Movies are one of the ultimate pleasures of life. Whether you’re treating yourself to a night out and checking out a blockbuster on the big screen or you’re settling in at home with a blanket and a pillow to stream a new release, you can always count on the magic of cinema to entertain. So it’s no wonder that the Oscars — officially known as the Academy Awards — is one of the most beloved awards ceremonies in existence. Not only do we get to celebrate some of our favorite films and actors during this star-studded event, but it’s also a time to reflect on all of the amazing cinematic feats achieved over the last year.
But did you know that there’s much more to this iconic awards show than simply handing out little golden statues? While everyone loves to tune in and watch the glitzy ceremony and the unpredictable theatrics (ahem, Will Smith), not too many are aware of all of its captivating history and behind-the-scenes facts. To celebrate this iconic event, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting and entertaining facts about the Oscars that you may not have known before.
1. The First Academy AwardsRead More »
The very first Oscars ceremony was held at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. There were only 270 guests in attendance — making it a significantly smaller affair than today’s star-studded, world-renowned event — and it was and was hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, who was also the first president of the Academy.
2. The Origins of Oscar
The golden statuette that is synonymous with the Academy Awards has a fascinating back story behind it. When MGM art director Cedric Gibbons was tasked to create the official Academy Award trophy, he enlisted the help of sculptor George Stanley. It was Stanley who created the design that we still know and love today — a 13-inch-tall statuette depicting a knight standing on top of a film reel in order to represent “the standards of excellence in motion picture production.” The figure was named Oscar after Margaret Herrick, who was an Academy librarian and future executive director, saw the statue and noted that it looked just like her cousin, Oscar Pierce.
3. The Very First Best Picture Winner
The first Academy Award for Best Picture was awarded to Wings, which was directed by William Wellman and had the notable claim to fame of being the most expensive movie of its time with a budget of $2 million. While the first non-silent movie, The Jazz Singer, had been released prior to the first Academy Awards, it was not eligible to be nominated because officials believed it would have had an unfair advantage against the non-“talkies.” Ultimately, the first Oscars ceremony would have been a total let-down by today’s standards because all of the winners were announced prior to the big event.
4. The First African American to Make Oscar History
The first African-American to win an Academy Award was Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind in 1940 at the 12th annual Academy Awards. Hattie McDaniel was also the first African-American actor to be nominated for an Oscar. She made history yet again by becoming the first woman of color to attend the Academy Awards ceremony, where she was unfortunately barred from sitting with her castmates — instead, she was forced to sit in a segregated area in the back of the room. Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick had to call in a special favor at The Ambassador Hotel to have McDaniel even attend the Oscar ceremony, and the hotel wouldn’t fully integrate for another 19 years in 1959.
5. Animated Honors
It might be a big surprise by today’s standards, but during the first couple of decades of the Academy Awards, animated movies were not as celebrated. It wasn’t until 1938 when the first animated feature film to win an Academy Award was Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which won Best Musical Score. Six years earlier, Disney won the statue for an animated 8-minute short called Flowers and Trees — and that was the first time any animated film would have had the opportunity to be nominated. Animated feature films finally got their due in 2002 when the category Best Animated Feature was first awarded (for films released in 2001). The first Animated Feature film to win the award was Shrek.
6. Oscar Youth
The youngest person to win an Oscar is Tatum O’Neal. At just 10 years old, O’Neal won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1974 movie Paper Moon. As for the boys, the youngest performer to win the Best Actor Oscar was Adrien Brody for his role in The Piano in 2002. Brody was 29 at the time he won.
7. The Categories
Can you name all 24 categories that are presented at the Oscars? Well, not many can. Aside from the big ones like Best Picture, the four actor categories, the two screenplay categories, and Best Director, there are some notable categories for technical feats, such as cinematography, costume design, sound editing, and production design. There are also categories for animated shorts and feature films, visual effects, makeup and hairstyling, film editing, music (original score), documentary features and shorts — the list goes on. All of these categories honor some aspect of movie magic that make Oscar-winning movies truly special.
8. The In Memoriam Segment
The In Memoriam segment of the Academy Awards is one of the most moving parts of the ceremony, as it serves to honor those who have passed away in the last year and their contributions to the movie industry. While this segment has gone on for many years, it wasn’t until the 77th Academy Awards (2005) that a formal segment was put into place. In 1994, a segment honoring people in the film industry who had recently passed away was shown on television for the first time and has been included ever since.
9. An Elite Club
Since the first Oscar was handed out in 1929, there have been more than 3100 individual winners of the Academy Award. Of those few, only a handful have gone on to win multiple Oscars for their work. The most decorated actress is Katharine Hepburn, having won 4 Oscars. Daniel Day-Lewis has the most Best Actor Oscars with 3. As for directors, John Ford and Billy Wilder hold the record with six Oscars apiece. The individual with the most Oscars of all time is none other than Walt Disney. Disney secured 22 Oscars during his prolific career. The person with the most Oscar nominations of all time not named Walt Disney (he has 59) is the famed composer John Williams with 53. Walt Disney also held the honor of being the person who earned the most trophies in one night — he won 4 in 1954 — all by himself until Bong Joon Ho won 4 Oscars for the film Parasite in 2020.
10. Epic Oscar Winners
There are three movies that share the honor of earning the most Oscars in one single evening, and they are all epic masterpieces of cinema. Ben Hur (1959), Titanic (1987), and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) have each won 11 awards including Best Picture. Titanic would become the highest-grossing film of all time. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won every category it was nominated for. These epics feature films continue to inspire and entertain audiences today.
Making History at the Academy Awards
The Academy Awards is an event that has been a part of Hollywood culture for nearly 100 years and continues to be one of the most sought-after honors in the film industry. From unique categories and memorable acceptance speeches to the In Memoriam segment that pays tribute to those who have passed away, the Academy Awards is a night to celebrate excellence, artistry, and creativity. As a symbol of excellence and recognition for filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, composers, and many other creative minds in the film industry, it is certainly one of the most prestigious events in Hollywood. The nomination process is extremely rigorous with strict criteria used to determine the best of the best, and the Academy Awards continue to be a celebration of creativity and excellence, bringing joy and recognition to those who have labored to bring artistry and genius to the silver screen. Every year, new stories and names are added to Oscar history — and this year will surely be no exception.
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