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The 11th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1939

Updated on May 6, 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..

Walt Disney and the Seven Dwarfs


11th Academy Awards

I've been writing a series about Academy Awards and up until this year (1939) I've been doing very well with my memories of the films that have been given Awards in this Ceremony. I'll have to see if this one is more of a test for me though I see many movies I know well.

The 11th Academy Awards were held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California and did not have an official host, but Cedric Hardwicke and Tyrone Power gave out most of the awards., This was the first time a foreign language film was ever nominated for Best Picture, though it didn't win. Another 'outstanding achievement' of these particular awards, this was the first time that three out of the four acting awards were won by someone who had won before.

So, pop your popcorn and sit back while we spend a little time at the movies back in 1938!

Jean Arthur


You Can't Take It With You

In the thirties, romantic comedy was done right. Subtle, yet funny and the good guy always wins! Add Frank Capra [director] to the mix and you know you've got a winner. "You Can't Take It With You" won two Academy Awards, one for Outstanding Production and one for Best Director. This was Capra's third Academy Award for Best Director. His first was in 1934 for "It Happened One Night" and his second was for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" in 1936. Seems Mr. Capra was establishing quite a pattern for himself. Of course the cast of this movie included some great actors/actresses including Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Spring Byington, Eddie Anderson, and a fifteen year old Ann Miller.

Screwball families were popular in the thirties and this movie contains one of the screwiest from Grandpa Vanderhof right on down to Penny Sycamore. However, Alice Sycamore is perfect normal and perfectly in love with Tony Kirby who happens to be from a normal, wealthy family. Adapted from the 1934 play of the same name, and when Alice invites the Kirbys to her house for dinner things turn our a little differently than she expected.

Saying more would give away the film. If you enjoy light-hearted comedies, you'll enjoy "You Can't Take It With You". Yes, I've seen it a few times and yes I enjoyed it. It certainly doesn't rank with "Gone With the Wind" but its what I call a "cute" movie.

You'll notice Mr. Barrymore is on crutches and though it was written into the script it was really the beginning of his long bout with crippling arthritis.

"isms" scene from You Can't Take it With You

Boys Town

This is the general place that the movie "Boys Town" was based on. A National Registered Historic Place and National Historic Landmark.
This is the general place that the movie "Boys Town" was based on. A National Registered Historic Place and National Historic Landmark. | Source

Boys Town

This is a biographical film based on the life of the real Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, a non-profit organization that was originally an orphanage for boys. Today it cares for children and families. It's Academy Award? Best actor to Spencer Tracy who played Father Flanagan and Best Story.

Father Flanagan believed all boys were good and wanted a place for them that would help them reach their true potential. Of course nothing comes easy. What better actor than a young Mickey Rooney to play the bad boy Father Flanagan has trouble reaching? His brother's in jail, he's been in trouble before and he just doesn't see this "good guy" stuff. His brother, Whitey, waiting for the electric chair, has paid Father Flanagan to help him.

Of course there are scenes to make you cry, like the scene when his only friend, a little boy named Pee Wee is hit by a car, or when he gets shot in the leg. You may say its a 'schmaltzy' film but, based on fact it turns from that to just a tear jerker and a testament to Father Flanagan and his strong will to help young boys. A good film to watch on a Saturday night at home and one of the 100 Best Films according to the American Film Institute.

There is some controversy about what exactly happened with Tracy's Academy Award. Some say he gave it to Father Flanagan, others say a duplicate was given to Father Flanagan...either way, Boys Town and the movie of the same name were winners.

Boys Town

Jezebel 1938

Henry Fonda as Pres and Bette Davis as Jezebel.
Henry Fonda as Pres and Bette Davis as Jezebel. | Source


A bit of controversy surrounds this movie. Rumor has it this movie was offered to Bette Davis to compensate for her losing the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind". True or not, it was a mighty compensation since she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. This film was also released before "Gone With the Wind". It doesn't have the scope and amazing scenes that were present in "Gone With the Wind" but there is character exploration and a look into the south in that period. Oh, and it isn't in color but rather it was filmed in the old black and white.

The story line is not unlike Scarlett's. A willful southern belle who loses the man she loves because of her willfulness. The most famous "issue" in the film is when she buys a red dress to wear to a ball to 'show' her beau after he puts work before her. Her beau is played by a young and handsome Henry Fonda. At that time all unmarried women were expected to wear white to the ball! When she shows up in her red dress everyone is shocked. Even she is surprised and upset by the response people show to her. But Pres (Henry Fonda) makes her dance with him and won't let her escape her shame. As a result, Pres breaks their engagement and leaves to go north. I'm sure you've guess that Pres comes back with a northern wife.

The Civil War is not the focus here, that has not happened. This movie is as much about southern customs as it is about the selfish Julie, whom her Aunt labels Jezebel. The duel that takes place as a matter of honor, is actually started by Julie, but southern men take honor seriously. The critical issue in this movie is yellow fever not the Civil War, remember this is in 1853. An outbreak of yellow fever shows the mettle of Julie, who, unlike Scarlett O'Hara, has a more caring side toward her fellow man.

The Best Supporting Actress Award was won by Fay Bainter, who superbly played Bette Davis's aunt in this film. An aunt whom everyone but Julie loved.

If you enjoyed "Gone With the Wind", if you like Bette Davis or Henry Fonda, this is a must see. Even if you don't like any of the things I've mentioned, this is a classic film worth watching.


Walter Brennan
Best Supporting Actor
Shaw et al
Best Screenplay
Rainger & Robin; "Thanks for the Memory"
Best Song
The Big Broadcasts of 1938

Errol Flynn


The Adventures of Robin Hood

This film won Best Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score. Though it was nominated for Best Picture it lost that award to "You Can't Take It With You". Who out there has never heard of Robin Hood? I'm hoping its a minority of my readers. Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor. And who out there hasn't heard of the dazzling Errol Flynn? What better actor to be Robin Hood?

The evil Prince John continually raises taxes to line his coffers while his brother, Richard the Lionhearted, is a prisoner of war. Robin, Earl of Locksley tells John he will do everything in his power to thwart him and restore Richard to the throne. Robin sets up home in Sherwood Forest where he begins to gather his band of merry men.

Another film chock full of well known actors with Olivia DeHavilland playing the lovely Maid Marion, Alan Hale, Sr. as Little John, Claude Rains as the evil John, and Basil Rathbone as the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne. People might not think of Robin and his merry men as rebels but in the true sense of the word they were, fighting for the right. Robin says, "It's injustice I hate, not the Normans."

This film was well received and Errol Flynn was inextricably linked to the role of Robin Hood. It is said the original star was James Cagney but he walked off the film to be replaced by Flynn. Roger Ebert got me thinking with a comment he made about the stars in old movies. Though there might have been one star as a headliner, the movies back then were about the story not the star. Romance was about romance, not about sex or lovemaking. The relationship between Robin and Marion was pure and, well, romantic.

A great, "swashbuckling" film with Robin/Flynn doing many of his own stunts. Swinging from ropes, jumping from walls, and of course sword fighting. You might really want to check this one out, I won't tell you how many times I've seen it, just that its worth watching.

Robin Hood

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

None of Walt Disney's pictures ever won an Academy Award. However, in 1939 "Snow White" was awarded a special Oscar for technical achievement. Actually, it was one large Oscar with seven little ones.

Snow White was innovative and still stands as one of the most beautiful animated films ever made. Adapted from the original by Hans Christian Anderson, and brought to life by Walt Disney, this is a film not to be missed.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      So true Jools, Carol Lombard was great, beautiful and funny. Glad you are enjoying, I hope to get back to it soon. I am out of state on a family emergency and can't write hubs on my IPad.

      Than you DDE.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Wow! Delightful memories and so well thought of.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      Jean Arthur was second to only Carole Lombard when it came to comedy and Boys Town was a favourite of mine whenever I saw it. This hub has given me a yearning to see it again; it's been too long. Great hubs Mary, I'm enjoying the series so far.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      They are very different Vinaya but you might enjoy comparing.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      I have watched new Robin Hood, maybe I should watch the old one to judge which one is better.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Oh Epi-man thank you so much. I find it easy to write these hubs because the films are so enjoyable and of course the Academy Awards USUALLY picks the creme de la creme. Enjoy your day!

    • epigramman profile image


      6 years ago

      This is just simply smashing , Mary, and I am a big film buff , and I must tell you sincerely that movie hubs really don't come much better than this - you have put together a series here which is a world class effort on your part and the research is excellent. Hubbravo to you from a very enthusiastic and impressed Epi-man as daybreak has come up over the lake here at lake erie time ontario canada 8:54am

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I think they invented the term 'swashbuckler' for Errol Flynn. He was great! Thanks for reading Michelle.

      You are so right Mhatter, there was just something about old movies!

      I'm so happy you enjoyed reading Vellur. Thanks for sharing and voting up.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      I saw Robin Hood and Snow White, enjoyed them and enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Okay, I'm hooked. Thank you. But there's something about cuddling up to an old classic.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      As I was reading this, I thought of Errol Flynn. Watched a few colorized versions of his movies and I must say, he was a great actor/stuntman. Thanks for sharing! Passing this around.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Oh drbj, I'll have to go dig up your Snow White interview! I somehow missed that one and I do love your interviews.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, Mary, for reminding me of these great movies. I saw 'Robin Hood' (Flynn WAS Robin Hood), 'Jezebel' (Bette Davis at her best), and 'Snow White' (one of my all-time favorite animated films). Even did an interview with her. Now I'll have to see if I can dig up some of the others you mentioned.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks WND. I know what you mean. I'll have to keep a closer eye on Turner Classic Movies to see what I can catch. Over the weekend I saw Grand Hotel with Greta Garbo and a young John Barrymore.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Bette Davis is great. I saw Boys Town. Wow, I would love to see these again.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      It is no surprise to me Steve that you would like Errol Flynn...the perfect gentleman...I agree with your deductions. "You Can't Take It With You" was a strange choice for Best Picture. Thanks, as always, for following this series.

      Carol, I am flattered that you're finding this series so much fun!

      Bill, every time I hesitate to write another one of these, I get your great comments (and others) and decide okay, one more. Thanks for the vote and shares.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. 1938 was a pretty good year for films. I've seen Boys Town, Robin Hood and of course Snow White. I really enjoy this series you have so keep them coming. Voting up, sharing, etc..

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      yes keep these coming is fun to take a trip down memory lane and when stars looked like stars and Hollywood was really hollwood.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 

      6 years ago from Manchester, England

      "Why, you speak treason!", "Fluently" The great Errol Flynn in his signature role. My favourite swashbuckler, The Adventures of Robin Hood, deserved it's Best Picture nomination and I prefer it to the other 1938 nominees and winner - You can't Take it With You - which was enjoyable but pure "Capra-corn" as Frank Capra's films were usually dubbed.

      Boys Town I haven't seen in years. Bette Davis is a great actress but I'm so glad she got Jezebel instead of Gone With the Wind. :)

      Another enjoyable read Mary. Vote Up and Interesting.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      So delightful that you are a fan of this series Sheri. Thank you.

      Oh Bill, I was afraid of the witch but not the movie (Snow White). Your encouragement about this series makes me feel good. Thank you so much dear friend.

      Cyndi, what a great coincidence that you just say "You Can't Take It With You". I am so happy you enjoyed my commentary as well.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      I only discovered the movie You Can't Take It with You just a few weeks ago. The movie is hilarious and timeless. It really was a screwball comedy with the "craziest" group of believable characters that is seldom seen in a comedy. I could see why it won best picture.

      On the other hand, Jezebel is a favorite of one of the early movies of Bette Davis. She gave an excellent performance in Jezebel. Enjoyed you commentary.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I saw Boys Town, Robin Hood and Snow White....Snow White scared me as a child. :) Mary, keep these coming. I find these very entertaining.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      6 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Another good one. I loved Jezebel. Thanks!


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