On February 29, 1940, Hollywood was abuzz and aglitter with Oscar fever. As was the custom, the names of the Oscar winners were revealed in advance to the press, with newspapers making a solemn promise not to break the news before the ceremonies. But one newspaper couldn’t contain the excitement.
The Los Angeles Times printed the names of the winners and splashed Gone With the Wind in banner headlines across the front page. Talk about spilling the beans!
Everyone arriving for the banquet that Thursday evening at the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel knew who would be picking up Oscars and who would be going home empty handed.
With an unprecedented 13 nominations in 12 categories (double nomination for Best Supporting Actress), Gone With the Wind won a record-breaking 8 competitive Academy Awards:
- Best Picture – Gone With the Wind
- Best Actress – Vivien Leigh
- Best Supporting Actress – Hattie McDaniel
- Best Director – Victor Fleming
- Best Screenplay – Sidney Howard
- Best Cinematography, Color – Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan
- Best Art Direction – Lyle Wheeler
- Best Film Editing – Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom
Gone With the Wind might have swept the Academy Awards, but the film did not win in every nomination category:
- Clark Gable lost the Best Actor Award to Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips
- Jack Cosgrove lost Best Special Effects Award to The Rains Came
- Max Steiner lost the Best Original Musical Score Award to The Wizard of Oz
- Thomas Moulton lost the Best Sound Recording Award to When Tomorrow Comes
With an impressive number of Oscar wins, Gone With the Wind gilded the lily by picking up with two more honors:
- David O. Selznick received the honorary Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award “for the most consistent high quality of production during 1939.”
- William Cameron Menzies received an honorary plaque “for outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production Gone With the Wind.”
The 12th annual Oscar extravaganza was a great night for Gone With the Wind. But Board members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were furious over the leak of the Oscar news by the Los Angeles Times.
This breach prompted the academy to initiate a protocol for future award presentations. Since then, the names of the winners have been sealed in envelopes by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services firm that oversees the tabulation of the voting results. This ensures that the results are, indeed, kept secret until the presenter says “And the Oscar goes to…”
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition) and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel and “like” her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheCompleteGWTWTriviaBook).