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The First Academy Awards Ceremony

March 13, 2011

The 1929 Academy Awards Ceremony

The first Academy Awards ceremony was staged in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on 16th May 1929. The bestowing of ‘awards of merit for distinctive achievements’ was one part of the seven defined goals of the recently formed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The Academy was created in May 1927, ostensibly to ‘to improve the artistic quality of the film medium, provide a common forum for the various branches and crafts of the industry, foster cooperation in technical research and cultural progress, and pursue a variety of other stated objectives,’ although MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, one of the co-founders of the Academy and arguably the driving force behind its inception, had hoped it would serve as a means of averting the increasing unionisation of motion picture workers.

Early in the Academy’s history, a committee of seven members was appointed to create an awards presentation, although the formulation of an awards ceremony was not accepted until May 1928. Films released between 1st August 1927 and 31st July 1928 were considered eligible for the first Academy Awards. Judges representing the five branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers) were asked to nominate three names in twelve categories to a board which then selected and announced the winners.

MGM Art Director Cedric Gibbons was commissioned to design a statuette (the Academy Award of Merit) for the awards which was subsequently fashioned out of bronze by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley, and the design Gibbons came up with – a knight holding a crusader’s sword and standing upon a reel of film made up of five spokes to signify the Academy’s five original branches – was almost identical to those awarded today.

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