The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was the brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, of MGM who wanted an organization that would mediate labor disputes and improve the industry’s image.
The first awards ceremony of the new organization was held in 1929, shortly after the birth of what is now considered the Golden Age of Hollywood with the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927.
Winners had been announced three months in advance eliminated the suspense, much like Sunday’s event. Best picture of 1929? Wings.
Janet Gaynor on receiving the first ever Oscar for best actress said, “Naturally, I was thrilled but being the first year, the Academy Awards had no background or tradition, and it naturally didn’t mean what it does now. Had I known then what it would come to mean in the next few years, I`m sure I`d have been overwhelmed. At the time, I think I was more thrilled over meeting Douglas Fairbanks.” – on receiving the very first Best Actress Oscar.
The Academy moved away from involvement in labor and focused on Hollywood’s image. In the 1930’s movies grew in popularity, in spite of The Great Depression. Throughout the decade, MGM dominated film making giving rise to the star system that produced so many famous Hollywood actors.
Why is the award called Oscar? While the origin of the name isn’t clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar.
I’ve always enjoyed the Golden Age of Hollywood so it was only a matter of time before I wrote about it. It was a fascinating journey researching the era and writing, All That Glitters and sharing with a few details about Oscar and the Golden Age of Hollywood.