On This Day: The First Academy Awards
Eighty-eight years ago today Douglas Fairbanks hosted a little event at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Guests—all 270 of them—paid $5 apiece to attend and the ceremony lasted approximately 15 minutes. Fifteen very important minutes that changed the face of entertainment. That little soiree was the very first Academy Awards.
That first ceremony was the only one in Academy history to not be broadcast by either radio or television. Now considered the premier awards show (which didn't receive its affectionate "Oscar" nickname until the1940s), the Academy Awards regularly draws a viewership of well over 30 million each year. In those early days, winners were notified months prior to the ceremony and the who-won-what list had even been printed well in advance in The Los Angeles Times. Voting requirements were also considerably different, with the Best Picture votes solely in the hands of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) founders Douglas Fairbanks, Sid Grauman, Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Joseph Schenck. In fact, the first ceremony actually honored the films of both 1927 and 1928 and actor Emil Jannings was able to snag two Best Actor awards in one ceremony.
By the late 1920s, the era of the "talkie" was on the cusp of revolutionizing how audiences experienced movies. The Jazz Singer had been released in 1927 which posed a problem for the Academy, as they felt it had an unfair advantage competing against a host of silent films. The groundbreaking Jazz Singer was the first to synchronize sound in both musical numbers and dialogue. (Fun fact: There was never any intention to have dialogue in the film, but during Al Jolson's first vocal performance, he improvised the words: "Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet!" and history was made.) The Academy made the decision to remove the film from Best Picture contention but would instead honor Warner Bros. with the following Special Award.
And today, on the anniversary of the very first Academy Awards, it was announced that Jimmy Kimmel will once again be back to host next year's celebration on March 4, 2018. See you there!