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that crazy ballyhoo
Best Picture 1940
What’s the point in awarding a picture best picture when the director doesn’t get Best Director for Best Picture? I think that’s how John Ford got two Oscars in a row for this year 1940 with The Grapes of Wrath and then the following year with How Green was My Valley. That year he got Best Director and Best Picture as most people think it should be, that the director of the Best Picture deserves to be awarded Best Director.
However, that year in 1941, How Green was My Valley got the award over Citizen Kane,
arguably the greatest American movie ever made. I say arguably because there is another school that insists, with very good reason, that Casablanca is the greatest American movie ever made. Creeping up behind them is a school of classic movie buff which says The Godfather is the greatest American movie ever made. I do believe that film has been creeping up for a long time while Casablanca and Citizen Kane
hear its footsteps. Anyway, I maintain, that has a lot to do with how John Ford got Best Picture and Best Director because he deserved both awards in 1940 for the film that truly should have been Best Picture 1940, the great The Grapes of Wrath. Instead in 1940 Rebecca received the Academy Award for Best Picture. How could anyone say Rebecca is superior to The Grapes of Wrath, or Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator or The Philadelphia Story or Abe Lincoln in Illinois; all films made in 1940 some of which weren’t even nominated? I mention some very timeless films especially The Grapes of Wrath; a true classic in every sense; great film performances, a tight, spare script, great photography. I believe these and others were denied an Academy Award for two reasons. The first is David O. Selznick. I believe there was still a Gone With The Wind “hangover”; the academy being still proud and in awe of its numbers still going strong into 1940. In other words, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t think one academy award for Best Picture was enough Selznick’s magnificent accomplishment. Secondly, Rebecca was totally apolitical in a highly political time. Half the country was for helping Britain in its lone, heroic struggle against the Nazi German juggernaut, the interventionists. The other half, known as isolationists were vehemently against having any involvement whatsoever with the European conflict. It got ugly. Isolationists embodied in a “Tea Party” like organization called America First
played the race card by intimidating Jewish American business men with anti-Semitic remarks very much resembling the veiled sort of remarks and threats that are uttered about U.S. President Barack Obama. In fact, the belief that Roosevelt was a Jew was bandied about much the same way birthers discuss President Obama except in Roosevelt’s day the media had the good tasted not to give credence to such cretins. In 1940 however, the heads of the studios in Hollywood were painstaking in making sure their movies contained no politics. Some movies in 1940 got by, though. Some of those were nominated but they didn’t stand a chance because they had content that was controversial or political. Washington isolationist legislators were threatening to investigate the movies for their pro-England content. So Rebecca was the most courageous non-political uncontroversial film they could choose to win. Why courageous? Well, it was set in England! Check out the nominees below; very good films most of them but the political ones were, no doubt, instantly eliminated from the running and the others except Rebecca weren’t produced by David O. Selznick.
Best Picture Nominees 1940
Foreign Correspondent – Walter Wanger, Producer (United Artists)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck2qelxsLmg
Foreign Correspondent didn’t stand a chance politically to win an Academy Award because its ending has the hero broadcasting to American from London as the bombs fall around his radio studio. “The lights are out everywhere but in America. Keep them shining America! Keep those lights shining!” sort of stuff; definitely not politically correct for the isolationist/America First front in the U.S.A.
The Grapes Of Wrath – Nunnally Johnson, Producer, (20th Century Fox) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw
There is favourable talk about trade unions. So that would be considered too controversial to take a chance receiving a Best Picture Award. It might bring too much unfavourable attention to the industry if a controversial film were to be celebrated.
The Great Dictator – Charlie Chaplin, Producerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK2WJd5bXFg
It’s obvious that The Great Dictator would not receive the Best Picture award since it directly satirizes, mocks, ridicules and calls out the phony dictators of the era, namely Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Don’t forget, America was not at war and the movie studios were still selling films to German and Italy and Japan, which wasn’t of particular concern to the Isolationists and in fact was never really considered. All eyes were on Europe which probably helped to make Pearl Harbor possible.
Kitty Foyle – David Hempstead, (RKO)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-jkYhXH8zc
The Letter – Hal B. Wallis, Producer (Warner Bros.)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsLf-AXyeT8
The Long Voyage Home – Walter Wanger, Producer (United Artists)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqshivs0PHw
Same story, that is, the story of a British freighter making its way through dangerous, enemy infested waters. I say “enemy-infested” because the Germans/Nazis are never mentioned; once again, mustn’t upset the isolationists. “My God, they might primary us!”
The Philadelphia Story – Joseph L. Mankiwiecz, Producer (MGM)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1PEW45pOog
I think there were some other very strong films that were…
Snubbed by the Academy 1940
My Favorite Wife – Leo Mccarey, Producer (RKO)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdYfOAwZ-pU
Abe Lincoln in Illinois – Max Gordon, Producer (RKO)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKfNMel5dug
Pride and Prejudice – Hunt Stromberg, Producer (MGM)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z0WjWGvPAw
Your Choice – GO TO Leave a Reply
I truly believe Rebecca was named Best Picture in 1940 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because it was less the controversial than the film that should have won and because it was produced by David O. Selznick. The real best picture of 1940 was denied because of politics that are no longer relevant but as far as DeOscarized is concerned great films are always relevant no matter when theAt DeOscarize the whole idea is to finally give credit where credit and awards are rightfully due. So, until I hear a compelling reason against this decision, I hereby name:
The Grapes of Wrath NEW Best Picture 1940 – Nunnally Johnson, Producer, (20th Century Fox)
Of course I can see where folks might think I’m wrong. I’m prepared to make my case for DeOscarizing Rebecca to give due credit to The Grapes of Wrath. Can you make the case to prevent it? Is there another movie that you would DeOscarize Rebecca for, if anyone? Let’s discuss it.
Name your own Nominee!
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