The History of the Oscars

The history of the Oscars, officially known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards, begins on May 16, 1929. The award ceremony was originally an attempt to help Hollywood improve its tawdry image, but has grown to become the highest critical honor for cinematic professionals-in addition to one of the biggest public events on the Hollywood calendar.

The First Oscar Ceremony
The first Oscar award ceremony was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929. The first Academy president was famed actor Douglas Fairbanks, who found himself very busy over the course of the ceremony, as he was handing out the statuettes by himself.

In contrast to the secrecy surrounding contemporary Oscar ceremonies, the first ceremony held no suspense, as the winners had been announced three months earlier. The statuettes were handed out quickly because most of the nominees and winners didn't bother to show up for the event.

The first of the 15 total statuettes handed out was received by German actor Emil Jennings. He had plans to leave the country before the ceremony, and so received his award early. This makes Jennings the first person to ever receive an Oscar.

Evolution of the Oscars
The first Oscar award ceremony was the only one not to be broadcast publically. By the second year, the ceremony was being broadcast on radio. In 1953, the ceremony was broadcast on TV for the first time; the broadcast went worldwide in 1969.

From 1929 to 1940, newspapers received the list of Oscar winners before the ceremony. This arrangement was done so the papers could publish the list in the evening edition, right after the award ceremony finished. The arrangement work well enough until 1940, when the Los Angeles Times published the winners early-before the actual ceremony. The Academy implemented a sealed-envelope method the following year, an approach that has worked so well that has been used ever since.

Evolution of the Oscar Statuette
The term "Oscar," used to refer to the little statuettes received by winners, came about by accident. It is believed that academy librarian Margaret Herrick made an innocent comment that the little statue, actually named the Academy Award of Merit, looked remarkably like her uncle Oscar. The nickname stuck and is now the general term most people use to refer to both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Awards and the actual awards ceremony. 

The actual Oscar award is 13 1/2 inches tall. The very first Oscars were created from solid bronze. During World War II, Oscars were made of plaster to help conserve resources. These days, the statuette is gold plated and heavy, weighing in at about eight pounds.

The Oscar Academy
The people who decide on the nominations and winners of the Oscars are known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The original academy had only 36 members. Currently, the academy boasts around 6,000 members. Membership to the academy is by invitation only.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now comprised of 15 branches. These 15 branches are Academy actors, art directors, cinematographers, directors, documentary, executives, film editors, makeup artists and hairstylists, musicians, producers, public relations, short films and feature animation, sound, visual effects and writers. 

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