And This Oscar Goes to… No One
As the calendar pages flip away to the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, it’s tempting to think of the awards ceremony as venerable, a Hollywood stalwart that’s been doling out accolades from the start. That’s partly true, I suppose. The first Academy Awards were held in 1929, thirty plus years after motion pictures came onto the cultural scene, but – fair enough – these awards aren’t about cinema-craft, they’re about Hollywood! So that scant year before movies started talking (and how – they haven’t shut up yet) sounds about right. But even viewed through that lens, the Oscars aren’t quite as venerable as they may seem.
Today we’ll take a look at the Oscars no one will be getting at the 86th Academy Awards because, well, they don’t exist anymore. Due to changing technology or tastes, these once awarded statuettes have been retired over the years.
Active Years: sporadically from 1934-60
Where’d It Go?: This one is a little patronizing – even the statuette was half the size of the big boy Oscar. Originally created with nine-year-old Jackie Cooper didn’t win for Best Actor in 1931, the Academy felt it was unfair for kids to compete against their adult costars. Eventually though, enough adolescents turned out great performances it was deemed unnecessary.
Notable Winners: Given that is was a notable award, all of them, including Shirley Temple (who won the very first Juvenile Award Oscar), Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Hayley Mills (who won the last one for her work in Pollyanna.
Who Should Win It in 2014: You got me. But if I had a time machine, I’d go back to 2013 and give it to Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Active Years: 1934 – 1937
Where’d It Go?: Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a given that ADs get the short end of the stick on the set, so I suppose it’s natural that they get jacked during awards season, too.
Notable Winners: 12 souls won this award, 7 in 1933, 1 in 1934, 2 in 1935, 1 in 1936, and 1 in 1937. You do not know their names.
Who Should Win It in 2014: Who could say? If you or someone you love is an assistant director, let us know.
Active Years: 1935 – 1937
Where’d It Go?: Hard to believe now, but there was a time when you couldn’t swing a dead rat in Hollywood without hitting a dance number. While it makes sense that this award is no longer doled out, we truly miss the singy and dancey version of Hollywood spectacle.
Notable Winners: Hermes Pan, whose sole Oscar was this one for “Fun House” from A Damsel in Distress, was one of Hollywood’s most in-demand choreographers between 1928-68.
Who Should Win It in 2014: Probably who ever choreographed that midget marching band office party in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Active Years: 1929
Where’d It Go?: There’s kind of a long history of dropping genre specific awards to streamline the categories and to emphasize film as the work of one director. Given the amount of perceived bias against comedy, maybe it’s time for a comeback of this category.
Notable Winners: Seeing as how there was only one, the honor has to go to Lewis Milestone took home the first and last Best Comedy Direction Oscar for Two Arabian Knights.
Who Should Win It in 2014: Adam McKay for Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Duh.
Active Years: 1929
Where’d It Go?: Oh those were different times. The only winner of this award revolved around what were essentially effects before there was such a thing, but its a skill set covered by Special Effects (later renamed Special Visual Effects before finally becoming Visual Effects in 1977).
Notable Winners: Just the one, William A. Wellman’s World War I flying drama Wings, which benefited from Wellman’s aviation expertise.
Who Should Win It in 2014: There’s a host of worthies in the Visual Effects category but if I were a betting woman, I’d put it all on Gravity.
Active Years: 1936-37
Where’d It Go?: Oh how I long for the days when it was necessary to say whether a film was color or not. Of course, it’s pretty obvious why this category no longer exists.
Notable Winners: We’ve only got two, so we’ll call ’em both noteworthy, B. Reeves Eason’sGive Me Liberty and David Miller’s Penny Wisdom.
Who Should Win It in 2014: These days shorts are awarded in three separate categories: Live Action, Animated, and Documentary. Of course, no one will ever see them – unless you happen to be Toronto, where the TIFF Bell Lightbox will be screening two programs of Oscar nominated shorts, one live action, one animated, starting February 7.
Active Years: 1936-56
Where’d It Go?: It went the way of the dodo bird and, well, two reel shorts and the era when one had to distinguish between two reel shorts and one reel shorts. Gentlemen also wore hats while ladies wore dresses. It’s true, I swear.
Notable Winners: This category boasted a whole lot of distinguished winners, including awesome and prolific documentarian Gordon Hollingshead.
Who Should Win It in 2014: Certainly not any of our esteemed directors who can’t turn in a feature less than three hours long.
Active Years: 1932-35
Where’d It Go?: And again, short films used to be da bomb yo!
Notable Winners: There was a healthy range here, but winners were often things like Krakatoa and Wings Over Everest, those little films that let you “visit” a place you were never going to actually go to.
Who Should Win It in 2014: Since I file 3D as nothing more than a novelty, I’ll go with Iron Man 3, which wasn’t a short but should have been.
Active Years: 1929
Where’d It Go?: By the time the first academy awards ceremony was held, Jolson was singing already singing Mammy on the silver screen. By the time the second awards ceremony rolled around, this wasn’t even a job anymore, much less an awards category.
Notable Winners: We’ve only one folks, Joseph Farnham, the man response for the titles of Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), London After Midnight (1927), The Big Parade (1925) and Greed (1924), among others.
Who Should Win It in 2014: It breaks my heart, but no one.
Active Years: 1929
Where’d It Go?: This is confusing, but at the 1st Academy Awards this category existed in addition to Outstanding Picture, which is what we now know as Best Picture. Those two things were deemed redundant and this award only lasted one go round.
Notable Winners: While it was Wings who took Outstanding Picture in 1929, F.W. Murnau’s sublime Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans is the one and only winner of this one.
Who Should Win It in 2014: “Best” is such a catchall, no? I say we bring this category back for the guilt win and then give something truly entertaining Best Picture. I nominate Gravity, a film so boring it puts me to sleep even though I haven’t seen it.