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I was browsing through the list of Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature, included in 1941, to find out that it was not awarded in the 19th Academy Awards for movies from 1946. The documentary award that was awarded was the Documentary (short subject), as seen in the official page from that year.

It is the only year where this happened and the fact that the short subject was awarded does not invalidate it, since the Best documentary (short subject) award had been awarded from one year before, 1940.

Wikipedia itself mentions it, but does not explain the reason:

They have since been bestowed competitively each year, with the exception of 1946.

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I dug into this with a couple friends this afternoon, and to the best of our ability it would appear there were simply no qualifying films for this year.

Here's the list of, at least current, qualifications for films to be eligible for consideration for Best Documentary Feature.

https://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/93aa_doc_features.pdf

And here's a Wikipedia list of documentary films released in 1946:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:1946_documentary_films

Of the movies listed, only 3 have running times over 40 minutes, which is the required running time for a feature film.

  • Criminales de guerra
  • Let There Be Light
  • Theirs Is the Glory

Let There Be Light was suppressed by the US Government and was not released until the 1980s, therefore any exhibition requirements would not have been met.

The other two films are British and Argentinian, making them very unlikely to have been exhibited in the US under the requirements outlined by the submission rules. I will admit this is speculation, but this was also a post-World War II environment so no release outside their countries of origin or outside their respective continents would not be beyond the scope of reason.

All other films on that list simply did not meet the +40 minute runtime requirement.

Naturally this list of documentaries for 1946 could be and likely is incomplete, but based on what research I was able to cobble together, this would seem to be the most likely answer.

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  • I think there also have to be more than three possible nominees. For example, there was no award for the category that South Park, Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was in for the year it was released (Best Movie Musical, I believe) because there weren’t enough qualifying competitors, so it could not receive the award. – Todd Wilcox Oct 17 '20 at 0:07
  • It seems a sign of the after war exhaustion. All 1940-1945 Best Documentary Feature awards seem to be very much about encouraging allies in the war – fedorqui Oct 19 '20 at 5:39

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