1942 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®
"MRS. MINIVER", "The Invaders", "Kings Row", "The Magnificent Ambersons", "The Pied Piper", "The Pride of the Yankees", "Random Harvest", "The Talk of the Town", "Wake Island", "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
JAMES CAGNEY in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", Ronald Colman in "Random Harvest", Gary Cooper in "The Pride of the Yankees", Walter Pidgeon in "Mrs. Miniver", Monty Woolley in "The Pied Piper"
GREER GARSON in "Mrs. Miniver", Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager", Katharine Hepburn in "Woman of the Year", Rosalind Russell in "My Sister Eileen", Teresa Wright in "The Pride of the Yankees"
VAN HEFLIN in "Johnny Eager", William Bendix in "Wake Island", Walter Huston in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", Frank Morgan in "Tortilla Flat", Henry Travers in "Mrs. Miniver"
TERESA WRIGHT in "Mrs. Miniver", Gladys Cooper in "Now, Voyager", Agnes Moorehead in "The Magnificent Ambersons", Susan Peters in "Random Harvest", Dame May Whitty in "Mrs. Miniver"
WILLIAM WYLER for "Mrs. Miniver", Michael Curtiz for "Yankee Doodle Dandy", John Farrow for "Wake Island", Mervyn LeRoy for "Random Harvest", Sam Wood for "Kings Row"
The country was in the midst of World War II, and many of the awards (and the themes of the films of 1942) reflected the country's pre-occupation with the war or the conflict. Some of the nominated 1942 films with propagandistic war themes included Mrs. Miniver, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Wake Island, The Invaders, The Pied Piper, To the Shores of Tripoli, This Above All, and The Fleet's In, to name a few.
The Best Picture winner, Mrs. Miniver was an influential film that helped to contribute to the Allied effort. The intense British melodrama was the story of a brave, upper middle class British family (headed by Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon) struggling during the war with the parents separated. In particular, it provided a picture of a courageous English woman who met the demands of wartime. The film ended with the oratorical words of the vicar (Henry Wilcoxon): "This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters. Fight it then. Fight it with all that is in us. And may God defend the right!"
Director William Wyler's Mrs. Miniver, adapted from Jan Struther's series of articles, was nominated with twelve nominations in all the major categories and won six Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best B/W Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (to four writers, one being James Hilton who had written many other novels that became famous films, including Lost Horizon (1937), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), and Random Harvest (1942)).
The film garnered Oscar nominations and/or wins in all four acting categories. [It was the first film in Academy history to receive five acting nominations.] The Miniver family consisted of the architect husband, played by Walter Pidgeon (nominated for Best Actor), joined by his indomitable wife Greer Garson (nominated for Best Actress for the title role), and their daughter-in-law Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright, nominated for Best Supporting Actress). Both Pidgeon and Garson had appeared as a popular romantic film couple before, most recently in the Best Picture-nominated film Blossoms in the Dust (1941). Pidgeon and Garson would appear in many more films together as husband-wife. Henry Travers and Dame May Whitty were nominated for supporting roles as Mr. Ballard and as the village matriarch Lady Beldon (co-star Teresa Wright's grandmother).
The defeated Best Picture nominees in 1942 included:
- director Orson Welles' second film - the badly mutilated film by RKO, adapted from a Booth Tarkington novel The Magnificent Ambersons (with four nominations and no wins), about a spoiled aristocrat who eventually lost everything
- director Sam Wood's melodramatic film based on Harry Bellamann's best-selling novel Kings Row (with three nominations and no wins) about a psychiatric doctor in a small Middle American town
- a second-nominated Sam Wood film The Pride of the Yankees (with eleven nominations and only one win - Best Film Editing by Daniel Mandell) - one of the best sports (baseball) drama films ever made, a moving biopic about Lou Gehrig
- director Mervyn LeRoy's tearjerker love story Random Harvest (with seven nominations and no wins), based on James Hilton's novel about a WWI amnesiac (Ronald Colman) who regains his memory and then forgets his true love and wife Paula (co-star Greer Garson)
- director George Stevens' romantic screwball comedy/melodrama involving a law professor, an accused murderer/arsonist, and the school-teacher girl in-between in The Talk of the Town (with seven nominations and no wins)
- director Michael Powell's British/Canadian film The Invaders (aka 49th Parallel) (with three nominations and one win - Best Original Story for Emeric Pressburger) about six Nazi U-boat survivors who are forced to land in Canada and then attempt to cross the border into the US; the film was made in 1941 and released in the US a year later [it was the first British-made film to receive a Best Picture nomination in Academy history]
- director Irving Pichel's The Pied Piper (with three nominations and no wins) about children fleeing the Nazis in war-torn Europe
- director John Farrow's and Paramount's realistic military drama Wake Island (with four nominations and no wins), a fictionalized tale about heroically-doomed Marine soldiers (Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, and William Bendix) defending a South Pacific island - one of the first major battles after Pearl Harbor
- director Michael Curtiz' spectacular patriotic musical Yankee Doodle Dandy (with eight nominations and three wins - Best Actor, Best Sound Recording, and Best Musical Score). It was the first time that a living US President was portrayed in a motion picture
William Wyler won his first of three career Oscars as Best Director for Mrs. Miniver - he was eventually to become the most-nominated director in Academy history, with 12 nominations (from 1936 to 1965). This was Wyler's fifth Best Director nomination in seven years - he was previously nominated in 1936, 1939, 1940, and 1941. This was also Wyler's seventh film in a row to receive a Best Picture nomination - and in this year, his film finally won the Best Picture award.
Both Greer Garson and Ronald Colman starred in two films nominated for Best Picture in 1942.
James Cagney (with his second nomination) won the Best Actor award - his first and only Oscar - for his hyper-kinetic performance as patriotic songwriter/dance man and ex-vaudevillian George M. Cohan in the escapist Yankee Doodle Dandy. The Oscar win made him the first male performer/actor to win the award for a musical performance. [Note: Luise Rainer, Best Actress winner for The Great Ziegfeld (1936), and Alice Brady, Best Supporting Actress winner for In Old Chicago (1937), were in films with musical numbers, but their roles were non-musical.]
Cagney defeated a number of marvelous actors in the same category:
- Ronald Colman (with his third nomination) as shell-shocked amnesiac Charles Rainier in Random Harvest - Colman also appeared in the Best Picture-nominated The Talk of the Town as Supreme Court judge candidate Michael Lightcap
- Gary Cooper (with his third nomination) in one of his greatest roles as baseball star Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees
- Walter Pigdeon (with his first of two consecutive unsuccessful nominations) as pipe-smoking Mr. Clem Miniver (co-star Greer Garson's husband) in Mrs. Miniver
- Monty Woolley (with his first of two unsuccessful nominations) as Howard - an Englishman vacationing in France who becomes the savior of British children when the Nazis invade in The Pied Piper
Greer Garson (with her third nomination) won the Best Actress award - her first and only Oscar - as the nobly defiant Mrs. Kay Miniver - with reportedly the longest or wordiest acceptance speech in Academy history (anywhere ranging from about 6 minutes to as long as an hour according to various sources). This was her second in a record-breaking five consecutive nominations: Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945). (Garson's earliest nomination was for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Her seventh and final nomination was for Sunrise at Campobello (1960) in her role as Eleanor Roosevelt.)
Defeated Best Actress nominees included:
- Bette Davis (with her sixth nomination) with her incomparable performance as lonely, 'ugly duckling' spinster Charlotte Vale (transformed by therapy) in director Irving Rapper's soap opera film Now, Voyager (1942) (with three nominations and one win - Best Dramatic Score for Max Steiner), based on Olive Higgins Prouty's melodrama
- Katharine Hepburn (with her fourth nomination) in her first film pairing with Spencer Tracy as political journalist Tess Harding in director George Stevens' Woman of the Year (with two nominations and one win - Best Original Screenplay)
- Rosalind Russell (with her first of four unsuccessful nominations) as Ruth Sherwood, one of two small-town Ohio sisters who live in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village in director Alexander Hall's My Sister Eileen (the film's sole nomination)
- Teresa Wright (with simultaneous nominations in two categories, her second and third - and last - career nominations) as Eleanor Twitchell/Gehrig, Gehrig's girlfriend/wife in The Pride of the Yankees
The Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner was thirty-two year-old Van Heflin (with his sole career nomination) - it was his first and only Oscar - as the Shakespeare-quoting, alcoholic confidant Jeff Hartnett who befriends gangster co-star Robert Taylor - an unscrupulous, underworld racketeer in pursuit of Lana Turner in director Mervyn LeRoy's crime melodrama Johnny Eager. [Van Heflin was the youngest actor to date to win an Academy award.]
The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
- William Bendix (with his sole career nomination) as Marine sergeant Aloysius (Smacksie) Randall in Wake Island
- Walter Huston (with his third nomination) as Jerry Cohan - George Cohan's father in Yankee Doodle Dandy
- Frank Morgan (with his second and last unsuccessful career nomination) as an eccentric dog lover ('The Pirate') in director Victor Fleming's film of John Steinbeck's novel Tortilla Flat (the film's sole nomination)
- Henry Travers (with his sole career nomination) as stationmaster Mr. Ballard in Mrs. Miniver
Teresa Wright was nominated for an Oscar award for each of her first three performances (one in 1941 and two in 1942):
- Best Supporting Actress for The Little Foxes (1941)
- Best Supporting Actress for Mrs. Miniver (1942)
- Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
[Wright was the second nominee in awards history to receive simultaneous nominations in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. The first was Fay Bainter in 1938.] Wright won the Best Supporting Oscar - her first and only Oscar - for her Mrs. Miniver role as the ill-fated Carol Beldon, rich daughter-in-law of the Minivers - a two-week-old bride of the Miniver's aviator RAF son (Richard Ney), who was killed during an air-raid bombing attack.
The other Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
- Gladys Cooper (with the first of three unsuccessful nominations) as Bette Davis' oppressive, icy mother Mrs. Henry Windle Vale in Now, Voyager
- Susan Peters (with her sole career nomination) as Charles Rainier's (Ronald Colman) fiancee Kitty in Random Harvest
- Dame May Whitty (with her second and last career nomination) as village matriarch Lady Beldon in Mrs. Miniver
- Agnes Moorehead (with the first of four unsuccessful nominations) as spinster Fanny Minafer in The Magnificent Ambersons. [Moorehead would be nominated three more times for Best Supporting Actress, for Mrs. Parkington (1944), Johnny Belinda (1948), and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) and she lost those bids too.]
Holiday Inn, starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby had three nominations (including Best Original Story by Irving Berlin and Best Score by Robert Emmett Dolan), and it won Best Song for "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin). And this was the year of Disney's animated classic, Bambi, also with three nominations (Best Score, Best Sound, and Best Song ("Love is a Song")) but no wins. The first of two pairings of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, in You Were Never Lovelier (with the same three nominations for Score, Song, and Sound) also went un-rewarded. [Best Sound was won by Yankee Doodle Dandy.]
Pig Foot Pete, an Academy Award nominee for Best Song, was attributed to Hellzapoppin' though it never appeared in that film. It actually appeared in the earlier Bud Abbott and Lou Costello film, Keep 'Em Flying (1941), and under Academy rules it should have been found ineligible.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Although Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons was nominated for Best Picture, Welles himself was denied a Best Director nomination, and its major star Joseph Cotten also went unrecognized.
Ernst Lubitsch's brilliant farcical comedy To Be or Not To Be set in Warsaw, Poland with its story of a theatre troupe at the time of the Nazi occupation, with an un-nominated Jack Benny as a cuckolded husband and Carole Lombard, was probably considered too tasteless or offensive, or too close to home for homefront audiences - it only received one nomination, for its Score. (The Oscar for Score went to Max Steiner for Now, Voyager.) Lombard should have received a post-humous award since she was tragically killed in a plane crash two months before the film's release. And Jack Benny gave one of his best (and rare) feature film performances in the film. Director Lubitsch was nominated only twice for Best Director (for The Patriot (1928/29) and Heaven Can Wait (1943)) and went un-nominated for this great masterpiece.
Spencer Tracy deserved a nomination for his performance in his first pairing with Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year. And Errol Flynn was snubbed for his role as heavyweight boxing champ "Gentleman Jim" Corbett in Gay 90s San Francisco in director Raoul Walsh's light-hearted biopic Gentleman Jim.
Neither Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur, or director George Stevens were nominated for The Talk of the Town. And the great film noir This Gun for Hire with a star-making performance by Alan Ladd as killer Philip Raven and Veronica Lake, and director Jacques Tourneur's creepy Cat People with Simone Simon as the mysterious Serbian-born fashion designer, lacked any Academy recognition. One of Ronald Reagan's best performances was in this year: his unnominated role as a farmer's rights spokesman in Juke Girl, along with the beautiful Anne Sheridan as his juke-joint hostess/girlfriend.
Although director/writer Preston Sturges won the Best Original Screenplay award for The Great McGinty (1940), there were no nominations this year for his superior Sullivan's Travels, with an un-nominated Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea as a Hollywood director. And there were also no nominations for his classic The Palm Beach Story with Claudette Colbert, singer Rudy Vallee and Joel McCrea - a funny comedy about the marital difficulties of an upper-class couple (with a plot stretching from NYC to Florida).