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.

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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.

The First Annual Academy Awards: 1914

Mack Sennett, the 1st President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Mack Sennett, the 1st President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Ironically, considering its current prominence in American culture, the origins of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are shrouded in mystery.

Reportedly, in February of 1914, a meeting was held in New York City that led to the founding of the Academy.  While all exact records appear to be lost, it is generally agreed that the meeting was attended by Mack Sennett, Thomas H. Ince, William Randolph Hearst, Charles O. Baumann, John R. Freuler, Samuel S. Hutchinson, Jesse Lasky, William Fox, Adolph Zukor, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, William Kennedy Dickson, Mary Pickford, J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith, Carl Laemmle, and L. Frank Baum.  By the end of the meeting, not only had the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences been formally established but producer/director Mack Sennett of Keystone Pictures had been named the organization’s first president.

While the Academy has become best known for hosting the annual Academy Awards, most film historian agree that the awards were originally something of an afterthought.  Instead, the Academy was founded by a handful of producers and other film professionals who were hoping that the organization would help to improve the young film industry’s image and potentially be used as a tool to combat Thomas Edison‘s attempts to monopolize and control all film production in the United States.  The Academy was much more concerned with labor practices and distribution deals than it was with awards.

In another attempt to try to improve the image of the film industry, the first Academy Awards were selected by a jury of prominent and respected men, none of whom were involved with the movies.  The 6-member jury consisted of:

  1. Howard Elliott, President of New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad
  2. Frank Diehl Fackenthal, educator
  3. George B. McClellan, Jr., former Mayor of New York City
  4. George Cooper Pardee, former Governor of California
  5. Francis Ouimet, golfer
  6. Booth Tarkington, writer

There is some debate as to how involved the members of the jury were in actually selecting the awards, with some historians claiming that the jury did watch every film released in 1914 while others have claimed that the selections were largely made by William Randolph Hearst, Jesse Lasky, and Mack Sennett.

(Among those who felt that Hearst, Lasky, and Sennett exercised undue influence was L. Frank Baum, who was so angry that none of his Oz films were awarded anything that he resigned from the Academy.)

The very first awards ceremony was held on the night of January 15th, 1915, in the Empire Room of the Waldorf Hotel in New York City.  After dinner, guests listened to a speech from Mack Sennett, after which Sennett proceeded to hand out certificates of merits to the honorees, all of whom had been informed of their victory ahead of time.  Reportedly, there were no acceptance speeches.  After the awards had been handed out, Democratic New York State Senator Stanford Von Willken Moore IV delivered a speech on the importance of eugenics, world peace, segregation, and prohibition.

The 1914 Academy Awards

(All films released in the U.S. during 1914 were considered to be eligible.  Only winners were announced)

Best Picture

The Squaw Man, produced by Jesse L. Lasky, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel.  Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company.

Dustin Farnum and Lillian St. Cyr in The Squaw Man

Dustin Farnum and Lillian St. Cyr in The Squaw Man

Best Director

Edward S. Curtis for In The Land of the Head Hunters.  World Film.

A scene from In The Land of the Headhunters

A scene from In The Land of the Head Hunters

Best Actor

Henry B. Walthall in The Avenging Conscience.  Mutual Film.

Henry B. Walthall in The Avenging Conscience

Henry B. Walthall in The Avenging Conscience

Best Actress

Blanche Sweet in Judith of Bethulia.  Biograph Company.

Blanche Sweet in Judith of Bethulia

Blanche Sweet in Judith of Bethulia

Best Screenplay

Mr . Barnes of New York.  Eugene Mullin. Vitagraph Studios.

A scene from Mr. Barnes of New York

A scene from Mr. Barnes of New York

Trivia:

The Squaw Man is the first western to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Both the winner for best actor and for best actress appeared in films directed by D.W. Griffith.

For the first of two times, no nominees were announced before the ceremony.

For the first of two times, no film won more than a single Oscar.