The world grew up fast in the Academy’s second decade, and Hollywood had to change its approach to keep the pace. In the years following the outbreak of World War II, the film industry “did its part” by producing movies that would encourage and reassure the public, and provide moral support for the Allied cause. Because of this, the films of 1939-1945 seem to be split pretty evenly between Golden Age dramas, screwball comedies, and heroic war pictures. And even though they failed to recognize Orson Welles’ genius, it was still a rich period for films and, by extension, the Oscars.
When peace broke out in 1945, the Academy decided that the world needed to get serious for a while and awarded Best Picture to a succession of stark, socially-relevant films that reflected a society readjusting and coming to grips with a changed world. And perhaps as a result of this, they also realized that other countries were making good films, too, and in 1947 introduced the category of Best Foreign Language Film–not yet a competitive prize, but the sentiment was there.