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The first Oscars

Oscar Awards held twice in 1930

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was established in May 1927 as a non-profit corporation to promote the art of movie making. In the first year, the Academy had 36 members, with Douglas Fairbanks Sr as president. The first Academy Awards, now better known as the Oscars, were presented at a private dinner in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with less than 250 persons attending. Today, the Academy has over 6 000 honorary members – the Oscar Awards are viewed by more than a billion people on television.

The first television broadcast of the Oscars took place in 1953 – on black and white TV, telecasted throughout the US and Canada. Telecasting in colour begun in 1966, and since 1969, the Oscars have been telecast throughout the world. By the mid-1990s it was telecast in over 100 countries.

Emil Jannings - photo (c) www.silent-movies.com
Emil Jannings
Janet Gaynor - photo (c) www.silent-movies.com
Janet Gaynor
Photos with kind permission of silent-movies.com – the premier web destination for Silent Movie facts.

The first Oscars

At the first Acadamy Awards, held in May 1929, Best Director awards went to Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights and Frank Borzage for 7th Heaven. The first award for Actor in a Leading Role went to Emil Jannings for his roles in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. The first Best Actress award was won Janet Gaynor for her roles in 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise. The first Best Picture award went to WINGS. All those films were screened in 1927. Those were the days of the silent movies, thus WINGS was the only silent to have won a Best Picture Oscar. It also featured Gary Cooper in a minor role. Swiss-born Jannings grew up in Germany and had a heavy German accent which, with the advent of sound in movies, basically put an end to his Hollywood movie career.

The most popular night in the world

The Academy Award ceremony basically was a non-public affair in 1927 and 1928. But it had created such public interest that the Oscar Presentation Night was introduced in 1929. Until 1954 the Oscars were presented mostly on a Thursday. From 1955 to 1958, they were presented on a Wednesday. From 1959 until 1998 the Oscars were, with a few exceptions, presented on a Monday night. Only since 1999 did the Awards ceremony take place on a Sunday (in March). In total up to 2005, the famous statuettes have been handed out on 32 Monday nights, 21 Thursday nights, 8 Wednesdays, 6 Tuesdays, 2 Fridays, once on a Saturday (1948), and four times on a Sunday.

In 1930, the Academy Awards were held twice: on 3 April and on 5 November. No ceremony was held in 1933. Since 1940 people have been kept on the edge of their seats with the familiar phrase “The envelope please.”

The Envelope Please

The record for most acting nominations without a single win is shared by Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton with seven. The most nominated actors for Best Actor and Best Supporting Roles are Jack Nicholson (11), Laurence Olivier (10), and Spencer Tracy (9). No male performer has yet won three Best Actor awards.

Only one actress has won the Best Actress award four times: Katharine Hepburn is the only actress to have won the Best Actress award four times, for Morning Glory (1932/3), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). In 1968 Katherine Hepburn was tied with and Barbra Streisand for the Best Actress award.

Anthony Quinn’s performance as painter Paul Gaugin in Lust for Life (1956) is the shortest ever to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He was on screen for only 8 minutes. Judi Dench made the an equally short performance, winning Supporting Actress for her potrayal of Elizabeth I in “Sheakespeare in Love” (1999). More Oscar factoids

In 1997 James Cameron’s Titanic received 11 Oscars, sharing the record of the most Oscars awards for a single film with William Wyler’s Ben Hur (1959). The closest runner-up is West Side Story with 10 Oscars in 1961.