The First Academy Awards – 1929


The very first Academy Awards ceremony was much different than it is today with all the excitement and hype.  It was held on May 16, 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel with approximately 270 people in attendance.  Douglas Fairbanks who was the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was the host.  Unlike today where the nominees are for one calendar year, the 1929 Awards were from August 1, 1929 through August 1, 1928.  Since there was no television at the time, the ceremony was not televised like today.  It’s hard to imagine after watching so many Academy Awards ceremonies on TV from the red carpet arrivals through long acceptance speeches until the very end that the first one only lasted fifteen minutes.


The following is a list of the very first winners 84 years ago:

  • Best Picture: Wings (The first and only silent film to win an Oscar until The Artist in 2012)
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Emil Jannings (The Last Command and The Way of the Flesh)
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Janet Gaynor (Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans)
  • Best Director Drama: Franz  Borzage (Seventh Heaven)
  • Best Director Comedy: Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Nights)
  • Best Cinematography: Charles Rosher & Karl Struss (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans)
  • Best Writing Original Story: Ben Hecht (Underworld)
  • Best Writing Adapted Story: Benjamin Glazer (Seventh Heaven)
  • Best Art Direction: William Menzies (The Dove and Tempest)
  • Unique and Artistic Production: William Fox (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans) *
  • Best Engineering Effects: Wings  *
  • Best Writing, Title Writing: Joseph Farnham  *

* These categories were eliminated the next year.

Honorary Oscars were given to : Charlie Chaplin and Warner Brothers


The statue was designed in 1928 by Cedric Gibbons, MGM’s Art Director.  It wasn’t until 1939 the statuette was called “Oscar”.

First Oscar for Director Comedy

Douglas Fairbanks and Lewis Milestone

Best Actress 1929

Douglas Fairbanks and Janet Gaynor

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