On February 22, 2009 the 81st Academy Awards will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Aussie actor, Hugh Jackman will exchange his Wolverine claws and attitude for a tuxedo and charm as the 2009 host. Heavy favorites for this year’s ceremony feature literary adaptations and films based on real events, including Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and Milk.
For movie and awards show lovers the countdown to the Academy Awards has become an historic event. Viewing parties are held all over the world, films are strategically released for maximum viewing by Academy members, and film industry pros dress in their best in hopes of taking home a little golden man named Oscar.
But, where and when did it all begin?
In 1927 MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer, actor Conrad Nagel, director Fred Niblo, and producer Fred Beetson discussed the benefits of creating a group to benefit the film industry. They extended their group to others within the industry and on January 11, 1927 36 people got together at the Ambassador Hotel to hear a proposal for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Attendees, which constituted some of the biggest names in film, like Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Cecil B. DeMille, supported the idea and quickly the Academy was put together, with officers elected and Fairbanks as the president. In May the Academy was granted a charter by California as a non-profit organization and an official banquet hosted 300 guests, 230 of which joined the Academy.
The first official awards ceremony was far from the extravagant event it is now. It began in 1929 at an Academy banquet held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with President Fairbanks handing out the statuettes, fifteen in total. The first ceremony presented no surprises as winners were announced three months prior. The following year began the suspense for winners, not announcing them until the actual ceremony. However, the Academy did give newspapers the list in advance for publication on the night of the Awards, but not until 11:00 PM. In 1940 the Los Angeles Times broke the deal with the Academy presenting the list of winners in their evening addition, which was available to the show’s guests. From then on recipients have been kept in sealed envelopes to avoid teasers.
All it took was one year of the awards and the public wanted to be a part of it. A live hour-long broadcast was presented on the radio from 1930 until 1953, when the first televised event was seen by millions of television viewers in the U.S. and Canada. In 1966 the show appeared in color for the first time and since 1969 it has been shown all over the world, with more than 200 countries filled with movie fans watching the event.
Here are some other interesting facts about our pal Oscar:
WINGS was the first award given for best picture.
The second ceremony narrowed categories down to seven: two for Acting, and one each for Best Picture, Directing, Writing, Cinematography, and Art Direction
Best Supporting awards were presented for the first time in 1936 to Walter Brennan for Come and Get It and Gale Sondergaard for Anthony Adverse
The 12th Academy Awards saw the first winners for Special Effects, Fred Sersen and E.H. Hansen of 20th Century Fox
In 1939 Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American award winner for her performance in Gone With the Wind
Best Costume Design was added to the show in 1948, the 21st show
The 54th show in 1981 presented the first award for make-up to Rick Baker for An American Werewolf in London
Shrek became the first Animated Feature Film winner in 2001
The film Ben-Hur has won the most Oscars, taking home 11 of its 12 nominations
Titanic and All About Eve are tied for the most nominations at 14
Within the acting categories Meryl Streep has been nominated for the most Oscars at 15, and Katharine Hepburn has taken home the most trophies at 4
What will this year’s ceremony bring? A few surprises? Maybe a tear or a shout? Tune in next Sunday night to find out!