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The 10th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1938

Updated on March 22, 2013
tillsontitan profile image

Mary has been a movie fan since she was a little girl. She watched movies every night of the week on Million Dollar Theater..

1938 Oscar


Academy Award History

I have been writing a series about Academy Awards Ceremonies over the years, but have been sporadic in the years I've written about. Now, I am filling in to make this series more complete.

The Academy Awards Ceremony of 1948 was held in March at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. It was scheduled to be held earlier in the month but due to flooding wasn't held until March 10th. The rainy weather was the worst in Los Angeles since 1884. Described as "a killer flood of the century" in the L.A. Times, which went on to say ninety-six people died across Southern California and fifteen hundred homes destroyed.

This year's host was Bob Burns. If you're like me, you're not familiar with Bob Burns. He was an actor but played many minor roles until around 1935-36. Sadly, I am not familiar with any of his movies like, "Quick Millions" or "Young As You Feel".

Academy Award Categories come and go and it seems 1938 was the last year for Best Dance Direction and Best Assistant Director Awards. There were other things of note in this Oscar year; the first year a movie was nominated for ten awards, the first time an actress won an Oscar two years in a row, a color film received a nomination for Best Picture, certainly a banner year for the Oscars.

Who was this two time Oscar winning actress? In 1937 Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Award for her role in "The Great Ziegfeld". This year it was to be for "The Good Earth". Although these two movie roles were worlds apart, Ms. Rainer, obviously, carried them both off with charm and believe-ability. Hollywood nicknamed her ""The Viennese Teardrop". From the research I have done it appears Ms. Rainer is still alive at 103. The last picture I can find of her is on her 102nd birthday last January but neither can I find anything credible saying she has passed away. Certainly a tribute to longevity as well as acting!

I think it is time to move on to the Academy Awards in 1938.

Luise Rainer

The beautiful Luise Rainer
The beautiful Luise Rainer | Source

The Good Earth

Although this movie won for Best Actress as I've already mentioned, I thought I would start with it. If you've read Pearl S. Buck's book you couldf stop now, however, assuming many of you have not, I will continue. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is about a farming family in China before WWII. I only read the book once but saw the movie several times. In 2004 the book was returned to the Best Seller list after Oprah chose it for her book club!

The story starts out with Wang Lung and O-Lan's wedding. It is hard to understand many of the actions of O-Lan but during times of famine and poverty people will often do terrible things to survive and help their family to survive. Through the bad years they survived by begging and stealing. When money comes to the family again there are many conflicts.

Duty to family and reverence of the land are portrayed throughout this movie. Though O-Lan is not considered beautiful she is a loving asset to Wang Lung. Their children are sometimes cause of heart ache and conflict but I will leave the details so you can see them for yourself. When Wang Lung has money again he buys a prostitute, shaming O-Lan, but she stands by him and never condemns him.

The scene of the locust descending on the land is incredibly done considering the year of this movie and coupled with Wang Lung's faith in his son's methods for dealing with the locust it is a very emotional scene, well to me anyway.

It is said this movie helped America to gain an understanding and sympathy for China that it did not have before and might never have had were it not for this movie.

According to Wikipedia it took three years to make this movie and it was filmed entirely in California. There were problems with trying to film in China. It is believed a different version of this film was released in China. Makeup was used to make the American cast look oriental. Paul Muni and Luise Rainer were excellent in this film which is definitely worth viewing. A true piece of history.

Paul Muni - Some of His Films

  • Scarface
  • I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  • Black Fury
  • We Are Not Alone
  • Stage Door Canteen
  • A Song to Remember
  • Angel on My Shoulder
  • Hudson's Bay
  • The Last Angry Man

The Life of Emile Zola

Outstanding Picture Award, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Though "The Life of Emile Zola" was nominated for ten awards, it only won these three.

This is a biographical film about the real life of author Emile Zola. Zola was a celebrated novelist, more well paid than Victor Hugo, and according to Wikipedia, "became a figurehead among the literary bourgeoisie". Novelist, optimist, poet, scientist, all describe Emile Zola. His writings include images of the catastrophe that was to befall France, but the movie focuses more on his involvement with the Dreyfus Affair. Dreyfus had been wrongly imprisoned on Devil's Island. Years later Dreyfus' wife, Lucie, pleads with Zola to take up her husband's cause.

His attempts to bring justice to Dreyfus land him a jail sentence for libel for he has to accuse French officials of wrongdoing in order to prove Dreyfus innocent. Of course he is right and perjury and cover-ups have kept Dreyfus in prison. Zola is sentenced to a year in prison but manages to escape to England. In England he continues to write on Dreyfus' behalf. If you know about the Dreyfus Affair then you know Zola was successful when a new administration in France exonerated Dreyfus.

I won't give away the ending of the film, I try never to do that so you can see it for yourself. I will say Paul Muni is an excellent actor. As mentioned above he co-starred in "The Good Earth" and was also in "The Story of Louis Pasteur", to name just two. He worked for Warner Brothers Studios and was such a well known and well liked actor of the times he was able to choose which movies he wanted to be in.

While you might not find this the best movie ever, it is a good movie and a good history lesson with a good performance by Muni.

Zola's speech in court

Illustration from the book "Captains Courageous"

The ship "We're Here" as illustrated in Kipling's book.
The ship "We're Here" as illustrated in Kipling's book. | Source

Captains Courageous

Probably one of America's all time favorite actors is Spencer Tracy. We've seen him alone and we've seen him with Hepburn. Here he stars in Captains Courageous and wins a Best Actor Award for doing it!

An adventure film based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling. I have to admit I didn't know it was based on a novel until I started researching this piece. This movie has a star-studded cast. Along with Tracy is Freddie Bartholomew, Melvyn Douglas, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney, and John Carradine. Set at sea it is the tale of a very spoiled and selfish little boy whose rich father can't do a thing with him. His father decides to take him on a business trip to England. In another display of arrogance, the boy falls overboard. According to Wikipedia, he is rescued by a Portuguese-American fisherman, Manuel Fidello, and taken aboard the fishing schooner We're Here. He fails to persuade captain Disko Troop to take him ashore,and he can't convince the Captain that he is wealthy.

So our young man is forced to stay on the ship and is offered a low paying job. The movie continues with Harvey (our young boy) learning the ways of the world aboard this fishing ship. He becomes friends with Manuel[Spencer Tracy] who is his mentor on the ship. Manuel is able to teach Harvey how to fish and how to respect the sea. As is my wont, I will not tell you the end of the story but make you watch it and see for yourself.

After reading this many of the ladies out there may think its a man's movie, but trust me, it isn't. Watching Harvey 'grow up' and the bond that forms between him and Manuel, well, you just have to see it for yourself.

Captains Courageous

Other Academy Awards for 1938

Leo McCarey
Best Director
The Awful Truth
Alice Brady
Best Supporting Actress
In Old Chicago
Wellman & Carson
Best Story
A Star is Born
Best Score
One Hundred Men and a Girl
Stephen Gosson
Best Art Direction
Lost Horizon
Thomas Moulton & United Artists
Best Sound Recording
The Hurricane
Havlik & Melton
Best Film Editing
Lost Horizon
Robert Webb
Best Assistant Director
In Old Chicago

Janet Gaynor

Janet Gaynor in "A Star is Born"
Janet Gaynor in "A Star is Born" | Source

The Hurricane

Academy Picks

While not considered a big winner, "Lost Horizon" won two Academy Awards. Any movie directed by Frank Capra is a good one and this adaptation of James Hilton's book is no exception. Eutopia, Shangri-La, a place we'd all like to find. The Himalayas are not where you'd expect to find this paradise but a plane crash brings our hero, a veteran of the British Diplomatic service to just such a place. He is not alone on the plane and the only fatality of the crash is the pilot. Watching them trek through the snowy mountains only to come out in Shangri-La can play with one's imagination. Its a treacherous trip but they manage to find Shangri-La, the beautiful valley where no one ever ages, unless they leave the valley whereupon they will age rapidly and die. A feel good movie and if you like Ronald Colman, Jane Wyette and their pairing with Frank Capra this is a must see on your list.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention "A Star is Born". Not the version with Judy Garland but the original with Janet Gaynor. It won the Best Story Oscar, after having been nominated for seven awards, and is about a young woman who goes to Hollywood to become an actress. Some believe this movie was based on real life actress Barbara Stanwyck and her marriage to one Frank Fay. The young woman meets an older, drunken actor who helps her with her career. They get married and he does quit drinking, for a while. She becomes very successful, and there I will leave this film. If you haven't seen it I don't want to ruin the end for you.

The last film I'll mention here is "The Hurricane". I have to say it is a depressing but interesting movie that I have seen several times. It was nominated for three Academy Awards but only won for Best Sound Recording. The love story, the twist in plot, and the fantastic hurricane are what make this film. Dorothy Lamour doesn't hurt either! The trials of Terangi (the main, male character) begin after his marriage to Ms. Lamour. He is a Polynesian sailor and while out on a trip gets into a fight and winds up in jail. From there things do not get better for him. You will hold your breath, hope for the best, and won't be disappointed. Take a look and see what you think.

I hope you've enjoyed this look into 1937. All comments and thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.

Copyright - Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Stars. I just think the whole concept of these classic films is great. A time in history and a time when actors really cared about their craft.

    • stars439 profile image


      6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      So very fascinating. I love their clothes. The black , and white photos look good too. Thank you for this. GBY.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Drbj, I am loving this series and it seems each year provides more wonderful movies I had forgotten about. Thanks for visiting and for the vote!

      Michelle, "Good Earth" was truly a historical piece both in literature and in life. As everyone keeps saying, they don't make movies like these anymore. I am always so happy to see you here!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Oh, both the movie and novel for the Good Earth were eye openers. It is one of my favorite pieces of literature! Thanks for sharing this list of wonderful, thought provoking movies!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Another amazing summation of Oscar-awarded films, Mary. Love this series, y'know. I have seen 'The Good Earth,' 'Captains Courageous,' 'Emile Zola,' and 'Lost Horizon.' They just don't make movies like those any more! Voted up.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I am honored to have you here Eddy...hope your weekend is great too!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Another brilliant hub tillontitan and have a a great weekend,Eddy.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      WND I guess 'depressing' was the norm in 1947, but they are both excellent movies for the day.

      I think you would enjoy it Vinaya as it very closely follows the book.

      MHatter thank you for your faithful following!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Well put together as always. Thank you for this.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      The Good Earth is one of my favorite novels. Perhaps I should watch the movie.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      The hurricane movie (though I wish it wasn't depressing) and Spencer Tracy - I would love to see those.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks bdegiulio. I have to admit these are even before my time, that's OLD ;) They're great history pieces and entertaining too. I enjoy your comments and appreciate your vote and share!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. These are a little before my time but I love this trip down memory lane. You have a great series going here so keep it going. Great job. Voting up, sharing, etc..

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      It was before most of our times Kathryn, even mine ;) but I agree they are interesting to look at. Glad you enjoyed.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      6 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      That was way before my time, but it is interesting to take a look back at what movies were like back then. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Deborah you are so welcome. I hope we can always keep the past alive.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      What a wonderful hub.. I love top watch the Oscars and to revisit the past thank you.. I love it

      voted up and sharing


    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      It would be Sheri if they didn't ruin it. I know the old version is outdated but it had a simplicity that made it good. Thank you for reading my friend.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      6 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Great Hub. The Good Earth is one of my all time favorite books. Wouldn't it be great if they did a remake of that film now? Thanks for this.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Steve, you crack me up! Yes, the 1938 Oscars are for films in theaters in 1937. Not to worry, I don't mind ;) Muni was great in Scarface, made you think he might've really been like that, going nuts and all. Hmm, I hope your Lost Horizon didn't wind up lost :) Glad you're enjoying my series and so very happy to see you here and voting, thank you.

      Ah Bill, there are things older than we are, honest! I'll keep 'em coming as long as you keep on reading, thanks dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I saw "A Star Is Born" but that's it. Thank God! These were ten years before I was born so at least now I don't feel quite so old. LOL Keep these coming, Mary; very entertaining.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 

      6 years ago from Manchester, England

      Just to clarify this are films from 1937 that won Oscars in 1938. I'm confusing myself now, I'm sure I mentioned A Day at the Races as a favourite in a previous Oscar hub. Never mind. :)

      Zola? Wasn't there a hit song by the Kinks called Zola? Oh wait no that was Lola. :)

      I'm alright now Mary. I watched Emile Zola about a year ago, a bit of a Paul Muni fan after seeing Scarface as a teenager. The Good Earth was great too, the cloud of locusts at the end was very well done.

      The Hurricane I haven't seen in years, I remember the storm at the end was well handled for a film of that time.

      Disaster films were popular in the late 30's, In Old Chicago and San Francisco were very popular, so was The Rains Came.

      I bought Lost Horizon on DVD, a disaster of a different kind.

      Keep em coming! Voted Up and Interesting.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Unfortunately LA, I think "class" is a thing of the past. More elegance, more care with actually acting are evident in years gone by. Thanks for reading.

    • LA Elsen profile image

      LA Elsen 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Voted up and interesting. I loved this hub. Old Hollywood and the film industry appear to be from a different planet compared to today. Pure class compared to the 2013 Oscars.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks so much for the vote and pin Carol! I think you're right, movies were more about the story then and less about the razzle, dazzle.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      As always it is fun to take one of your trips down memory lane..and of course we all know how much things have changed in the cinema department. Stories today are often irrelevant due to all the technology that movies are filled with. Great hub and so much fun. Voting up and pinning.


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