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This week we look back at the Academy Awards in the 1940s. This decade saw several new categories and many Academy Award “firsts”.

Image from the movie "Rebecca"

© 1940 Selznick International Pictures − All right reserved.

13th Academy Awards

The 13th Academy Awards honored American film achievements in 1940. This was the first year that sealed envelopes were used to keep secret the names of the winners which led to the famous phrase: “May I have the envelope, please?” The accounting firm of Price Waterhouse was hired to count the ballots, after the fiasco of leaked voting results in 1939 by the Los Angeles Times.

For the first time, the award for Best Screenplay was split into two separate categories: Best Original Screenplay and Best Screenplay.

Independent producer David O. Selznick, who had produced the previous year’s big winner Gone with the Wind (1939), also produced the Best Picture winner in 1940, Rebecca – and campaigned heavily for its win. Selznick was the first to produce two consecutive winners of the Best Picture Oscar. Although Rebecca had eleven nominations, it only won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography (Black and White), marking the last time a film would win Best Picture but not win for either directing, acting, or writing.

The film’s studio – United Artists – was the last of the original film studios (the others were MGM, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, and Paramount) to win the Best Picture Oscar. Rebecca was the first American-made film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and the only film from him to win Best Picture. Hitchcock had two films nominated for Best Picture, the other being Foreign Correspondent. Two other directors also had two films in the running this year: Sam Wood (Our Town and Kitty Foyle) and John Ford (The Long Voyage Home and The Grapes of Wrath, which won Best Director).

Pinocchio was the first animated film to take home competitive Oscars, for both Best Score and Best Song, starting a long tradition of animated films winning in these categories.

The Thief of Bagdad received the most Oscars of the evening, three, the first time a film not nominated for Best Picture won the most awards.

Winners

ACTOR – James Stewart The Philadelphia Story {“Mike Connor”}

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – Walter BrennanThe Westerner {“Judge Roy Bean”}

ACTRESS Ginger RogersKitty Foyle {“Kitty Foyle”}

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Jane DarwellThe Grapes of Wrath {“Ma Joad”}

ART DIRECTION (Black-and-White) Pride and Prejudice — Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse

ART DIRECTION (Color) The Thief of Bagdad — Vincent Korda

CINEMATOGRAPHY (Black-and-White) Rebecca — George Barnes

CINEMATOGRAPHY (Color) The Thief of Bagdad — Georges Périnal

DIRECTING The Grapes of Wrath — John Ford

FILM EDITING North West Mounted Police — Anne Bauchens

MUSIC (Original Score) Pinocchio — Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Ned Washington

MUSIC (Scoring) Tin Pan Alley — Alfred Newman

MUSIC (Song) “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Pinocchio — Music by Leigh Harline; Lyrics by Ned Washington

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION Rebecca — Selznick International Pictures

SHORT SUBJECT (Cartoon) The Milky Way — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

SHORT SUBJECT (One-reel) Quicker ‘N a Wink — Pete Smith, Producer

SHORT SUBJECT (Two-reel) Teddy, the Rough Rider — Warner Bros.

SOUND RECORDING Strike Up the Band — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Sound Department, Douglas Shearer, Sound Director

SPECIAL EFFECTS The Thief of Bagdad — Photographic Effects by Lawrence Butler; Sound Effects by Jack Whitney

WRITING (Original Screenplay) The Great McGinty — Preston Sturges

WRITING (Original Story) Arise, My Love — Benjamin Glazer, John S. Toldy

WRITING (Screenplay) The Philadelphia Story — Donald Ogden Stewart

SPECIAL AWARD

To Bob Hope, in recognition of his unselfish services to the Motion Picture Industry.

To Colonel Nathan Levinson for his outstanding service to the industry and the Army during the past nine years, which has made possible the present efficient mobilization of the motion picture industry facilities for the production of Army Training Films.

Image from the movie "How Green Was My Valley"

© 1941 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

14th Academy Awards

The 14th Academy Awards honored American film achievements in 1941 and was held in the Biltmore Bowl at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony is now considered notable, in retrospect, as the year in which Citizen Kane failed to win Best Picture, which instead was awarded to John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley. Ford won his third award for Best Director, becoming the second to accomplish three wins in that category, and the first to win in consecutive years (having won for The Grapes of Wrath the previous year).

Most public attention was focused on the Best Actress race between sibling rivals Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion and Olivia de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn. Fontaine’s victory was the only time a performer won for a role in a Hitchcock film.

This was also the first year in which documentaries were included. The first Oscar for a documentary was awarded to Churchill’s Island.

The Little Foxes established a new high of nine nominations without winning a single Oscar. Its mark was matched by Peyton Place in 1957, and exceeded by The Turning Point and The Color Purple, both of which received 11 nominations without a win. Citizen Kane, often later designated as the greatest film ever made in a number of polls, was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but won only one, for Best Original Screenplay.

A portion of the ceremony was broadcast by CBS Radio.

Winners

ACTOR Gary CooperSergeant York {“Alvin C. York”}

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Donald CrispHow Green Was My Valley {“Mr. Morgan”}

ACTRESS Joan Fontaine Suspicion {“Lina McLaidlaw”}

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Mary AstorThe Great Lie {“Sandra Kovak”}

ART DIRECTION (Black-and-White) How Green Was My Valley –Art Direction: Richard Day, Nathan Juran; Interior Decoration: Thomas Little

ART DIRECTION (Color) Blossoms in the Dust — Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary; Interior Decoration: Edwin B. Willis

CINEMATOGRAPHY (Black-and-White) How Green Was My Valley — Arthur Miller

CINEMATOGRAPHY (Color) Blood and Sand — Ernest Palmer, Ray Rennahan

DIRECTING How Green Was My Valley — John Ford

DOCUMENTARY (Short Subject) Churchill’s Island — National Film Board of Canada

FILM EDITING Sergeant York — William Holmes

MUSIC (Music Score of a Dramatic Picture) All That Money Can Buy — Bernard Herrmann

MUSIC (Scoring of a Musical Picture) Dumbo — Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace

MUSIC (Song) The Last Time I Saw Paris from Lady Be Good — Music by Jerome Kern; Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

OUTSTANDING MOTION PICTURE How Green Was My Valley — 20th Century-Fox

SHORT SUBJECT (Cartoon) Lend a Paw — Walt Disney, Producer

 

SHORT SUBJECT (One-reel) Of Pups and Puzzles — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

SHORT SUBJECT (Two-reel) Main Street on the March! — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

SOUND RECORDING That Hamilton Woman — General Service Sound Department, Jack Whitney, Sound Director

SPECIAL EFFECTS I Wanted Wings — Photographic Effects by Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings