I took the time to expand my Silent Oscars backward in time to 1914. (No, don't bother trying to figure out what I'm talking about.)
winner: Cabiria (prod.Giovanni Pastrone)
nominees: Gertie The Dinosaur (prod. Winsor McCay); Judith of Bethulia (prod. D.W. Griffith); The Perils Of Pauline (prod. Pathé Frères); Tillie's Punctured Romance (prod. Mack Sennett)
winner: Henry B. Walthall (The Avenging Conscience: or "Thou Shalt Not Kill")
nominees: Charles Chaplin (The Keystone Comedies)
winner: Blanche Sweet (Judith Of Bethulia)
nominees: Marie Dressler (Tillie's Punctured Romance); Pearl White (The Perils Of Pauline and The Exploits Of Elaine)
winner: Giovanni Pastrone (Cabiria)
nominees: Cecil B. DeMille (The Squaw Man); D.W. Griffith (Judith Of Bethulia and The Avenging Conscience: or "Thou Shalt Not Kill"); Mack Sennett (Tillie's Punctured Romance)
winner: Bartolomeo Pagano (Cabiria)
nominees: Roscoe Arbuckle (The Rounders)
winner: Mabel Normand (Tillie's Punctured Romance)
nominees: Mae Marsh (Judith Of Bethulia)
winner: Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel, from a play by Edwin Milton Royle (The Squaw Man)
nominees: D.W. Griffith, Grace Pierce and Frank E. Woods, from a poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich (Judith Of Bethulia); Hampton Del Ruth, Craig Hutchinson and Mack Sennett, from a play by A. Baldwin Sloane and Edgar Smith (Tillie's Punctured Romance)
Winsor McCay (Gertie The Dinosaur) (Animation); Segundo de Chomón, Eugenio Bava, Giovanni Tomatis, Augusto Battagliotti, Natale Chiusano and Carlo Franzeri (Cabiria) (Cinematography); Segundo de Chomón and Eugenio Bava (Cabiria) (Special Effects); Camillo Innocenti and Luigi Borgnono (Cabiria) (Set Design)
Actually, you may have heard of some of them. Mabel Normand is a good bet—she was the first great comic film actress, often credited with throwing the first pie in movie history (read about that debate here).
And I know all you silent film fanatics know who Giovanni Pastrone is—he directed one of the most influential films of the era, the epic Italian historical adventure, Cabiria, about a little girl who is rescued from the eruption of Mt. Etna only to grow up and find herself at the center of the war between Rome and Carthage. (Read more about it here.) Not only did it spawn fifty years worth of "Maciste" movies (Italian "strongman" movies released in the U.S. as Hercules movies), but it directed inspired D.W. Griffith to direct his own ancient history epic, Intolerance (which I wrote about here).
By the way, Bartolomeo Pagano, who played Maciste in Cabiria and in twenty-four more films, was working as a stevedore in Genoa when he was discovered and cast in the movie. Luckily for Pastrone, Pagano was a natural-born actor who quickly became Italy's biggest star.
As for Henry B. Walthall and Blanche Sweet, they were part of D.W. Griffith's stable of actors at Biograph Studios. Both are largely forgotten today, Walthall, I think, because he played the "Little Colonel" in The Birth of a Nation, a role that endears him to no one; Sweet ironically because she was one of the few stars of the silent era who typically "lost" herself in a part, performing the role of a chameleon so successfully, she has no single character or characteristic you can hang your mental hat on. But both were the finest dramatic actors of their day.
Cecil B. DeMille I dare say you've heard of if only because Norma Desmond has been ready now for her close-up going on sixty-one years. The Squaw Man was important in American movie history as the first feature filmed in a sleepy little hamlet named Hollywood. Its plot is one of those hardy perennials of the American movies (and psyche, too)—a man flees the corruption of so-called civilization to re-discovered himself in the wilderness. The basic idea crops up in movies as diverse as The Half-Breed (1916), Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and Dances With Wolves (1991), and is the unifying myth of those armed "militias" running around in various woods all over the United States.
Me, I've always been much too fond of flush toilets to buy into the basic concept, but DeMille liked the story so much, he filmed it three times, in 1914 with Dustin Farnum, in 1918 with Elliott Dexter and in 1931 with Warner Baxter.
Alternate Best Actor 2006: Results
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