9781526111968.
  2. Box Office Digest, March 1939, p.18
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