1936 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
"THE GREAT ZIEGFELD", "Anthony Adverse", "Dodsworth", "Libeled Lady", "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", "Romeo and Juliet", "San Francisco", "The Story of Louis Pasteur", "A Tale of Two Cities", "Three Smart Girls"
PAUL MUNI in "The Story of Louis Pasteur", Gary Cooper in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", Walter Huston in "Dodsworth", William Powell in "My Man Godfrey", Spencer Tracy in "San Francisco"
LUISE RAINER in "The Great Ziegfeld", Irene Dunne in "Theodora Goes Wild", Gladys George in "Valiant Is the Word for Carrie", Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey", Norma Shearer in "Romeo and Juliet"
WALTER BRENNAN in "Come and Get It", Mischa Auer in "My Man Godfrey", Stuart Erwin in "Pigskin Parade", Basil Rathbone in "Romeo and Juliet", Akim Tamiroff in "The General Died at Dawn"
GALE SONDERGAARD in "Anthony Adverse", Beulah Bondi in "The Gorgeous Hussy", Alice Brady in "My Man Godfrey", Bonita Granville in "These Three," Maria Ouspenskaya in "Dodsworth"
FRANK CAPRA for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", Gregory La Cava for "My Man Godfrey", Robert Z. Leonard for "The Great Ziegfeld", W. S. Van Dyke for "San Francisco", William Wyler for "Dodsworth"
1936 was the first year that the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories were added. Those winners would win plaques, rather than statuettes, until 1943's ceremony.
Five of the ten Best Picture nominees in 1936 were MGM pictures: The Great Ziegfeld, Libeled Lady, Romeo and Juliet, San Francisco, and A Tale of Two Cities.
In the mid-1930s, the trend was toward major film biographies (or biopics), and there were two among the Best Picture nominees in 1936. The first was director Robert Z. Leonard's and MGM's three-hour costly musical extravaganza (with seven elaborate production numbers, twenty-three songs, and headliner stars William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Luise Rainer), The Great Ziegfeld (with seven nominations and three wins - Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Dance Direction). It was MGM's most costly biopic to date, costing $2 million.
It combined the elements of the musical and the screen biography about the famous Broadway impresario and showman Florenz Ziegfeld. The film followed Ziegfeld's career rise from his lowly beginnings to the days of his extravagant Ziegfeld Follies, including his complicated love life with two marriages to beautiful actresses Anna Held (Rainer) and Billie Burke (Loy).
The second biopic of the year was director William Dieterle's and Warner Bros.' The Story of Louis Pasteur (with four nominations and three wins - Best Actor, Best Original Story, and Best Screenplay) about the life of the great medical science pioneer/chemist who discovered the anthrax vaccine that saved French cattle from the black plague.
The eight other films nominated for Best Picture included:
- director Mervyn LeRoy's romantic swashbuckler Anthony Adverse (with seven nominations and four wins - Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Score, and Best Film Editing) based on Hervey Allen's novel about a 19th century man seeking his fortune
- director Jack Conway's lavish version of the Dickens' French Revolution classic A Tale of Two Cities (with two nominations and no wins)
- director Henry Koster's Three Smart Girls (with three nominations and no wins) about three sisters who plot to reunite their divorced parents (the first feature film of 15 year-old Universal singing star Deanna Durbin)
- director Jack Conway's funny screwball comedy Libeled Lady (with one nomination and no wins) with stars Tracy, Powell, Loy, and Harlow
- director W.S. Van Dyke's and MGM's quasi-historical musical/drama San Francisco (with five nominations and one win - Best Sound Recording) about a romance between an aspiring opera singer (Jeanette MacDonald) and a Barbary Coast saloon owner (Clark Gable), and with Spencer Tracy as a priest - most notable for its fantastic, 10-minute earthquake sequence
- director William Wyler's tale Dodsworth (with seven nominations and one win - Best Interior Decoration) of a disintegrating marriage between a retiring, self-made American industrial tycoon and his wife - based on a Sinclair Lewis novel
- director Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (with five nominations and one win - Best Director), a version of Clarence Budington Kelland's play Opera Hut about a philanthropic Vermonter who inherited a fortune and had a hard-edged female reporter in hot pursuit in New York
- director George Cukor's (and 37 year old MGM producer Irving Thalberg's final picture before his sudden death) lavish version of the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet (with four nominations and no wins) with two over-aged 'teenage' lovers in the starring roles, one of whom was Norma Shearer (Thalberg's recent widow); at the time of the film's making, Shearer was 34 and co-star Leslie Howard was 44
It is now considered outrageous that The Great Ziegfeld defeated such superior films as Dodsworth, Libeled Lady and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
Capra's Best Director Award for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was his second (he won Best Director in 1934, 1936, and 1938), defeating William Wyler for Dodsworth, Gregory La Cava's superb screwball comedy My Man Godfrey (with six nominations and no wins) about a "forgotten man" who is retrieved during a scavenger hunt and becomes a wise butler, W. S. Van Dyke for San Francisco, and Robert Z. Leonard for The Great Ziegfeld. [Two of Capra's films were also Best Picture winners: It Happened One Night (1934), and You Can't Take It With You (1938).]
The first film to receive nominations in each of the four acting categories was My Man Godfrey - remarkably, none of the nominees won awards. The definitive, classic film was also not nominated for Best Picture - a very rare occurrence, happening again in 1948, 1965, and 2008. [It was the first time that a film which swept the acting and directing nominations failed to receive a Best Picture nomination.] Its place was taken by Libeled Lady.
Paul Muni (who became known for his fine performances in screen biographies and had starred a few years earlier in director Howard Hawks' Scarface (1932) as an "Al Capone-like" gangster, and was award-nominated for his role in I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)) won the Best Actor award for his role (his third nomination and first Oscar win) as the pioneering French medical scientist who battles against unseen killers and discovers pasteurization in The Story of Louis Pasteur.
The other Best Actor nominees included:
- Walter Huston (with his first nomination) as Sam Dodsworth in Dodsworth
- Gary Cooper (with his first nomination) as the tuba-playing philanthropist Longfellow Deeds in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
- William Powell (with his second nomination) in the lead role as bum-turned-butler Godfrey Parke in My Man Godfrey
- Spencer Tracy (with his first of three consecutive nominations) as priest Father Mullin in the romanticized San Francisco - a film most remembered for its terrific 1906 earthquake special effects
Controversially, Austrian import Luise Rainer (with her first nomination and first Oscar win) in only her second Hollywood film (and in a minor and short screen role), won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Parisian ex-wife Anna Held, the first of impresario Ziegfeld's (William Powell) wives. It has been generally acknowledged that her moving and poignant telephone scene in the film in which she congratulates her ex-husband Flo on his forthcoming second marriage (to co-star Myrna Loy's Billie Burke) won her the award. Dialogue included: "Hello, Flo... Yes, yes, Anna... I could not help but call on you and congratulate you... Wonderful, Flo, never better in my whole life... It's all so wonderful, and I'm so happy... I hope you are happy, too." [Rainer would win back-to-back Best Actress awards with her successive win in 1937 for her role in The Good Earth.]
Rainer took the award away from four other exceptional actresses:
- comedienne Carole Lombard (with her sole nomination) as socialite Irene Bullock in My Man Godfrey
- thirty-six year old Norma Shearer (with her fifth nomination) as star-crossed lover Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
- Irene Dunne (with her second of five unsuccessful nominations) in her first comedic role as anonymous, best-selling author Theodora Lynn who writes steamy books and lives in a scandalized small-town in Connecticut in director Richard Boleslawski's Theodora Goes Wild (with two nominations and no wins)
- Gladys George (with her sole nomination) as self-sacrificing Carrie Snyder in director Wesley Ruggles' melodramatic Valiant Is the Word for Carrie (the film's sole nomination)
Walter Brennan (with his first nomination and first Oscar win) was the first recipient of the Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as Swedish-accented lumberjack Swan Bostrom in director William Wyler's and Howard Hawks' Come and Get It (with two nominations and one win), based on Edna Ferber's novel about lumbering and an unusual love triangle among the characters. Swan Bostrom was buddied over the years with fellow lumberjack Barney Glasgow (Edward Arnold), who became fixated on Lotta Bostrom, Swan's daughter who was born of the mistress/saloon singer Lotta Morgan (Frances Farmer playing both roles) that he had dumped over twenty years earlier. Barney was also competing with his own son Richard Glasgow (Joel McCrea) for her affections. It was Brennan's first of three supporting awards during his entire prolific career.
The other four Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
- Russian born actor Mischa Auer (with his sole nomination) as piano-playing protege Carlo (famous for a gorilla imitation) in My Man Godfrey
- Stuart Erwin (with his sole nomination) as water-melon tossing football team hero Amos Dodd in Pigskin Parade (the film's sole nomination - with Judy Garland as Erwin's sister in her first feature film)
- Basil Rathbone (with his first nomination) as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet
- Akim Tamiroff as ruthless Chinese warlord General Yang in director Lewis Milestone's The General Died at Dawn (with three nominations and no wins)
Gale Sondergaard (with her first nomination and in her film debut) won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as the scheming and ambitious housekeeper Faith Paleologus who comes between Fredric March and Olivia DeHavilland in the costume drama Anthony Adverse. This marked the first time that any actor/actress had ever won a major acting award in their first film. [The next time this would happen would be ten years later - with Harold Russell's Best Supporting Actor Award for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)]. Sondergaard was also the first to receive the Best Supporting Actress award.
The remaining four Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
- sixty year-old Russian born Maria Ouspenskaya (in her film debut) as Austrian Baroness von Obersdorf - the mother of Ruth Chatterton's prospective fiancee in Dodsworth
- thirteen year-old actress Bonita Granville (with her sole nomination) as the malicious, lying pupil Mary Tilford in director William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour titled These Three (the film's sole nomination) - Bonita Granville's nomination made her the first child to earn a nomination
- Alice Brady (with her first nomination) as New York socialite Angelica Bullock (mother of co-star Carole Lombard) in My Man Godfrey
- Beulah Bondi (with her first nomination) as President Andrew Jackson's backwoods wife Rachel Jackson in director Clarence Brown's fictionalized historical drama The Gorgeous Hussy (with two nominations and no wins)
Walt Disney was awarded his fifth (consecutive) Short Subject: Cartoon award for Country Cousin.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
There were many deserving non-nominees in many categories in 1936:
- a Best Picture nomination for My Man Godfrey
- a Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor nomination for Charlie Chaplin's last silent film, the masterpiece Modern Times
- a Best Director and Best Picture nomination for Fritz Lang's Fury
- a Best Actress nomination for Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
- a Best Actress nomination for Jean Harlow in Libeled Lady (with only a sole nomination for Best Picture!)
- a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Spencer Tracy in MGM's spectacular San Francisco
- acting category nominations and a Best Picture nomination for Swing Time
Jean Harlow (a Christian Scientist who refused medical treatment) died in Hollywood on June 7, 1937, about three months after the 1936 awards ceremony (March 4, 1937), of acute uremic poisoning. And it was extremely unfortunate that Carole Lombard didn't win in the category of Best Actress for My Man Godfrey - her best chance at an Oscar before her tragic, early death.