The Academy Awards ceremony celebrates its 93rd birthday. What was the beginning of this great film festival? – Date

The crisis of the film industry and the attempt to improve its image

The history of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began in the 1920s, when Louis Bert Mayer – co-founder and vice president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Films (MGM) – came up with the idea of ​​creating an organization. Ultimately, the group was founded in 1927.

Samuel Goldwyn. The Persians sold the gloves and conquered Hollywood

Initially, its members mainly had to deal with resolving any disputes that arise between MGM and its employees. However, the direction of the organization’s activities changed very quickly. Shortly after the official founding of the Film Academy, the initiators met at the Baltimore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to discuss all the details of its operation. It was then agreed that the group should focus on improving the image and strengthening the American film industry.


21:18 About the Film Academy. mp3 Katarzyna Zajka Kominarchuk, author of “The Academy Awards. The Greatest Film Secrets Award,” talks about the American Film Academy. Weronika Wakulska broadcast of the series “Between the Points”. (PR, February 24, 2019).

In the 1920s and 1930s, in the United States, the disaffected voices of many American religious and conservative groups began to be heard, calling for film censorship. These people viewed the film industry as having a “questionable morality”. Two elements influenced their opinions. Firstly, the production of works that were considered at that time “controversial” – a good example is Joseph von Sternberg’s film “Morocco” (1930), in which two women kiss – and secondly, numerous scandals involving Hollywood stars. These include the tragic death of actress Virginia Rapp, allegedly caused by famed comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

Where did the name “Oscar” come from?

In order to achieve the desired goals, the representatives of the Academy decided to create a special annual award for “outstanding achievements” of people associated with the film industry. Designed the figurine to be presented to the winners Cedric Gibbons – Interior Designer and then Artistic Director of MGM. The trophy (depicting a man with a sword in his hands, standing on a film roll) was made by sculptor George Stanley.

Actor Douglas Fairbanks - one of the founders of the American Film Academy.  It was he who in 1929 performed the first Academy Awards ceremony.  The photo was taken in 1934. Source: NAC / Public domain

Actor Douglas Fairbanks – one of the founders of the American Film Academy. It was he who in 1929 performed the first Academy Awards ceremony. The photo was taken in 1934. Source: NAC / Public domain

The statues were cast from bronze and then gilded. She was just over 30 centimeters tall and weighed about 4 kilograms. Interestingly enough, they were not immediately referred to as the “Oscars”. There are two stories explaining the origin of this name. One of them was quoted by linguist Henrik Martinka on Polish Radio.

– A well-known anecdote says that in the thirties of the last century, the librarian of the American Film Academy looked at the then-unnamed golden statue and said: “Oh my God, my Uncle Oscar looks the same” – explained the researcher. According to another version of events, the trophy was named in this way by actress Bette Davis, one of the first female artists to be nominated for this award, in honor of her husband, musician Harmon Oscar Nelson.


00:52 Oscar original. mp3 The anecdote related to the name “Oscars” was quoted by philologist Henrik Martinka. Excerpts from Radio Roman Cesarek from the Four Seasons series. (PR, February 29, 2016).

Officially, the statuette was named “Oscar” in 1939.

Twelve winners

The first awards ceremony was held in the spring of 1929 in the Banquet Hall of The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. The ceremony was hosted by silent film star and one of the Academy’s founding members, Douglas Fairbanks. 270 people attended, and the entrance ticket to the concert cost about $5. The award ceremony itself lasted fifteen minutes and was preceded by a dinner party.

Janet Jenor, who was recognized in 1929 as the first woman in history Janet Jenor, who in 1929 – as the first woman in history – was awarded the title of “Best Actress” by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Photo from 1938. Source: NAC / Public domain

Interestingly, the winners were announced three months earlier, and not at the ceremony itself. So there was no element of surprise. 12 statues were awarded, honoring artists, directors, and other representatives of the film industry for their work in the period 1927-1928. The jury chose the best actor, Emile Janning, and the best actress – Janet Gaynor. The most famous film was the war melodrama “Wings” directed by William A. Wellman and Harry Dabadi Darast (1927).

The Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award went to Charlie Chaplin. In 1929 – and for the first and last time in history – the sculptures were also awarded for “Best Engineering Effects” (this category is now called “Best Special Effects” and has been awarded since 1963), “Best Artistic Direction” and “Best Writing” titles. . People who have created slide dialogues with silent films have been nominated for this latest award.

Pre-war and contemporary concerts

In the following years, many elements related to the Academy Awards ceremony changed. In 1930, the concert was broadcast by radio for the first time. At that time, it was also decided not to notify the winners in advance of the win. Since then, the decisions of the American Film Academy jury have not been published by the press until award night. Since the American newspaper “Los Angeles Times” informed its readers early on about the winners in 1940, the organization has adopted a new system. Since then, the winners’ names are kept secret until the last minute, and the timing of their reading is the most important element of the ceremony.

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Walt Disney. King of animation, ruler of fantasy

Interestingly, some of the statuettes awarded before the war differed in their appearance from the “traditional” Oscars. In 1937, the famous American speaker Edgar Bergen received a special award for his role in Gregory No Entry’s “Aliens No Entry” (1937). His cup was wooden and had a movable lower jaw. When Walt Disney received the Special Award for the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) in 1939, the statuette given to him by nine-year-old actress Shirley Temple consisted of a full-size Oscar. Seven miniature copies.

But during the Second World War, due to the lack of raw materials, the trophies were made of gypsum. After the dispute is over, each artist who has received a prize can return his figurine and request that it be replaced with a metal copy.


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The Academy Awards are currently the most important awards given to creators associated with the world of cinema. However, they gained great fame and importance only in the second half of the last century, when the film industry experienced dynamic development, and Academy ceremonies began to be broadcast on television stations.

Over the years, the ceremony’s formula has been modified several times. More and more artists began to receive invitations to the party – before the war, several hundred took part in the festivities, but now this number has risen to several thousand. The number of statuettes awarded has also changed – there are now twenty-four Academy Award winners, which is half more than in 1929. The duration of the ceremony has also increased – from the initial several minutes, turned into several hours.


During my work, I used David Thompson’s article “The House That Mr. Meyer Built: Inside the Union – The Birth of the Oscars”, which appeared in 2014 on the American magazine Vanity Fair’s website and text by Jason Bailey “The first Oscar ceremony lasted 15 minutes. What happened?” Which was published in 2021 on the website of the American newspaper “New York Times”.

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