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 Fourth Annual Academy Awards: 1917

The host of the 4th Annual Academy Awards, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

The host of the 4th Annual Academy Awards, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle

On March 4th, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office and began his second term of President.  Just a few months earlier, he had run for reelection on a platform of maintaining American neutrality in the war that was ravaging Europe.  His slogan was “He Kept Us Out Of War,” and it was enough to allow him to survive one of the closest elections in U.S. History.

One month later, the U.S. declared war on Germany and entered into what would come to be called World War I.

Whereas the previous year had been dominated by films, like the Award-winning Civilization, that promoted neutrality and world peace, 1917 saw the release of several films that were designed to support the American war effort.  The pacifism of Civilization was forgotten as the box office embraced both patriotism and escapism.

Audiences looking for patriotism flocked to The Little American.  Directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Mary Pickford, The Little American featured Pickford as Angela, an American woman who falls in love with two soldiers, one German and one French, during the opening days of World War I.  Also popular was Universal’s The Man Without a Country, in which a treasonous pacifist is convinced to support the war effort by reading and visualizing Edward Everett Hale’s famous short story.

Audiences looking for an escape from the grim reality of war flocked to see Fox’s Cleopatra, an extravagant recreation of the ancient Rome that starred Theda Bara as Cleopatra and Fritz Leiber, Sr. as Julius Caesar.  Also popular was Golden Rule Kate, a comedic western that starred Louise Glaum.  Finally, there was William Desmond Taylor’s adaptation of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, starring the popular Jack Pickford (younger brother of Mary) in the title role.

For the first time, there was speculation in some contemporary California newspapers over which films wold actually be nominated for an Academy Award.  In the days leading up to the announcement of the nominations, it was generally agreed that the probable nominees for best picture would be Cleopatra, Golden Rule Kate, The Little American, The Man Without A Country, Tom Sawyer, and Wild and Woolly, a Douglas Fairbanks comedy.

When the nominations were announced on January 20th, 1918, The Little American led with 7 nominations, followed by Cleopatra with 6,  Tom Sawyer with 5, and Golden Rule Kate and The Man Without A Country with 4 each.  With the exception of a nomination for director John Emerson, Wild and Woolly was almost totally snubbed.  Instead, the 6th best picture nomination went to One Law For Both, a little-seen melodrama from independent filmmaker Ivan Abramson that managed to tie Tom Sawyer with a total five nominations.

As a part of his effort to attract more industry professionals into the organization, Academy President Thomas H. Ince again reformed the voting process, doing away with the jury system.  While the nominations were still made by the individual branches, the 1917 awards were the first to be voted on by the entire membership of the Academy.

The ceremony was held, at the Hollywood Hotel, on the evening of February 20th, 1917.  The ceremony was again hosted by the popular comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and also featured a speech from U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson.

The awards were a family affair, with siblings Mary and Jack Pickford winning both of the acting awards.  (This was Mary Pickford’s third nomination and second victory.)  The Little American won best picture, with Cecil B. DeMille winning his second award for Best Director, Drama.  William Desmond Taylor won the award for Best Director, Comedy while Cleopatra settled for two technical awards.

The Fourth Annual Academy Awards

(Honoring films released in the U.S. between January 1st and December 31st, 1917.  Winners are starred and listed in bold)

Best Picture

Cleopatra.  Produced William Fox.  Directed by J. Gordon Edwards.  Fox Films.

Golden Rule Kate.  Produced by Thomas H. Ince.  Directed by Reginald Barker.  Triangle Distributing.

*The Little American.  Produced by Mary Pickford.  Directed by Cecil B. DeMille.  Artcraft.

The Man Without A Country.  Produced by Edwin Thanhouser.  Directed by Ernest C. Warde.  Universal.

One Law For Both.  Produced and Directed by Ivan Abramson.  Ivan Film.

Tom Sawyer.  Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.  Directed by William Desmond Taylor.  Paramount.

A scene from The Little American

A scene from The Little American

Best Director, Comedy

John Emerson for Wild and Woolly.  Artcraft.

Wray Physioc for The Gulf Between.  Technicolor Motion Picture Corp.

*William Desmond Taylor for Tom Sawyer.  Paramount.

Maurice Tourneur for The Poor Little Rich Girl.  Artcraft.

William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor

Best Director, Drama

Ivan Abramson for One Law For Both.  Ivan Film.

Reginald Barker for Golden Rule Kate.  Triangle Distributing.

*Cecil B. DeMille for The Little American.  Artcraft.

J. Gordon Edwards for Cleopatra.  Fox Films.

Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille

Best Actor

John Barrymore in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman.  Hiller & Wilk.

Holmes Herbert in The Man Without A Country.  Universal.

Harold Lockwood in Paradise Garden.  Metro Pictures.

*Jack Pickford in Tom Sawyer.  Paramount.

Jack Pickford

Jack Pickford

Best Actress

Theda Bara in Cleopatra.  Fox Films.

Rita Jolivet in One Law For Both.  Ivan Film.

*Mary Pickford in The Little American.  Artcraft.

Kathlyn Williams in Big Timber.  Paramount.

Mary Pickford in The Little American

Mary Pickford in The Little American

Best Writing

*The Little American.  Jeanie MacPherson.  Artcraft.

Cleopatra.  Adrian Johnson.  Fox Films.

One Law For Both.  Ivan Abramson.  Ivan Film.

Tom Sawyer.  Julia Crawford Ivers.  Paramount.

Jeanie MacPherson

Jeanie MacPherson

Best Cinematography

The Bad Boy.  David Abel.  Triangle Distributing.

*Cleopatra.  George Schniederman.  Fox Films.

Golden Rule Kate.  Joseph August.  Triangle Distributing.

The Little American.  Alvin Wyckoff.  Artcraft.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Best Art Design

*Cleopatra.  George James Hopkins.  Fox Films.

The Little American.  Wilfred Buckland.  Artcraft.

The Poor Little Rich Girl.  Ben Carre.  Artcraft.

Tom Sawyer.  Homer Scott.  Paramount.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Best Engineering Effects

The Little American.  Joseph Levering.  Artcraft.

The Man Without A Country.  Ernest C. Warde.  Universal.

Straight Shooting. George Scott. Universal.

*The Gulf Between.  Carl Gregory.  Technicolor Motion Picture Corp.

A scene from The Gulf Between, an early color film

A scene from The Gulf Between, an early color film

Best Title Writing

Camille.  Adrian Johnson.  Fox Film Corporation.

Golden Rule Kate. Monte M. Katterjohn.  Triangle Distributing.

The Man Without A Country.  Lloyd Lonergan.  Universal.

*One Law For Both.  Ivan Abramson.  Ivan Film.

One Law For Both

One Law For Both

Films By Number of Nominations:

7 Nominations — The Little American

6 Nominations — Cleopatra

5 Nominations — One Law For Both, Tom Sawyer

4 Nominations — Golden Rule Kate, The Man Without A Country

2 Nominations — The Gulf Between, The Poor Little Rich Girl

1 Nominations — The Bad Boy, Big Timber, Camille, Raffles The Amateur Crasksmith, Paradise Garden, Straight Shooting, Wild and Woolly

Films By Number Of Awards

4 Awards — The Little American

2 Awards — Cleopatra, Tom Sawyer

1 Awards — The Gulf Between, One Law For Both

Studios By Number Of Nominations

10 Nominations — Artcraft

7 Nominations — Fox Film

6 Nominations — Paramount, Universal

5 Nominations — Ivan Film, Triangle Distributing

2 Nominations — Technicolor Motion Picture Corp.

1 Nominations — Hiller & Wilk, Metro Pictures

Studios By Number of Awards

4 Awards — Artcraft

2 Awards — Fox Film, Paramount

1 Award — Ivan Film, Technicolor Motion Picture Corp.

Trivia

For the first time, the entire Academy membership votes for the awards.

Best Actor winner Jack Pickord and Best Actress winner Mary Pickford are siblings.

Mary Pickford is the first woman to win the award for best picture.

Mary Pickford wins her second award for acting.

Cecil B. DeMille wins his second award for directing and his second award for best picture.