Blossoms in the Dust (1941): Oscar-Nominated Biopic of Edna Gladney Starring Greer Garson

One of the weakest films to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, Blossoms in the Dust is a dull biopic of Edna Gladney, the founder of an orphanage in Texas’ Fort Worth.

Teaming with her frequent on-screen partner Walter Pidgeon (who plays her husband), Greer Garson received her second Best Actress nod, probably due to MGM’s Louis B. Mayer’s campaigning for her. Garson won the Oscar the next year, also for a mediocre film, “Mrs. Miniver.”

Mervyn Leroy, known for his energetic direction, must have been restrained by the wholesome text, which is based on a screenplay from Anita Loose, better known as the scribe of “The Women” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Oscar Nominations: 4

Picture, produced by Irving Aher
Actress: Greer Garson
Cinematography (color): Karl Freund and W. Howard Greene
Interior Decoration (color): Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary, art direction; Edwin B. Willis, set decoration

Oscar Awards: 1

Interior Decoration (color)

Oscar Context

The most nominated film in 1941 was Howard Hawks’ patriotic saga, “Sergeant York,” which received 11 nominations and won two: Gary Cooper as Best Actor and Film Editing for William Holmes. The Oscar winner, however, was John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” which presents a warmly sympathetic depiction of family unity in times of crisis. This may explain in part why that film’s two major competitors, Orson Welles’s masterpiece, “Citizen Kane” and William Wyler’s “The Little Foxes,” each with nine nominations, were the losers. Both films, and particularly “Little Foxes,” represented dark and somber visions of the American family. Once again, the “right” contents and ideological approach made the difference, though it’s noteworthy that “How Green” was as visually distinguishable as it was thematically acceptable.

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Joan Fontaine for Hitchcock’s thriller, “Suspicion.” The Cinematography award went to Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan for “Blood and Sand.”