The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1938
This is another one of those years that I don’t much understand, that I try to explain by figuring the Academy went, “Well, it worked once before, let’s try it again!” It’s not that You Can’t Take It With You is a bad film — it’s terrific — it’s just that it’s a weak winner.
Frank Capra also winning Best Director for the film (talked about here), while it makes sense, is not a particularly good decision. Though it does fit with their Best Director choices over this first decade of the Oscars. Best Actor this year was Spencer Tracy for Boys Town (talked about here), which I consider the single worst Best Actor winning performance ever. He’s not the lead, and he barely does anything in the film. Him winning this is beyond laughable to me. Best Actress was Bette Davis for Jezebel (talked about here), which I think is also a poor decision, though an acceptable one. Fay Bainter won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here) as well, which makes sense. She was nominated twice this year. And Best Supporting Actor was Walter Brennan for Kentucky (talked about here), which — it’s Walter Brennan, so it’s acceptable, but on the other hand, Basil Rathbone was so much better.
You can see why I consider this a year of, “Well, it worked the first time…” Capra, Tracy, Davis, Brennan — it’s almost like the Academy doubting themselves, having gone out on the tightrope and, midway through, looking down, and then holding onto where they are just because it’s safer there. I don’t care for this year much at all. It’s one of those things that holds the Academy back in my mind. Their reliance on safe things and fear of bold decisions.
BEST PICTURE – 1938
And the nominees were…
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros.)
Alexander’s Ragtime Band (20th Century Fox)
Boys Town (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The Citadel (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Four Daughters (Warner Bros., First National)
Grand Illusion (R.A.O., World Pictures)
Jezebel (Warner Bros.)
Test Pilot (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
You Can’t Take It With You (Columbia) (more…)