1949 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®
In 1949, the Best Picture Award was presented to the predicted front-runner film, All the King's Men, based on the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by poet Robert Penn Warren about a corrupt, rising politician/boss (based on the life of assassinated Louisiana demagogue Senator Huey Long). It was the second Best Picture-winning film that was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (the first was Gone With the Wind (1939)). The absorbing political drama about the dangers of a populist dictatorship in the US was nominated for seven major award nominations and won in only three categories (Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress). It was director/producer/writer Robert Rossen's third film (his previous films were the acclaimed drama Body and Soul (1947) and Johnny O'Clock (1947)).
Other Best Picture nominees included a number of other serious films:
The Best Picture nominees split the nominations and wins fairly evenly. No film had fewer than three nominations and no film had more than eight. Every one of the nominees won multiple Oscars, something that had never happened before and has never happened since.
Relative unknown B-movie actor Broderick Crawford (with his sole career nomination - and sole win) was nominated for Best Actor and won for his role as bullying, self-styled Southern populist demagogue Willie Stark (who starts out as a small-town, backwoods politician/lawyer and eventually loses his principles and becomes corrupted and Fascist-minded on his progression to the governorship, before his assassination). His performance propelled him into lead roles, notably George Cukor's Born Yesterday (1950) and Federico Fellini's Il Bidone (1955). (He also went on to star in the TV series Highway Patrol (1955-1959).)
Other Best Actor nominees included:
Director Elia Kazan's Pinky, another daring social problems drama in the 1940s about a black woman who passed as white to gain a better life, was honored with three acting nominations for all three of its female actresses. It was one of the earliest nominated films about inter-racial relations (one of the earliest was Imitation of Life (1934)).
33 year-old Olivia de Havilland (with her fifth and final career nomination - and winning her second Oscar) won the Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant performance as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress. The stunningly-beautiful actress portrayed a plain, frumpy, vulnerable, spinster heiress courted by a fortune-hunter Morris Townsend (played by Montgomery Clift). After hearing from her father Ralph Richardson that her eligible bachelor/lover was interested only in her money, she eventually took bitter revenge upon Clift in the final scene. [Trivia Note: At 33 years of age, Olivia de Havilland became the youngest performer to receive five acting nominations. This record wasn't surpassed for 57 years -- until 31 year old Kate Winslet received her fifth acting nomination for Little Children (2006).]
Other Best Actress nominees were:
Bald character actor Dean Jagger (with his sole career nomination - and Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Major Harvey Stovall - a middle-aged commanding major in the air force who witnesses the strain upon flying leader Gregory Peck in the all-male cast of Twelve O'Clock High. Other Best Supporting Actor nominees included:
Broderick Crawford's co-star was Best Supporting Actress winner Mercedes McCambridge (with her first nomination and sole Oscar win in her 17-minute debut film role) who played the part of his conniving, tough, and unscrupulous political aide and sexually-frustrated secretary-mistress Sadie Burke. [In future years, McCambridge would star in some off-beat cult films, Johnny Guitar (1954) and Orson Welles' Touch Of Evil (1958), and as the voice of the demonically-possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist (1973).]
The other Best Supporting Actress nominees included two sets of co-stars:
Famous composer Aaron Copland received his fourth nomination for a Dramatic Film Score (and only Oscar win) for The Heiress. For the same film, legendary costume designer Edith Head won the Best Black and White Costume Design Award, her first of eight career Oscars. She would win Best Costume Design honors seven more times, in 1950 (twice), in 1951, in 1953, in 1954, in 1960, and in 1973. [She would be nominated each year (and sometimes twice) from 1948 to 1966 for Costume Design - an unprecedented accomplishment! By her final film Airport '77 (1977), she had a total of 35 nominations in the category.]
Famed danceman Fred Astaire was presented with an Honorary Award (by Ginger Rogers) "for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures." In addition, legendary director Cecil B. DeMille was given a Special Award for "37 years of brilliant showmanship."
Best Picture-winning director Robert Rossen, who was nominated in the Best Director category and Best Screenplay categories for All the King's Men, lost the Best Director and Screenplay races to Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives, a biting but entertaining commentary on marriage and faithfulness in a carefully-constructed story about three wives.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Some of the year's best films and acting roles were largely un-nominated and bypassed by the Academy, including:
Clarence Brown's Intruder in the Dust was a superior racial conflict picture when compared to the absurd plot of Pinky, yet it was not nominated for a single award. One of the best foreign films ever made -- unrecognized by the Academy -- was this year's The Bicycle Thief by Italian director Vittorio De Sica. It could easily have received a Best Picture or a Best Director nomination, but only achieved a Best Original Screenplay nomination (its sole, unrewarded nomination) for Cesare Zavattini. It was also honored with a Special Academy Award as the "most outstanding foreign film released in the United States during 1949" - many years before an official category was created. [The film served as the impetus for the creation of an official Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.]
Linda Darnell's performance in A Letter to Three Wives as Lora May Hollingsway was generally considered her greatest career role, but it was not nominated for an award. In fact, none of the members of the cast (Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, or Paul Douglas) of A Letter to Three Wives received nominations, although director/writer Mankiewicz received two nominations and awards for the same film. Ralph Richardson was nominated as Olivia de Havilland's heartless father in The Heiress, but he was also excellent and more impressive (but un-nominated) in his role as murder-implicated butler Baines in nominated director Carol Reed's British thriller The Fallen Idol. Although John Ford's second film in the 'cavalry trilogy' She Wore a Yellow Ribbon won the Oscar for its technicolor cinematography (Winton Hoch), John Wayne was un-nominated for his performance as Capt. Nathan Brittles. Robert Ryan was also un-nominated as Bill "Stoker" Thompson, an aging boxer who refused to throw a fight in Robert Wise's excellent and realistic boxing film The Set-Up (with no nominations).