The 1928 Academy Awards

The 1st Academy Awards

Emil Jannings in The Way of All Flesh

Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. More of a fancy dinner than the huge, staged ceremony of today, it was the beginning of a grand tradition.

The Very First Academy Awards

Soon after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927, a committee of seven members was given the task of creating an Academy Awards presentation. Though the idea was shelved for nearly a year due to other pressing Academy issues, the plans for an awards ceremony presented by the Awards committee were accepted in May 1928.

It was decided that all films released from August 1, 1927, through July 31, 1928, would be eligible for the first Academy Awards.

The Winners Were Not a Surprise

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929. It was a quiet affair compared to the glamor and glitz that accompany the ceremonies of today. Since the winners were announced to the press on Monday, February 18, 1929 - three months early - the 250 people who attended the black-tie banquet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel weren't anxious for the results to be announced.

After a dinner of Filet of Sole Saute au Buerre and Half Broiled Chicken on Toast, Douglas Fairbanks, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, stood up and gave a speech. Then, with the help of William C. deMille, he called the winners up to the head table and handed them their awards.

The First Statuettes

The statuettes that were presented to the first Academy Awards winners were nearly identical to those handed out today. Sculpted by George Stanley, the Academy Award of Merit (an Oscar's official name) was a knight, made of solid bronze, holding a sword and standing upon a reel of film.

The First Academy Award Winner Wasn't There

The very first person to receive an Academy Award didn't attend the first Academy Awards ceremony. Emil Jannings, the winner for best actor, had decided to go back to his home in Germany before the ceremony. Before he left for his trip, Jannings was handed the very first Academy Award.

The 1927-1928 Academy Award Winners

  • Picture (Production): Wings
  • Picture (Unique and Artistic Production): Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
  • Actor: Emil Jannings (The Last Command; The Way of All Flesh)
  • Actress: Janet Gaynor (Seventh Heaven; Street Angel; Sunrise)
  • Director: Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven) / Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Knights)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Benjamin Glazer (Seventh Heaven)
  • Original Story: Ben Hecht (Underworld)
  • Cinematography: Sunrise
  • Interior Decoration: The Dove / The Tempest
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Your Citation
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The 1928 Academy Awards." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2020, Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2020, September 18). The 1928 Academy Awards. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The 1928 Academy Awards." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 13, 2021).