“It was just a family business.” She stated this decisively in an interview with the Times, Janet Gaynor, a new, just invented award, the first Academy Award for Best Actress. A recognition that we now call the Oscar. And it was a family business. That ceremony took place exclusively between people who knew each other. A party for a few, absolutely not for everyone.
“I remember there was an orchestra, and while you were dancing,” Gaynor always said, “you saw most of the essential people in Hollywood swirling next to you on the dance floor. It felt more like a private party than a big public ceremony.” That private party was the first Academy Award ceremony in history, held on a May night in 1929.
And now, in 2021, the Oscars are in danger. Both the Grammys and the Golden Globes celebrated this year have had fewer ratings than in the past. Celebrating the ceremony at a distance, in times of Covid, certainly decreases its spectacularity and, at the same time, increases its organizational difficulty. How to keep the audience’s attention high without the red carpet, the stunning dresses, the sparkle of the jewels, the emotional speeches, the anxious faces in favor of the camera? But simplifications are needed for these Covid-era Oscars. They are eliminated by obvious necessity and not by choice.
So how can we change ahead of the next event to be held in April? Perhaps a possible solution would be to look to the past.Today, the award ceremony of the Oscars should take a cue from the first that was ever carried out. It should be more intimate, personal, focused only on the actors and the films themselves just as it all began.
A bit of history. The Academy was founded in 1927. It was born from an idea of the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Louis B. Mayer. It was initially conceived to “mediate labor disputes on behalf of film studios“. But not only. Also to award what the organization’s first president, actor Douglas Fairbanks, called “merit awards for distinctive achievements.” According to the rules of the Academy, the Academy Awards of Merit were to be considered “the highest distinction obtainable in the film profession“.
The first Academy Awards ceremony took place on May 16, 1929.He got just two small paragraphs in the Times. It didn’t seem that important. It was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with about two hundred people in all. No suspense of the torn envelopes and no theatrical announcements of the winners. The winners of the various awards had already been printed on the last page of the Academy Bulletin on February 18, 1929, three months before the big night. Most of the time was spent dancing or at the gala dinner that followed the dances.
The distribution of the figurines, according to the testimonies, lasted just fifteen minutes. A record. Among the actors, only five artists were nominated for the award, and only two of them, Janet Gaynor and Louise Dresser were in attendance. The only winner of the evening to give a speech was producer Darryl F. Zanuck. He received a special award for The Jazz Singer and referred to it as a film that “revolutionized the industry.“ The film was the only one that had sound. The others were silent films.
“Clearly, the Academy did not see the ceremony as anything of entertainment value, “Dave Karger, host and Oscar-winning expert, explained in an interview.” They discovered that concept only later when the ceremony began to air on the radio. In 1930, and then on TV in the 1950s “.