Oscar: Foreign Language Film Category–The Beginning

In the entire history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), only a few foreign-language film movies have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.  

Jean Renoir’s anti-war masterpiece, “Grand Illusion” competed for the 1937 top award, but that was before the creation of a distinct category for foreign-language pictures. 

Officially, the first winner in this category was “La Strada” in 1956, which helped established 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, the Academy recognized several foreign films with an Honorary Oscar, beginning with Vittorio De Sica’s neorealistic movie, “Shoeshine,” in 1947.
 
Academy leaderand board member Jean Hersholt held that “an international award, if properly and carefully administered, would promote closer relationship between American film craftsmen and those of other countries.” 
 
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