The Third Annual Academy Awards: 1916

Thomas H. Ince, the 2nd President of AMPAS

Thomas H. Ince, the 2nd President of AMPAS

In the long history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1916 was dominated by one man: Thomas H. Ince.

Today, Ince is a largely forgotten figure and his many accomplishments have been overshadowed by the mysterious and potentially sordid circumstances of his death in 1924.  However, in 1916, Ince was one of the most popular figures working in the film industry.  He was the first producer to build his own studio in California and, with D.W. Griffith and Academy President Mack Sennett, founded the Triangle Motion Picture Company.  When, following the 2nd Academy Awards ceremony, Sennett announced the he would not be running for a second term as president of the AMPAS, Ince was the obvious choice to replace him.

As President, Ince immediately launched a recruiting drive to bring more industry professionals into the organization and set about restructuring  the AMPAS, dividing membership into five separate branches — Producers, Actors, Directors, Writers, and Technicians.

Thomas Ince directing

Thomas Ince directing

Ince also changed the method by which the Academy Awards were determined.  Abandoning the previous method of using a “jury of distinguished citizens,” each branch would now make their own nominations.  After the nominations had been determined, each branch would elect one representative to sit on the committee that would select the actual winners.

Along with being the President of the Academy, Ince was also the producer and co-director of one of the leading award contenders.  Civilization told the story of Count Ferdinand (Howard C. Hickman), a nobleman in a fictional European kingdom.  Assigned to command a ship in battle, Ferdinand refuses to fire a torpedo at a civilian ocean liner and loses his life as a result.  After descending to purgatory, Ferdinand is recruited by Jesus himself and sent back among the living to preach world peace  Released at a time when Europe was at war and President Woodrow Wilson was running for reelection on a platform of international neutrality, Civilization was a critical and box office success.  When Wilson was narrowly reelected over Charles Hughes, the Democratic National Committee publicly praised the role played by Civilization.

Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evan Hughes

Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes

Civilization‘s main competition came from D.W. Griffith’s epic Intolerance.  Ironically enough, both Intolerance and Civilization were distributed by Triangle Film and both featured Jesus as a supporting character.  However, in Intolerance, the story of Jesus was just one of four separate storylines, all of which were meant to portray the role of intolerance throughout human history.  (The film itself was largely designed as a response to what Griffith viewed as being unfair criticism of his previous epic, Birth of a Nation.)  At that point in cinematic history, Intolerance was the most extravagant and expensive film ever made.  Unfortunately, it was also a failure at the box office.

Intolerance

Intolerance

Other contenders included Universal‘s abortion-themed melodrama, Where Are My Children?, Paramount‘s adaptation of Oliver Twist, Fox Film‘s A Daughter of the Gods (which received a lot of attention for star Annette Kellerman‘s nude scene), and a British class drama called East is East.

When the nominations were announced, Intolerance led with 7 nominations, followed by Civilization with 5.  Overall, the nominations were dominated by films released by Triangle Film.  Film distributed by Triangle received a total of 17 nominations.  2nd place Universal received seven.

Lillian Gish in Intolerance

Lillian Gish in Intolerance

The Awards Committee consisted of the following representatives:

  1. Former Academy President Mack Sennett, serving in place of Thomas Ince, who disqualified himself after being nominated for best producing and directing Civilization.
  2. Lewis J. Selznick, representing the Producer’s Branch
  3. Oscar C. Apfel, representing the Director’s Branch
  4. Charles Ogle, representing the Actor’s Branch
  5. Roy L. McCardell, representing the Writer’s Branch
  6. George Schniederman, representing the Technician’s Branch

As an indication that the American film industry was abandoning New York City and heading out west, the ceremony was held, for the first time, in California.  The Awards Ceremony was held on February 20th, 1917, at the Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles.  The ceremony was hosted by popular comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, host of the Third Annual Academy Awards

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, host of the Third Annual Academy Awards

For the first time, the winners were not announced ahead of time.  All of the nominees were present at the ceremony but there are no records as to whether or not they were surprised by either the success of Civilization or the total failure of Intolerance.  Out of 7 nominations, Intolerance won zero awards.  Civilization picked up three awards, including best picture.  Perhaps the most popular winner was cowboy star William S. Hart, who won best actor for Hell’s Hinges and defeated the presumed favorite, Where Are My Children‘s Tyrone Power.

The Third Annual Academy Awards

(Honoring film released in the U.S. between January 1st and December 31st of 1916.  Winners are starred and listed in bold.)

Best Picture

*Civilization.  Produced by Thomas H. Ince.  Directed by Reginald Barker, Thomas H. Ince, and Roland West.  Triangle Distributing.

A Daughter of the Gods.  Produced by William Fox.  Directed by Herbert Brenon.  Fox Film Corporation.

East is East.  Produced by Florence Turner.  Directed by Henry Edwards.  Mutual Film.

Intolerance.  Produced and Directed by D.W. Griffith.  Triangle Distributing.

Oliver Twist.  Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.  Directed by James Young.  Paramount.

Where Are My Children?  Produced and Directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley.  Universal.

A scene from Civilization

A scene from Civilization

Best Director, Comedy

Charles Chaplin for One A.M.  Mutual Film.

J. Searle Dawley for Snow White. Paramount.

Allan Dwan for The Habit of Happiness.  Triangle Distributing.

*John Emerson for The Americano. Triangle Distributing.

John Emerson

John Emerson

Best Director, Drama

Reginald Barker, Thomas H. Ince, and Roland West for Civilization.  Triangle Distributing.

Henry Edwards for East Is East.  Mutual Film.

D.W. Griffith for Intolerance.  Triangle Distributing.

*James Young for Oliver Twist.  Paramount.

James_Young_(director)

Best Actor

William Gillette in Sherlock Holmes.  Essanay Studios.

*William S. Hart in Hell’s Hinges.  Triangle Distributing.

Walter McGrail in Lights of New York. V-L-S-E.

Tyrone Power in Where Are My Children?  Universal.

William S. Hart in Hell's Hinges

William S. Hart in Hell’s Hinges

Best Actress

Marie Doro in Oliver Twist.  Paramount.

*Annette Kellerman in A Daughter of the Gods.  Fox Film Corporation.

Mary Pickford in Hulda From Holland.  Paramount.

Florence Turner in East is East.  Mutual Film.

Annette Kellerman

Annette Kellerman

Best Writing

La Boheme.  Frances Marion.  World Film.

*Civilization. C. Gardner Sullivan.  Triangle Distributing.

Intolerance.  D.W. Griffith.  Triangle Distributing.

Where Are My Children?  Lucy Payton and Franklin Hall.  Universal.

A scene from Civilization

A scene from Civilization

Best Cinematography

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Eugene Gaudio.  Universal.

The Americano.  Victor Fleming.  Triangle Distributing.

Intolerance.  G.W. Bitzer.  Triangle Distributing.

*Joan the Woman.  Alvin Wyckoff.  Paramount.

Joan the Woman

Joan the Woman

Best Art Direction

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Frank Ormston. Universal.

*Civilization.  Joseph H. August.  Triangle Distributing.

A Daughter of the Gods.  John D. Braddon.  Fox Film Corporation.

Intolerance. Walter L. Hall. Triangle Distributing.

A scene from Civilization

A scene from Civilization

Best Engineering Effects

*20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  Stuart Paton.  Universal.

Intolerance.  D.W. Griffith.  Triangle Distributing.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Best Title Writing

The Americano.  Anita Loos.  Triangle Distributing.

Civilization. C. Gardner Sullivan.  Triangle Distributing.

Intolerance.  Anita Loos.  Triangle Distributing.

*Where Are My Children?  Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley.  Universal.

A scene from Where Are My Children?

A scene from Where Are My Children?

Films By Number of Nominations:

Intolerance — 7 Nominations

Civilization — 5 Nominations

Where Are My Children? — 4 Nominations

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — 3 Nominations

The Americano — 3 Nominations

A Daughter of the Gods — 3 Nominations

East is East — 3 Nominations

Oliver Twist — 3 Nominations

La Boheme — 1 Nomination

The Habit of Happiness — 1 Nomination

Hell’s Hinges — 1 Nomination

Hulda of Holland — 1 Nomination

Joan the Woman — 1 Nomination

Lights of New York — 1 Nomination

One A.M. — 1 Nomination

Sherlock Holmes — 1 Nomination

Snow White — 1 Nomination

Films By Number of Awards Won:

Civilization — 3 Academy Awards

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — 1 Academy Award

The Americano — 1 Academy Award

Daughter of the Gods — 1 Academy Award

Hell’s Hinges — 1 Academy Award

Joan The Woman — 1 Academy Award

Oliver Twist — 1 Academy Award

Where Are My Children? — 1 Academy Awards

Studios By Number Of Nominations:

Triangle Distributing — 17 Nominations

Universal — 7 Nominations

Paramount — 6 Nominations

Mutual Films — 4 Nominations

Fox Film Corporation — 3 Nominations

Essanay Studios — 1 nomination

V-L-S-E –1 Nominations

World Film — 1 Nominations

Studios By Number of Academy Awards Won:

Triangle Distributing — 5 Academy Awards

Paramount — 2 Academy Awards

Universal — 2 Academy Awards

Fox Film Corporation — 1 Academy Award

Trivia:

Civilization is the first war film to win best picture.

Mary Pickford is the first person to receive a consecutive acting nomination and a consecutive nomination overall.

For the first time, nominees are announced before the ceremony.

For the first time, the winners are not announced ahead of time.

For the first time, the Awards Ceremony is held in California.

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3 responses to “The Third Annual Academy Awards: 1916

  1. Pingback: The Fourth Annual Academy Awards: 1917 | Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

  2. Pingback: The Seventh Annual Academy Awards: 1920 | Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

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