Oscar: Foreign Language Film 1948–Monsieur Vincent, French Winner

Monsieur Vincent, directed by Maurice Cloche, was the second winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, though it was an honorary, not a competitive, award, voted by a committee (see below).

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The noted French actor Pierre Fresnay stars in the titular role, as Vincent de Paul, a man who devoted himself to helping the poor in 17th century France against various obstacles, including the Black Death.

 

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Vincent was later canonized and the Catholic Church placed the film high on its list of inspirational religious epics.

This religious biopic is marked by a brilliant scenario from playwright Jean Anouilh and Jean Bernard-Luc, and sharp cinematography from Claude Renoir.

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The black-and-white film opened in France in late 1947, and a year later (in December) in the U.S.

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Credits:

Running time: 11 Minutes

Directed by Maurice Cloche

Produced by Viscount George de la Grandiere

Music: Jean-Jacques Grünenwald

Editing: Jean Feyte

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Officially, the first winner in the Best Foreign Language Film 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, legitimate category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) recognized several foreign films with an Honorary Oscar, beginning with Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realistic movie Shoeshine, in 1947.

The 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.”  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:

1947                 Shoeshine (Italy)

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                 Samurai (Japan)

Most o of the honored films had received theatrical distribution in the U.S. and came from established national cinemas, such as the French, the Italian and the Japanese.

Some of them were nominated for and won Oscars in other fields, such as costume design (“Gate of Hell”).

More importantly, all the movies singled out by the Academy were directed by name filmmakers, such as Italian De Sica (Shoeshine and Bicycle Thief), Japanese Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon), fellow-Japanese Teinosuke Kinugasa (Gate of Hell), and French Rene Clement (Forbidden Games).