Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oscars Firsts:
The First Best Picture(s)

Most people believe the first Best Picture Oscar was awarded in 1929 to "Wings," William Wellman's thrilling WWI saga starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers, and Richard Arlen.

That's only partly true. In its early years the Academy had two, not one, Best Picture categories, and neither of them included the word "best." The first Oscars were given to "Wings" in the Outstanding Picture category. Another Oscar went to "Sunrise" in a category the Academy called Unique and Artistic Picture.

First Oscar banquet at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
While all of the Academy's initial 300 or so members voted in the nominations phase, the ultimate winner was chosen by a panel of judges, one from each of the original five branches.

Louis B. Mayer, the powerful head of MGM and the singular force behind the founding of the Academy, played a significant role in selecting "Sunrise," from Fox, over MGM'S own, critically acclaimed, "The Crowd."

The Crowd: coulda, woulda, shoulda
Emanuel Levy, in his authoritative book All About Oscar, relates how this came about:

On February 15, 1929, the Central Board of Judges met all night. The board decided to honor "The Crowd" with the Artistic Quality of Production, and the even called on its director, King Vidor. But Mayer argued against "The Crowd" due to its downbeat tone. Instead he championed "Sunrise," by German director F.W. Murnau, who was a respected filmmaker. Additionally, "Sunrise" starred all-American Janet Gaynor, had a happy ending, and was made by Paramount. Mayer feared charges of favoritism since "The Crowd" was an MGM picture. Mayer prevailed and the voting results were published in the "Academy Bulletin," on February 16 with the winners announced right away.

Vidor may have been robbed, but at least Mayer escaped looking like a gonif!

No comments :

Post a Comment