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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.


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


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