1946 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 BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES", "Henry V", "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Razor's Edge", "The Yearling"
FREDRIC MARCH in "The Best Years of Our Lives", Laurence Olivier in "Henry V", Larry Parks in "The Jolson Story", Gregory Peck in "The Yearling", James Stewart in "It's A Wonderful Life"
OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND in "To Each His Own", Celia Johnson in "Brief Encounter", Jennifer Jones in "Duel in the Sun", Rosalind Russell in "Sister Kenny", Jane Wyman in "The Yearling"
HAROLD RUSSELL in "The Best Years of Our Lives", Charles Coburn in "The Green Years", William Demarest in "The Jolson Story", Claude Rains in "Notorious", Clifton Webb in "The Razor's Edge"
ANNE BAXTER in "The Razor's Edge", Ethel Barrymore in "The Spiral Staircase", Lillian Gish in "Duel in the Sun", Flora Robson in "Saratoga Trunk", Gale Sondergaard in "Anna and the King of Siam"
WILLIAM WYLER for "The Best Years of Our Lives", Clarence Brown for "The Yearling", Frank Capra for "It's A Wonderful Life", David Lean for "Brief Encounter", Robert Siodmak for "The Killers"
For the first time, a number of foreign-made films and stars from overseas were found in the various categories - a foreshadowing of things to come.
The Best Picture winner of the year was the three-hour long The Best Years of Our Lives (with eight nominations and seven wins), a war-related film about the rough adjustment of returning and damaged WWII veterans (a hard-drinking ex-sergeant, a sailor with prosthetic hooks for hands, and an air force officer) to peacetime.
With a total of seven awards, director William Wyler's film won in all major categories in which it was nominated including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Film Editing, and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
It was the last collaborative work of director William Wyler and independent producer Goldwyn. The award would be the first and only competitive Oscar that producer Samuel Goldwyn would ever win. [Given Goldwyn's long and distinguished involvement in some of the best films ever made, including Arrowsmith (1931/32), Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Little Foxes (1941), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), and The Bishop's Wife (1947), it is remarkable that The Best Years of Our Lives was the only production of his to ever receive the top award.]
Director William Wyler had previously directed and received his first Oscar for the award-winning 1942 Best Picture Mrs. Miniver - another film detailing homefront courage in Britain. Wyler's 1946 tale of three returning servicemen (including Oscar-winning Best Actor Fredric March and Best Supporting Actor Harold Russell) to the homefront following WW II and their painful re-adjustments was an intelligent, moving, almost three hour-long, post-war drama. [It set the standard for future award-winning films about returning veterans and the aftermath of war, including Best Picture winner The Deer Hunter (1978) and its acclaimed competitor Coming Home (1978).]
The Best Picture winner defeated Laurence Olivier's involvement (as producer, actor, and director) of the experimental Shakespearean cinematic masterpiece from the UK, Henry V (with four nominations and no wins) - about the medieval monarch who defeated the French at Agincourt. [Olivier also received a special Honorary Oscar Award for his "outstanding achievement...in bringing Henry V to the screen" - but was denied a nomination as Best Director.] It was Olivier's first and most successful directorial effort, for the stylized Technicolor film.
The other Best Picture nominees were:
- Somerset Maugham's tale, by director Edmund Goulding, The Razor's Edge (with four nominations and one win - Best Supporting Actress) of a wealthy young man's (Tyrone Power) search in the world for the truth about life
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' heartwarming tale The Yearling (with seven nominations and two wins - Best Color Cinematography and Best Color Interior Decoration) about a young boy's love for a yearling fawn in the post-Civil War period
- Frank Capra's own favorite film, the inspirational and heartwarming It's A Wonderful Life (with five nominations and no wins), the classic film about a man who is ultimately saved from suicide and realizes how important his life has really been. [This last-mentioned film had five nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Sound Recording, and Best Film Editing) but it was unable to capture a single award!]
It must be noted that four performances in two years with characters who were alcoholic were honored with lead and supporting awards:
- 1945: Ray Milland, Best Actor for The Lost Weekend (1945); James Dunn, Best Supporting Actor for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
- 1946: Fredric March, Best Actor for The Best Years of Our Lives; Anne Baxter, Best Supporting Actress for The Razor's Edge
In the Best Actor category, 49 year-old Fredric March (with his fourth of five career nominations) made a comeback by winning his second Best Actor award (his first was fourteen years earlier for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931/32)) as anguished, middle-aged, banking executive - and returning war veteran and ex-sergeant Al Stephenson in The Best Years of Our Lives.
The other Best Actor nominees were:
- Laurence Olivier (with his third nomination) as young King Henry V of England in Henry V
- Larry Parks (with his sole career nomination) as the legendary singer Al Jolson in director Alfred E. Green's biopic The Jolson Story (with six nominations and two wins - Best Sound Recording and Best Musical Score); Parks received the nomination, but mostly lip-synched while Jolson provided the singing
- Gregory Peck (with his second nomination) as Florida farmer Pa Baxter in The Yearling
- James Stewart (with his third nomination) in his most memorable and famous role as George Bailey in one of the most-loved fantasy films ever made - although it was less popular at the time of its release - It's A Wonderful Life. [Although Gregory Peck was nominated for The Yearling, he should have been nominated instead for his role as the bad son, Lewt McCanles, in Duel in the Sun.]
Olivia de Havilland (with her third nomination of five career nominations) received her first Oscar for her teary, sentimental performance as middle-aged business-woman Josephine Harris who becomes a self-sacrificing unwed mother to her own illegitimate child (John Lund, who believes she is his aunt, played both roles - the pilot by whom she has the baby AND her grown son) in Paramount's soap opera by director Mitchell Leisen To Each His Own (with two nominations and one win - Best Actress). De Havilland had previously lost two other times (as Best Supporting Actress in Gone With The Wind (1939), and as Best Actress in Hold Back the Dawn (1941)), one of them to her sister Joan Fontaine for Suspicion (1941) five years earlier. Her award would turn out to be the first of the star's two career Best Actress Oscars out of a total of five nominations (her other Best Actress win was for The Heiress (1949)). In contrast, Joan Fontaine won only one career Oscar out of three Best Actress nominations. (Fontaine was nominated three times, for Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941) and The Constant Nymph (1946), and only won in 1941.)
In particular, De Havilland faced strong competition in 1946 from the favored Rosalind Russell (with her second of four unsuccessful nominations) for her title role in director Dudley Nichols' Sister Kenny (the film's sole nomination) - the film biography of the legendary Australian nurse who treated infantile paralysis. The other Best Actress competitors included:
- Jennifer Jones (with her fourth nomination) as the sultry, impestuous half-breed Pearl Chavez in Selznick's heavily-promoted melodramatic Western by director King Vidor titled Duel in the Sun (with two nominations and no wins)
- English actress Celia Johnson (with her sole career nomination) for her performance as Laura Jesson - the long-suffering housewife longing for love in director David Lean's Brief Encounter (with three nominations and no wins)
- Jane Wyman (with her first nomination) as Ma Baxter (Gregory Peck's wife) in The Yearling
Real-life amputee Harold Russell, with hands replaced by hooks -- a sentimental favorite -- won the Best Supporting Actor award in his portrayal of courageous and resourceful returning sailor Homer Parrish. He also received an Honorary Oscar (probably designed to be a consolation prize because it was assumed that he would lose the bigger award) - he became the only performer to take home two Oscars for a single role in one film. It would be Russell's first and only screen appearance until 1980, when he played a small part in Inside Moves. [Russell's win marked the first time that an actor had ever won a Best Supporting Actor award in his first film.]
Other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
- Charles Coburn (with his third and last nomination) as Alexander Gow (Dean Stockwell's great-grandfather) in The Green Years (with two nominations and no wins)
- William Demarest (with his sole career nomination) as Al Jolson's friend/mentor Steve Martin in The Jolson Story
- Clifton Webb (with his second unsuccessful career nomination) as snide socialite Elliott Templeton in The Razor's Edge
- Claude Rains (with his fourth and last unsuccessful career nomination) in one of his greatest roles as the tortured yet treacherous spy/husband Alexander Sebastian in Alfred Hitchcock's excellent thriller, Notorious (with two nominations and no wins)
The Best Supporting Actress Oscar went to 23 year-old Anne Baxter (with her first nomination) for her performance as the tragic, alcoholic Sophie Nelson after her family is killed in The Razor's Edge. Other Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
- legendary film actress Lillian Gish, whose career spanned films from 1912 to 1987, with her sole Oscar career nomination for her role as Laura Belle McCanles (cattle baron Lionel Barrymore's wife) in Duel in the Sun. [Much later, Gish received an Honorary Award in 1970 by the Academy, her only Academy laurel.]
- Ethel Barrymore (with her second of four career nominations in the 1940s) as dowager Mrs. Warren who lives in a spooky house in director Richard Siodmak's gothic suspense thriller The Spiral Staircase (the film's sole nomination)
- British actress Flora Robson as mulatto servant Angelique Buiton in director Sam Wood's version of Edna Ferber's romantic novel titled Saratoga Trunk (the film's sole nomination)
- Gale Sondergaard (with her second and last career nomination) as Lady Thiang (King of Siam's - Rex Harrison's - wife) in director John Cromwell's non-musical version of Anna and the King of Siam (with five nominations and two wins - Best B/W Cinematography and Best B/W Interior Decoration)
Six English films exerted their influence on Hollywood in 1946, receiving a total of eleven nominations among them. Besides Henry V and Brief Encounter, there were four others: Perfect Strangers (US title: Vacation From Marriage), The Seventh Veil, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Blithe Spirit. The group of British films won three Oscars (Special Visual Effects for Blithe Spirit, Original Screenplay for The Seventh Veil, and Original Story for Vacation From Marriage). Two other foreign films received screenplay nominations: one of the masterpieces of French cinema, Children of Paradise, and Federico Fellini's first nomination for Open City, a landmark Italian film known for creating the neo-realistic movement in post-war Italian cinema.
Ernst Lubitsch, known for his "Lubitsch" touch and sophisticated comedies, was awarded a Special Honorary Award for "his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture." His last directed film was his first Technicolored film from three years earlier, Heaven Can Wait (1943), with three nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Color Cinematography.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
British director David Lean's first nomination as director was for one of the greatest romantic tearjerkers ever made, the superb small-scale but effective Brief Encounter, but the film was denied a Best Picture nomination. (It was a very different work from his future epics, such as The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).) Another British film - from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Stairway to Heaven (aka A Matter of Life and Death) was entirely overlooked. As already mentioned, Laurence Olivier received a special Honorary Oscar Award for his "outstanding achievement...in bringing Henry V to the screen" - but was denied a nomination as Best Director.
Citizen Kane's (1941) cinematographer, Gregg Toland, was responsible for the outstanding deep-focus photographic work in the Best Picture winner of 1946, but he was not nominated for his achievement. In the Best Picture race, The Razor's Edge and The Yearling were given nominations while a number of other pictures should have been. One of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films, Notorious was denied a nomination for Best Picture (it received only two losing nominations, Claude Rains for Best Supporting Actor and Ben Hecht for Best Original Screenplay). And where was recognition for either Cary Grant or Ingrid Bergman in truly unforgettable roles? Bergman's performance in Notorious was much better than her Oscar-winning role in Gaslight (1944).
One of the most obvious omissions of the year was the lack of nominations for Gilda, the sexy film noir starring a ravishing Rita Hayworth as femme fatale Gilda (noted for her memorable "Put the Blame on Mame" glove-striptease) engaged in a perverse menage a trois between Glenn Ford and George Macready.
Many of the roles in The Best Years of Our Lives were denied possible acting or supporting acting nominations:
- Myrna Loy (never nominated) as Fredric March's loving and faithful wife
- Dana Andrews (never nominated) as the returning Air Force officer
- Virginia Mayo as Dana Andrews' strumpet wife
- Teresa Wright as March's proud daughter
Other roles, all in It's A Wonderful Life, that went unnominated included Donna Reed as James Stewart's girlfriend/wife Mary Hatch/Bailey, Beulah Bondi as Stewart's mother, Lionel Barrymore as the miserly, mean, and arrogant wheelchair-bound Mr. Potter, and Henry Travers as Clarence the angel.
Films which were bypassed for nominations include the un-nominated The Big Sleep (both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall deserved nods) and John Ford's My Darling Clementine (Henry Fonda certainly was due an Oscar nomination). [Raymond Chandler was nominated for his original screenplay for The Blue Dahlia, but The Big Sleep, based on a Chandler novel, received no such recognition.]
In the Best Director race, Hitchcock was denied a nomination for Notorious. And Best Director nominee Robert Siodmak's under-appreciated film noir The Killers (with four unrewarded nominations) introduced actor Burt Lancaster in his first film role as the Swede, and featured Ava Gardner as a ravishing femme fatale. And director Tay Garnett's film noir drama The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on James Cain's 1934 crime novel, received no nominations -- ignoring Lana Turner's white-hot, but icy role as femme fatale Cora Smith who enticed diner worker/drifter Frank Chambers (John Garfield) to murder her elderly, jovial husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway).