Keep your Oscar party interesting with these historical facts about ceremonies past.
1. The winners of the very first Academy Awards, which took place on May 16, 1929 and honored films released from 1927 to 1928, were announced three months before the ceremony.
2. At the fourth Academy Awards, Norma Shearer found herself the announcer of the Best Actress category—which she was also nominated in. Shearer lost to Marie Dressler (star of MGM’s Min and Bill), so the situation didn't get awkward, but after that, actors and actresses weren’t presenters for categories they were also nominated in.
3. The first tie occurred at the fifth Academy Awards ceremony, when Wallace Beery (The Champ) and Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) both won for Best Actor. Technically, Beery had lost by one vote, but according to the rules at the time, that counted as a tie.
4. For its first six ceremonies, the Academy was celebrating films released in the previous two years. Starting with the seventh Academy Awards in 1935, the nominated selections and the ceremony were in accordance with the calendar year.
5. The 1938 Academy Awards was postponed due to rain and flooding. The ceremony was rescheduled for a week later, and almost no one could make it. Even the chosen host, George Jessel, wasn't there; he was sick. A comic named Bob “Bazooka” Burns hosted instead.
6. Until 1940, the Oscar winners’ names were given to the press ahead of the ceremony, with the understanding that the press would hold the names until 11 p.m. But that year, the Los Angeles Times broke the embargo and published the names in time for their evening edition—which hit stands before the ceremony even started! The Academy began sealing the envelopes containing the winners’ names the next year.
7. In 1941, FDR became the first president to address the Academy Awards ceremony. He spoke mostly about World War II, which the United States wouldn’t officially enter until December. “I do not minimize the importance of the motion picture industry as the most popular medium of mass entertainment,” he said. “But tonight, I want to place the chief emphasis on the service that you can render in promoting solidarity among all the peoples of the Americas. For all of this, and for your splendid cooperation with all who are directing the expansion of our defense forces, I am glad to thank you.” You can listen to his full address here.
8. Greer Garson gave the longest acceptance speech, during the 15th annual awards ceremony. It was nearly six minutes long!
9. Because of the war, winners at the 1943 ceremony took home plaster-filled trophies; they were replaced with the regular metal-filled model in 1946.
10. At the 1944 Academy Awards, winners in the supporting categories took home a full-sized statuette for the first time (before that, they had been awarded a smaller, plaque-mounted version).
11. The first foreign film to win best picture was Hamlet in 1949.
12. The Academy Awards were shown on TV for the first time on March 19, 1953, on NBC.
13. In 1969, Academy rules stated that members couldn’t place an Oscar vote until two years after they’d released their first film. Academy president Gregory Peck broke this rule for Barbra Streisand, who made her screen debut in Funny Girl in 1968 and was allowed to vote in the 41st Annual Academy Awards before she’d even appeared in a movie. She was nominated for Best Actress for Funny Girl and, assuming she voted for herself, created the first exact acting tie winners in Academy history: Streisand and Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) received 3030 votes each. At the April 14, 1969 ceremony, Streisand almost tripped on her way up to the podium to accept. Hepburn didn’t attend.
14. In 1977, Italian Lina Wertmuller was the first female filmmaker nominated for Best Director for her film Seven Beauties. The first American woman to be nominated was Sofia Coppola for 2003’s Lost in Translation. A woman wouldn’t win this trophy until Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker in 2010.
15. No actor has been nominated for more Academy Awards than Meryl Streep; this year’s Supporting Actress nod, for her work as the Witch in Into the Woods, is her nineteenth (so far, she’s won three). The actress was first nominated in 1979 for The Deer Hunter, and won her first Oscar the next year in the Best Supporting Actress category for Kramer vs Kramer. She reportedly left the Oscar in the bathroom after her win.
16. The most-nominated person without a win? Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, who has been nominated 20 times.
17. Cate Blanchett was the first person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar winner; she portrayed Katharine Hepburn in 2004’s The Aviator.
For more fascinating Oscar facts, check out The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History.