The 1940s began with America going to war and it ended with the world entering the Atomic age. It was an interesting decade for the movies, as visions of optimistic patriotism and downbeat noir often went head to head at the box office and at the Oscars.
Here are 6 times that the Academy got it right in the 1940s!
- Casablanca Wins Best Picture
You knew that this was going to be the first thing that I was going to list. In 1943, Casablanca won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Though the film’s victory obviously had a lot to do with its anti-Nazi theme, it’s also one of the best acted and most quotable films ever made. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were never better. Claude Rains was never more charming. And Conrad Veidt perfectly embodied everything that the Allies were fighting against in Europe. This one of the rare Oscar victories that no one can complain about.
2. James Stewart wins Best Actor For The Philadelphia Story
He deserved it for the scene where he sings Somewhere Over The Rainbow. This is award is usually cited as the first instance of the Academy giving someone an award to make up for an earlier snub, in this case Stewart not winning for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. That’s probably true but still, it’s a charming performance and how can you not be happy about Jimmy Stewart receiving an Oscar?
3. Edmund Gwenn wins Best Supporting Actor For 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street
He is Santa Claus!
4. Orson Welles Wins Best Original Screenplay for Citizen Kane
Yes, I realize he had to share it with Herman Mankiewicz and I realize that there’s a lot of people who think that they’re an expert on what happened because they sat through Mank. The fact of the matter is that Citizen Kane is an Orson Welles film. To give all of the credit to Mankiewicz is to ignore all of the talent and vision that Welles brought to shaping the film. Even if we accept Mank‘s dubious claim that the majority of the script was Mankiewicz’s, Welles was the one who made the film into a portrait of America at its best and worst as opposed to just the bitter ramblings of an old alcoholic. Citizen Kane and Welles deserved more than one Oscar but considering just how many powerful people in Hollywood tried to stop Citizen Kane, I’m a little amazed that the Academy even gave Welles one Oscar.
5. Crossfire Is Nominated For Best Picture
Even though 1947’s Crossfire lost the award to Gentleman’s Agreement, it still made history as the first “B” movie to receive a nomination for Best Picture. Crossfire holds up quite well today as a portrait of the evil that comes with prejudice.
6. The Best Years of Our Lives and It’s A Wonderful Life Are Nominated For Best Picture
In 1946, two of the best films made about postwar America were nominated for Best Picture. The Best Years Of Our Lives won, while It’s A Wonderful Life went on to become a holiday perennial and a cultural touchdown. Both of them are powerful portraits of Americans trying to find themselves in the years directly after the end of World War II. Both deserved their nominations. It’s a shame that both couldn’t win.
Up next: The 1950s!