Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hollywood 101: It's Oscar Time!

The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced this morning.  All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this year's list (especially since my favorite film of the year "The King's Speech" received the most nominations...but I am hugely obsessed with everything British so...what can I say).  Therefore, what better time than now to start up my new post series entitled "Hollywood 101" with a little history lesson about the most coveted award in Hollywood?  Ladies and gentleman, the Oscar!

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held...well, 82 years ago on May 16, 1929.  It was a banquet in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd. hosted by Academy president Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. deMille (Cecil B's older brother).  270 guests paid only $5 a ticket to attend the event and enjoy food such as Lobster Eugenie and Filet of Sole au Beurre, as well as dancing alongside Hollywood's royalty.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the group behind the awards) was the brainchild of MGM head honcho Louis B. Mayer two years earlier in an effort to stifle the growing unions' power in Hollywood by bringing together the biggest and most influential people in the industry.  Obviously, his efforts failed on that point as SAG, the DGA and WGA, to name a few, are proof.  His other goal with the formation of the Academy was to give some class to the industry.  At that time in America, the moral aspects of the still-new movie industry had started coming under fire by people like mothers and clergy.  Mayer believed that adding a little class with a stylish golden award would be just the public relations he needed...and he couldn't have been more correct.

The first awards ceremony wasn't even broadcast, but the Academy saw its public intrigue right at the start.  The next ceremony would start the long history of broadcasting the awards to the world, starting with just a small Los Angeles radio station doing the broadcast.  Also, the winners of the first awards were told of their wins a full three months before the ceremony.  By the next year, the academy's board of governors had decided on announcing the winners at the ceremony itself.  They did, however, release the list of winners to the newspapers so that they could publish the list at 11pm that night.  That deal fell through though in 1940 when The Los Angeles Times decided to publish the list in their evening edition, which came out before the ceremony even began.  After that, the sealed envelope and auditing firm Price Waterhouse (now called PricewaterhouseCoopers) started protecting the results and keeping the anticipation going.

Now, the famous statuette, commonly called the Oscar, is actually officially titled the Academy Award of Merit.  Its design was created by MGM's chief art director Cedric Gibbons.  He created a knight plunging a sword into a reel of film (with five spokes for each original division of the Academy - actors, directors, producers, writers and technicians) and drew it in the classic Art Deco style of the time with Mexican director/actor Emilio Fernández as his model.  They then hired sculptor George Stanley to carve the little man in plaster and created the first gold-plated bronze statues.  The statuettes are now made of 24-carat gold-plated britannium.  The only time the Oscars were not made of some kind of metal was for three years during WWII, when the metal shortage caused them to switch to painted plaster.  After the war was over though, all plaster-statue recipients were allowed to trade it in for metal ones.  The nickname of "Oscar" has many different stories of origin but the most commonly accepted one comes from Margaret Herrick, an Academy secretary who first saw the little statue in 1931 and commented that it reminded her of her Uncle Oscar. 

The first picture to win Best Picture was the WWI drama "Wings."  Yet, Best Actor winner Emil Jannings was actually the first awarded statue ever.  He wasn't able to be there for the first ceremony (he had to return to Germany) so they presented him with the award early.  Since that day, 2,701 statues have been handed out.  Who will be the next to join that list?  You can catch the winners on February 27th.  I'll be rooting for Colin Firth all the way.  Who will you be rooting for?  Hope you have a great week!  Be back Friday with more fun trivia. 

(Post-tidbit:  The awards ceremony missed its scheduled time only three times throughout history - first in 1938 when a flooded Los Angeles caused it to be postponed a week, then in 1968 by two days in respect for Martin Luther King's funeral, and finally for a day in 1981 after the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.)

1 comment:

  1. Oscar party at my place! Thanks for the trivia - lots of new info :-)