The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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1939: When 10 great Oscar nominees really meant 10 great nominees

February 11, 2011 |  5:58 pm

Jimmy_stewart From 1936 through 1943, the motion picture academy nominated 10 movies for best picture, just as it does now. Back then, Hollywood was cranking out an unbelievable volume of movies, with some of the top studio filmmakers often directing several pictures each year. So it wasn't such a stretch to nominate 10 movies for best picture, since there were plenty of gems to go around.

One of the banner years in the business was 1939, which is being celebrated on Saturday by Turner Classic Movies -- it's airing all 10 of the year's best picture nominees. I mean, think about how much you'd like to see some of these great films -- "Rules of the Game," "Young Mr. Lincoln," "The Women," "Gunga Din," "Destry Rides Again," "Beau Geste" and "Union Pacific."

Whoops! None of those pictures even made the cut. There were 10 pictures even more worthy of honor, including such classics as "Ninotchka," "Stagecoach," "Wuthering Heights," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "The Wizard of Oz," which all lost to "Gone with the Wind." You can go here to see TCM's program listing, with all the Eastern Standard air times, so I suggest you set your TiVos and soak up some great moviemaking.

-- Patrick Goldstein  

Photo: Jimmy Stewart, in a scene from the 1939 Oscar nominated film, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Credit: Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences