The Sixth Annual Academy Awards: 1919

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer

In 1919, as the Spanish Flu continued to infect and kill millions, the world tried to recover from World War I.  After spending six months at the Paris Peace Conference, President Woodrow Wilson returned to the U.S. and launched an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to bring the United States into the newly formed League of Nations.  On September 25th, while barnstorming across the nation in support of the League, a physically exhausted Wilson collapsed and never truly recovered.  On October 2nd, a stroke left him partially paralyzed and blind in one eye.

Even before Wilson’s physical collapse, the U.S. population had reason to feel uncertain about the future.  On January 6th, the wildly popular Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep.  Before his death, Roosevelt had been widely expected to run for President in 1920 and hopefully return the U.S. to the peace and prosperity that it knew before the Wilson years.

In April, anarchists mailed at least 39 bombs to prominent businessmen and political leaders.  On June 2nd, these same anarchists managed to detonate 8 large bombs nearly simultaneously in 8 large cities.  If the bombers were hoping that their actions would lead to a revolution similar to the one that had recently occurred in Russia, they were soon proven incorrect.  Instead, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer , who was himself hoping to win the Presidency in 1920, launched a series of so-called Palmer Raids, targeting anyone who might be considered a subversive.

The anarchist bombings also led to one of the greatest upsets in Academy history.  When the Academy Award nominations were announced in January of 1920, most observers felt that the race was between Universal‘s Blind Husbands, United Artist‘s Broken Blossoms, and the Paramount action-comedy The Roaring Road, all of which received 7 nominations.  Blind Husbands and Broken Blossoms were both prestige pictures and The Roaring Road was one of the most popular films of the year.  As well, Broken Blossoms was directed by D.W. Griffith and many felt that it was finally time for a Griffith film to win best picture.

Instead, when the Fatty Arbuckle-hosted awards ceremony was held on February 20th, 1920 at the Hollywood Hotel, the awards for picture, director, and screenplay went to a low-budget film called Bolshevism on Trial.  Based on a novel by Thomas Dixon (who also wrote The Clansman, the novel that inspired D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation), Bolshevism on Trial told the story of a misguided and wealthy activists who attempt to start a commune on an island off the Florida coast, just to have power seized by an evil Socialist agitator named Herman.  Bolshevism on Trial may not have been as polished as the other nominees but it both tapped into the national mood and confirmed what many Americans believed about Marxism.  Bolshevism On Trial was nominated for 4 award and won 3 of them, leaving many to wonder whether D.W. Griffith was forever destined to always be a contender but never a winner.

As for the other awards, the famous magician Harry Houdini won best actor, largely for playing himself in The Grim Game.  However, shortly after winning, Houdini abandoned his acting career, saying that he could make more money by concentrating on his stage show.  Evelyn Preer made history as the first African-American to be nominated for best actress.  (She was nominated for a “race picture”, Oscar Micheaux‘s The Homesteader.)  However, the award itself was won by Mary Miles Minter for her lead role in William Desmond Taylor‘s Anne of Green Gables.

The Sixth Annual Academy Awards

(Honoring films released between January 1st and December 31st, 1919.  Winners are starred and listed in bold)

Best Picture

Blind Husbands.  Produced by Carl Laemmle.  Universal.

*Bolshevism on Trial.  Produced by Lewis J. Selzinck.  Select Pictures.

Broken Blossoms.  Produced by D.W. Griffith.  United Artists.

The Lost Battalion.  Produced by Edward McManus.  W.H. Productions.

The Miracle Man.  Produced by George Loane Tucker.  Paramount.

The Roaring Road.  Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.  Paramount.

A scene from Bolshevism on Trial

A scene from Bolshevism on Trial

Best Director, Comedy

*James Cruze for The Roading Road.  Paramount.

Joseph Henabery for His Majesty, the American.  United Artists.

Marshall Neilan for Daddy-Long-Legs.  First National.

William Desmond Taylor for Anne of Green Gables. Paramount.

James Cruze

James Cruze

Best Director, Drama

D.W. Griffith for Broken Blossoms.  United Artists.

*Harley Knoles for Bolshevism on Trial.  Select Pictures.

George Loane Tucker for The Miracle Man.  Paramount.

Erich Von Stroheim for Blind Husbands.  Universal.

A scene from Bolshevism on Trial

A scene from Bolshevism on Trial

Best Actor

Richard Barthelmess for Broken Blossoms.  United Artists.

*Harry Houdini for The Grim Game.  Paramount.

Thomas Meighan for The Miracle Man.  Paramount.

Wallace Reid for The Roaring Road.  Paramount.

Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini

Best Actress

Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms.  United Artists.

Louise Glaum in Sahara. Pathe.

*Mary Miles Minter in Anne of Green Gables. Paramount.

Evelyn Preer in The Homesteader.  Micheaux Film.

Mary Miles Minter

Mary Miles Minter

Best Writing

Blind Husbands.  Erich Von Stroheim.  Universal.

*Bolshevism on Trial.  Harry Chandlee.  Select Pictures.

Broken Blossoms.  D.W. Griffith.  United Artists.

Sahara.  C. Gardner Sullivan.  Pathe.

Bolshevism_on_Trial

Best Cinematography

Blind Husbands.  Ben F. Reynolds.  Universal.

Bolshevism on Trial.  Philip Hatkin.  Select Pictures.

*Broken Blossoms.  G.W. Bitzer.  United Artists.

The Roaring Road.  Frank Urson.  Paramount.

G.W. Bitzer

G.W. Bitzer

Best Art Direction

The Avalanche.  George Fitzmaurice.  Paramount.

*Blind Husbands. Richard Day.  Universal.

Male and Female.  Wilfred Buckland.  Paramount.

The Roaring Road.  Wilfred Buckland.  Paramount.

Blind Husbands

Blind Husbands

Best Engineering Effects

Blind Husbands.  Erich Von Stroheim.  Universal.

The Grim Game.  Harry Houdini.  Paramount.

*The Lost Battalion.  Burton L. King.  W.H. Productions.

The Roaring Road.  Frank Urson.  Paramount.

The Lost Battalion

The Lost Battalion

Best Title Writing

Blind Husbands.  Lillian Ducey.  Universal.

Broken Blossoms.  D.W. Griffith.  United Artists.

Male and Female.  Jeanie MacPherson.  Paramount.

*The Roaring Road.  Marion Fairfax.  Paramount.

The Roaring Road

The Roaring Road

Films By Number of Nominations:

7 Nominations — Blind Husbands, Broken Blossoms, The Roaring Road

4 Nominations — Bolshevism on Trial

3 Nominations — The Miracle Man

2 Nominations — Anne of Green Gables, The Grim Game, The Lost Battalion, Male and Female, Sahara

1 Nominations — The Avalanche, Daddy-Long-Legs, His Majesty, the American, The Homesteader

Films By Number of Awards

3 Awards — Bolshevism on Trial

2 Awards — The Roaring Road

1 Award — Anne of Green Gables, Blind Husbands, Broken Blossoms, The Grim Game, The Lost Battalion

Studios By Number of Nominations

17 Nominations — Paramount

8 Nominations — United Artists

7 Nominations — Universal

4 Nominations — Select Films

2 Nominations — Pathe, W.H. Productions

1 Nomination — First National, Micheaux Film

Studios By Number of Awards

4 Awards — Paramount

3 Awards — Select

1 Award — United Artists, Universal, W.H. Productions

Trivia:

Evelyn Preer is the first African-American to be nominated for best actress, as well as being the first African-American to be nominated overall.

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.