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Shawn Dwyer

All the Academy Award Winners from the 1930s to the 1970s

By February 24, 2013

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Gone With the WindWith the 2013 Academy Awards on the horizon, we here at Classic Movies think it's a great time to look back at all the major winners from Oscar past.

Though the Academy handed out awards at the beginning if the sound era in 1927, the 1930s were Oscar's first full decade and helped marking the commencement of the classical era. Some of Hollywood's greatest stars won Oscar, like Best Actors Clark Gable in It Happened One Night (1934) and Spencer Tracy twice for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938).

On the Best Actress side, Katharine Hepburn emerged with Morning Glory (1933), while Claudette Colbert won for It Happened One Night, and Bette Davis earned two awards for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938). Of course, Vivian Leigh won Oscar for her iconic performance as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939).

The 1930s also gave rise to the classical eras greatest directors with John Ford winning his first of four Best Director Oscars for The Informer (1935), while Frank Capra made his mark with an astounding three wins with It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and You Can't Take It With You (1938).

As for Best Picture, the decade saw the first film to win all five major awards with Capra's It Happened One Night, while Frank Lloyd's action adventure Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) took home the Oscar despite the director losing out to John Ford. Of course, the decade ended with Gone With the Wind (1939) capping off a staggering 10 Academy Awards with Best Picture, a record that stood for 20 years.

CasablancaIn the next decade, some of cinema's greatest performances were given Oscar while one the best films of all time took home three awards. Starting with Best Actor in the 1940s, the Academy bestowed the award on a wide range of performances, including James Stewart's one and only win with The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gary Cooper's iconic turn as Sergeant York (1941) and Ray Milland's searing portrayal of a hopeless alcoholic in The Lost Weekend (1945).

The Best Actress category was equally filled with iconic performances that included Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941), Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944), Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945) and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948).

The 1940s started with John Ford winning Oscars two and three for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941), the latter of which was a snub in light of Orson Welles losing for Citizen Kane. Other Best Directors included Michael Curtiz for Casablanca (1943), Elia Kazan for Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and John Huston for The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948), while the Master, Alfred Hitchcock, went home empty-handed three times in the decade.

Wrapping up with the Best Pictures from the 1940s, Casablanca naturally took home the award as did Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend, William Wyler's sprawling drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Laurence Olivier's brilliant adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1948).

Ben-HurIn the 1950s, studios began making more challenging films while broadening their scope to include large scale epics thanks to competition from television. After losing three straight, Marlon Brando won Best Actor for his iconic turn in On the Waterfront (1954), while Humphrey Bogart was at his best playing a boozy sailor in The African Queen (1951). Meanwhile, Ernest Borgnine emerged with a win for Marty (1955), and fellow Englishmen Alec Guinness and David Niven won for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Separate Tables (1958) respectively.

For Best Actress, Vivian Leigh returned to the podium after over a decade for her performance as faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), while newcomer Audrey Hepburn took the world by storm with her star-making turn in Roman Holiday (1953). Ingrid Bergman earned well-deserved redemption with Anastasia (1956) while Joanne Woodward earned her only Oscar with The Three Faces of Eve (1957).

Filmmakers both old and new won Best Director for films that ranged from moody character dramas to grand historical epics. Joseph L. Mankiewicz kicked off the decade with his flamboyant showbiz satire All About Eve (1950) and John Ford won number four with The Quiet Man (1952). Elia Kazan found his own redemption with On the Waterfront, David Lean won his first of two with The Bridge on the River Kwai, and William Wyler earned Oscar for directing the greatest epic of all, Ben-Hur (1959).

Speaking of Ben-Hur, the film took home a staggering 11 Academy Awards, including the top prize of Best Picture. In fact, the 1950s saw a number of all-time classics take home that honor including the Gene Kelly musical An American in Paris (1951), Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity (1953), and Marty (1955).

Lawrence of ArabiaThe 1960s where when Hollywood shifted out of the classical era and into the New Hollywood years. But before the studio system and Hays Code gave way to the auteurs, a few older stars like Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960), Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and John Wayne in True Grit (1969) reminded audiences of the classical era's greatness. Meanwhile, Sidney Poitier broke through both as an actor and as a pioneering American when he became the first African-American to win Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963).

Hollywood's greatest star, Elizabeth Taylor, won two Best Actress awards in the decade for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), while Katharine Hepburn relieved a 33 year dry spell with a win for both Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). The following year, she earned her third Academy Award for Lion in Winter (1968) by tying with Barbra Streisand's performance in Funny Girl (1968), so far the only time the Academy bestowed Oscar on two actresses in the same year.

In the Best Director category, Hollywood's biggest names took home Oscar, starting with Billy Wilder for The Apartment (1960) and David Lean for his awe-inspiring epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Also in the decade, Robert Wise won two Oscars for West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), while George Cukor took home his career's only award for My Fair Lady (1964).

While Hollywood was in the midst of change, the Academy delivered Best Picture to mostly traditional films including four musicals despite that genre's general decline. Academy Awards were handed out to West Side Story, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Oliver! (1968), as well as Lawrence of Arabia and In the Heat of the Night (1967).

The GodfatherThe 1970s may well be argued as being the greatest decade in cinema history, and Hollywood has the decline and fall of the old studio system to thank. For Best Actor, the decade started off with George C. Scott's extraordinary performance in Patton (1970), and continued with Gene Hackman's turn as the relentless Popeye Doyle in The French Connection (1971) and Marlon Brando's iconic portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972). Other great performances included Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Peter Finch in Network (1976).

On the Best Actress side, both Glenda Jackson and Jane Fonda dominated the decade by nabbing four Oscars and splitting four more nominations. Jackson won Academy Awards for Women in Love (1970) and A Touch of Class (1973), while Fonda took home  Oscar for her turn as a mysterious prostitute in Klute (1971) and in Hal Ashby's Coming Home (1978). Other great performances included Liza Minnelli in Cabaret (1972), Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979).

Since the 1970s were all about the auteur, a slew of new directors earned Oscars and nominations. Francis Ford Coppola won two awards for a pair of masterpieces, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (1974), while George Roy Hill won for The Sting (1973), one of the biggest hits of the decade. Also taking home Oscar for Best Director were Woody Allen for Annie Hall (1977) and Michael Cimino for the disturbing antiwar film The Deer Hunter (1978).

Finally, the Best Picture category in the 1970s was one of the most competitive in Oscar history. Patton started off the decade and was followed by William Friedkin's great crime thriller The French Connection and Coppola's groundbreaking crime saga The Godfather. The uplifting Rocky (1976) managed to knock out more deserving competition, while Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) stole the award from Coppola's Vietnam War masterpiece Apocalypse Now (1979).

Movie posters for 'Gone With the Wind' (1939)/Warner Bros.; 'Casablanca' (1943)/MGM Home Entertainment; 'Ben-Hur' (1959)/MGM Home Entertainment; 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)/Sony Pictures; and 'The Godfather' (1972)/Paramount Pictures


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