Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Academy Awards 1930-1931

It's time to take another look at the history of the Academy Awards so let's dive right in to the winners and nominees of 1930-1931.

Best Picture:

"Cimarron" (Winner), "East Lynne", "The Front Page", "Skippy", "The Trader Horn"

Richard Dix and Irene Dunne in Best Picture winner "Cimarron"

Best Actor:

Lionel Barrymore in "A Free Soul" (Winner), Jackie Cooper in "Skippy", Richard Dix in "Cimarron", Fredric March in "The Royal Family of Broadway", Adolphe Menjou in "The Front Page"

Norma Shearer with Best Actor winner Lionel Barrymore in "A Free Soul" 1931

Best Actress:

Marie Dressler in "Min in Bill" (Winner), Marlene Dietrich in "Morocco", Irene Dunne in "Cimarron", Ann Harding in "Holiday, Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul"

Best Actress winner Marie Dressler with Wallace Beery in "Min and Bill" 1930

Best Director:

Norman Taurog for "Skippy" (Winner), Clarence Brown for "A Free Soul", Lewis Milestone for "The Front Page", Wesley Ruggles for "Cimarron", Josef von Sternberg for "Morocco"

Jackie Cooper as "Skippy" 1931

Academy Awards 1930-1931 Fun Facts:

The Award ceremony was held at the Hollywood Ambassador Hotel ballroom, it's third year at this location. 

The first ceremony that there was a "Best Picture Winner".  In previous years the category was referred to as "Best Production".  

At a cost of over 1.5 million to make, Best Picture winner "Cimarron" was the most expensive film to win or be nominated in Oscar history as of 1931.  It was also the first Western to win the Oscar and the only one for 60 years until "Dances with Wolves" won Best Picture in 1990.  "Cimarron" also had the most nominations with 7 (every category), taking home three. (Also for Best (Writing) Adaptation and Best Interior Decoration).

Jackie Cooper was the youngest actor to be nominated for the Best Actor award at the age of 10 for his role in "Skippy".  It wasn't until 1994 when Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated in the Best Actress category that another actor/actress would be nominated under the age of 18. (All other nominees/winners we're in Supporting roles). 

When Jackie Cooper refused to do a crying scene on the set of "Skippy" director Norman Taurog, who was also his uncle, threatened to shoot his dog.

"Skippy" would be the first Oscar nominated film based on a comic strip.

"Cimarron" is the only Best Picture winner to lose money for the studio with it's opening release.  R.K.O Studios lost close to $5.5 million dollars with todays inflation.  It also has the lowest IMDb rating of any Best Picture winner.  

The land rush scene in "Cimarron" took a week to film, using 5,000 extras, 28 cameramen, 6 still photographers and 27 camera assistants. (It's been awhile since I've seen the next Western to win Best Picture but I can only imagine the comparison 60 yrs later when Kevin Costner did his big scenes for "Dances with Wolves".  He is a perfectionist after-all! Oh, I just thought of "Water World" and cringed).

Lionel Barrymore's Best Actor nomination and win would be his first and only one during his long career.  (He would also be the only one to win an Oscar for acting out of his siblings John and Ethel Barrymore).  He plays a dissolute and drunken lawyer in "A Free Soul".  This would also be the film that turned Clark Gable into a sex symbol.  

This would be the first of five Best Actor nomination's for Fredric March.  Ironically he was nominated but lost to Lionel Barrymore in a role where he lampoon's Lionel's hard drinking brother John Barrymore in "The Royal Family of Broadway". 

It must have been a year for boozers as Marie Dressler won her sole Best Actress Oscar, playing a rough talking boozer in the box office hit "Min and Bill".

This would be the only year both Ann Harding and Marlene Dietrich would be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.  

Marlene Dietrich in her only Oscar nominated role "Morocco" where she plays a cabaret singer

Oscar Snubs:

The great early gangster film "Public Enemy" should have been nominated for Best Picture but received only one nomination with Best Writing (Original).

"The Dawn Patrol" won for Best Original Screenplay but failed to get any other nominations.

Charlie Chaplin's greatest film with the Little Tramp character "City Lights" 1931. Chaplin re-released the all silent film with a soundtrack and original score but it was snubbed due to post talkie prejudice.  Sadly it failed to receive one nomination.

Josef von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel" with Marlene Dietrich failed to get one nomination as well as Bela Lugosi's most brilliant role "Dracula" 1930.  James Whale would also be excluded for his masterpiece and love child  "Frankenstein".  

Director Fritz Lang would also be excluded for "M".

And sadly Boris Karloff would be ignored for his role as "Frankenstein". 

It's hard to pick my honorable mention this week since there were so many snubs, not only for Best Picture but Director, Actor's and Actresses.  Since I did a nice write up on Charlie Chaplin's many accomplishments recently my special mention goes to James Whale's Frankenstein! 

Director James Whale with Boris Karloff on the set of "Frankenstein"

Thanks for taking another look back with me as we prepare for another Academy Award season.  


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