1949: George Stevens, Darryl Zanuck (accepting for Howard Hawks), George Marshall, Fred Zinnemann, Joseph Mankiewicz.
In 1949, the Screen Directors’ Guild of America decided to launch their own awards ceremony, to honour their own for the first time .
(The Directors’ Guild had been formed in 1936, three years after the Screen Actors Guild and the Screenwriters Guild started.)
The Guild president, George Marshall commented,
”We just want awards of our own,judged on technique only…..at the Academy Awards, the public’s interested only in the stars and they don’t give a damn about directors.”
Marshall told Guild members that, “the purpose of the awards is to enhance the position of the director in the eyes of the press, public and industry.”
Before 1949, none of the Hollywood Guilds had awards ceremonies, so the Directors Guild was breaking new ground. (The Golden Globes had been around for just 5 years and of course the Oscars were the main event.)
They decided on 4 awards, to be presented at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel , and an annual award for outstanding directorial achievement.
The first winners were Fred Zinnemann (“The Search”); Howard Hawks (“Red River”) ;Joseph Mankiewicz (“A Letter To Three Wives”) and Anatole Litvak (“the Snake Pit”).
Joseph Mankiewicz also received the first annual award for directing ,1948/49.
200 of 287 Guild members voted. The SDG prize was a medallion designed by Delmer Daves.
In the same year the Screen Writers Guild followed the Directors Guild and started their own Awards . It took the Screen Actors Guild another 40 years before they decided to follow suit.
Al Werker,Joan Fontaine, Albert Rogell. 1950. (Werker won for “Lost Boundaries.”)
“Lost Boundaries “ is a film I’d never heard of until recently, apparently based on a true story of a black family passing as white for many years. Has anyone seen it?
By 1950 assistant directors were allowed to vote and the awards were at the Beverly Hills hotel and presenters were Ruth Roman,Mel Ferrer and Ida Lupino.
The winners were Robert Rossen (“All the King’s Men.”); Mark Robson (“Champion”); Al Werker (“Lost Boundaries”) and Carol Reed (“The Fallen Idol”).
Robert Rossen won the annual award (after his film won a Best Oscar.)
By 1951 , the Awards were broadcast by NBC and many stars, including Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, attended, attracting a lot more media attention.
The 1954 Awards.
I found an interesting story about the Hollywood guilds and their fight for union recognition by the studios.
In 1936, leaders of the Actors Guild sent telegrams to members asking them to boycott the Academy Awards that year.
Ernest Pascal, president of the Screen Actors Guild, said, “We consider the Academy a company union with nothing in common with the Guild.”
Studio bosses told the stars to turn up. Jeanette MacDonald spoke of the telegram she received from Louis B. Mayer, “it was like the iron fist in a velvet glove.”
I love this studio comment : ”Artists are not common laborers and therefore have no place in a union.”
Frank Capra was president of the Academy and said that the boycott fizzled out, that most of the winners were there. Only Dudley Nichols and John Ford didn’t show up to accept their Oscars. ( both awards were for THE INFORMER).
In 1938, when the Screenwriters Guild was finally recognised as the sole bargaining representative for motion picture writers, Dudley Nichols finally received his 1935 Oscar.
The Screen Actors Guild didn’t have its first awards ceremony until 1995. Angela Lansbury spoke at that first evening:
“I’ve been Elizabeth Taylor’s sister, Spencer Tracy’s mistress, Elvis’ mother and a singing teapot! ………Tonight is dedicated to the art and craft of acting by the people who should know about it – Actors.”
Writing this piece has brought to my attention three films I have never seen – The Search, The Fallen Idol and Lost Boundaries. Must try and get hold of them.