The History Of The First Academy Awards

Find out about the history of the very first Academy Awards Ceremony in 1929.

The Hollywood Film Industry celebrated it's finest for the first time on May 16th, 1929. On that night the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony was held. The awards were given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was formed in 1927 as a non-profit corporation. It originally comprised 36 members. The first President of the Academy was Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. As well as recognizing outstanding achievement in the world of moviedom, the Academy had as it's purpose to advance the field of science and the arts in movies, to provide a forum for different branches of the movie industry and to increase public education and awareness of the motion picture industry.

The award that would come to symbolise the Academy Awards was a 12 inch high statuette, a model of a naked man plated in gold. The man was actually a knight who was holding a sword. He was standing on a reel of film. The reel had five spokes which represented the original five branches of the Academy. The statuette was conceived by MGM executive art director Cedric Gibbons who sketched it during a meeting of the Academy's Board of Governors. He described the figure as one of "dignity and individual character which recipients would be proud to display." The statue was sculpted by George Stanley. For many years the award was known simply as "˜the Statue.'

So, how did the Statue come to be known as "˜Oscar'? No one can be certain as there are three claimants to the distinction of so naming the statuette. Bette Davis is credited with naming it after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr. Another story has it that a librarian at the Academy by the name of Margaret Herrick said that the statue reminded her of her uncle Oscar. Whoever it was who gave the Oscar it's name, the title certainly stuck. Today the entire Awards ceremony is known simply as the Oscars.

The Awards were held at the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel In Los Angeles. The President of the Academy, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr along with Cecille B. DeMille awarded the statues to its first recipients. The Awards were given for movies made in 1927-28. The very first award winner was Janet Gaynor who won the title of Best Actress for her work on the movie Seventh Heaven. Best actor was Emil Jennings for The Way of All Flesh. The best Director Ward was given to Lewis Milestone for his work on Two Arabian Knights. There were two Best Picture awards for 1929: the Fox movie "Sunrise" and Paramount's "Wings". Other winners were Director Frank Borsage, screenwriter Ben Hecht, and producer Jack Warner. Two Honorary Awards were given, one to Charles Chaplin for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing his movie The Circus and Warner Brothers for producing the movie that revolutionized the industry by bringing us sound - The Jazz Singer.

All nominees in the various categories were given honorable mention certificates. It was announced that the wards would be held annually.

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