Pre-Code Academy Awards/Oscars

Academy Award Nominees and Winners of the Pre-Code Era

For this page, I wanted to create a listing of the winners of the major Academy Awards for the Pre-Code years. Please note that some of these movies may not be technically Pre-Code films, since pre-Code films are defined as much by their content as their release date. However, I do plan on covering most of these films in due time and whenever possible.

All pictures and content on this page come from Oscars.org.

1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934

 


AA1930

The Third Annual Academy Awards

For films released between August 1, 1929 and July 31, 1930. Held on November 5, 1930 at the Fiesta Room of the Ambassador Hotel. Ernst Lubitch’s The Love Parade had 6 nominations, but was shut out. Best Sound Recording was a new category introduced for this ceremony.

AALaemmleAll
Louie B. Mayer presents the Oscar to Carl Laemmle for All Quiet on the Western Front.

Best Picture (AKA “Outstanding Production”)

Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Director

Winner: Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Cinematography

Winner: With Byrd at the South Pole

Norma Shearer holds her Oscar for Best Actress.
Norma Shearer holds her Oscar for Best Actress.

Best Actress

Winner: Norma Shearer, The Divorcee

Best Actor

Winner: George ArlissDisraeli 

Best Art Direction

Winner: Herman Rosse, King of Jazz

  • Hans Dreier, The Love Parade
  • Jack Okey, Sally
  • Hans Drier, The Vagabond King
  • William Cameron Menzies, Bulldog Drummond
Presenter Jack Cunningham gives writer Frances Mario the Best Writing Oscar for The Big House.
Presenter Jack Cunningham presents writer Frances Mario the Best Writing Oscar for The Big House.

Best Writing

Winner: Frances Marion, The Big House

Best Sound Recording

Winner: Douglas Shearer, The Big House

  • John Tribby, The Case of Sergeant Grischa
  • Franklin Hansen, The Love Parade
  • Oscar Lagerstrom, Raffles
  • George Groves, Song of the Flame

AA1931

The Fourth Annual Academy Awards

For films released between August 1, 1930 and July 31, 1931. Held on November 10, 1931 at the Sala D’Oro at the Biltmore Hotel. Cimarron was the only Western to win Best Picture until 1990. Jackie Cooper remains the only person to have been nominated for Best Actor under the age of 18. The Best Writing category was split into Best Story and Best Adapted Screenplay. Sound Recording was given to a studio’s sound department for this year rather than to any individual sound designer.

Best Picture

Winner: Cimarron

  • East Lynne
  • The Front Page
  • Skippy
  • Trader Horn

Best Director

Winner: Norman Taurog, Skippy

  • Clarence Brown, A Free Soul
  • Lewis Milestone, The Front Page
  • Wesley Ruggles, Cimarron
  • Josef von Sternberg, Morocco

Best Actress

Best Actress winner Marie Dressler and Best Actor winner Lionel Barrymore.
Best Actress winner Marie Dressler and Best Actor winner Lionel Barrymore.

Winner: Marie Dressler, Min and Bill

Best Actor

Winner: Lionel Barrymore, A Free Soul

  • Jackie Cooper, Skippy
  • Richard Dix, Cimarron
  • Fredric March, The Royal Family of Broadway
  • Adolphe Menjou, The Front Page

Best Story

Winner: John Monk Saunders, The Dawn Patrol

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Howard Estabrook, Cimarron

  • Seton I. Miller and Fred Niblo, Jr., The Criminal Code
  • Horace Jackson, Holiday
  • Francis Edward Faragoh and Robert N. Lee, Little Caesar
  • Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Sam Mintz, Skippy

Best Sound Recording

Nominee Jackie Cooper with his mother.
Nominee Jackie Cooper with his mother.

Winner: Paramount Publix Studio Sound Department

  • Samuel Goldwyn – United Artists Studio Sound Department
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Sound Department
  • RKO Radio Studio Sound Department

Best Art Direction

Winner: Max Rée, Cimarron

  • Stephen Goosson and Ralph Hammeras, Just Imagine
  • Hans Dreier, Morocco
  • Anton Grot, Svengali
  • Richard Day, Whoopee!

Best Cinematography

Winner: Floyd Crosby, Tabu

  • Edward Cronjager, Cimarron
  • Lee Garmes, Morocco
  • Charles Lang, The Right to Love
  • Barney McGill, Svengali

AA33Hayes

The Fifth Annual Academy Awards

For films released between August 1, 1931 and July 31, 1932. Held on November 18, 1932 at the Ambassador Hotel. Grand Hotel was only nominated for Best Picture, which it won. Arrowsmith and The Champ got the most nominations with four apiece. This year introduced the Short Film categories.

Best Picture

Winner: Grand Hotel

Best Director

Walt Disney won a special award for creating Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney won a special award for creating Mickey Mouse

Winner: Frank Borzage, Bad Girl

  • King Vidor, The Champ
  • Josef von Sternberg, Shanghai Express

Best Actress

Winner: Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet

Best Actor

Winner: Frederic March, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde & Wallace Beery, The Champ

  • Alfred Lunt, The Guardsman

Best Story

Winner: Frances Marion, The Champ

  • Grover Jones, William Slavens McNutt, Lady and Gent
  • Lucien Hubbard, The Star Witness
  • Adela Rogers St. Johns, Jane Murfin, What Price Hollywood?

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Edwin Burke, Bad Girl

Best Sound Recording

Winner: Paramount Publix Studio Sound Department

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Sound Department
  • RKO Radio Studio Sound Department
  • Warner Bros.-First National Studio Sound Department

Best Art Direction

Winner: Gordon Wiles, Transatlantic

  • Lazare Meerson, À nous la liberté
  • Richard Day, Arrowsmith

Best Cinematography

Lee Garmes with his Best Cinematography Oscar.
Lee Garmes with his Best Cinematography Oscar.

Winner: Lee Garmes, Shanghai Express

Best Animated Short Film

Winner: “Flowers and Trees” – Walt Disney Productions, United Artists

  • “It’s Got Me Again!” – Leon Schlesinger Productions, Warner Bros.
  • “Mickey’s Orphans” – Walt Disney Productions

Best Short Film, Comedy

Winner: “The Music Box” – Hal Roach

  • “The Loud Mouth” – Mack Sennett
  • “Scratch-As-Catch-Can” – RKO Radio

Best Short Film, Novelty

Winner: “Wrestling Swordfish” – Mack Sennett

  • “Screen Souvenirs” – Paramount Publix
  • “Swing High” – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

AA34Rogers

The Sixth Annual Academy Awards

For films released between August 1, 1932 and December 31, 1933, finally affixing the Awards to those released within a calendar year. Held on March 16, 1934 at the Ambassador Hotel. Will Rogers hosted. A category for Best Assistant Director was added, with a winner announced for each of the major studios.

Best Picture

Winner: Cavalcade

  • 42nd Street
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
  • Lady for a Day
  • Little Women
  • The Private Life of Henry VIII
  • She Done Him Wrong
  • Smilin’ Through
  • State Fair

Best Director

Winner: Frank Lloyd, Cavalcade

Best Actress

Charles Laughton arriving. He would win Best Actor for The Private Life of Henry the VIII.
Charles Laughton arriving. He would win Best Actor for The Private Life of Henry VIII.

Winner:  Katherine Hepburn, Morning Glory

Best Actor

Winner: Charles Laughton, The Private Life of Henry VIII

  • Leslie Howard, Berkeley Square
  • Paul Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Best Story

Winner: Robert Lord, One Way Passage

  • Frances Marion, The Prizefighter and the Lady
  • Charles MacArthur, Rasputin and the Empress

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason, Little Women

  • Robert Riskin, Lady for a Day
  • Paul Green and Sonya Levien, State Fair

Best Sound Recording

Winner: Franklin Hansen, A Farewell to Arms

  • Nathan Levinson, 42nd Street
  • Nathan Levinson, Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Nathan Levinson, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Best Art Direction

Winner: William S. Darling and Fredric Hope, Cavalcade

  • Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson, A Farewell to Arms
  • Cedric Gibbons, When Ladies Meet

Best Cinematography

Winner: Charles Bryant Lang, Jr., A Farewell to Arms

  • George J. Folsey, Reunion in Vienna
  • Karl Struss, Sign of the Cross

Best Assistant Director

Franklin Hansen wins for Best Sound Recording for A Farewell to Arms.
Franklin Hansen wins for Best Sound Recording for A Farewell to Arms.

Winner: Charles Barton, Paramount

Winner: Scott Beal, Universal

Winner: Charles Dorian, MGM

Winner: Fred Fox, United Artists

Winner: Gordon Hollingshead, Warner Brothers

Winner: Dewey Starkey, RKO

Winner: William Tummel, 20th Century Fox

  • Al Alleborn, Warner Brothers
  • Sid Brod, Paramount
  • Orville O. Dull, MGM
  • Percy Ikerd, 20th Century Fox
  • Arthur Jacobson, Paramount
  • Edward Killy, RKO
  • Joseph A. McDonough, Universal
  • William J. Reiter, Universal
  • Frank Shaw, Warner Brothers
  • Ben Silvey, United Artists
  • John S. Waters, MGM

Best Animated Short Film

Winner: “The Three Little Pigs” – Walt Disney and United Artists

  • “Building a Building” – Walt Disney and United Artists
  • “The Merry Old Soul” – Walter Lantz and Universal Studios

Best Short Film, Comedy

Winner: “So This Is Harris!” – Louis Brock and RKO Pictures

  • “Mister Mugg” – Warren Doane and Universal Studios
  • “A Preferred List” – Louis Brock and RKO Pictures

Best Short Film, Novelty

Winner: “Krakatoa” – Joe Rock and Educational Pictures

  • “Menu” – Pete Smith and MGM
  • “The Sea” – Educational Pictures

AA35Colbert

The Seventh Annual Academy Awards

For films released between January 1, 1934 and December 31, 1934. Held on February 27, 1935. Irving S Cobb hosted. It Happened One Night is one of only three pictures to ever sweep all of the major categories, as well as being the first romantic comedy to win Best Picture. Bette Davis was a write-in nominee for Of Human Bondage. Shirley Temple was given an honorary Juvenile Award. Categories added this year include Best Score, Best Song, and Best Editing.

Best Picture

Winner: It Happened One Night

Best Director

Frank Capra takes home Best Director.
Frank Capra takes home Best Director.

Winner: Frank Capra, It Happened One Night

  • Victor Schertzinger, One Night of Love
  • W.S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man

Best Actress

Winner: Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night

Best Actor

Winner: Clark Gable, It Happened One Night

Best Story

Winner: Arthur Caesar, Manhattan Melodrama

  • Mauri Grashin, Hide-Out
  • Norman Krasna, The Richest Girl in the World

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Robert Riskin, It Happened One Night

  • Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, The Thin Man
  • Ben Hecht, Viva Villa!

Best Sound Recording

Clark Gable snags his first Best Actor Oscar.
Clark Gable snags his first Best Actor Oscar.

Winner: John Livadary, One Night of Love

  • Thomas T. Moulton, The Affairs of Cellini
  • Franklin B. Hansen, Cleopatra
  • Nathan Levinson, Flirtation Walk
  • Carl Dreher, The Gay Divorcee
  • Theodore Soderberg, Imitation of Life
  • Douglas Shearer, Viva Villa!
  • Edmund H. Hansen, The White Parade

Best Score

Winner: One Night of Love – Columbia Studio Music Department

  • The Gay Divorcee – RKO Radio Studio Music Department
  • The Lost Patrol – RKO Radio Studio Music Department

Best Song

Winner: “The Continental” from The Gay Divorcee – Music by Con Conrad; Lyrics by Herb Magidson

  • “Carioca” from Flying Down to Rio – Music by Vincent Youmans; Lyrics by Edward Eliscu and Gus Kahn
  • “Love in Bloom” from She Loves Me Not – Music by Ralph Rainger; Lyrics by Leo Robin

Best Art Direction

Winner: Cedric Gibbons and Frederic Hope, The Merry Widow

Best Cinematography

Winner: Victor Milner, Cleopatra

  • Charles Rosher, The Affairs of Cellini
  • George J. Folsey, Operator 13

Best Assistant Director

Special Juvenile Award winner Shirley Temple gets a hug from Host Irving S. Cobb.
Special Juvenile Award winner Shirley Temple gets a hug from Host Irving S. Cobb.

Winner: John S. Waters, Viva Villa!

  • Cullen Tate, Cleopatra
  • Scott Beal, Imitation of Life

Best Animated Short Film

Winner: “The Tortoise and the Hare” – Walt Disney

  • “Holiday Land” – Screen Gems
  • “Jolly Little Elves” – Walter Lantz

Best Short Film, Comedy

Winner: “La Cucaracha” – Kenneth Macgowan and Pioneer Pictures

  • “Men in Black” – Jules White
  • “What, No Men!” – Warner Bros.

Best Short Film, Novelty

Winner: “City of Wax” – Horace Woodard and Stacy Woodard

  • “Bosom Friends” – Skibo Productions
  • “Strikes and Spares” – Pete Smith

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