Discover the First Film to Win an Oscar on this Historic Day in 1929

Discover the humble beginnings of the now-glamorous Oscars, first held on May 16, 1929, forever changing the world of cinema.

Discover the First Film to Win an Oscar on this Historic Day in 1929

Tuesday May 16, 2023,

2 min Read

On May 16th, 1929, a groundbreaking event took place that would forever change the course of cinematic history. A small, private dinner gathering at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel marked the inception of the Academy Awards, now globally recognised as the Oscars. The first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, attended by an audience of just 270 people, was a far cry from the glitzy, star-studded spectacle we know today. However, it was this modest affair that laid the foundation for what would become the pinnacle of recognition in the global film industry.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, founded by Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), had announced the winners three months prior to the ceremony. This was a practice that starkly contrasts with the suspense-filled announcements of winners in today's Oscars.

The master of ceremonies was actor Douglas Fairbanks, the Academy's first president. The entire event lasted a mere 15 minutes, a stark contrast to today's ceremonies, which often stretch beyond three hours.

The main award of the evening, known today as "Best Picture," was named "Outstanding Picture" and awarded to the silent film "Wings." This World War I epic was lauded for its technical prowess and remains a landmark in cinematic achievement.

Emil Jannings was awarded the Best Actor for his performances in "The Way of All Flesh" and "The Last Command," making history as the first actor to receive an Oscar. Janet Gaynor received the Best Actress award for her roles in three films: "Sunrise," "Seventh Heaven," and "Street Angel."

The first Academy Awards established the format of honouring those who excel in the various facets of the film industry, including directing, acting, writing, and technical contributions. It was the inception of a tradition that continues to inspire filmmakers and artists globally. The Academy Awards have since evolved into a beacon of global cinema, acknowledging excellence and innovation in film.

Today, as we look back on this momentous day in 1929, we celebrate not just the birth of the Academy Awards, but also the evolution of cinema and the endless creativity of those who bring stories to life on the silver screen. The Oscars remain a testament to the enduring magic of movies and their power to captivate audiences around the world.