Ah, the first Oscars. There’s a lot to say here. Let’s see how quickly we can get it in. The Oscars began when Louis B. Mayer (head of MGM, and the second M in the title) thought to have an organization that would honor those people in the industry and also help improve the industry’s image (since at that point, there were a lot of labor disputes. There weren’t really any of the guilds as we know them today. They were still working to be formed. Plus film had a negative connotation to it. The industry had this reputation for putting smut on screen and was just attacked all around). Basically — it was a way to promote the good of the industry, rather than what the perceived opinion of it was. And it just stuck. But it’s important to note that the Oscars were originally more about AMPAS than the ceremony.
This first ceremony happened in May of 1929, and wasn’t even about the ceremony. They announced the winners three months earlier, and it was basically a reception for people to pick up the awards. Kind of like they do now with the Kennedy Center and AFI Awards. It’s about honoring the winners. They kept up the tradition for the first decade, handing out the names of the winners to the newspapers at 11 pm the night of the awards all the way until 1941, which is when they started with the whole envelope and the “and the winner is…” thing. Also of note, the reason the first five ceremonies have two years attached to them is because, until 1934, there was no set ceremony. Starting in 1934 was when they pushed the ceremony to the end of February/March like we know it to be. The 1927-1928 awards were given out in 1929, and they basically spend the nest few years playing catch up. The next two Oscar ceremonies happened in 1930, and then they caught up by 1932-1933, which allowed them to have the 1935 ceremony purely for the films of 1934. (Which also continues to piss me off that people constantly misquote what year it is. For instance, they call them the 2012 Oscars, meanwhile they’re for the films of 2011, just because the ceremony happened in 2012. It’s very infuriating.)
Let’s put the break here, since I have a lot more to say. (more…)
(Note: THIS CATEGORY IS NOT FINISHED. I still need to watch one of the nominees. I still have not been able to find Sorrell and Son in any cheap/acceptable format. If anyone has it or knows where it can be procured, let me know, so this category can be finished.)
The very first Best Director category. It’s split up into two. So we’ll deal with one then go into the other one afterward. First let’s recap the year.
Best Picture was also split into two categories. The “Outstanding Production” of the year was Wings, while the “Unique or Artistic Production” went to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Then Best Actor was Emil Jannings for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh (talked about here). And Best Actress was Janet Gaynor for Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise (talked about here). All of them are good decisions.
And these categories — based on what was nominated (for the first one), or simply based on the effort (the second one), they were both good choices (the second being really good).
BEST DIRECTOR – 1927-1928 (Comedy)
And the nominees were…
Lewis Milestone, Two Arabian Knights
Ted Wilde, Speedy (more…)
(Note: THIS CATEGORY IS NOT FINISHED. I still need to watch one of the nominees. I still have not been able to find The Noose in any cheap/acceptable format. If anyone has it or knows where it can be procured, let me know, so this category can be finished.)
Ah, the very first Best Actor category. Talk about a completely different set of rules than normal. These were the first Oscars ever. The winners were announced in advance and the awards were given at a small dinner event. And there were only like three nominees in each category! Two here! It’s crazy.
Anyway, the Best Picture for this year was — well, there were two. The “Outstanding Picture, Production” award, went to Wings, and the “Unique and Artistic Production” award went to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (I love using that subtitle). Most people call Wings the first Best Picture winner, mostly because — between art and business, Hollywood always chooses business.
Best Director this year was split into two categories as well. First was for Comedy, which went to Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights, and the other was for Dramatic, which went to Frank Borzage, for Seventh Heaven. And then Best Actress went to Janet Gaynor, for Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise (talked about here). I rank that decision a top ten decision for all time.
So then we have this one. This was a no-brainer, because Emil Jannings was considered the best silent film actor working (remember, actor and comedian are two different things in 1928). Of course he was gonna get the first Best Actor Oscar. It’s like if they created a “Most Universally Liked” actor award today, and your top finishers would be Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr. and George Clooney. What a surprise.
BEST ACTOR – 1927-1928
And the nominees were…
Richard Barthelmess, The Noose & The Patent Leather Kid
Emil Jannings, The Last Command & The Way of All Flesh (more…)
1927-1928. The first Best Actress category ever. I’m excited.
The rest of this year is very — broad, shall we say. The Academy hadn’t honed their categories yet. For example, Best Picture was split into two separate categories. The first was “Outstanding Picture, Production,” which went to Wings, and the second was for “Unique or Artistic Production,” which went to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Generally, Wings is regarded as the first Best Picture winner, which, seems strange. It should really be both films. However, the fact that they went with Wings over Sunrise is very telling. The went with “outstanding” production over “artistic” production. Perfect for explaining many of the decisions made over the years.
Similarly, Best Director was split into two separate categories, one for “Dramatic,” which went to Frank Borzage, for Seventh Heaven, and one for “Comedy,” which went to Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights. And then, Best Actor went to Emil Jannings, considered the best dramatic silent film actor, for The Last Command as well as The Way of All Flesh, which is a lost film.
So that’s the first year of the Academy Awards. In all honesty, I think, in every category, the best possible decision was made. Especially this one. They did the right thing by nominating Janet Gaynor for all three of the films she made this year. Because, just by watching one of them, you can see why she won this. She was just incredible. You’re in for a real treat with her films.
BEST ACTRESS – 1927-1928
And the nominees were…
Louise Dresser, A Ship Comes In
Janet Gaynor, Seventh Heaven, Street Angel & Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Gloria Swanson, Sadie Thompson (more…)