12th Academy Awards

The 12th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best in film for 1939. The ceremony was held on February 29, 1940, at a banquet in the Coconut Grove at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.[1] It was hosted by Bob Hope (in his first of nineteen turns as host).

David O. Selznick's production Gone with the Wind received the most nominations of the year with thirteen. Other films receiving multiple nominations included: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Wuthering Heights; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Stagecoach; Love Affair; The Wizard of Oz; The Rains Came; The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; Ninotchka; Of Mice and Men; and Dark Victory.

This was the first year in which an Academy Award (also known as an Oscar) was awarded in the category of special effects. (Previously, however, "special achievement" awards for effects had occasionally been conferred.) This was also the first time that two awards for cinematography were presented (one for a color film and another for a black-and-white film).

Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to receive an Academy Award, winning in the Best Supporting Actress category for Gone with the Wind.

Poster - Gone With the Wind 01
Gone with the Wind, Best Picture winner
Vivien Leigh Gone Wind Restored
Vivien Leigh, Best Actress winner
Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach cropped
Thomas Mitchell, Best Supporting Actor winner
Hattie McDaniel, Best Supporting Actress winner
Sidney Coe Howard 1909
Sidney Howard, Best Screenplay winner
12th Academy Awards
DateFebruary 29, 1940
SiteCoconut Grove, The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
Hosted byBob Hope
Best PictureGone with the Wind
Most awardsGone with the Wind (8)
Most nominationsGone with the Wind (13)

Academy Awards of Merit

AMPAS presented Academy Awards of Merit in twenty categories. Nominees for each award are listed below; award winners are listed first and highlighted in boldface.

Academy Honorary Awards

Academy Honorary Awards were presented to:

  • Douglas Fairbanks "recognizing the unique and outstanding contribution of Douglas Fairbanks, first President of the Academy, to the international development of the motion picture."
  • Motion Picture Relief Fund "acknowledging the outstanding services to the industry during the past year of the Motion Picture Relief Fund and its progressive leadership." Presented to Jean Hersholt, President; Ralph Morgan, Chairman of the Executive Committee; Ralph Block, First Vice-President; and Conrad Nagel.
  • William Cameron Menzies "for outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind."
  • The Technicolor Company "for its contributions in successfully bringing three-color feature production to the screen."

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was presented to David O. Selznick.

Academy Juvenile Award

The Academy Juvenile Award was presented to Judy Garland for The Wizard of Oz.

Films receiving multiple nominations and awards

The following thirty-nine films received multiple nominations:

The following three films received multiple awards:

The lead-up to the awards ceremony

Prior to the announcement of nominations, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gone with the Wind were the two films most widely tipped to receive a significant number of nominations. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington premiered in Washington with a premier party hosted by the National Press Club who found themselves portrayed unfavourably in the film; the film's theme of political corruption was condemned and the film was denounced in the U.S. Senate. Joseph P. Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the studio head Harry Cohn to cease showing the film overseas because "it will cause our allies to view us in an unfavourable light". Among those who campaigned in favour of the film were Hedda Hopper who declared it "as great as Lincoln's Gettysburg speech", while Sheilah Graham called it the "best talking picture ever made". Screen Book magazine stated that it "should win every Academy Award". Frank Capra, the director, and James Stewart, the film's star were considered front runners to win awards.

Gone with the Wind premiered in December 1939 with a Gallup poll taken shortly before its release concluding that 56.5 million people intended to see the film. The New York Film Critics Award was given to Wuthering Heights after thirteen rounds of balloting had left the voters deadlocked between Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gone with the Wind. The press were divided in their support for the nominated actors. Time magazine favoured Vivien Leigh and used her portrait for their Christmas 1939 edition, and The Hollywood Reporter predicted a possible win by Leigh and Laurence Olivier with the comment that they "are, for the moment, just about the most sacred of all Hollywood's sacred cows". West Coast newspapers, particularly in Los Angeles, predicted Bette Davis would win for Dark Victory. Observing that Davis had achieved four box office successes during the year, one paper wrote, "Hollywood will stick by its favourite home-town girl, Bette Davis".


Capra was the incumbent President of the Academy, and in a first for Academy Awards ceremonies, sold the rights for the event to be filmed. Warner Bros. obtained the rights, for $30,000 to film the banquet and the presentation of the awards, to use as a short, and it was shot by the cinematographer Charles Rosher. Variety noted the stars in attendance were conscious of being filmed at the event for the first time and the event was marked by glamour with fashion-conscious actresses wearing the best of gowns, furs and jewellery.

The Los Angeles Times printed a substantially accurate list of winners, despite a promise to withhold the results of the voting, so many of the nominees learned before arriving at the ceremony who had won. Among these were Clark Gable and Bette Davis.

Following the banquet, Capra opened proceedings at 11pm with a short speech before introducing Bob Hope who made his first appearance as host of the awards. Looking at a table laden with awards awaiting presentation, he quipped, "I feel like I'm in Bette Davis' living room". Mickey Rooney presented an Academy Juvenile Award to Judy Garland, who then performed Over the Rainbow, a "Best Song" nominee from The Wizard of Oz.

As the evening progressed, Gone with the Wind won the majority of awards, and Bob Hope remarked to David O. Selznick, "David, you should have brought roller skates". Making a speech, Selznick paused to extend praise and gratitude to Olivia de Havilland, a "Best Supporting Actress" nominee, and made it clear in his speech he knew she had not won. Fay Bainter presented the awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, prefacing her presentation of the latter award with the knowing comment, "It is a tribute to a country where people are free to honor noteworthy achievements regardless of creed, race or color". Hattie McDaniel became the first black performer to win an Academy Award and in expressing her gratitude promised to be "a credit to my race" before bursting into tears. De Havilland was among those to make their way to McDaniel's table to offer congratulations, though it was reported de Havilland then fled to the kitchen, where she burst into tears. The press reported an irritated Irene Mayer Selznick followed her, and told her to return to their table and stop making a fool of herself.

Robert Donat, the winner for "Best Actor", was one of three nominated actors not present (the others were Irene Dunne and Greta Garbo). Accepting the award for Donat, Spencer Tracy said he was sure Donat's win was welcomed by "the entire motion-picture industry" before presenting the "Best Actress" award to Vivien Leigh. The press noted Bette Davis was among those waiting to congratulate Leigh as she returned to her table.

Post-awards discussion

Further controversy erupted following the ceremony, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that Leigh had won over Davis by the smallest of margins and that Donat had likewise won over James Stewart by a small number of votes. This led Academy officials to examine ways that the voting process, and more importantly, the results, would remain secret in future years.[2] They considered the Los Angeles Times publication of such details as a breach of faith.

Hattie McDaniel received considerable attention from the press with Daily Variety writing, "Not only was she the first of her race to receive an Award, but she was also the first Negro ever to sit at an Academy banquet".

Carole Lombard was quoted as comforting Gable after his loss, with the comment "Don't worry, Pappy. We'll bring one home next year". Gable replied that he felt this had been his last chance to which Lombard was said to have replied, "Not you, you self-centered bastard. I meant me."

Academy Award ceremony presenters

The ceremony presenters are listed below in the sequence of awards presented.

Presenter Award(s)
Darryl F. Zanuck Scientific and Technical Awards, Film Editing, Sound Recording, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Special Effects
Gene Buck Music awards
Bob Hope Short-subject awards
Mickey Rooney Special Juvenile Academy Award to Judy Garland
Mervyn LeRoy Best Director
Sinclair Lewis Writing awards
Y. Frank Freeman Best Picture
Basil O'Connor Special awards to Jean Hersholt, Ralph Morgan, Ralph Block, and Conrad Nagel
Dr. Ernest Martin Hopkins Irving Thalberg Award
Walter Wanger Commemorative award to Douglas Fairbanks
Fay Bainter Supporting Actor and Actress
Spencer Tracy Best Actor and Actress

See also


  1. ^ "The 12th Academy Awards (1940) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  2. ^ "Academy Awards A to Z". BBC News. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
1940 in animation

This is a list of events related to film and television animation of 1940.

Busy Little Bears

Busy Little Bears is a 1939 American short family film directed by John A. Haeseler. It won an Oscar at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940 for Best Short Subject (One-Reel).

Drunk Driving (film)

Drunk Driving is a 1939 American short drama film directed by David Miller. It was nominated for an Academy Award at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940 for Best Live Action Short Film, Two-Reel.

Edmund H. Hansen

Edmund H. Hansen (November 13, 1894 – October 10, 1962) was an American sound engineer. He won two Academy Awards; one for Best Sound Recording and the other Best Visual Effects. He was nominated for another 12 films across the two categories.

Edwin C. Hahn

Edwin C. Hahn (August 2, 1888 – June 1, 1942) was an American sound engineer. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects on the film Only Angels Have Wings at the 12th Academy Awards.

Five Times Five

Five Times Five is a 1939 American short documentary film directed by Frank P. Donovan. It was nominated for an Academy Award at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940 for Best Live Action Short Film, Two-Reel. The Dionne quintuplets have a private five-years-old birthday party in their garden.

Fred Albin

Fred Albin (December 11, 1903 – May 3, 1968) was an American sound engineer. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects on the film Gone with the Wind at the 12th Academy Awards.

Gone with the Wind (film)

Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American epic historical romance film, adapted from Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel of the same name. The film was produced by David O. Selznick of Selznick International Pictures and directed by Victor Fleming. Set in the American South against the backdrop of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era, the film tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara, the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner. It follows her romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes, who is married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, and her subsequent marriage to Rhett Butler. The leading roles are played by Vivien Leigh (Scarlett), Clark Gable (Rhett), Leslie Howard (Ashley), and Olivia de Havilland (Melanie).

Production was difficult from the start. Filming was delayed for two years because of Selznick's determination to secure Gable for the role of Rhett Butler, and the "search for Scarlett" led to 1,400 women being interviewed for the part. The original screenplay was written by Sidney Howard and underwent many revisions by several writers in an attempt to get it down to a suitable length. The original director, George Cukor, was fired shortly after filming began and was replaced by Fleming, who in turn was briefly replaced by Sam Wood while Fleming took some time off due to exhaustion.

The film received positive reviews upon its release in December 1939, although some reviewers found it overlong. The casting was widely praised, and many reviewers found Leigh especially suited to her role as Scarlett. At the 12th Academy Awards, it received ten Academy Awards (eight competitive, two honorary) from thirteen nominations, including wins for Best Picture, Best Director (Fleming), Best Adapted Screenplay (posthumously awarded to Sidney Howard), Best Actress (Leigh), and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award). It set records for the total number of wins and nominations at the time. Although the film has been criticized as historical revisionism glorifying slavery, it has been credited with triggering changes in the way in which African Americans are depicted cinematically.

Gone with the Wind was immensely popular when first released. It became the highest-earning film made up to that point, and held the record for over a quarter of a century. When adjusted for monetary inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history. It was re-released periodically throughout the 20th century and became ingrained in popular culture. The film is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time; it has placed in the top ten of the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 American films since the list's inception in 1998. In 1989, the United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Gordon Jennings

Gordon Jennings, A.S.C. (1896 – January 11, 1953) was an American special effects artist. He received seven Academy Awards (mainly for Best Special Effects) and was nominated for eight more in the same category. After starting 1919 in Hollywood as camera assistant he worked from 1932 until 1953 on the visual and special effects of more than 180 films. His older brother was cinematographer Devereaux Jennings (1884-1952), who filmed, for instance, Buster Keaton's monumental The General in 1926.

James E. Newcom

James E. Newcom (August 29, 1905 – October 6, 1990) was an American film editor who had over 40 films during his long career.

Joseph E. Robbins

Joseph "Joe" E. Robbins (11 June 1901 - 7 July 1989) was an American film technician, who received three Academy Awards for Technical Achievement.

Prophet Without Honor

Prophet Without Honor is a 1939 short documentary film directed by Felix E. Feist. At the 12th Academy Awards, held in 1940, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, One-Reel. The documentary is about Matthew Fontaine Maury, a U.S. naval officer who created the first maps that charted the oceans' winds and currents.

Roy Davidson (special effects artist)

Roy Davidson (March 3, 1896 – August 19, 1962) was an American special effects artist. He was nominated an Academy Award for Best Special Effects for the film Only Angels Have Wings at the 12th Academy Awards.

Sons of Liberty (film)

Sons of Liberty is a 1939 American short drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, which tells the story of Haym Solomon. At the 12th Academy Awards, held in 1940, it won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel).

Sword Fishing

Sword Fishing is a 1939 short documentary film. In 1940, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, One-Reel at the 12th Academy Awards. It is narrated by Ronald Reagan.

The Pointer

The Pointer is a 1939 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures on July 21, 1939. The short was directed by Clyde Geronimi and animated by Fred Moore, Frank Thomas, Lynn Karp, Seamus Culhane, Ollie Johnston, Preston Blair, Lester Norvi, John Lounsbery, Claude Smitha, Art Palmer, and Josh Meador. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) in 1940.The cartoon follows Mickey Mouse as he tries to teach his dog Pluto to be a pointer dog during a quail hunt. It was directed by Clyde Geronimi and features the voices of Walt Disney as Mickey and Lee Millar as Pluto.

Although often cited as the animated debut of Mickey's modern character design, this actually occurred five months earlier in Mickey's Surprise Party. Nevertheless, The Pointer is still considered a milestone Mickey Mouse film for its background art and Mickey's acting which was personally staged by Walt Disney. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940, but untimely lost to Disney's own The Ugly Duckling, the final installment of the Silly Symphony series.

Union Pacific (film)

Union Pacific is a 1939 American dramatic western film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. Based on the novel Trouble Shooter by Western fiction author Ernest Haycox, the film is about the building of the railroad across the American West.

When Tomorrow Comes (film)

When Tomorrow Comes is a 1939 American romantic drama directed by John M. Stahl and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. The screenplay concerns a waitress who falls in love with a man who later turns out to be a married concert pianist. Bernard B. Brown won the Academy Award for Best Sound.A scene in the movie where the two protagonists take refuge from a storm in a church was the subject of Cain v. Universal Pictures, a case in which the writer James M. Cain sued Universal Pictures, the scriptwriter and the director for copyright infringement. Judge Leon Rene Yankwich ruled that there was no resemblance between the scenes in the book and the film other than incidental "scènes à faire", or natural similarities due to the situation, establishing an important legal precedent.

William Rudolph

William Rudolph (died 27 May 1975) was an American film technician, who received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement.

Awards of Merit
Special awards
Former awards
Combined major Academy Awards
Combined major awards
Countries of winners and nominees

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