Monday, December 13, 2010

The Academy Awards 1928-1929

In my previous Oscar post I talked about how the Academy Awards came to be so I'll jump right in to year two.  Of course the awards were in their early stages with a lot to be ironed out and many changes would be made through the years.  Going into the second  year the film industry was still trying to get used to this annual event that offered accolades to the select few who were deemed worthy by the 250 Academy members.  Lets press on and see who took home the little gold man for 1929-30.

Best Picture:
"The Broadway Melody" (Winner), "Alibi", "Hollywood Revue", "Old Arizona", "The Patriot" (silent)

"The Broadway Melody" starring Bessie Love, Anita Page and Charles King

Best Actor:

Warner Baxter in "Old Arizona" (Winner), George Bancroft in "Thunderbolt", Chester Morris in "Alibi", Paul Muni in "The Valiant",  Lewis Stone in "The Patriot"

Warner Baxter in "Old Arizona" with Dorothy Burgess

Best Actress:

Mary Pickford in "Coquette" (Winner),  Ruth Chatterton in "Madame X",  Betty Compson in "The Barker", Jeanne Eagels in "The Letter, Corinne Griffith in "The Divine Lady", Bessie Love in "Broadway Melody"

Mary Pickford in "Coquette"

Best Director:

Frank Lloyd for "The Divine Lady", Lionel Barrymore for "Madame X", Harry Beaumont for "Broadway Melody", Irving Cummings for "Old Arizona", Ernst Lubitsch for "The Patriot"

Stills from "The Divine Lady"

Interesting Facts for the 1929-1930 Academy Awards:

The first Awards that recognized films from 1927-28 wasn't held until late 1929 and the ceremony for the second year was held on April, 30, 1930.  In order to standardize the amount of time between Academy Awards the ceremony for the 1929-1930 nominees would be held later the same year on November 5, 1930.  This would be the only time there would be two ceremonies held in the same calendar year.  

With the advent of talkies and the realization that they were in fact taking off and silent films were now considered a thing of the past. Talkies were considered in all categories unlike the first ceremony when the Academy felt it was unfair for the few talkies that were released to compete with the silents..  

This was the only year that each film won for only one category.  As we know going forward a film could and has won 6-11 awards in different categories.  What we now consider a "Sweep" or for some frustrating.

This was the first year that the awards were not announced in advance.

The first award ceremony was not broadcast in any way and this second year a Los Angeles radio station broadcast the one hour event live. (The first year's ceremony lasted a whopping 15 minutes with 5 of that being the announcement of the winners).

Frank Lloyd is the only Best Director winner in award history to have won and his film was not nominated for Best Picture.  Lloyd's win was just one of the many controversies that year. His win was suspect due to the fact that he was one of the 36 founders of the academy (AMPAS) and this was his first sound film.  Of course this wasn't the only controversial win since Mary Pickford won for Best Actress and she was closely associated with the academy.  Her husband Douglas Fairbanks was one of the founders and she was a charter member. Not to mention the film "Coquette" was critically blasted and her performance was no where near the caliber of Corinne Griffith's in "The Divine Lady" or Ruth Chatterton's for "Madame X".  This made it very apparent that the winners were closely associated to one studio and the academy board.  

"The Patriot" was the only silent film among the nominees and it would be the last silent film to receive a Best Picture nomination.

"The Broadway Melody" was the first sound film and first musical to win the coveted Oscar.  Of course it was an MGM blockbuster and highly promoted by Louis B. Mayer's and his studio. (Mayer's another founding member of AMPAS).  The film brought in a record $4 million dollars and was made in crude two color (red/green) Technicolor.  (I'm sure it was quite something to see for the time period)  The film spawned three more "Melodies" in 1935, 1937 and 1940.

Warner Baxter won his Oscar for playing the Cisco Kid which would be a popular character portrayed on film several times in years to come.  Notably "In Old Arizona" was the first talkie filmed outdoors and not on a sound stage.

More about Mary.  "Coquette" brought Mary Pickford her Best Actress Oscar but those within the industry felt it was a "career" win considering her performance was stiff among other things. She had been acting in silents for years and on the verge of retirement. (Mary would retire in 1933 after three more films).  In "Coquette" Mary who had her  "America's Sweetheart" image with her long ringlet locks and demure reputation attempted to break out of that image with her newly bobbed hair playing the flirtatious, heartless belle in "Coquette".

Movie viewers considered the mostly silent film "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" the best picture of 1928-1929 but sadly it wasn't considered for Best Picture (There was no competing with Louis B. Mayer's power within the industry).  The film did win for Best Art Direction however which was given to Art Director Cedric Gibbons. (Surprise Surprise Cedric was also a founding member of the Academy and he would go on to be nominated for 39 awards and would win 11 awards in his career).  Now before I get crucified for this comment I'm not taking away from Cedric's talent and I feel he brought a lot of it with his creativity during his career in Hollywood.  

Mary Pickford was the first foreign born actress to win as she was born in Toronto Canada.

The most glaring omission this year was Eric Von Stroheim for the now considered masterpiece "The Wedding March".

Lillian Gish was also overlooked for her role in the silent film "The Wind".  Perhaps if the Academy had been founded a few years earlier some of the great actors of the silent screen would have been recognized properly for their work.

This was the first year that the award ceremony was held at the famous Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  One of the first luxury hotels in Los Angeles and home to the much talked about and frequented Coconut Grove Restaurant and Club.  This was also where Robert Kennedy was assassinated years later in the Ambassador's kitchen pantry.  During the 1930's the Academy Awards would find a new home at the Biltmore Hotel but more on that in future Oscar posts as well as the controversy over tearing the Ambassador Hotel and it's history to the ground..

The Ambassador Hotel in it's early days

Thanks for joining me once again and please enjoy the clip of  the Best Picture winner "The Broadway Melody".  The clip showcases the beautiful and talented Anita Page and Bessie Love.  (You can read more on Anita in my Anita Page post archived in October).

*source The Envelope Please by Arnold Jones

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