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 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.