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Hollywood history from the year you were born

  • Hollywood history from the year you were born

    Embedded within the glamor of Hollywood, and thousands of its unforgettable movies, lie the stories behind the pictures. From the rise of movie stars to their last hurrahs and early production techniques to modern, eye-popping technology, Hollywood has regularly produced the core of American entertainment.

    America's love affair with Hollywood productions turned the movie industry into a true American cultural icon. Studios such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Paramount, Warner Brothers, and 20th Century Fox all trigger a fascination with the films they produce, as well as with the people and the production techniques that brought their pictures to life. Names like Garbo, Bogart, Stewart, de Havilland, Peck, Damon, Duvall, Hoffman, and so many others remain imprinted on the collective American memory long after they were first festooned on glowing movie marquees.

    But what happened behind the scenes, on the sets, during development, and post-production for movies from the year you were born? After sifting through historical accounts, IMDb data, technological reports, and information from other various sources, Stacker has brought these stories forward—from 1929 to 2018. Directors and stars, studios and style, and many little-known facts detailing production issues fall under the spotlight in these fascinating snippets. Each year listed includes its Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Actor Academy Award winners. The slides also feature the year’s top grossing film as well the film’s revenue in dollar amounts that year.

    Click here to see Stacker’s list of incredible filming locations from popular movies.

  • 1929

    Best Picture winner: "Wings"
    Best Actress winner: Janet Gaynor ("7th Heaven")
    Best Actor winner: Emil Jannings ("The Last Command")
    Top grossing film: "The Broadway Melody" ($2,800,000)

    This was the very first year of the Academy Awards, honoring the best of Hollywood from 1927 to 1928. In "Wings," actors actually flew airplanes with cameras mounted to their fuselages during filming. Oscar winner Janet Gaynor won for her performances in three films: "7th Heaven," "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans," and "Street Angel." It was the only time an actress won one award for multiple roles. After his movie career, actor Emil Jannings worked in theater for the Nazis.

  • 1930

    Best Picture winner: "The Broadway Melody"
    Best Actress winner: Mary Pickford ("Coquette")
    Best Actor winner: Warner Baxter ("In Old Arizona")
    Top grossing film: "Tom Sawyer" ($11,000,000)

    The movie "Tom Sawyer" was the third screen adaptation of Mark Twain's beloved novel, with silent versions released in 1907 and 1917. "The Broadway Melody" was the first sound film and first musical to win Best Picture. Greta Garbo appeared in her first talking movie, "Anna Christie."

  • 1931

    Best Picture winner: "All Quiet on the Western Front"
    Best Actress winner: Norma Shearer ("The Divorcee")
    Best Actor winner: George Arliss ("Disraeli")
    Top grossing film: "Frankenstein" ($12,000,000)

    Lewis Milestone, who directed "All Quiet on the Western Front," also won an Oscar for best director of "Two Arabian Knights.” He was blacklisted as a suspected communist sympathizer after World War II. George Arliss was one of the oldest actors on screen when he won for "Disraeli." The monster makeup design of "Frankenstein," by Jack P. Pierce, is under copyright to Universal Studios through 2026.

  • 1932

    Best Picture winner: "Cimarron"
    Best Actress winner: Marie Dressler ("Min and Bill")
    Best Actor winner: Lionel Barrymore ("A Free Soul")
    Top grossing film: "Shanghai Express" ($3,700,000)

    "Cimarron" was the only film in Oscar history nominated in every category. Lionel Barrymore was also a composer, artist, author, and director who played Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life." Katharine Hepburn made her movie stardom debut as Amazon princess Antiope in "A Warrior's Husband."

  • 1933

    Best Picture winner: "Grand Hotel"
    Best Actress winner: Helen Hayes ("The Sin of Madelon Claudet")
    Best Actor winner: Wallace Beery ("The Champ")
    Top grossing film: "King Kong" ($10,000,000)

    "Grand Hotel" Director Edmund Goulding is credited with films typifying MGM's style, emphasizing elegance and refinement. The roar of "King Kong" combined the sounds of a lion's roar and a tiger's roarplayed slowly backwards. Wallace Beery is perhaps best remembered as Long John Silver in the 1934 version of "Treasure Island."

  • 1934

    Best Picture winner: "Cavalcade"
    Best Actress winner: Katharine Hepburn ("Morning Glory")
    Best Actor winner: Charles Laughton ("The Private Life of Henry VIII")
    Top grossing film: "It Happened One Night" ($2,500,000)

    "Cavalcade" director Frank Lloyd was known for his meticulous attention to period and geographic details. Winner of the Oscar for Best Art Director, "The Merry Widow" featured naturalistic musical expressions as the sound era continued to evolve. Donald Duck made his debut in "The Wise Little Hen."

  • 1935

    Best Picture winner: "It Happened One Night"
    Best Actress winner: Claudette Colbert ("It Happened One Night")
    Best Actor winner: Clark Gable ("It Happened One Night")
    Top grossing film: "Top Hat" ($1,782,000)

    "It Happened One Night" was the first film to sweep the top five Academy Award categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). Clark Gable was loaned to the film by MGM as punishment for his affair with Joan Crawford. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy first appeared in "Naughty Marietta."

  • 1936

    Best Picture winner: "Mutiny on the Bounty"
    Best Actress winner: Bette Davis ("Dangerous")
    Best Actor winner: Victor McLaglen ("The Informer")
    Top grossing film: "How to Become a Detective" ($6,000,000)

    "Mutiny on the Bounty" is still considered the best cinematic adaptation of the story written by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Bette Davis, who signed a seven-year deal with Warner Brothers in 1932, became known as an actress capable of playing a variety of complex roles. Victor McLaglen formed a semi-militaristic riding and polo club as well as a motorcycle corps bearing his name, leading some to believe he was forming his own private army. He wasn't.

  • 1937

    Best Picture winner: "The Great Ziegfeld"
    Best Actress winner: Luise Rainer ("The Great Ziegfeld")
    Best Actor winner: Paul Muni ("The Story of Louis Pasteur")
    Top grossing film: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ($184,925,486)

    "The Great Ziegfeld" is the first musical film in Academy history that also won a cast member an OscarLuise Rainer for Best Actress. The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. were built with the profits from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Although Muni won Best Actor for "The Story of Louis Pasteur," he considered his 9-year-old son's request to buy him a microscope the greatest compliment he'd ever received.

  • 1938

    Best Picture winner: "The Life of Emile Zola"
    Best Actress winner: Luise Rainer ("The Good Earth")
    Best Actor winner: Spencer Tracy ("Captains Courageous")
    Top grossing film: "Alexander's Ragtime Band" ($4,000,000)

    When Spencer Tracy received his Oscar, it was inscribed to comic-book hero Dick Tracy. The statuette was replaced. "Alexander's Ragtime Band," a biopic of Irving Berlin, featured many of his songs, but became a fictional story because Berlin felt a movie about him would be too intrusive. "The Life of Emile Zola" was reportedly shot in reverse order.