Oscar Night Has Long History of Accomplishment, Glamour


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The ceremony has been changing and evolving since 1928.
By Mark R. Gould

The Academy Awards will be televised on Sunday, February 26. I attended the 1991 Oscar awards show and the Governor’s Dinner that followed. I figured out a way to convince my wine marketing employer to provide the Champagne for the evening. In return we received eight tickets to both the awards show and eight to the Governors Ball after wards. We used the tickets as a reward to our Champagne sales force, which had the best results ever recorded on behalf of the product.

That year Billy Crystal was the very entertaining emcee. But like many Oscar shows, the wrong film won. DancesWith Wolves was given the nod over Goodfellas.  I don’t think Dances stands the test of time.

The show was held at the spacious  Shrine Auditorium and stars were every where: Julia Roberts and Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg and Jody Foster. Jeremy Irons and Kathy Bates were there too, and picked up best actor awards. But I got a much bigger kick out of seeing such legendary stars as Sophia Loren, Bob Hope, (pictured with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour),  Karl Malden, Richard Harris and Gregory Peck.

When you attend the awards show and dinner, you would think there would be some history lessons to be learned, but there was not. So I decided to find out more about the Oscars.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honor outstanding film achievements of the 1927/1928 film season.

The event  was originally conceived by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio boss Louis B. Mayer as a professional honorary organization to help improve the film industry’s image and help mediate labor disputes.

The first ceremony,at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, had  an audience of 270 people. Douglas Fairbanks was the emcee.

Jeffery Lyons wrote recently, “There was little suspense when the awards were presented that night: the recipients had already been announced three months earlier. That all changed the following year, however, when the Academy decided to keep the results secret until the ceremony but gave a list in advance to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the Awards. This policy continued until 1940 when, much to the Academy’s consternation, the Los Angeles Times broke the embargo and published the names of the winners in its evening edition – which was readily available to guests arriving for the ceremony. That prompted the Academy in 1941 to adopt the sealed-envelope system still in use today.

Oscar statuette“Fifteen statuettes were awarded at the first ceremony for cinematic achievements in 1927 and 1928. The first Best Actor winner was acclaimed German tragedian Emil Jannings, who had to return to Europe before the ceremony. The Academy granted his request to receive the trophy early, making his statuette the very first Academy Award ever presented."

In the second year, a live radio broadcast was held, and it would be broadcast every year since.

The Academy continued to hand out the awards at banquets – held at the Ambassador and Biltmore hotels – until 1942, when increased attendance made these dinner ceremonies impractical. Starting with the 16th Oscar ceremony, which was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the event has always been held at a theater.

In 1953, the first televised Oscar ceremony enabled millions throughout the United States and Canada to watch the proceedings. Broadcasting in color began in 1966, affording home viewers a chance to fully experience the dazzling allure of the event.

* The first year – Recognizing the need to honor achievements that didn’t fit into fixed categories, the Academy presented two special awards at the very first ceremony in 1929: one to Warner Bros. for producing the pioneering talking picture The Jazz Singer, and one to Charles Chaplin for producing, directing, writing and starring in The Circus.

* The second year – The number of categories was reduced from 12 to seven: two for acting and one each for Outstanding Picture, Directing, Writing, Cinematography and Art Direction.

* The seventh year – Film Editing, Music Scoring, and Song were added to the categories honoring films released in 1934. The year also brought the first write-in campaign, seeking to nominate Bette Davis for her performance in Of Human Bondage. (Academy rules now prohibit write-ins on the final ballot.) Also that year, the Academy retained the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse to tabulate the ballots and ensure the secrecy of the results. The firm, now called PricewaterhouseCoopers, continues to tabulate the voting to this day.

* The ninth year– The first Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress Academy Awards are presented, for performances in films of 1936. The honors went to Walter Brennan for Come and Get it and Gale Sondergaard for Anthony Adverse.

* The tenth year – The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was presented for the first time at the ceremony held in 1938. The honor went to Darryl F. Zanuck.

* The twelfth year – Fred Sersen and E. H. Hansen of 20th Century Fox were the first winners of the Academy Award for Special Effects. They were honored for their work in the 1939 film The Rains Came.

* The fourteenth year– In 1941, a documentary category appeared on the ballot for the first time.

* 20th Awards – The first special award to honor a foreign language motion picture was given in 1947 to the Italian film Shoe-Shine. Seven more special awards were presented before Foreign Language Film became an annual category in 1956.

* 1948– Costume Design was added to the ballots.

* 25th Awards – For the first time, the Oscar presentation was televised. The NBC-TV and radio network carried the ceremony, honoring the films of 1952, live from Hollywood with Bob Hope as master of ceremonies, and from the NBC International Theatre in New York with Conrad Nagel as host.

* 29th Awards – The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was established and Y. Frank Freeman was its first recipient.

* 1963 – The Special Effects Award was divided into Sound Effects and Special Visual Effects beginning with the honors for films released.

* 1966– The Oscar ceremony in 1966 was the first to be televised in color.

* 41st Awards – The April 14, 1969, Oscar ceremony was the first major event held at the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles County Music Center.

* 54th Awards – Makeup became an annual category, with Rick Baker winning for his work on the 1981 movie An American Werewolf in London. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award, recognizing technological contributions to the industry, was established.

* 74th Awards – The Animated Feature Film Award is added, with Shrek winning for 2001.


Visit your local library to obtain these resources:


Secrets of Oscar-winning animation: Behind the scenes of 13 classic short animations
Oliver Cotte, (2007).

The Academy Awards: The Complete History of Oscar
Gail Kinn, and , Jim Piazza (2002).

All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards


Online resources:

Wanna see an Academy Awards invite? We got it along with all the major annual events surrounding the Oscars
Lauren Brokaw, The Daily Truffle (2010).



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