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The History of the Oscars

In the Beginning

The awards from the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, known to one and all as the Oscars, came into being just as the world of cinema was finding its voice.

Held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on the 16th May 1929, the inaugural ceremony was unique in that it was held three months AFTER the winners had been officially announced to the media.

Twelve awards were presented on the night at the short ceremonial dinner with the first ever BEST PICTURE prize going to Wings (1927), which held the distinction of being the only silent film to win the award until The Artist won in 2012.

Indeed, these new Academy Awards signalled a changing era in film history, marking Hollywood’s transition from the silent age into the time of the ‘Talkie’; as marked by the special award to Warner Bros at the ceremony for their production of The Jazz Singer, the first recognised feature film to include synchronised sound.

How Oscar got his name

24-Karat gold and just over a foot tall, the Oscar (officially, the Academy Award of Merit) is one of the truly iconic trophies of the past century.

But how did it get its famous name?

Nobody knows for certain. One of the more popular anecdotes suggests the name came from Academy Executive Margaret Herrrick who, it’s claimed, declared that the award looked like her uncle Oscar. Another popular theory has been that the actress Bette Davis christened the award after her ex-husband.

Whatever the actual truth, the name had certainly come into popular parlance by the mid-1930s and in 1939 the Academy adopted the name ‘Oscar’ as an official term for their statuette.

Host with the Most

It might be the biggest night of the year for the film industry but, as we moved into the age of TV the awards soon became a major televisual event – beamed into millions of homes across the world. As such, hosting the awards has always been a pretty major gig, attracting some of the biggest names in town.

Top of the list is the comedian Bob Hope, who hosted the ceremony an impressive 18 times between 1939 and 1977. In more recent times Billy Crystal has taken on the mantle of go-to guy for the awards, hosting it on 8 occasions.

The Big Winners (& Surprising Losers)

  • In 2003, fantasy epic Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King scooped 11 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. As a result it moved it into elite Oscar company, alongside the achievements of Ben Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997).
  • With four BEST ACTRESS awards Katherine Hepburn has won more times than any other actress. HOWEVER, as far as nominations go, it’s Meryl Streep who leads the way with an impressive 16 nominations (and 3 victories).
  • Daniel Day-Lewis won at the 2012 Oscars for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, equalling Jack Nicholson’s record of 3 Oscars for an actor, although Nicholson leads the way overall with 12 nominations.
  • Frequently rated as the greatest movie of all time, Citizen Kane, never won BEST PICTURE. John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley took the award in 1941 with Ford also winning best director.
  • Other notable BEST PICTURE omissions: Taxi Driver (1976), Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Wizard of Oz (1940)
  • Martin Scorsese finally won a BEST DIRECTOR Oscar for The Departed (2006) meaning he would no longer be on the astonishing list of directors who NEVER won, including: Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles.