Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Academy Awards: 1938

It's time to take another look back at the Academy Awards and this week we'll be discussing the winners, nominees and snubs for 1938.  This will be my last Oscar post as the 2012 Academy Awards approach but I'll re-visit them in December, where we will pick back up with the films of 1939.  So if you've got your popcorn and crying towel ready, let's jump right in.

Winner: You Can't Take It With You, Nominees: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Boys Town, The Citadel, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion, Test Pilot

Best Picture winner, "You Can't Take It With You"

Winner: Spencer Tracy in "Boys Town", Nominees: Charles Boyer in "Algiers", James Cagney in "Angels With Dirty Faces", Robert Donat in "The Citadel", Leslie Howard in "Pygmalion"

Spencer Tracy, Best Actor winner in "Boys Town"

Winner: Bette Davis in "Jezebel", Nominees: Fay Bainter in "White Banners", Wendy Hiller in "Pygmalion", Norma Shearer in "Marie Antoinette",  Margaret Sullavan in "Three Comrades"

Bette Davis, Best Actress winner in "Jezebel"

Winner: Walter Brennan in "Kentucky", Nominees: John Garfield in "Four Daughters", Gene Lockhart in "Algiers", Robert Morley in "Marie Antoinette", Basil Rathbone in "If I Were King"

Walter Brennan, Best Supporting Actor winner in "Kentucky"

Winner: Fay Bainter in "Jezebel", Nominees: Beulah Bondi in "Of Human Hearts", Billie Burke in "Merrily We Live", Spring Byington in "You Can't Take It With You", Miliza Korjus in "The Great Waltz"

Fay Bainter , Best Supporting Actress winner in "Jezebel"

Winner: Frank Capra for "You Can't Take It With You", Nominees: Michael Curtiz for "Angels With Dirty Faces:, Michael Curtiz for "Four Daughters", Norman Taurog for "Boys Town", King Vidor for "The Citadel"

Michael Curtiz, Best Director winner for "You Can't Take It With You"

Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (see cast below)
"Bringing Up Baby" for not being nominated for Best Picture as well as Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn being snubbed (comedies continuing to get a bad rap)
"Holiday" getting snubbed, again with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn
Mickey Rooney for Best Supporting Actor in "Boys Town"
Basil Rathbone being nominated for the wrong film. He should have been nominated for "The Adventures of Robin Hood"
Henry Fonda for Best Actor in "Jezebel" 
The cast of "You Can't Take It With You" (Best Picture  and Best Director winner but omitting Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore and Edward Arnold in the acting categories is shocking)
Pat O'Brien in "Angels With Dirty Faces"
Claude Rains in "Four Daughters"
John Cromwell for directing "Algiers"
Alfred Hitchcock for directing "The Lady Vanishes"
William Wyler for directing "Jezebel"


The cast of "Bringing Up Baby", (my favorite comedy of all time) director Howard Hawks

The cast of "The Adventures of Robin Hood", director Michael Curtiz

The cast of "Marie Antoinette", director "W. S. Van Dyke

The cast of  "Test Pilot", director Victor Fleming and cinematography (The Best Cinematography Award would go to "The Great Waltz")

"The Lady Vanishes" was completely snubbed! The cast and director, Alfred Hitchcock

"Vivacious Lady" was nominated in the Best Cinematography and Sound Recording category but the director, George Stevens and actors Ginger Rogers and James Stewart deserve a mention for this delightful comedy.

The ceremony was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on February 23rd, 1939. This would be the first year that there would be no official Academy Award host. 

This would be the first year that a foreign film was nominated for Best Picture with Jean Renoir's "The Grand Illusion" 

This would be the first time in Oscar history that three of the four winners were previous Oscar winners.

Spencer Tracy would become the first actor to win back to back Oscars, now tied with Luise Rainer. This would not be repeated again until Tom Hanks won his second Oscar in 1994 for "Forrest Gump".

The first Juvenile Oscars were given out this year with Mickey Rooney and Deana Durbin recieving miniatures of the statuette.

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was given to Hal B. Wallis.

Honorary Oscars were presented to Walt Disney and studio executive, co-founder of Warner Bro's studio, Harry M. Warner as well as Oliver Marsh and Allen Davey.

Walt Disney would also win his seventh Academy Award for his Short Subject: Cartoon, "Ferdinand the Bull".  Due to the outrage of Walt Disney's full length film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" getting snubbed the previous year, Walt Disney was also presented another special Oscar which was seven miniatures, representing the seven dwarfs.

Even though the Best Picture and Best Director winner, "You Can't Take It With You" was nominated for seven Oscars,  Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold and James Stewart weren't nominated. Just mind boggling if you ask me. 

Fun Facts about Best Picture winner, "You Can't Take It With You".

The rights to the film caused a court battle when director Frank Capra saw the play and pushed for the screen rights which Harry Cohn was having no part of after the final cut fiasco with "Lost Horizon" the previous year.  He felt another comedy starring Jean Arthur was not worth laying down $200,000 for the screen rights.  Capra feeling otherwise, went to court then won the battle with Columbia shelling out the cash for the screen rights with the stipulation that Capra direct the film.  (I'm sure Cohn wound up eating crow once it won big at the Oscars)

This would also be the first collaboration between James Stewart and Frank Capra. Stewart would get the role of Tony Kirby after Capra saw his performance in "Navy Blue and Gold".

Shortly before filming began, Lionel Barrymore lost the use of his legs due to crippling arthritis and a hip injury. To accommodate him and his debilitating condition, the script was altered so his character had a sprained ankle, allowing him to depend on crutches to get through filming.  Sadly, he would need injections for the pain hourly just to get through filming.

Ann Miller was only 15 yrs old when she appeared in the film.  Her character in the film would have to perform grueling ballet routines which was very painful for Ann, however being a pro she never complained, waited until she was off camera and away from the crew to cry out.  James Stewart never realized the reason Ann was always so visibly upset during scenes but being concerned about her, he had boxes of candy sent to her throughout filming to make her feel better.  (Such a nice chap, that Jimmy!)

Frank Capra would team up again with Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" but more on that later.

Bette Davis after receiving her Oscar in 1939.  I'm a big fan of Bette's and I'm thrilled she won for my favorite of her films "Jezebel".

Well that's a rap for this years Academy Awards. Please let me know what you think of the winners, losers and omissions as well as any I've forgotten to mention. Also, please enjoy the below montage of all of the winners for 1938 serenaded by Best Song winner Thanks For The Memory from "The Big Broadcast of 1938", music by Ralph Rainger.



  1. I agree "The Lady Vanishes" was snubbed! It is an excellent ensemble cast and great plot. I know many would disagree with me, but I think Boyer should have won for "Algiers." Your article is very informative and I enjoyed it.

    1. Gilby,
      You're certainly not alone in your admiration of "The Lady Vanishes" and Boyer was outstanding in "Algiers". It's hard to go up against Father Flanagan.
      Thanks for stopping glad you enjoyed my Oscar post.

  2. Page, I don't know that I agree that Fonda was snubbed. Jezebel was Davis and Bainter's picture, and Fonda was only mildly good. However, the biggest snub had to be for Best Director, as William Wyler deserved a medal for pushing Davis so much. BTW, Jezebel should have won Best Picture, too.

    1. Kim,
      Always glad to get everyone's opinions on their favorites, who they felt stood out during a particular year.
      So glad you brought up Wyler! Not sure how I forgot him but I've added him to the list. I just re-watched his collaboration with Bette tonight "The Letter"..he brought out the best in her. A great director!

      Great comments as always.

  3. Always nice to see Olivia de Havilland in these montages!

    1. Oh, Tom!
      I forgot to add the montage then had to go in and add it so you would have something fun to return for. : )

  4. I'm totally down with Jezebel's wins, but - geeze - wasn't James Cagney GREAT in Angels With Dirty Faces? COME on!!!! And, while I can't while about a Garbo snub, they just kept snubbing my poor Cary Grant all the time! Poor Cary, Poor Garbo (I'll bet Leonardo di Caprio knows how they felt...). As usual, a great post, Page.

    1. FlickChick,
      As soon as I posted this I thought about you and the fact you would notice Greta was missing! Ha Ha I agree about Cary! Just unbelievable that his two really stellar comedies were completely ignored that year.

      I do agree that Cagney's performance was just as good as Tracy's but Father Flanagan pulled at everyone's heart strings.

      Thanks for being a loyal reader here, especially for this Oscar series.

  5. Page, I'll admit I always grumble about THE LADY VANISHES being overlooked, but on the bright side, who can resist Father Flanagan? :-) Great discussion of the 1938 nominees and winners!