And the award goes to…
If you are a movie lover, a film fan, movie buff, cinephile, filmophile or even a popcorn muncher (yes, that is a synonym for movie lover) it’s a safe assumption that Oscar season is always a fascinating and exciting time for you. Another safe assumption to make would be that here at the Towne Cinema, we absolutely love the Oscars and the slew of movies that get paraded around before the awards show. Thankfully this year we were lucky enough to get in on the action and bask in some of the goodness that is the Oscar nominated Best Picture category. With all the excitement around the Oscars, I thought it would be a great time to look back at the beginning.
The Academy Awards were not originally held in the dead of winter, not that that mattered considering they were first hosted in the same sunny place that they are today in Hollywood, California. On a warm May 16th in 1929, the first awards ceremony hosted a modest 250 people, quite unlike the extravaganza that we know today. Oscars had yet to actually be called Oscars, which didn’t officially begin until 1939 and the inaugural Academy Awards weren’t even broadcast in any way! Hollywood has over the years, done what it does so masterfully though, and that is to continually strive to outdo itself.
The beginning of the Oscars all started with an industrious fellow, Louis B. Mayer, whom had humble beginnings as a restorer of rundown movie theaters, including his first gem known as the “Garlic Box”. He worked his way through life to become the head honcho at the all powerful MGM Studios. The audacious and driven Mr. Mayer was the brains behind the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which came together in May of 1927. The first president and host of the 1929 Academy Awards was the dashing Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Following the inception of the Academy came the first, of now 90, Academy Awards ceremonies.
When the first Academy ceremony took place, it was a very innovative time in film. Silent films were beginning to be replaced with ‘Talkies’, like The Jazz Singer (which played here at the Towne!). The Jazz Singer wasn’t even allowed into the Oscars, the Academy viewed it as having an unfair advantage over silent films. The first year for the Academy Awards was the first and only time that a silent movie had won for Best Picture, clearly demonstrating that the talkies were too cool to compete with. The film that took the Oscar for Best Picture was a whopping 2 million to make which was the most expensive movie ever made, at the time. The best picture, Wings was a film about about two World War I pilots that share the ill fate of loving the same woman.
The illustrious Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, aka Charlie Chaplin, had been nominated for three categories including Best Actor, Best Writer and Best Comedy Director. Instead of having Chaplin fight it out for these individual awards, the Academy had decided to present Chaplin with an honorary award. Some years later, this award was actually stolen at the Chaplin Association in Paris in 2015 and has yet to be recovered.
As we anticipate this upcoming 90th Academy Awards, the nostalgia of Award ceremonies past conjures up even more iconic moments that are important to remember for those of us who love cinema and all of the ways it gives a heartbeat to the screen.
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