1948 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®
This was the Academy's twenty-first year. In previous years, British films had been making serious inroads into Hollywood. For instance, Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) - which had a 1946 US release date and was eligible for awards in that year - and Great Expectations (1947), were both Best Picture nominees, and their success fully flowered in 1948 with two major British films vying for prizes. Two of the five nominees for Best Picture were British productions:
The two British films earned six Oscar awards between them (Hamlet - (4) for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best B/W Art/Set Decoration, and Best B/W Costume Design, and The Red Shoes - (2) for Best Color Art/Set Decoration and Best Score). [Powell and Pressburger had already teamed up to produce The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1944), I Know Where I'm Going (1945), and Black Narcissus (1947).]
Hamlet was both the first British production and the first non-American or non-Hollywood (foreign-made) film to be presented with the industry's top honor - Best Picture. It is the only film adapted from one of William Shakespeare's plays to win Best Picture. Hamlet's greatest competition was not from The Red Shoes, but from director John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (with four nominations and three wins - Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay) about three prospectors and their obsessive search for gold.
Two of the other Best Picture nominees that were predicted to win managed to be nominated eighteen times, but only won one award apiece:
Another contender for awards this year was the Swiss-made film by director Fred Zinnemann, The Search (with four nominations and one win - Best Motion Picture Story, and a Special Award for Ivan Jandl - "outstanding juvenile performance of 1948"), the first film to be made in Europe after WWII with an American director and cast.
John Huston won the Best Director award (and the Best Screenplay award) for his cynical tale of gold prospectors, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, defeating Fred Zinnemann for one of his earliest feature films, The Search, Anatole Litvak for The Snake Pit, Jean Neguleso for Johnny Belinda, and Best Picture-winning producer/actor Laurence Olivier for Hamlet. Huston's film, filmed on location in Mexico, was the first Hollywood-American film made entirely outside the US. [These would turn out to be John Huston's only Oscar wins in his entire career - his last nomination was as Best Director for Prizzi's Honor (1985).]
Forty-one year-old Laurence Olivier also won the Best Actor race for his title role as the melancholy Dane in Hamlet, becoming the first (and the only) person to win as actor and as producer. In other words, he was the first actor to direct his own Oscar-winning performance - in a unique position, he was Best Director-nominated for his own Oscar-winning Best Actor role. Italian actor Roberto Benigni repeated this feat for Life is Beautiful (1998, It.) fifty years later. Britisher Laurence Olivier was the first non-American director to win Best Picture.
Olivier's competition for Best Actor was not very strong (and Humphrey Bogart's performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was unjustly ignored!):
Playing a silent role as a convincing deaf mute Maine farm girl named Belinda McDonald facing small-town prejudice in Johnny Belinda, Jane Wyman won the Best Actress award for probably her greatest performance ever. [She became the first actress since silent films to receive an Oscar for a non-speaking role.] When as a single mother, she is raped and bears an illegitimate child that she fights to keep, she is befriended by the town's new doctor (Lew Ayres). The film was released a few years following her two other major career performances - in the Best Picture winner The Lost Weekend (1945), and her first nominated role in The Yearling (1946). Some interpreted her win as a sympathy vote - tragic circumstances in her life corresponded to her work in Johnny Belinda - a baby that she had been expecting was born prematurely and died just before filming commenced, and soon after the film was finished, she divorced her husband - future President Ronald Reagan.
Wyman's competition for Best Actress was impressive and considerable. Two of the other nominated roles were also for roles involving handicapped or severely 'crippled' persons:
The other two Best Actress nominees were:
One of the year's firsts was that sixty-four year old Walter Huston (with his fourth and last career nomination - and sole Oscar win) finally won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Howard - a wise old, toothless gold prospector (searching for gold in Mexico with Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt) in his own son/director John Huston's adventure film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston was the first Best Director winner to direct his own father to an acting Oscar award. Thirty-seven years later in his fortieth film Prizzi's Honor (1985), Huston directed his daughter Angelica in an Oscar-winning role. [This remarkable feat made the Hustons the first family with three generations of Oscar winners. This was also the second time in awards history that blood relatives won awards in the same year - previously this occurred in 1929/30.]
The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
Claire Trevor (with her second of three career nominations - and her sole Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actress recognition for her role as a pathetic alcoholic moll named Gaye Dawn, the mistress of gangster co-star Edward G. Robinson who holds up Lionel Barrymore's Florida hotel in director John Huston's Key Largo (with only one nomination and one win). [Trevor had been nominated previously for Best Supporting Actress for Dead End (1937) and would later be nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The High and the Mighty (1954)). One of her best un-nominated roles was as a prostitute with a heart of gold in Stagecoach (1939).]
The other Best Supporting Actress nominees included two co-stars in I Remember Mama:
The remaining two nominees were Agnes Moorehead (with her third of four unsuccessful career nominations) as Aunt Aggie McDonald in Johnny Belinda, and nineteen year-old Jean Simmons (with her first of two unsuccessful career nominations) as the driven-mad Ophelia in Olivier's Hamlet.
This year introduced Best Costume Design awards for color and B/W feature films - a new category of awards. Multiple-winner Edith Head began her impressive run of nineteen straight years of nominations in this category with her first nomination for The Emperor Waltz, but surprisingly lost to Joan of Arc (Dorothy Jeakins and Madame Karinska). She went on to accumulate thirty-four nominations, and eight wins during her career.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Neglected Best Picture nominees included:
In the Best Actress category, there could have been a re-match between sisters Fontaine and de Havilland (similar to the 1941 contest) if Joan Fontaine's touching and sensitive portrayal as romantically-obsessed 'unknown woman' Lisa Berndle had been nominated in Ophuls' film. And Ann Miller was neglected in the list of nominees for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Astaire's tap-dancing partner Nadine Gale in MGM's Easter Parade. Also, the previous year's Best Actress winner Loretta Young was un-nominated for her fine performance as a college professor accused of murdering one of her students (in self-defense) in the melodramatic film noir The Accused.
Given many weak performances in the Best Actor nominations, it was shocking that Humphrey Bogart wasn't nominated in one of his finest career performances as Fred C. Dobbs, an obsessed gold-hunter in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Overshadowed by another Huston/Bogart effort, Key Largo received only one nomination (but it was a win for Claire Trevor).
Many other superb performances were neglected among the acting nominations: John Wayne as single-minded cattle-driver Tom Dunson or Montgomery Clift as his adopted, estranged son in the undervalued western classic Red River, or Henry Fonda as cavalry commander in Fort Apache, or John Garfield as cynical lawyer Joe Morse in the dark film Force of Evil, or James Stewart as crusading newspaper reporter McNeal in Call Northside 777, or Anton Walbrook as impresario Boris Lermontov in Powell's and Pressburger's ballet classic The Red Shoes, or Edward G. Robinson as cigar-chomping gangster Johnny Rocco in John Huston's atmospheric drama Key Largo. (Unfortunately, Robinson was never nominated for an Oscar, but he was given an Honorary Award in 1972).