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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

One day, while listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage on SiriusXM, I heard Steven say that the first Oscars ceremony wasn’t broadcast.  I don’t remember exactly what he was discussing.  I thought, since the Oscar nominations were just released, I’d look back on a little Oscars history.

The Oscars have changed a lot since they began in 1929.  For instance, the first ceremony only gave out 15 awards.  There used to be a limit on best picture nominations.  The first Academy Awards took place in a very different location and a whole different season.  Though the legendary Dolby Theatre is now known as the go-to venue when it comes to the Oscars, it wasn’t always the scene of the awards.

The first ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a few months after what we consider the modern-day award show season.  As stated above, only 15 awards were given on that first show, including best picture, which went to “Wings”, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

The Oscars weren’t even televised until 1953.  According to , the winners’ names were originally published and announced in the daily newspaper.  This seemed simple enough until a paper accidentally published the results early.  Since then, the awards were broadcast live on the radio until 1953, when the Awards made their television debut on NBC.  

  It’s always awkward when the music starts playing during an emotional acceptance speech, but tha moment didn’t used to happen at all.  In 2010, Oscar winners were given the current 45-second time limit for a speech, according to  Before that, many winners were a bit long-winded with their words, including best actress winner Greer Garson, who gave a speech that was just over 5 minutes long in 1942.

In 1994, Whoopi Goldberg became both the first female and the first African-American to host the show on their own, according to HuffPost.  After her debut, she hosted two more times.  

Red carpet style wasn’t always glamorous.  Fashion changes with time and trends come and go, but the general themes and dress code for the event have also changed with time.  Through the years, the event has become more formal, but in 1941, nominees were asked to dress in more somber, underrated style in acknowledgement of World War II, according to British Vogue.  

According to USA Today, Oscar gift bags were worth $20,000 in 2002.  Today, Oscar gift bags are worth $100,000! I would love to lose an Oscar bid! In fact, starting in 2005, the Academy and the IRS had to come to an agreement about the taxable status of bags.  

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has catered the Governor’s Ball after-party for over 20 years but prior to his tenure, the menu looked totally different.  At the first Oscar’s, dinner was served to guests during the official awards and consisted of string beans and broiled chicken, according to Bon Appetit.  Now, Wolfgang Puck typically caters the after-party and there’s no meal served during the ceremony.  Imagine if Will Smith had a dessert dish to take up and smash over Chris Rock’s head at the ceremony last year in lieu of a slap.  

According to E!, the first ceremony had a measly attendance of 270 people.  That’s still a pretty good number in my opinion.  Since then, attendance has grown.  The Dolby Theatre seats over 3,000 people, according to, well, People.  To fil the space, there are seat-fillers, all of whom must adhere to strict rules.  

There used to be a limit of 5 nominees for best picture, according to Variety.  Nearly a decade ago, the show expanded its cap to 10 films so that more movies could score the big nomination.  (

There certainly have been many changes since that first Oscar’s in 1929.  

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