1938 is such a weak year. It’s like the Academy, having the chance to make bold choices, got nervous and went with the sure thing. How can it be falling into its own stereotype when it’s only 11 years old? You Can’t Take It With You wins Best Picture. It’s a fine film, a really great one, but is definitely not a Best Picture winner. Frank Capra wins his third Best Director trophy in five years. 1934, 1936, and this one. Did he need it? Absolutely not. I talked about it here. It’s really strange the Academy went with the film, especially when The Adventures of Robin Hood, Pygmalion and especially Grand Illusion were also up for Best Picture.
Best Actress this year was Bette Davis for Jezebel, winning her second Best Actress trophy in four years. I’m a big opponent of this decision. I’ll talk about it eventually. Definitely not a fan. Fay Bainter wins Best Supporting Actress for the film, which is a very good decision, for both legitimizing the category and also because she was nominated for Best Actress this year, so that was a good choice. And Best Supporting Actor was — guess who — Walter Brennan for Kentucky. This was his second of three, winning every other year out of five, just like Frank Capra.
So, I consider 1938 a failed year. They had a chance to really do something interesting, then took the safe choice. We really shouldn’t be surprised. The Academy will often take the safe choice. Oh, and did I mention? I consider this specific category to be the SECOND WORST BEST ACTOR DECISION OF ALL TIME. How’s that for a lead in?
BEST ACTOR – 1938
And the nominees were…
Charles Boyer, Algiers
James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces
Robert Donat, The Citadel
Leslie Howard, Pygmalion
Spencer Tracy, Boys Town (more…)