Oscar 1940: Intense Competition

In 1940, the competition in the two lead acting categories was particularly intense. The nominees for Best Actress were: Bette Davis in The Letter, Joan Fontaine in Rebecca, Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle, and Martha Scott in Our Town. That year, Hollywood consensus held that Hepburn gave the year's strongest performance, arguably the best of her career, for which she was cited by the New York Film Critics Circle. The Academy winner, however, was Ginger Rogers, earning an Oscar for her first and only nomination.

In the same year, James Stewart's winning performance in The Philadelphia Story was also not the most distinguished, compared with Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, or Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath; the two other nominees were Laurence Olivier for Rebecca and Raymond Massey for the biopicture Abe Lincoln in Illinois.