Photos Show the First Oscars in 1929

The ceremony for the first ever Academy Awards was held in 1929 in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California.

Guests in the Blossom Room.

 

The Blossom Room, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 1929.

Courtesy of AMPAS

There were only 270 guests at the first Academy Awards, and tickets cost just $5, which is about $83 today, adjusted for inflation, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Films from 1927 and 1928 were honored at the ceremony, and 13 categories announced winners.

The hotel looks nearly the same now as it did then.

The Hollywood Roosevelt then and now.

 

The Roosevelt Hotel in the first half of the 20th century and, right, in 2014.

Corbis/FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is still open today.

The ceremony was hosted by silent movie star Douglas Fairbanks and lasted just 15 minutes.

Douglas Fairbanks

 

A portrait of the host, Douglas Fairbanks.

Bettmann/Getty Images

Fairbanks, who was best known for his roles in “Robin Hood” and “The Thief of Baghdad,” was one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, and he hosted the first Academy Awards. He never received an Oscar himself.

In 2021, for the fourth time in Oscars history, there was not a host, but this year, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes will host the ceremony.

Frank Borzage won best director for a dramatic picture for his 1927 film “7th Heaven.”

Frank Borzage poses with his Oscar.

 

Frank Borzage poses with his award in 1929.

Courtesy of AMPAS

Borzage’s film “7th Heaven” was a silent romantic drama starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. The film tells the story of a street cleaner who saves a young woman’s life, and the two fall in love until they are torn apart by war.

The film was also nominated for outstanding picture, which is called best picture today.

Lewis Milestone won best director for a comedy picture for his 1927 film, “Two Arabian Knights.”

Lewis Milestone was a Russian-born director.

 

Lewis Milestone and his award in 1929.

Courtesy of AMPAS

Russian-born director Lewis Milestone was the only director to ever win the award. The Academy merged the dramatic and comedic categories the following year to form best director, as we know it today.

Two Arabian Knights” starred William Boyd, Mary Astor, and Louis Wolheim and told the story of two American soldiers on the brink during World War I.

“Wings” won the first Academy Award for best picture.

The 1927 poster for "Wings".

 

The 1927 poster for “Wings.”

Courtesy of AMPAS

Wings,” which was directed by William A. Wellman and starred Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and Richard Arlen, won best picture, then called outstanding picture. Like the previous two films, it was a silent war film. It told the story of two rivals who both enlist in the Air Service and are also in love with the same girl. The film was lauded for its technical realism, and it paved the way for future aviation films.

Charlie Chaplin was given an honorary award for his 1928 film, “The Circus.”

Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy in The Circus.

 

Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy in “The Circus.”

Mondadori/Getty Images

Writing, composing, directing, and starring in his 1928 silent film, “The Circus,” Chaplin was given an honorary award by the Academy for his work. The film starred his famous character, “The Tramp,” alongside actress Merna Kennedy. The Tramp joins the circus and falls in love with Kennedy’s character, a horse rider who has a bad relationship with her father, the circus ringmaster.

Chaplin was originally nominated for best actor, best writer, and best comedy director for “The Circus,” but he was removed from these categories. It is believed this was because of his unpopularity in Hollywood at the time.

Joseph Farnham won the first and only Academy Award for title writing.

Farnham and presenter Dogulas Fairbanks.

 

Douglas Fairbanks, who hosted the ceremony, presents Joseph Farnham with his award in 1929.

Courtesy of AMPAS.

Joseph Farnham was a founding member of the Motion Picture Academy. He won the award for title writing, which was in reference to the title cards, or dialogue written on slides featured between scenes in silent films.

Host Douglas Fairbanks is pictured presenting him with the award.

Janet Gaynor won the first award for best actress for her performances in three films.

Janet Gaynor with her award.

 

Janet Gaynor with her award in 1929.

Courtesy of AMPAS

Gaynor won for her performances in “7th Heaven,” “Street Angel,” and “Sunrise.”

Gaynor later starred in the 1937 film, “A Star is Born.” Lady Gaga starred in the 2018 adaptation of the same film.

She is the only person to ever win best actress for multiple roles in a single year.

Douglas Fairbanks gives Janet Gaynor the first Academy Award for Best Actress.

 

Presenter Douglas Fairbanks gives Janet Gaynor her award in 1929.

Getty Images

Today, the Academy does not allow for actors to be nominated for multiple roles in the same category.

Pictured, Fairbanks presents her with the award in 1929.

Emil Jannings was named best actor — he’s still the only German actor in history to win the award.

Emil Jannings in "The Way of All Flesh"

 

Emil Jannings and Phyllis Haver in 1927.

Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Jannings won for his performances in “The Way of All Flesh,” in which he starred opposite Phyllis Haver, and “The Last Command” alongside Jack Raymond and Evelyn Brent. He is the only male actor to ever win the award for multiple roles.

Ben Hecht won the writing award for the 1927 film “Underworld.”

Ben Hecht smoking a cigar.

 

Ben Hecht smoking a cigar.

Eileen Darby/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Ben Hecht was a journalist, playwright, and novelist, along with being a screenwriter. He was nominated for the same award five more times, and he won for his work on the 1935 film “The Scoundrel.” “Underworld” tells the story of a gangster kingpin, his lawyer, and the mess they get into with the kingpin’s girlfriend.

Today, the typical ceremony looks very different, with around 3,400 attendees and 24 categories.

91st Academy Awards.

 

The 91st Academy Awards in 2019.

Matt Petit/AMPAS/Getty Images

Since its inception, the Academy Awards has grown in every way, from the number of attendees to length of the show. Though the first ceremony lasted just 15 minutes, today it is closer to 3 1/2 hours.

It has also moved from the Roosevelt Hotel to the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 event was even smaller than the first ceremony back in 1929.

Chloé Zhao attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

 

Chloé Zhao attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on April 25, 2021.

Troy Harvey/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Last year, only 170 people were able to attend as the Academy attempted to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Plus, the majority of the show was hosted live from Union Station in Los Angeles for the first time. The Dolby Theatre was also used, and there were venues set up all over the world for nominees to safely attend instead of flying to Los Angeles.

Pictured, Chloé Zhao holds her award for best director, which she won for “Nomadland.” She became the first woman of color in history to win the award.

This year, there will be more guests again … but there are other changes.

A general view of setup for the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars on Hollywood Blvd, on March 21, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

 

Crews set up for the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 21, 2022, in Hollywood.

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

The Oscars are returning to the Dolby Theatre for this year’s ceremony. While the theater has a capacity of nearly 3,400, just 2,500 people will be invited this year to allow for spacing between seats. Nominees and guests will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and two negative PCR tests, according to The New York Times.

For the first time, the winners of eight categories will not be presented during the live broadcast. These awards are for editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, sound, and the awards for shorts: documentary (short subject), short film (animated), and short film (live action). It will allow extra time for movie-clip packages, musical numbers, and entertainment on the night, according to AMPAS President Dave Rubin.

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