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1929: The First Oscar in History was Awarded to an Actor later Known for Starring in Nazi Propaganda Films

1929: The First Oscar in History was Awarded to an Actor later Known for Starring in Nazi Propaganda Films
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Goebbels (second from left) with Jannings (second from right) („Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1984-0321-509, St. Wolfgang, Joseph Goebbels und Emil Jannings“ von Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0321-509 / CC-BY-SA. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 de über Wikimedia Commons)

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 16 May 1929
  • The first Academy Awards were presented on this day in 1929. The Oscar for Best Actor was given to Emil Jannings, known for later starring in Hitler's Germany in Nazi propaganda films.

On this day the first Academy Awards ceremony in history was held. It took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles.

The prizes were awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, founded two years earlier at the instigation of the famous filmmaker Louis Mayer (from the MGM company i.e. the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). 15 Oscar statuettes were awarded, and they remained virtually unchanged in design until today.

The statuettes were created by sculptor George Stanley and he modelled them after Mexican actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, who was barely persuaded to pose naked for the occasion. The statues depict a naked man holding a crusader’s sword, 34 cm tall and weighing 3.85 kg. They are made of the alloy called britannium (93% tin, 5% antimony and 2% copper) and are gold-plated.

There are several theories about how the award got the name “Oscar”. One of the most popular theories is that Academy librarian and secretary Margaret Herrick said that the statue resembles her uncle Oscar, and the name stuck. But the actress Bette Davis also claimed that she gave the statuette that name after her first husband.

On the first awards ceremony, on this day, the Oscar for Best Actor went to Emil Jannings, known for later starring in Nazi propaganda films. Joseph Goebbels declared him the best artist of the Reich. Interestingly, the first Oscar winner for Best Actor was not meant to be Jannings but a dog. An honorary award on the first ceremony was presented to the famous Charlie Chaplin.

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