Best Picture Nominees: 1940

Winston Churchill took over as Britain's Prime Minister, as Hitler began his conquest of Europe. Germany invaded Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

For more information about 1940, see The Learning Network's Fact Monster.

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock)
Won Best Picture
IMDB Highest Rated
Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), still troubled by the death of his wife Rebecca, falls in love with a shy ladies' companion (Joan Fontaine). They get married, but Lady de Winter discovers that Rebecca still has a big hold on everyone in the house, particularly on Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the housekeeper, who begins driving the young wife to madness.

The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Nominated Best Picture
Chaplin's wicked satire of Nazi Germany came right in the face of Hitler's atrocities. In it a clumsy soldier (Chaplin) saves the life of devoted military pilot Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). Unfortunately, their flight from the advancing enemy ends in a severe crash, with the clumsy soldier losing his memories. After quite some years in the hospital, the amnesia patient gets released and reopens his old barber shop in the Jewish ghetto. But times have changed in the country of Tomania. Dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin), who looks very similar to the barber (and to Hitler), has laid his merciless grip on the country, and the Jewish people are discriminated against. One day, the barber gets in trouble and is brought before a commanding officer, who turns out to be his old comrade Schultz. So, the ghetto enjoys protection from then on. Meanwhile, Hynkel develops big plans. He wants to become Dictator of the whole world and needs a scapegoat for the public. Soon, Schultz is being arrested for being too Jewish-friendly, and all Jews except those who managed to flee are transported into Concentration Camps. Hynkel is planning to march into Osterlich to show off against Napaloni (Jack Oakie), Dictator of Bacteria, who already has deployed his troops along the other border of the small country. Meanwhile, Schultz and the barber manage to escape in military uniforms. As luck would have it, Schultz and the barber are picked up by Tomanian forces and the barber is mixed up with Hynkel himself. The small barber now gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak to the people of Osterlich and all of Tomania, who listen eagerly on the radio.

The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor)
Nominated Best Picture
Philadelphia heiress Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) throws out her playboy husband C.K. Dexter Haven(Cary Grant) shortly after their marriage. Two years later, Tracy is about to marry respectable George Kittredge (John Howard) while Dexter has been working for "Spy" magazine. Dexter, who still loves Tracy, arrives at the Lord's mansion the day before the wedding to try and stop Spy's gossip writer Mike Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) from exposing the womanizing reputation of Tracy's father (John Halliday). To make matters worse, Connor falls in love with Tracy.

The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford)
Nominated Best Picture
From the novel by John Steinbeck, this is the story of the Joad family. Oklahoma in the Thirties is a dustbowl and dispossessed farmers migrate westward to California. Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returns to his home after a jail sentence to find his family kicked out of their farm due to forecloseure. He catches up with them on his Uncles farm and joins them the next day as they head for California and a new life. This is one of Fonda's greatest roles.

The Letter (William Wyler)
Nominated Best Picture
Adaptation of the play by W. Somerset Maugham, that has Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) murdering Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell) while her husband (Herbert Marshall) inspects his rubber planatation. Hammond's widow (Gale Sondergaard) has a letter written by Leslie asking him to meet her as her lover the night of the murder. Leslie can buy the letter but must come for it herself.

Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock)
Nominated Best Picture
Another Hitchock thriller. In this one, Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is an action reporter on a New York newspaper. The editor appoints him European correspondent because he is fed up with the dry, reports he currently gets. Jones' first assignment is to get the inside story on a secret treaty agreed between two European countries by the famous diplomat, Mr. Van Meer (Albert Bassermann). However things don't go to plan and Jones enlists the help of a young woman (Laraine Day) to help track down a group of spies.

Our Town (Sam Wood)
Nominated Best Picture
From the classic play by Thornton Wilder, this is the story of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire between the turn of the century and World War I. Change comes slowly to a small town in the early 20th century. People grow up, get married, live, and die. Milk and the newspaper get delivered every morning, and nobody locks their front doors. The film is given down-home commentary by the Narrator, Mr. Morgan (Frank Craven), who profiles the lives of the town's residents. The story centers around young Emily Webb (Martha Scott), the hard-working daughter of the town's newspaper editor (Guy Kibbee), who falls in love with George Gibbs (William Holden), son of the local doctor (Thomas Mitchell). They court each other over a period of time and eventually marry, but she is lost during childbirth.

All This and Heaven Too (Anatole Litvak)
Nominated Best Picture
From the novel by Rachel Field, this is the story of Henriette Deluzy Desportes (Bette Davis) who becomes governess to the children of the Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer). The jealous Duchesse (Barbara O'Neil) spreads rumors of an affair between Henriette and the Duc. Finally she insists Henriette leave their employ and fails to supply her with a promised letter of reference. When the Duc learns of this they argue, and the next morning the Duchesse is found dead. The Duc takes poison and Henriette is forced to flee France.

Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman (Sam Wood)
Nominated Best Picture
From the novel by Christopher Morley, about Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers), a hard-working white-collar girl from a Philadelphia low, middle-class family, who meets and falls in love with young socialite Wyn Strafford (Dennis Morgan), but his family is against her.


The Long Voyage Home (John Ford)
Nominated Best Picture
Adapted from plays by Eugene O'Neill, this film tells the story of the freighter Glencairn, where the lives of the crew are lived out in fear, loneliness, suspicion and cameraderie. Their ship is transporting dynamite in a dangerous mission-convoy from America to England, and is threatened by bad weather, German U-boats and plane attacks. With effective performances by John Wayne as young Swedish sailor Ole Olsen and Thomas Mitchell as fellow seamate Aloysius Driscoll, and atmospheric cinematography by the famous Gregg Toland.

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks)
A remake of 1931's The Front Page. In it, Walter Burns (Cary Grant), editor of a major Chicago newspaper, is about to lose his ace reporter and former wife, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), to insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), but not without a fight! The crafty editor uses every trick in his fedora to get Hildy to write one last big story, about murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen) and the inept Sheriff Hartwell (Gene Lockhart). The comedy snowballs as William's friend, Molly Malloy (Helen Mack), the crooked Mayor (Clarence Kolb), and Bruce's mother (Alma Kruger) all get tied up in Walter's web.


Daybreak (Marcel Carne)
From France, this film features Francois (Jean Gabin), a sympathetic factory worker, who kills Valentin (Jules Berry) with a gun. He locks himself in his furnished room and starts remembering how he was led to murder. He met once Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent), a young fleurist, and they fell in love. But Francoise was gotten round by Valentin, a dog trainer, a machiavellian guy.

Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
Adapted from the play by Miklos Laszlo, "Matuschek's" is the gift shop around the corner. Among the staff is Alfred Kralik (James Stewart), a likeable young man who's in love with a woman he has never met and whose name he doesn't even know (their "romance" has been conducted through a post office box). When Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) comes to work as a clerk in the shop, the sparks begin to fly: she and Alfred can't stand each other. Of course, what neither knows is that Klana is the woman Alfred has been romancing through the mail!

Fantasia (James Algar and Samuel Armstrong)
The animated masterpiece by Walt Disney. Disney animators set pictures to classical music as Leopold Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra. "The Sorceror's Apprentice" features Mickey Mouse as an aspiring magician who oversteps his limits. "The Rite of Spring" tells the story of evolution, from single-celled animals to the death of the dinosaurs. "Dance of the Hours" is a comic ballet performed by ostriches, hippos, elephants and alligators. "Night on Bald Mountain" and "Ave Maria" set the forces of darkness and light against each other as a devilish revel is interrupted by the coming of a new day. Naturally, it flopped at the box office.

Pinocchio (Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen)
Animated tale based on the novel by Carlo Collodi. Inventor Gepetto (Christian Rub) creates a wooden marionette called Pinocchio (Dickie Jones). His wish that Pinocchio be a real boy is unexpectedly granted by a fairy (Evelyn Venable). The fairy assigns Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) to act as Pinocchio's "conscience" and keep him out of trouble. Jiminy is not too successful in this endeavor and most of the film is spent with Pinocchio deep in trouble.

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Best Picture: 1940
What is the Best Picture of 1940?

The Great Dictator
The Philadelphia Story
The Grapes of Wrath
The Letter
Foreign Correspondent
Our Town
All This and Heaven Too
Kitty Foyle
The Long Voyage Home
His Girl Friday
The Shop Around the Corner

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1939 <- Main Menu -> 1941

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