By, Sara Costello • Assistant Project Manager
It’s almost time for the most exciting night in the Hollywood film industry! In just a few short weeks, the best of the best of 2015 will be getting together to celebrate and award the year’s biggest achievement in film. But how did the Oscar statue get to be the biggest award in cinema, or even get its name? Take a trip down the red carpet’s memory lane in this article on the history of the Oscars!
This year’s broadcast, taking place on February 28th, will be the 87th Academy Awards, which first debuted on May 16th, 1929. The Academy Awards were brought to life by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was founded in 1927 by the powerhouse head of MGM Studios, Louis B. Mayer. He originally created the Academy as a not-for-profit organization, with the hope of encouraging advancement in the film community. The very first Academy Award ceremony was much different from what we watch today-it was a small affair of only about 200 people, held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Tickets for guests were for $5, which would be $69 today, and the whole affair was said to last about 15 minutes, which is probably how long we wish it would last today. The shortness of the ceremony could have been because they had only just over half as many categories as we do today (13 versus 24), and the winners were already announced 3 months beforehand. The next year, in 1930, winners were announced to the press 11pm the night before, and it was handled that way until the Los Angeles Times accidentally released the names before the ceremony. Because of this, since 1942, the Oscars have used sealed, seemingly impossible to open envelopes to declare the winners.
Legend has it that the Oscars, as they are commonly known today, allegedly got their name from Margaret Herrick, who was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Executive Secretary, who commented the statue looked like her Uncle Oscar. The statue is a knight holding a sword, standing on a film reel with 5 spokes. These 5 spokes represent the five original groups represented during the Academy Awards-actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians. The statue itself has changed very little in its original design, but the materials used to make it have changed vastly over the years, including during World War II, when the awards were made out of painted plaster due to a metal shortage. It is now created out of britannia metal, and dipped in copper, nickel silver and 24-karat gold. The statue itself is 13.5 inches tall, and weighs a whopping 8.5 lbs. The statues, which are currently created and shipped from Chicago to the historic Dolby Theatre, are sent blank. Before, winners would have to send their awards back to be engraved, which could take several weeks and must have been excruciating for excited new winners. Only recently have name plates for all possible winners been sent with statues, and now winners have the option to have their name attached to their award right after the ceremony.
The history of film itself can be documented when looking at the movies nominated throughout the years. Sound was just being introduced into the film community as the first awards in 1929 happened, and the very first movie with sound, “The Jazz Singer,” was excluded from most categories, because it was thought to be unfair to pit a movie with sound up against silent movies. The winner of best picture that year, “Wings,” would be the only silent film to ever win best picture, and cost an incredible $2 million to bring to life, which would be over $28 million today. The Academy Awards continued to grow from their 1929 humble beginnings, to the point of being broadcast live in 1953, and in color in 1966, and they are broadcast today in over 200 countries and watched by millions of viewers, with last year’s numbers getting close to 40 million watchers.
This year’s Oscars should be very exciting, especially with the internet’s crusade for Leonardo DiCaprio to finally win an Oscar, which, to be honest, seems to be much more important to the internet than it does to him. You can find a full list of nominations here, and fill out your own ballot of who you think should win here!
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