Friday, February 1, 2013

The Academy Awards: 1940

With the Oscars quickly approaching it's time to take another look back at the previous winners, losers, snubs and trivia for the 13th Annual Academy Awards.

Best Picture:
Rebecca (Winner), Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, All This, and Heaven Too, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story, The Long Voyage Home

Joan Fontaine and C. Aubrey Smith on the set of "Rebecca"

Best Actor:
James Stewart (Winner) in "The Philadelphia Story", Charles Chaplin in "The Great Dictator", Henry Fonda in "The Grapes of Wrath", Laurence Olivier in "Rebecca", Raymond Massey in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois"

Best Actress:
Ginger Rogers (Winner) in "Kitty Foyle", Joan Fontaine in "Rebecca", Bette Davis in "The Letter", Katharine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story", Martha Scott in "Our Town"

Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers pose with their Oscars.

Best Supporting Actor:
Walter Brennan (Winner) in "The Westerner", William Gargan in "They Knew What They Wanted", Albert Basserman in "Foreign Correspondent", Jack Oakie in "The Great Dictator", James Stephenson in "The Letter"

Best Supporting Actress:
Jane Barwell (Winner) in "The Grapes of Wrath", Ruth Hussey in "The Philadelphia Story", Judith Anderson in "Rebecca", Barbara O'Neil in "All This, and Heaven Too", Marjorie Rambeau in "Primrose Path"

Best Director:
John Ford (Winner) for "The Grapes of Wrath", George Cukor for "The Philadelphia Story", Alfred Hitchcock for "Rebecca", William Wyler for "The Letter", Sam Wood for "Kitty Foyle"

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Cary Grant for "The Philadelphia Story" and "His Girl Friday"
Rosalind Russell for "His Girl Friday"
William Holden and Fay Bainter for "Our Town"
Frank Morgan and Margaret Sullavan for "The Shop Around the Corner"
George Sanders for "Rebeccca"
Howard Hawks for "His Girl Friday"
(Perhaps I'm forgetting a few so please leave a comment with your own snubs.)

My Honorable Mentions Go To:

W.C. Fields in "The Bank Dick"

The film and cast of "Pride and Prejudice" as well as the director, Robert Leonard

Oscar Trivia:
The ceremony for the 13th Annual Academy Awards was held in the Biltmore Bowl at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, CA.  The event was hosted by Walter Wanger.

After the previous years debacle with the winners announced the night before by the LA Times, the tradition to present a sealed envelope with the winners was started. Going forward, Price Waterhouse would count and secure the ballots until the actual ceremony.  This would also cause the nominees to actually start showing up to the event instead of sitting it out, knowing ahead of time that they were losers.

Bob Hope was presented an Honorary Oscar this year and the Irving G. Thalberg Award was not given out to anyone. 

President, Franklin Roosevelt gave a five minute radio address during the ceremony. The first time a president would speak during the Oscars. 

"Rebecca" came away with the most nominations with a well deserved 11 with "The Grapes of Wrath" close behind with 7 nods then "The Foreign Correspondent", "The Philadelphia Story", The Long Voyage Home" and "Our Town" tied with 6 nominations each.  "The Great Dictator" would receive 5. (Go, Charlie!)

With Walter Brennan's win for "The Westerner" he was the first actor to win three Academy Awards. This record would hold for 28 years until Kate Hepburn won her 3rd Oscar for "The Lion in Winter" in 1968.

Walt Disney (no stranger to Oscar) would take home another two Oscars for "Pinocchio". Best Original Score and Best Song for When You Wish Upon A Star.

Two new categories were introduced this year. Writing and Original Screenplay.

"Rebecca" was Alfred Hitchcock's first American made film and his first win. Perhaps, producer, David O. Selznick had a lot to do with that. Coming off of his previous win for "Gone With the Wind", Selznick, working as an independent producer, promoted the heck out of "Rebecca". With his pull, reputation in Hollywood, "Rebecca" was a shoe-in. (Yes, I think the film was deserving. It is my favorite film of all time after all and Joan Fontaine is my favorite classic actress.)  With the most nominations, 11, it's surprising that it would only take home one win, for Best Picture.  Judith Anderson was the expected winner for her outstanding performance but Barwell would win out. (The Academy when given the opportunity will go with heartwarming over evil every time!) 

Ginger Rogers was the dark horse that year, always missing out for her comedic performances, grueling dance numbers never considered Oscar worthy so perhaps her win for "Kitty Foyle" was a bit of a consolation prize for all of the years she was overlooked. (I'm not saying that Ginger didn't give a great performance in the film though. Just my thoughts and we've seen this a lot throughout the history of the Oscars. Actors/Actresses winning the golden statuette a couple of years after they were snubbed.) Perhaps a great example, even this year is Jimmy Stewart's win over Henry Fonda. It's easy to assume his win was to make up for his loss the previous year for the more deserving performance in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

Charlie Chaplin would be the first to receive nominations in the same year for Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.  (Acting, directing and writing) Of course this achievement wouldn't last long with "Citizen Kane" on the horizon but congrats to Charlie!)  The Oscar for Original Screenplay would go to Preston Sturges for "The Great McGinty" this year.

Well, that's a wrap for the Academy Awards for 1940. I do hope you'll leave a comment on the winners and losers, snubs. Let us know if you agree with the winners and nominees. 

See ya soon and thanks for stopping by!


  1. Great post Page, and a perfect wrap-up of the Academy Awards of that year. I agree with all your
    assessments, especially the Academy voters trying to make up for prior year snubs. I look forward to your other Academy Award round-ups.

    1. Hi, Christian!
      This was an interesting year for Oscar in that there weren't that many upsets or snubs. It will be interesting to look at 41 with Citizen Kane making it's appearance.

      So glad you're enjoying this series. I've got to start making the blog rounds today. I've gotten so far behind with being out of town for over a week.

      Thanks for stopping by, as always.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Kim!
      I agree with ya about Bette. She got robbed a lot during her career.

  3. It would've been hard to select winners from this year. So many great movies and performances.

    Incidentally, I like the photo you posted of WC Fields.

    1. Hi SS!
      It would appear that the big studios had a lot of pull during that time and promoting a film or star worked wonders. (Harvey Weinstein comes to mind today. That man has a lot of power in Hollywood.)

      That's my fav. pic of W.C. I love his shoes.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Those are FANTASTIC shoes! Who knew he was so stylin'?

  4. While I like Ginger Rogers and "Kitty Foyle," I'm with you...I thought other actresses were more Oscar-worthy than she in 1940...specifically Bette Davis and Joan Fontaine. I think Joan was even better in "Rebecca" than she was in "Suspicion."

    I have never seen "The Grapes of Wrath." It's been on my radar for some time, but I just haven't gotten to it yet.

    1. Patti,
      When I think of Ginger and her films, performances, Kitty Foyle never comes to mind first. Of course I think Ginger deserved an Oscar during her career as Cary Grant and so many others did. So glad she got one.

      As for "The Grapes of Wrath". You'll need a box of tissue and patience for that one. It's depressing but a story worthy of being put on celluloid. Ford certainly deserved his directing win for it and Fonda was the perfect choice to play Tom Joad. He should have won over Stewart but who can ever say where the voters minds are at.

      Thanks for commenting.
      See ya soon!

  5. I totally agree that the Academy dame up for James stewart, beause he was better in Mr. smith than in The Philapdelphia Story. I still have some of these movies to see, but your overview was great!

    1. Hi Le!
      What's new in beautiful Brazil? Have you seen some good films lately? I know you have a long list to get to but I have one that's probably just as long. It just doesn't have any musicals on it. ha ha

      Thanks for always being a supporter here, taking the time to comment. Your remarks are always a welcome sight.

      All the best!

  6. I really enjoyed this post, Page!

    It's fascinating to see what classic films (and some relatively forgotten) were up for Academy Awards back in the day. Interesting to see that a Hitchcock film was bested by another Hitchcock film in 1940. Personally, as much as I admire REBECCA, I'd have picked FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT over it. As you say, many believe that Jimmy Stewart's Best Actor nod for THE PHILIDELPHIA STORY was a sort of consolation prize for him being passed over for MR. SMITH. I tend to agree with you, as he's good in PHILADELPHIA but really his part is more of a supporting one and not in the same haunting league as Henry Fonda's in GRAPES.

    1. Hi, Jeff!
      Revisiting Oscar from years past really is interesting. It's nice to see that as we complain today about snubs, and who we think should have won, it's been going on since the Awards began.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

  7. You mentioned the biggest snub of all in that "His Girl Friday" did not receive one - not even one! - nomination.

    Some actors that I hope at least made their short list:

    Brian Donlevy in "The Great McGinty"
    Errol Flynn in "The Sea Hawk"

    and in a supporting role, Frank Morgan in "The Mortal Storm"

    1. CW,
      Thats a great list. Sadly, we don't hear Errol's name in most Oscar discussion. (I hope Becks doesn't see this as I can't deal with the crying tonight! ha ha)
      I need to go back and ad Morgan for The Mortal Storm.
      Thanks for stopping by!