ⓘ 1st Academy Awards


ⓘ 1st Academy Awards

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored the best films of 1927 and 1928 and took place on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks hosted the show. Tickets cost, 270 people attended the event and the presentation ceremony lasted 15 minutes. Awards were created by Louis B. Mayer, founder of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation. It is the only Academy Awards ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television. The radio broadcast was introduced the following year in 1930.

During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards – now known as the Oscars – in 12 categories. Winners were announced three months before the live event. Some nominations were announced without reference to a specific film, such as for Ralph Hammeras and Nugent Slaughter, who received nominations in the now defunct category of Engineering Effects. Unlike later ceremonies, an actor could be awarded for multiple works within a calendar year for the same category. Emil Jannings, for example, was given the Best Actor award for his work in both The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Also, Charlie Chaplin and Warner Brothers each received an Honorary Award.

Major winners at the ceremony included 7th Heaven and Sunrise, which each received three awards, and Wings, receiving two awards. Among its honors, Sunrise won the award for Unique and Artistic Picture, and Wings won the award for Outstanding Picture now known as Best Picture. These two categories at the time were regarded equally as the top award of the night, intended to honor different and important aspects of superior filmmaking. The next year, the Academy dropped the Unique and Artistic Picture award, and decided retroactively that the award won by Wings was the highest honor that could be awarded.


1. Background

In 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences AMPAS was established by Louis B. Mayer, originator of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation, which then would be joined into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer MGM. Mayers purpose in creating the award was to unite the five branches of the film industry, including actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. Mayer commented on the creation of the awards "I found that the best way to handle was to hang medals all over them. If I got them cups and awards, theyd kill them to produce what I wanted. Thats why the Academy Award was created". Mayer asked Cedric Gibbons, art director of MGM, to design an Academy Award trophy. Nominees were notified through a telegram in February 1928. In August 1928, Mayer contacted the Academy Central Board of Judges to decide winners. However, according to the American director King Vidor, the voting for the Academy Award for Best Picture was in the hands of the AMPAS founders Douglas Fairbanks, Sid Grauman, Mayer, Mary Pickford, and Joseph Schenck.


2. Ceremony

The ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, located in Los Angeles. It consisted of a private dinner with 36 banquet tables, where 270 people attended and tickets cost five dollars equivalent to $74.45 in 2019. Actors and actresses arrived at the hotel in luxury vehicles, where many fans attended to encourage celebrities. The ceremony was not broadcast on radio or television, and was hosted by AMPAS director Fairbanks during a 15-minute event.


3. Overview

Winners were announced three months before the ceremony. The recipients included: Emil Jannings, the inaugural first award recipient for Best Actor The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command; Janet Gaynor for Best Actress ; Frank Borzage for Best Director, Drama 7th Heaven; Lewis Milestone for Best Director, Comedy Two Arabian Knights; and Wings for Best Picture the most expensive film of its time. Two presentations were made of a Special Award: Charlie Chaplin, a multiple nominee for one movie having been removed from the list so as to recognize his total contribution to the industry; and Warner Brothers, an award for pioneering talking pictures The Jazz Singer. Three categories were eliminated for subsequent presentations: Best Engineering Effects, Best Title Writing, and Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production. The larger film producers received the preponderance of awards: Fox Film Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Radio-Keith-Orpheum, and Warner Bros.


4. Academy Awards of Merit

At the 1st Academy Awards 1927–1928, an anomaly in the nomination process allowed for an artist to be nominated – and to be awarded – for work in a single film, for work across multiple films, for work without reference to any specific film.

Winners are listed first, in boldface, and indicated with an asterisk *.


5. Honorary Awards

The following Honorary Awards – then called Special Awards – were conferred:

  • Warner Bros. – "To Warner Bros., for producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry."
  • Charles Chaplin – "To Charles Chaplin, for acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus ".

6. Changes to Academy Awards

After the 1st Academy Awards 1927–1928, the following changes were made by AMPAS.

  • The awards for Best Writing Adaptation and Best Writing Original Story were merged into a single Best Writing award.
  • The award for Best Engineering Effects was discontinued.
  • The award for Best Writing Title Writing was discontinued.
  • Award categories were reduced from twelve to seven.
  • The awards for Best Directing Comedy Picture and Best Directing Dramatic Picture were merged into a single Best Directing award.
  • The award for Best Unique and Artistic Picture was discontinued.

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