Friday, February 18, 2011

The Academy Awards 1931-1932

It's time for another look back at the early Oscars so grab your popcorn and get comfy as we discuss the winners and the losers for the 1931-1932 ceremony.

Best Picture:
Grand Hotel (Winner), Arrowsmith, The Champ, Bad Girl, Five Star Final, One Hour With You, Shanghai Express, The Smiling Lieutenant

Greta Garbo checking in to the "Grand Hotel"

Best Actor:
Fredric March in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (Winner, tie), Wallace Beery in "The Champ" (Winner, tie), Alfred Lunt in "The Guardsman"

Fredric March in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Fredric March receiving his Oscar from Academy president Conrad Nagel

Wallace Beery with Jackie Cooper in "The Champ"

Wallace Beery, Conrad Nagel and Fredric March at the ceremony held at the Ambassador Hotel

Best Actress:
Helen Hayes in "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (Winner), Marie Dressler in "Emma", Lynne Fontanne in "The Guardsman"

Helen Hayes in "The Sin of Madelon Claudet"

Helen Hayes receiving her Oscar from Louis B. Mayer

Best Director:
Frank Borzage for "Bad Girl" (Winner), King Vidor for "The Champ", Josef von Sternberg for "Shanghai Express"

Sally Eilers with James Dunn in "Bad Girls"

*A special Academy Award went to Walt Disney that year for his creation of Mickey Mouse.  Mickey was four years old at the time.  He had made his film debut in "Steamboat Willie" in 1928.

Walt Disney and his brother Roy with Oscar and the icon himself, Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney with his wife Lillian after receiving his Oscar during the ceremony (She seems so happy)!

Academy Awards 1931-1932 Fun Facts:

This was the first year that there was a tie in any category.  It would also be Wallace Beery's last nomination and only win.  (Theres been a few ceremonies through the years where I wish there had been a tie or well, a different winner all together but I'm sure I'm not alone on that)

With Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being nominated for three Academy Awards it would be the only time an Oscar would be awarded to anyone in a 'horror' role until Anthony Hopkins won for "Silence of the Lambs" almost 60 years later. (It really is a shame that Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi were all snubbed throughout their careers for their roles that paved the way for their genre and the characters we see today).

After Wallace Beery won an Oscar for his role in "The Champ" which was also nominated for Best Picture, it would be another 75 years until another actor/actress would win a Best Actor statue while the film was also nominated.  Helen Mirren  won for "The Queen" in 2006

All three of the Best Actress nominees were from MGM studios that year.

Best Actress winner Helen Hayes also gave a stand out performance in the years Best Picture nominee "Arrowsmith". Most felt it was a much better performance than her acting in "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" where she played a self-sacrificing mother who turns to prostitution and thievery in order to send her ill-legitimate son to medical school.  Helen Hayes would win her second Oscar 38 years later (Best Supporting Actress) for her role in "Airport" 1970

Lynn Fontanne and her husband Alfred Lunt were the first married stars to be nominated for Oscars the same year.  

Laurel and Hardy won an Academy Award for their comedy short "The Music Box". This would be their only  Oscar during their careers.

Irving Thalberg wanted his wife Norma Shearer to play the role of Flaemmchen which went to Joan Crawford. Shearer turned it down due to fan mail discouraging her from taking the part.

There is not one scene in "Grand Hotel" where Garbo and Crawford are on screen together.  This was done to prevent the two actresses from upstaging one another. Actually, the large ensemble cast never all appeared together on screen.

Joan Crawford was so irked that Greta Garbo received top billing in "Grand Hotel" that she exacted her revenge during filming. Knowing that Garbo despised tardiness and Marlene Dietrich, Crawford played Dietrich's record between shots and arrived late to set.  (I'm sure director Edmund Goulding got a few grey hairs during filming with those two ego's around).

Wallace Beery originally turned down his part in "Grand Hotel" but later accepted it when it was agreed that he would be the only actor using a German accent in the film.

"Grand Hotel" was one of the highest grossing films in MGM's history. Casting 5 of it's top tier stars and grossing over $1.2 million at the box office.

Oscar Snubs:

Charlie Chaplin and his last film playing 'the Tramp' in "City Lights".  The Academy had developed a prejudice for silent films up against talkies.  Of course the film was remastered with Chaplin adding a soundtrack to the silent film before re-releasing it.

Marlene Dietrich for her portrayal of Shanghai Lily in Joseph von Sternberg's masterpiece. 

The two main characters in James Whales "Frankenstein". Colin Clive for his role as Dr. Frankenstein and Boris Karloff for his unmistakably brilliant portrayal of Frankenstein were completely ignored.

Joan Crawford for her role in "Grand Hotel" and Miriam Hopkins for her role in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as well as her role in "The Smiling Lieutenant". It's also been said that Norma Shearer should have been nominated for her role in "Private Lives" as well as Barbara Stanwyck for "The Miracle Woman" that year.

John Barrymore was asked to play the lead in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" but turned it down.  He had played the part previously in the 1920 silent version.

The correct pronunciation of Jekyll is Jee-kall! The character's appearance was based on a Neanderthal man.

My Honorable Mentions:
Charlie Chaplin and "City Lights"
Marlene Dietrich for "Shanghai Express"

Charlie Chaplin with Virginia Cherrill in his Masterpiece "City Lights"

Marlene Dietrich in "Shanghai Express"

Thanks for joining me for another look back at the Oscars and please share your opinions or any thing I may have missed.  Please enjoy the trailer for Best Picture winner "Grand Hotel" below.

Oh, and on a side note I had the pleasure of writing an article for the movie site this week. Heres the article for those interested titled Please Don't Forget About Charlie Chaplin. They're also looking for feature guest writers for all of my creative friends who just don't have enough to do.


  1. Interesting post, Page. I thought Frederic March was just marvelous as Jekyll/Hyde. I read somewhere that Robert Louis Stevenson named the doctor to be pronounced Jee-kall, as you said, so that the two names would sound somewhat like Hide and Seek. Kind of a reach, I think. Somehow we started pronouncing it as Jek-ill, and now it sounds strange to hear the 1932 version. Miriam Hopkins did get robbed that year -- she was wonderful in that role!

  2. Thanks Becky.

    I have Dr. Jekyll on my DVD player waiting on me whenever I get settled back in at home.

    And every time I read something else about Charlie Chaplin and his being snubbed, mistreated by Hollywood etc it breaks my heart all over again, especially knowing that he left America so broken. At least the Academy did right by him many years later (and too late in my opinion) but so many of our greats like the ones I mentioned here were never recognized for their body of work.

    I certainly don't have anything against Walt Disney but when you look at all of the Oscars he received during his lifetime when theres so many great actors that were never recognized at all it really is a shame. (Of course Walt fell into the animation/cartoon category)


  3. Nice post, Page. I've seen five of the best picture nominees and have always liked Grand Hotel. It's a shame Dr. Jekyll wasn't up for best picture. Also, this was the only movie in which Lunt and Fontanne starred; they had cameos in Stage Door Canteen but I'm not sure if they did anything else. Speaking of Disney, on one of the Mickey Mouse DVD sets that was released a few years ago, there's a brief animated segment that Disney made for these Oscars that was projected during the ceremony. It shows Mickey leading a parade and all of the acting nominees in costume walking behind. It's really short but cool if you're an Oscar-watcher.

    BTW, is Bad Girl a lost film? I've never seen it anywhere.

  4. Classicfilmboy,

    I had not heard of Bad Girl before doing this post but hopefully it's not another lost film.
    I did see photos of Disney's cells that he created for the nominees that year. The one of Dr. Jekyll was pretty funny.

    I just re-watched Grand Hotel and Ninotchka recently and I couldn't help but laugh at how stiff Garbo was in posture, her walk and with her acting. As I sat transfixed by her I couldn't help but feel she was having a huge laugh at Hollywood while playing a parody of herself in her talkies. Or perhaps she just wasn't that great of an actress and better suited for the silents with her over exaggerations.

    I really am surprised that Dr. Jekyll was overlooked to. As shown through the years that genre really doesn't give the Academy the warm and fuzzies.

  5. Great post for Oscar week! While I like GRAND HOTEL, I find it interesting that Fritz Lang's M was ignored. Granted, it was a foreign-language film....but later that decade, Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION was nominated as Best Picture.

  6. Thank you! I can't wait for the Oscars tomorrow night! This will be the first year that I've actually seen all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the broadcast. It was a pretty good year for film.
    I had completely forgotten about "M"! Thanks for bringing that great film up.