Wilson (1944): Oscar Nominated Biopic, Starring Alexander Knox

Bloated, dull, and overly long (two and half hours), Henry King’s biopic “Wilson” is a wannabe epic about the life and times of President Woodraw Wilson, well-played by Alexander Knox in an Oscar-nominated turn.

Fox’s studio head Darryl Zanuck poured into his pet project his heart, a huge budget and a large cast that includes such reliable pros as Geraldine Fitzgerald as Mrs. Wilson, Cedric Hardwicke as Henry Cabot Lodge, Vincent Price, Sidney Blackmore, Marcel Dalio as Clemenceau, and Francis X. Bushman as Bernard Baruch, Charles Coburn and Thomas Mitchell.

Made with an eye for American audiences during WWII, “Wilson” is a typical middlebrow Henry King picture, targeted at the Oscar voters at times when patriotic fare and politics mattered more than art or entertainment.

Oscar Alert

Oscar nominations: 10

Picture, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Director: Henry King
Actor: Alexander Knox
Screenplay (Original): Lamar Trotti
Interior Decoration (color): Wiard Ihnen, art direction; Thomas Little, set decoration
Cinematography (color): Leon Shamroy
Editing: Barbara McLean
Score: Alfred Newman
Sound Recording: E.H. Hansen
Special Effects: Fred Sersen, photography; Roger Heman, sound

Oscar Awards: 5

Screenplay
Cinematography
Interior Decoration
Editing
Sound Recording

Oscar Context:

Made during WWII, “Wilson” was Oscar-nominated in many categories, including Best Picture and Director, but the Academy opted for the Leo McCarey comedy “Going My Way,” which swept most of the Oscars, including the acting awards for Bing Crosby as Best Actor and Best Director for Leo McCarey.

The three other nominees in 1944 were: Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” George Cukor’s supremely executed suspense thriller “Gaslight,” and the sentimental home front melodrama “Since You Went Away.”

Max Steiner won the Scoring Oscar for “Since You Went Away,” and the war picture “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” won the Special Effects.