1st Academy Awards
The 1st Academy Awards were presented on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Tickets cost $5 and fewer than 250 people attended. The ceremony lasted only 15 minutes. Unlike later events, the winners had been announced months prior to the ceremony. This was also the only Academy Award ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television.
Films that had been released between August 1, 1927 and July 31, 1928 were eligible for awards. In some cases nominations were made without reference to a specific film, such as for Ralph Hammeras and Nugent Slaughter who received nominations in the (now defunct) category of "Engineering Effects".
Unlike later ceremonies, awards could be granted to an actor or director for multiple works within a year. Emil Jannings, for example, was given the Best Actor award for his work in both The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command.
The 1927-1928 Academy Award Winners
Picture (Production): Wings
Picture (Unique and Artistic Production): Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Actor: Emil Jannings (The Last Command; The Way of All Flesh)
Actress: Janet Gaynor (Seventh Heaven; Street Angel; Sunrise)
Director: Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven) / Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Knights)
Adapted Screenplay: Benjamin Glazer (Seventh Heaven)
Original Story: Ben Hecht (Underworld)
Interior Decoration: The Dove / The Tempest
Soon after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927, a committee of seven members was given the task of creating an Academy Awards presentation. Though the idea was shelved for nearly a year due to other pressing Academy issues, the plans for an awards ceremony presented by the Awards committee were accepted in May 1928. It was decided that all films released from August 1, 1927 through July 31, 1928 would be eligible for the first Academy Awards.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929. It was a quiet affair compared to the glamor and glitz that accompany the ceremonies of today. Since the winners were announced to the press on Monday, February 18, 1929 - three months early - the 250 people who attended the black-tie banquet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel weren't anxious for the results to be announced.
After a dinner of Filet of Sole Saute au Buerre and Half Broiled Chicken on Toast, Douglas Fairbanks, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, stood up and gave a speech. Then, with the help of William C. deMille, he called the winners up to the head table and handed them their awards.
The statuettes that were presented to the first Academy Awards winners were nearly identical to those handed out today. Sculpted by George Stanley, The Academy Award of Merit (Oscar's official name) was a knight, made of solid bronze, holding a sword and standing upon a reel of film.
The very first person to receive an Academy Award didn't attend the first Academy Awards ceremony. Emil Jannings, the winner for best actor, had decided to go back to his home in Germany before the ceremony. Before he left for his trip, Jannings was handed the very first Academy Award.