Oscar Movies: Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Goldwyn (RKO release)

“The Best Years of Our Lives” was the most honored film in 1946, receiving the largest number of awards to date, 7 regular and a Special Oscar. It captured the mood of post-War America so effectively and so realistically, that even the more critical reviewers failed to see its flaws at the time.

Oscar Nominations: 8

Picture, produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Director: William Wyler
Screenplay: Robert E. Sherwood
Actor: Frederic March
Supporting Actor: Harold Russell
Editing: Daniel Mandell
Scoring (Dramatic or Comedy): Hugo Friedhofer
Sound Recording: Gordon Sawyer

Oscar Awards: 7 (and Special Award)

Supporting Actor

Special Award to Harold Russell “for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.”

Oscar Context

In 1946, “Best Years of Our Lives” competed for the top award with Olivier's Shakespearean film “Henry V,” Frank Capra's “It's a Wonderful Life,” “The Razor Edge,” based on Somerset Maugham's novel, and Clarence Brown's family melodrama “The Yearling,” co-starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman, which received 7 nominations, but only two legit Oscars: Cinematography and Art Direction (both in color)

The only category in which “Best Years” lost was Sound, which went to John Livadary for “The Jolson Story.”

The omission of distinguished lenser Gregg Toland from the nominations was scandalous, considering his contribution (deep focus long shots) to the film's overall impact. Toland's last nomination was for Orson Welles' “Citizen Kane.” In one of Oscar's peculiarities, the number of nominated photographers was substantially reduced in 1946, perhaps due to the fact that the category now included achievements in black-and white and in color.

The big loser that year was Capra's fable, which was a commercial failure at the time, but in later years came to be recognized by film critics as his masterpiece.