The year was 1935, and the 8th Academy Awards ceremony was upon us. Frank Lloyd’s “Mutiny on the Bounty” was the Best Picture winner and a major frontrunner, with eight nominations and three for Best Actor alone. (The Oscars introduced the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories one year later.)
One of the films on the Best Picture ballot — alongside now-beloved classics like the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical “Top Hat,” Michael Curtis’s dashing pirate adventure “Captain Blood,” and wonderful but now relatively obscure comedies like “Ruggles of Red Gap” and “Naughty Marietta” — was Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” an all-star visual effects spectacular, which adapted William Shakespeare’s fantastical farce to the big screen in opulent splendor.
Critics weren’t terribly kind to some of the actors, but the fabulous imagery and visual effects were eye-popping wonders. Bespeckled with star filters, the film takes place largely in an enchanted forest where fairies and sprites frolicked and interfered with the love affairs of mortals. To this day it’s difficult to watch the film without marveling at the cinematic ingenuity, and wondering aloud just how they pulled off some of the movie’s imagery decades before the advent of modern special effects.
So it’s pretty weird that the movie was completely snubbed in the category of Best Cinematography, in favor of the films “Barbary Coast,” “The Crusades,” and “Les Miserables.” But the Academy didn’t let that stop them. The voters wrote in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” anyway, and the award was ultimately presented to the film’s director of photography, Hal Mohr.