The Seventh Annual Academy Awards: 1920

William S. Hart, the Third President of AMPAS

William S. Hart, the Third President of AMPAS

1920 was a year of many changes.

On January 16th, the 18th Amendment went into effect and prohibition became the law of the land.  Suddenly, it was illegal to transport and sell alcohol in the United States.  As social reformers rejoiced, the government grew and ordinary citizens started to hoard whatever liquor they had.  (Selling alcohol was illegal but drinking it was not.)  Perhaps the people happiest about prohibition were the gangsters who now had a totally new market to exploit.

On August 26th, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed and, finally, all women were granted the right to vote.  And it came not a minute too late because it was time for the United States to elect a new president.  Weary after the nonstop drama of  8 years of Woodrow Wilson, the American electorate turned to Warren G. Harding, a little-known Republican who promised both a “return to normalcy” and to keep the U.S. out of the League of Nations.  On November 2nd, Harding was elected in a landslide, defeating Democrat James M. Cox.

And finally, the AMPAS also elected a new president.  After serving two successful terms as president of the Academy, Thomas H. Ince declined to run for a third term.  The award-winning actor William S. Hart was elected to take his place, easily defeating producer Lewis J. Selznick.  As President, Hart introduced one major change the Academy Awards.  In recognition to the growing number of films being produced annually, he suggested increasing the number of best picture nominees from 6 to 10.

As for the awards themselves, 1920 was perhaps the first year in which the Academy attempted to fix a previous error.  The previous year, Bolshevism on Trial had defeated D.W. Griffith‘s Broken Blossoms for best picture.  When Griffith released the epic melodrama Way Down East in 1920, there was little doubt that this would be the year that a Griffith film would finally win the award for best picture.

Despite the fact that Way Down East‘s victory was something of a foregone conclusion, the Academy still made history with the nominations.  Oscar Micheaux became the first African-American to be nominated for both best director and best picture for his film Within Our Gates.  (Ironically, Within Our Gates was meant to serve as a repudiation of Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.)  For her performance in Within Our Gates, Evelyn Preer received her second consecutive nomination.

As well, bothers John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore both received nominations for best actor.  It was John’s second nomination and Lionel’s first.

The Awards Ceremony was held on February 20th, 1921 at the newly opened Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.  The ceremony was again hosted by comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.  Along with the Barrymore brothers, Arbuckle was nominated for best actor that year, though all three of them lost to Charles Ogle.  However, Arbuckle did receive an honorary award, thanking him for his “service to the Academy.”  Everyone agreed that Arbuckle had somehow managed to make the first alcohol-free Academy Awards ceremony bearable.  Indeed, as the ceremony came to an end, there was no one as beloved in Hollywood, and perhaps in America, as Fatty Arbuckle.

In just a few months, that would all change.

Fatty Arbuckle, the most popular man in Hollywood

Fatty Arbuckle, the most popular man in Hollywood

The Seventh Annual Academy Awards

(Honoring films released in America from January 1st to December 31st, 1920.  

Winners are listed in bold and starred.)

Best Picture

The Devil’s Pass Key.  Produced by Carl Laemmle.  Universal.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Produced by Adolph Zukor.  Paramount.

The Mark of Zorro.  Produced by Douglas Fairbanks.  United Artists.

Over the Hill To The Poorhouse.  Produced by William Fox.  Fox Film Corporation.

The Penalty.  Produced by Samuel Goldwyn.  Goldwyn.

The Round-Up.  Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.  Paramount.

The Saphead.  Produced by Marcus Loew, John Golden, and Winchell Smith. Metro Pictures.

Sex.  Produced by J. Parker Read, Jr.  J. Parker Read Productions.

*Way Down East.  Produced by D.W. Griffith.  United Artists.

Within Our Gates.  Produced by Oscar Micheaux.  Micheaux Film.

Way Down East

Way Down East

Best Actor

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in The Round-Up.  Paramount.

John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde.  Paramount.

Lionel Barrymore in The Copperhead.  Paramount.

Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro.  United Artists.

Buster Keaton in The Saphead.  Metro Pictures.

*Charles Ogle in Treasure Island. Paramount.

Charles Ogle

Charles Ogle

Best Actress

*Mary Carr in Over The Hill To The Poorhouse.  Fox Film Corporation.

Elsie Ferguson in Lady Rose’s Daughter.  Paramount.

Lillian Gish in Way Down East.  United Artists.

Louise Glaum in Sex.  J. Parker Read Productions.

Mary Pickford in Suds.  United Artists.

Evelyn Preer in Within Our Gates.  Micheaux Pictures.

Mary Carr

Mary Carr

Best Director, Dramatic Picture

William F. Alder for Shipwrecked Among Cannibals.  Universal.

Tod Browning for Outside the Law.  Universal.

*D.W. Griffith for Way Down East.  United Artists.

Oscar Micheaux for Within Our Gates.  Micheaux Pictures

Fred Niblo for Sex.  J. Parker Read Productions.

Erich Von Stroheim for The Devil’s Pass Key.  Universal.

D.W. Griffith

D.W. Griffith

Best Director, Comedic Picture

Herbert Blache and Winchell Smith for The Saphead.  Metro Pictures.

John Francis Dillon for Suds.  United Artists.

Victor Fleming for The Mollycoddle.  United Artists.

John Ince for Old Lady 31.  Metro Pictures.

*George Melford for The Round-Up.  Paramount.

Paul Powell for Pollyanna.  United Artists.

George Melford

George Melford

Best Screenplay

*The Devil’s Pass Key.  Erich Von Stroheim.  Universal.

If I Were King. E.  Lloyd Sheldon.  Fox Film Corporation.

Over the Hill To The Poorhouse. Paul Sloane.  Fox Film Corporation.

The Penalty.  Charles Kenyon.  Goldwyn.

Sex.  C. Gardner Sullivan.  J. Parker Read Productions.

Way Down East. Anthony Paul Kelly.  United Artists.

Erich Von Stroheim

Erich Von Stroheim

Best Art Direction

The Devil’s Pass Key.  Richard Day. Universal.

The Last of the Mohicans.  Ben Carre. First National.

The Mark of Zorro. Edward Langley.  United Artists.

Outside the Law. Elmer Sheeley.  Universal.

*Sex.  W.L. Heywood.  J. Parker Read Productions.

Way Down East.  Clark Robinson.  United Artists.

Sex

Sex

Best Cinematography

The Copperhead.  Faxon M. Dean.  Paramount.

The Devil’s Pass Key. Ben F. Reynolds.  Universal.

The Jack-Knife Man. Ira H. Morgan.  First National.

The Last of the Mohicans. Phillip R. DuBois.  First National.

*Sex.  Charles J. Stumar.  J. Parker Read Productions.

Way Down East. G.W. Bitzer.  United Artists.

Sex

Sex

Best Engineering Effects

The Last of the Mohicans.  Maurice Tourneur. First National.

*The Mark of Zorro. Richard Talmadge.  United Artists.

The Penalty.  Lon Chaney.  Goldwyn.

Way Down East.  D.W. Griffith. United Artists.

The Mark of Zorro

The Mark of Zorro

Best Title Writing

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Clara Beranger.  Paramount.

The Last of the Mohicans.  Robert Dillon.  First National.

Outside the Law. Gardner Bradford.  Universal.

The Penalty. Charles Kenyon.  Goldwyn.

*The Saphead.  June Mathis.  Metro Pictures.

Within Our Gates.  Oscar Micheaux.  Micheaux Film.

The Saphead

The Saphead

Special Award

To Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle for his years of service to the Academy

Roscoe Arbuckle

Roscoe Arbuckle

Films By Number of Nominations

7 Nominations — Way Down East

6 Nominations — Sex

5 Nominations — The Devil’s Passkey

4 Nominations — The Last of the Mohicans, The Mark of Zorro, The Penalty, The Saphead, Within Our Gates

3 Nominations — Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Outside the Law, Over The Hill To The Poorhouse, The Round-up

2 Nominations — The Copperhead, Suds

1 Nominations — If I Were King, The Jack-Knife Man, Lady Rose’s Daughter, The Mollycoddle, Old Lady 31, Pollyanna, Shipwrecked Among The Cannibals, Treasure Island

Films By Number of Awards:

2 Awards — Sex, Way Down East

1 Award — The Devil’s Passkey, The Mark of Zorro, Over the Hill To The Poorhouse, The Round-Up, The Saphead, Treasure Island

Studios by Number of Nominations

15 Nominations — United Artists

10 Nominations — Paramount

9 Nominations — Universal

6 Nominations — J. Parker Read Productions

5 Nominations — First NationalMetro Pictures

4 Nominations — Fox Film, Goldwyn, Micheaux Films

Studios By Number of Awards Won

3 Awards — United Artists

2 Awards — J. Parker Read Productions, Paramount

1 Award — Fox Film, Metro Pictures, Universal

Trivia:

The number of best picture nominees is expanded to 10.

Oscar Micheaux is the first African-American to receive nominations for best director and best picture.

Best actor nominees John and Lionel Barrymore are brothers.

The Fifth Annual Academy Awards: 1918

A scene from Tarzan of The Apes

A scene from Tarzan of The Apes

1918 was a year of dominated by war and pestilence.  As the world seemed to be intent on destroying itself, both the Academy and American filmgoers embraced escapism.

Overseas, the Great War continued to drag on.  With no end to the fighting in sight, there were fears that the American public would turn against the war and their elected leaders would withdraw American soldiers from the fighting.  The British government, realizing the potential of film as a propaganda tool, contacted director D.W. Griffith and offered to help him make a film.  The end result was Hearts of the World, an epic war film that starred Lillian Gish as a French girl who struggles to survive and find true love as the Germans raid her village.

Though Gish would later say that Griffith was displeased with the pro-war tone of Hearts Of The World, the film was a great success at the box office.  Or, at least it was until the fighting finally ended on November 11, 1918.  Following the signing of the Armistice, war-weary film goers were ready to escape the grimness of conflict.

For Hollywood, 1918 was a year of tragedy.  On June 29th, cinematographer John van den Broek, who had just received considerable attention for his work on Paramount’s The Blue Bird, drowned while shooting the film Woman.  His body was never recovered.

The first cases of the Spanish flu were reported in January and, by the end of the year, it would spread to every corner of the civilized world.  Before the pandemic ended two years later, over 500 million people would be infected and 100 million — 5% of the world’s population — would die as a result.  However, because of wartime censorship, it’s debatable how aware most people were of this deadly killer.

The film industry would not hit by the deadly flu until the sudden death of the popular young actor, Harold Lockwood.  As a previous nominee for Best Actor, Lockwood was the first Academy Award nominee to pass away.  On October 22nd, just three days after Lockwood’s death, actor Julian L’Estrange would also pass away from the flu.  Though L’Estrange was never as big a star as Lockwood, he was married to popular actress Constance Collier and the young film industry was hit hard by his death.

With reality so grim, can we be surprised that filmgoers embraced comedy?  Among the most popular films of the year was Mickey, in which Mabel Normand played an orphan who, after being raised by coal miners, ended up finding love in New York City.  Also searching for love in New York was Mary Miles Minter in The Eyes of Julia Deep.

Mary Pickford returned to the screen in several films.  The melodrama Stella Maris featured Pickford in two roles, playing both a paralyzed rich girl and an orphaned servant girl.  For those who preferred Pickford in a light-hearted mood, there was Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley, a take on Pygmalion that featured Pickford as a poor girl learning how to be a refined lady.

However, the most popular film of the year was Tarzan of the Apes, the first film to be made about the legendary king of the jungle.  Starring Elmo Lincoln in the title role, Tarzan of the Apes was a huge box office success and provided eager audiences with an escape from reality.

When the Award nominations were announced, Tarzan of the Apes received 7 nominations.  Following with 5 nominations were Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley, The Eyes of Julia Deep, Hearts of The World, and Mickey.  Coming in with three nominations was Stella Maris.  For the first time, there were two posthumous nominations, John van den Broek for The Blue Bird and Julian L’Estrange, who was nominated for best actor for his performance in the comedy Daybreak.

The Awards Ceremony was held on February 20th, 1919 at the Hollywood Hotel.  For the third time in a row, the ceremony was hosted by comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.  A speech was also given by Academy President Thomas H. Ince, who earlier that year had been elected without opposition to a second term.

Tarzan of the Apes won awards for best picture, director, and cinematography.  Mabel Normand won best actress for Mickey.  According to most contemporary reports, the emotional highlight of the evening came when Constance Collier accepted Julian L’Estrange’s posthumous award for best actor.

Constance Collier, widow of Julian L'Estrange

Constance Collier, widow of Julian L’Estrange

The Fifth Annual Academy Awards

(Honoring films released in the U.S. between January 1st and December 31st, 1918.

Winners are starred and listen in bold.)

Best Picture

Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.  Produced by Adolph Zukor.  Directed by Marshall Neilan.  Artcraft.

The Eyes of Julia Deep. Produced and Directed by Lloyd Ingraham.  American Film.

Hearts of the World.  Produced by and Directed by D.W. Griffith. Paramount.

Mickey.  Produced by Mack Sennett.  Directed by F. Richard Jones and James Young.  FBO.

Stella Maris.  Produced by Mary Pickford.  Produced by Marshall Neilan.  Artcraft.

*Tarzan of the Apes, produced by Williams Parsons.  Directed by Scott Sidney.  First National.

A scene from Tarzan of the Apes

A scene from Tarzan of the Apes

Best Director, Comedy

Allan Dwan for Bound in Morocco.  Artcraft.

Lloyd Ingraham for The Eyes of Julia Deep.  American Film.

F. Richard Jones and James Young for Mickey.  FBO.

*Marshall Neilan for Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.  Artcraft.

Marshall Neilan

Marshall Neilan

Best Director, Drama

D.W. Griffith for Hearts of the World.  Paramount.

Marshall Neilan for Stella Maris.  Artcraft.

*Scott Sidney for Tarzan of the Apes.  First National.

Maurice Tourneur for The Blue Bird.  Paramount.

Scott Sidney

Scott Sidney

Best Actor

Edmund Burns in Under the Greenwood Tree.  Paramount.

Douglas Fairbanks in Arizona.  Artcraft.

*Julian L’Estrange in Daybreak.  Metro Pictures.

Elmo Lincoln in Tarzan of the Apes.  First National.

Julian L'Estrange

Julian L’Estrange

Best Actress

Lillian Gish in Hearts of the World.  Paramount.

Mary Miles Minter In The Eyes of Julia Deep.  American Film.

*Mabel Normand in Mickey.  FBO.

Mary Pickford in Stella Maris.  Artcraft.

Mabel Normand

Mabel Normand

Best Writing

Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.  Frances Marion.  Artcraft.

*The Eyes of Julia Deep.  Kate L. McLaurin.  American Film.

Mickey.  J.G. Hawks.  FBO.

Tarzan of The Apes.  Fred Miller. First National.

The Eyes of Julia Deep

The Eyes of Julia Deep

Best Cinematography

The Blue Bird.  John van den Broek.  Paramount.

Hearts of the World.  G.W. Bitzer. Paramount.

*Tarzan of the Apes. Enrique Juan Vallejo.  First National.

Under the Yoke.  John W. Boyle.  Fox Film.

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes

Best Art Direction

Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.  Wilfred Buckland.  Artcraft.

*Hearts of the World.  Frank Wortman.  Paramount.

Huck and Tom.  Homer Scott.  Paramount.

Tarzan of the Apes. F.I. Wetherbee.  First National.

Hearts of the World

Hearts of the World

Best Engineering Effects

*The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.  Willis O’Brien.  World Film.

The Heart of Humanity.  Allen Holubar.  Universal.

Hearts of the World.  D.W. Griffith.  Paramount.

Tarzan of the Apes.  Scott Sidney.  First National.

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

Best Title Writing

The Blue Bird.  Charles Maigne.  Paramount.

The Eyes of Julia Deep. Elizabeth Mahoney.  American Film.

*Mickey.  J.G. Hawks.  FBO.

Tarzan of the Apes.  Lois Weber.  First National.

A scene from Mickey

A scene from Mickey

Films By Number of Nominations:

7 Nominations — Tarzan of the Apes

5 Nominations — Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley, The Eyes of Julia Deep, Hearts of the World, Mickey

3 Nominations — The Blue Bird, Stella Maris

1 Nomination — Arizona, Daybreak, Bound in Morocco, Ghost of Slumber Mountain, The Heart of Humanity, Huck and Tom, Under the Greenwood Tree, Under The Yoke

Films By Number of Awards Won

3 Awards — Tarzan of the Apes

2 Awards — Mickey

1 Award — Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley,  Daybreak, The Eyes of Julia Deep, Ghost of Slumber Mountain, Hearts of the World

Studios By Number of Nominations

11 Nominations — Paramount

10 Nominations — Artcraft

7 Nominations — First National

5 Nominations — American Film, FBO

1 Nomination — Fox Films, Metro Pictures, Universal, World Film

Studios By Number of Wins

3 Nominations — First National

2 Nominations — FBO

1 Nomination — Artcraft, American Film, Metro Pictures, Paramount, World Film

Trivia:

Tarzan of the Apes is the first adventure film to win best picture.

John van den Broek and Julian L’Estrange are the first two people to be posthumously nominated for an Award.

Julian L’Estrange is the first person to posthumously win an Award.