Thursday, February 26, 2015

Countdown to the Oscars: The War Years, 1940-1945

At the 1939 Awards, the world was already at war. Though America had not yet joined the fight, the movies were seen as a powerful tool for aiding the national defense and solidarity, prompting President Roosevelt to give a six-minute direct-line radio address to the 1,500 guest at the 13th Academy Awards, held on February 27, 1941 at the Biltmore Bowl of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel (85 Years of the Oscar, Robert Osborne). You can hear a portion of his speech below:

Bette Davie reading a letter of thanks to President Roosevelt

There was also a feeling of nervousness, as this was the first year that the winners were kept secret. Bob Hope was again the master of ceremonies and was given a silver plaque for "his unselfish services to the motion picture industry." The awards were presented by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine.

Best Picture: Rebecca starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (his first American film)
Best Actor: James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story
Best Actress: Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle (winning over both Joan Fontaine and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story)
Wouldn't have picked her, but she looks so happy :)
Best Supporting Actor: Walter Brennan in The Westerner, making him the first to win three Oscars
(at the mic)
Best Supporting Actress: Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath
Best Director: John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath
1941 was the year the Oscars were almost canceled. The Japanese had bombed Pear Harbor on December 7th and on January 16th, actress Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash after finishing up a successful bond-selling tour in the U.S. Bette Davis, the newly elected president of the Academy, suggested that it be open to the public with ticket proceeds going to the Red Cross. The Academy governors decided to have the Awards as a non-formal dinner instead. It was held on February 26th at the Biltmore Hotel. The Master of Ceremonies was again Bob Hope, and the keynote speaker was Republican Wendell Willkie. Also, a new category was added: the Documentary. It would become very important as the War wore on.
Shots from the evening's events
Best Picture: How Green Was My Valley (1941) starring Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara. *Warning* This was the most depressing movie I have ever seen.
Best Actor: Gary Cooper in Sergeant York
Presented by James Stewart (in uniform)
Fontaine and Cooper
Best Actress: Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (the only actor or actress to win an award for a role in a Hitchcock film). She beat her sister, Olivia de Havilland for her role in Hold Back the Dawn.

Joan and Olivia
Best Supporting Actor: Donald Crisp in How Green Was My Valley
Crisp and Stewart, both in uniform
Best Supporting Actress: Mary Astor in The Great Lie (this was also the year of The Maltese Falcon)
Cooper, Fontaine, Astor, and Crisp with their awards
Best Director: John Ford for How Green Was My Valley
Best Original Screenplay: Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, now the most famous film of all time.
Irving Thalberg Memorial Award: Walt Disney - for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia.
1942 was the year of Mrs. Miniver, a picture Winston Churchill declared was worth more propaganda value than a dozen battleships. President Roosevelt ordered that the minister's speech at the end of the film be printed into leaflets and dropped into occupied Europe. It also swayed America's feelings about the war, as many were still neutral about the war in Europe at the time.
Held on March 4, 1943 at the Cocoanut Grove, it would be the last year that the Academy Awards would be held as a small, industry banquet. Bob Hope was Master of Ceremonies (clearly he was a favorite) and actress Jeanette MacDonald sang the National Anthem. The evening had a military flair to it. Due to war-time shortages, the statues were made of plaster (they were replaced after the war).
Best Picture: Mrs. Miniver (1942) starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon (check out some screenshots of the beautiful set here)
Best Actor: James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy
Garson and Cagney
Best Actress: Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver
Garson gave the longest acceptance speech in history, at 5 and a half minutes.
Best Supporting Actor: Van Heflin in Johnny Eager
Heflin, Garson, Cagney, and Wright
Best Supporting Actress: Teresa Wright in Mrs. Miniver (also nominated for Best Actress for her role in The Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper)
Best Director: William Wyler for Mrs. Miniver
Garson and Wyler on the set of Mrs. Miniver
Best Song: "White Christmas" in Holiday Inn - Irving Berlin, who wrote the song, was the presenter. When he opened the envelope he said, "I'm glad to present the award. I've known the fellow for a long time."
Special Awards:  
To Charles Boyer for his "progressive cultural achievement in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference for the Hollywood motion picture industry."
To MGM for its "achievement in representing the American way of life in the production of the Andy Hardy series of films."
The 1943 Academy Awards, held on March 2, 1944, was a year of changes. It was the first time the ceremony was held at a theater, the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. The Documentary category was divided into Short Subjects and Features. Best Supporting Actors and Actress's were given statues instead of plaques (previous winners also received statues). Jack Benny was the Master of Ceremonies and a radio broadcast was sent to the troops overseas. It was also the year of Casablanca, one of the most celebrated movies ever made (Ingrid Bergman did not think it would do well).
Best Picture: Casablanca (1943) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
Best Actor: Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine
Lukas and Jones
Best Actress: Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette
Lukas and Jones
Best Supporting Actor: Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier
Paxinou and Coburn
Best Supporting Actress: Katina Paxinou in For Whom the Bell Tolls
The winners
Best Director: Michael Curtiz for Casablanca 
The 17th Academy Awards was held on March 15, 1945 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The entire ceremony was broadcast over the radio - Listen to the 17th Academy Awards. It was the first ceremony to show clips of the nominated films at the ceremony. It was also the second, and last time plaster statues were handed out. Bob Hope and director John Cromwell were the MC's.
Best Picture: Going My Way (1944) starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald (it won over Since You Went Away which was nominated in 9 categories)
Best Actor: Bing Crosby in Going My Way
Presented by Gary Cooper (oh how I wish Bob Hope would have presented this!)
Crosby originally did not want to make the picture - imagine!
Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
Best Supporting Actor: Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way (he was also nominated for Best Actor for the same role, the only time this happened)
With Bing (love the hat and pipe)
Best Supporting Actress: Ethel Barrymore in None but the Lonely Heart (accepted by Charlas Koerner)
Best Director: Leo McCarey for Going My Way
Special Awards:  
To Margaret O'Brien (Juvenile Award) in Meet Me in St. Louis. Bob dubbed it the "Oscarette." Her award was lost for 45 years. You can read about it here.
With host, Bob Hope
Margaret O'Brien has said about that evening, "I was very excited...because I received the award from Bob Hope, who was my secret heart-throb...I was thrilled when Bob Hope hugged me...I felt special because I was the only one he both hugged and lifted."
To Bob Hope for his "many services to the Academy." He also was awarded lifetime membership in the Academy.
Fitzgerald, Bergman, and Bing

On the set of The Bells of St. Mary's looking at their recently won awards:
Bergman, McCarey, and Crosby

The 18th Academy Awards was held on March 7, 1946, and held at the same location as the previous two awards. It was co-hosted by Bob Hope and James Stewart. It was also the first Awards ceremony since the end of WWII, so once again the attendees donned their tux's and evening gowns of pre-war days. You can watch clips from the ceremony below:
Best Picture: The Lost Weekend (1945) starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman
Best Actor: Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend
Presented by Ingrid Bergman (who was nominated that year for
her performances in The Bells of St. Mary's)
Best Actress: Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (accepted by director Michael Curtiz, the award was brought to her home that night as Crawford was too ill - or nervous - to attend)
Best Supporting Actor: James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
With his co-star Peggy Ann Garner with her Juvenile Award
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Revere in National Velvet
Best Director: Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend
(photo may be from the Golden Globes, where Wilder also won Best Director)
Special Awards:  
To Peggy Ann Garner (Juvenile Award)
Oh Bob!
To Republic Studio and the Studio Sound Department for "the building of an outstanding musical scoring auditorium which provided optimum recording conditions and combines all elements of acoustic an engineering design."
The winners: Garner, Dunn, Revere, Milland
All images found via Pinterest
*Sorry for the tardiness of this post (which was supposed to be posted last Sunday before the Oscars started) but I have been battling a good ol' cold. I also had to work on a future post as the book I was using was due at the library! That being said, should I finish these Oscar posts like I originally planned (I wanted to finish with 1969), or move on to something else? Let me know in the comments!