Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pop History Moment: Motion Picture Academy Founded

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On this day in 1927 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - the same organization which annually bestows Academy Awards - was founded.

The 36 founding members read like a Who's Who of Early Hollywood*: actors Richard Barthelmess, Jack Holt, Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford; directors Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd, Henry King, Fred Niblo, John M. Stahl, Raoul Walsh; writers Joseph Farnham, Benjamin F. Glazer, Jeanie MacPherson, Bess Meredyth, Carey Wilson, Frank Woods; technicians J. Arthur Ball, Cedric Gibbons, Roy J. Pomeroy; producers Fred Beetson, Charles H. Christie, Sid Grauman, Milton E. Hoffman, Jesse L. Lasky, M. C. Levee, Louis B. Mayer, Joseph M. Schenck, Irving Thalberg, Harry Warner, Jack Warner, Harry Rapf; and lawyers Edwin Loeb and George W. Cohen.

It took just two years for the Academy to conceive of, design, have produced, and hand out the first batch of Oscars, although for the first few years the film community seemed distinctly underwhelmed by them, and it wasn't until the mid-1930s that competition for the little golden men really began heating up. Since the end of the studio era in the mid-1960s disdain for Oscar has once again become a favourite pastime of those wishing to be taken seriously as pretentious posers.

Ostensibly created to honour achievement in film - legend has it entirely at the behest of movie mogul Louis B. Mayer - from the beginning it has done so only in the most bourgeois way; the list of well-known actors and directors who never won an award (Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Burton, Glenn Close, Greta Garbo, and Robert Altman among them) is just as interesting a list as those who have, and has kept pundits - myself included - wondering as to why for years.

*Out of courtesy I've decided not to bold face all the bold face names displayed above, as it would be easier just to print the whole thing in blue.
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