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.

Advertisements

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.