Oh, 1940, a year which will live in…
Actually, 1940 lives pretty much in obscurity, mostly because 1941 lives in infamy. This year is relegated to forgotten status, even though I bet if more people looked at it they’d probably have problems with the end results. I’m talking of several categories, not just Best Picture.
The reason 1940, especially the Best Actor race, is important is because, aside from how staggeringly wrong they got it, it’s actually the first real obvious makeup Oscar on record. The early Oscars, like Mary Pickford’s, are more career achievement and more — “these new awards just started recognizing the ‘best’ in the industry, and you’ve been considered aces for a while now, so we feel you ought to have one.” I don’t count those. This is the first real instance where they gave a performer an Oscar irregardless of film or performance. It’s pretty clear when you watch the film that the performance is not very worthy as a Best Actor-winning performance. And it’s also pretty clear which ones on this list are. So, in terms of history, this is the beginning of the cycle of makeup Oscars that continues to this day.
Also, so we can place this in context of what else happened this year, Best Picture went to Rebecca, Best Director went to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath, Best Actress went to Ginger Rogers (Fred Astaire’s dancing partner, in case you were going to skip over the name for lack of recognition) for Kitty Foyle, Best Supporting Actor went to Walter Brennan for The Westerner (his third), and Best Supporting Actress went to Jane Darwell for The Grapes of Wrath (Good ol’ Ma). (more…)