Did you know…?
The first Academy Awards ceremony took fifteen minutes.
On the evening of May 16, 1929, 270 members of the movie industry gathered in ballroom of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for a private dinner. They had each paid five dollars to attend the event, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The dinner, a glitzy affair emceed by movie superstar (and then-President of AMPAS) Douglas Fairbanks, was held to honor the films made in 1927 and 1928.
It was the first Academy Awards ceremony.
This first Oscar ceremony barely resembles the lavish spectacles we know today. In fact, this first Oscar event wasn’t even broadcast on radio, and the entire ceremony took a grand total of only fifteen minutes. There also were no surprises about who was going to take home the Oscars—the winners had been notified by telegram three months earlier.
Some other interesting facts about the first Academy Awards:
- Actors and actresses were nominated for more than one movie in a category. Janet Gaynor won the first Best Actress awards for three movies: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Street Angel, and Seventh Heaven. Emil Jannings won Best Actor awards for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. This is the only time in the history of the awards that this happened.
- This was also the only year that two movies won for Best Picture. Best Pictures were split into two awards, one for Unique and Artistic Production, and one for Outstanding Picture. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won for the former; Wings won for the latter. After this year those two categories would be combined into Best Picture.
- Louis B. Mayer, the head of M-G-M, created the awards not to honor people, but to get them to work harder. He said of the awards: “I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them … If I got them cups and awards they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.”