Oscar: Foreign-Language Film: Early Years

Officially, the first winner in the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar category was “La Strada,” in 1956, which helped established Federico Fellini as one of the most important European director.
Anthony Quinn, as Zampano, an itinerant strong man, and Giulietta Masina, as the young woman he buys and abuses as his clown and servant, gave memorable performances in a film that was also nominated for its Original Screenpplay (by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli).

Prior to the creation of a separate category for foreign films, the Academy recognized several foreign films with an Honorary Oscar, beginning with Vittorio De Sica’s neorealistic movie “Shoeshine,” in 1947.

Academy leader and board member Jean Hersholt held that “an international award, if properly and carefully administered, would promote a closer relationship between American film craftsmen and those of other countries.” Check. The citation for De Sica’s Shoeshine read: “The high quality of this motion picture, brought to eloquent life in a country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.”

The following pictures were singled out for Special Award before the foreign-language category was created:

1948 Monsieur Vincent, France
1949 The Bicycle Thief, Italy
1950 The Walls of Malapaga, France-Italy
1951 Rashomon, Japan
1952 Forbidden Games, France
1953 No citation
1954 Gate of Hell, Japan
1955 The Seven Samurai, Japan