When Was The First Academy Awards Held?

Joel Cohen & Ethan Cohen & Scott Rudin at the 80th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood. Editorial credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

The Academy Award, also officially known as the Academy Award of Merit, or Oscars is considered one of the most prestigious prizes in the film industry. The coveted trophy weighs 8.5 pounds, has a height of 13 inches, and is coated in a layer of 24-karat gold. The awards are given by the AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Loius B Mayer, head of the L.B. Mayer Pictures Corp (now Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), is credited as the brainchild behind the idea of the Academy, an organization tasked with the improvement and advancement of the film sector.

Start Of An Era

The first Academy Awards were held on May 16, 1929. The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood served as the venue for the ceremony that was attended by 270 guests, including influential producers, film stars, and directors. It honored films that were released between August 1, 1927, and July 31, 1928. The gold-plated trophies were handed out by Douglas Fairbanks, the Academy’s President and William C DeMille, the Academy’s Vice president. The event was also the only one in history that was not broadcast in any form. The awards, however, received the first live broadcast in the year that followed. It is hard to imagine that such a relatively modest event would grow to become one of the biggest and most glamorous events in the world today.

First Academy Award Winners

The first Academy Award recipient was Emil Jannings, a German actor, who received an award in the Best Actor category for his performance in films such as “The Last Command.” The Best Actress award went to Janet Gaynor for her roles in “Street Angel” and “Sunrise.” The awards were, no surprise to them, and all other winners that night as they had already been informed of what to expect at the event months earlier. In the late 1920s, films with sound had just made an entrance into the film industry. The “talkies,” as the films with sound were popularly called, were not considered by the Academy for awards, which consequently meant that the 1929 awards were the only ones that excluded film sounds. One of the classic talkies titled “The Jazz Singer,” a Warner Bros movie, was infamously disallowed from competing for the Best Picture Award. The Academy argued that it would be unfair to let “talkies” run against silent films. In that year’s ceremony, the Best Picture Award went to “Wings,” a movie about two pilots in World War 1 who were involved with the same woman.

Changes Since The First Awards

Although it has been 90 years since the first awards took place, many of the significant changes only occurred in recent history. Such changes have included the diversification of the Academy’s composition that was dominated by old-white-males, to include more women, people from different races, and younger individuals. The Academy currently consists of about 7,000 members of the film industry from various backgrounds. The award procedure has also changed because winners are no longer announced before the ceremony.


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