Film efforts rewarded
Academy announces fifteen awards of statuette for elevating standards of screen
Los Angeles Times
February 18, 1929
The first awards for individual meritorious achievements in motion pictures were announced yesterday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The fifteen awards are for outstanding achievements for 1928 and were made after an exhaustive survey.
As a reward for and in recognition of their efforts in raising the standards of motion pictures the winners are to be presented with statuettes in bronze and gold, designed by George Stanley, sculptor, under the supervision and selection of Cedric Gibbons, art director at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio.
The statuette is twelve inches high with a Belgian marble base and consists of an idealized male figure standing on a representation of a reel of motion-picture film. It was announced the trophies will be presented at a later meeting of the academy at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
The winners of the merit awards follow:
Emil Jannings, first award for his outstanding performances in The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Honorable mention to Richard Barthelmess for his performance in The Noose and The Patent Leather Kid.
Janet Gaynor, first award for best performances among actresses in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise and The Street Angel. Honorable mention to Gloria Swanson for performance in Sadie Thompson and to Louise Dresser in A Ship Come In.
For direction of dramatic pictures, Frank Brozage received first award for Seventh Heaven. Honorable mention to Herbert Brenon for his directorial work in Sorrell and Son and to King Vidor for The Crowd. Lewis Milestone received first award for directing a comedy picture, Two Arabian Knights. Honorable mention to Ted Wilde for Harold Lloyd’s Speedy.
The first award for writing an original story was given to Ben Hecht for Underworld with honorable mention to Lajos Biros for The Last Command, while Benjamin Glazer received first award for adaptation of Seventh Heaven with honorable mention to Alfred Cohn for adapting The Jazz Singer and to Anthony Coldewey adapting Glorious Betsy.
For title-sriting the first award went to Joseph Farnham with honorable mention to George Marion, Jr., and Gerald Duffy.
The cinematography award is shared by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss for Sunrise.
George Barnes gets honorable mention for his work in Sadie Thompson, The Devil Dancer and Magic Flame.
The art direction award was given to William C. Menzies for The Tempest and The Dove, with honorable mention to Rochus Gliese for Sunrise and Harry Oliver for Seventh Heaven.
The engineering effects award goes to Roy Pomeroy for Wings, with honorable mention to Nugent Slaughter and to Ralph Hammeras.
The Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation received the first award for the production of the outstanding picture of the year, Wings. Honorable mention went to the Fox company for Seventh Heaven and to the Caddo company for Two Arabian Knights. This is the only award which was decided on box-office returns.
The Fox company won first award for the production of the most unusual and artistic picture, Sunrise, while honorable mention was received by Paramount for Chang and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for The Crowd.
Special first award was given to Warner Brothers for producing the pioneer outstanding talking picture, The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson, while another first special award was given to Charles Chaplin for acting, writing and producing The Circus.
It was announced by the central board of judges which made the award that the board felt that Warner Brothers and Chaplin should be considered separately from the other award classifications owing to the unique character of their accomplishments.
In deciding to make the first awards for individual achievements, the academy members made twelve classifications in addition to the two special awards. The nominations were turned in by the members last August. One thousand nominations were received and these were then referred to class committees consisting of five judges. These judges made three nominations which were then turned over to a central board of judges. This, it was explained, is responsible for the length of time taken in making the awards.
The central board of judges was composed of Alec Francis, Sid Grauman, Frank Lloyd, and A. George Volck. The awards were made for pictures first publicly released during the year ending August 1, 1928, and is the first time the academy has made the awards.
The preceding article is the announcement of the first Academy Awards from the Los Angeles Times in 1929. In the beginning the awards were announced before the ceremony instead of being a surprise that night.
The tragic story of Pierre Collings
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Time, fame and money trip lightly in Hollywood, and the men and women who have them one day find themselves alone and penniless the next. So it was with Pierre Collings, screenwriter, whose screenplay of The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) won him two Academy Awards in 1937. Sadly he would not survive to the end of that year.
The second eldest of five children, Lysander Pierre Collings was born on September 22, 1900, in Truro, Nova Scotia where his father Otto was a mining engineer. Otto and his wife Martha were both American citizens and once they returned to the states, had Pierre naturalized as an American citizen.
Collings entered motion pictures as a messenger boy at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios when he was 17 years old. He became successively a cameraman [Alimony (1924) and Untamed Youth (1924)] at the Brunton Studios (now Paramount), an assistant director and then a writer. Among Collings early scripts were A Woman of the World (1925) and Good and Naughty (1926), both starring Pola Negri; The Grand Duchess and the Waiter (1926), with Adolph Menjou and Florence Vidor; the Louise Brooks classic, The Show Off (1926), and the continuity for the Marx Brothers’ Animal Crackers (1930).
Sadly, very little is known about Collings personal and professional life. In December 1926, Collings was married to Natalie Harris at New York’s Little Church Around the Corner. The couple was divorced in 1930. In 1928 Collings was scheduled to direct Alex the Great but for unknown reasons the film was taken over by Dudley Murphy.
Between 1924 and 1930, Collings kept relatively busy writing screenplays, however between 1930 and 1937 he only produced two screenplays, one of which was as an uncredited dialogue contributor on British Agent (1934) starring Leslie Howard and Kay Francis. It could be during this time that some of his personal problems began. In August 1935 he was arrested for drunk driving.
The following December he signed with Warner Bros. and was assigned, along with writer Sheridan Gibney, to write the screenplay for The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), which was to star Paul Muni in the title role. During the production of the film, Collings mother, Martha died unexpectedly and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery.
The grave of Collings mother at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The Story of Louis Pasteur would prove to be Collings biggest success professionally. Both he and Gibney were nominated for two Academy Awards for Original Story and for Screenplay. Reportedly, after finishing the screenplay Collings suffered a nervous breakdown and was not able to attend the ceremony on Oscar night. When Collings and Gibney won both awards, Gibney accepted the Oscars for his writing partner.
Soon after, Collings health improved enough for him to accept an assignment to write the screenplay for a projected Warner Bros. film, Houdini the Great which was scheduled to star George Raft. For whatever reason, the project never materialized. After this he had problems finding work again and started drinking and soon fell into more bad health and poverty. Stories circulated that he actually pawned one of his two Oscars in order to survive, but this cannot be confirmed. The following July, he was arrested on an intoxication charge that was filed by his landlady. He pleaded not guilty.
Pierre Collings died here at his father’s home at 12315 N. Huston Avenue in North Hollywood (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. Please do not disburb the occupants)
Collings was working with songwriter Carrie Jacobs Bond on a proposed screenplay based on her popular song, “I Love You Truly” when he died from pneumonia at his father’s home in North Hollywood on December 21, 1937. His funeral was held at Pierce Brothers Chapel Hollywood and he was interred at Hollywood Cemetery near the body of his mother.
Pierre Collings grave at Hollywood Forever is located in Section 2W near the grave of Florence Lawrence.
Collings was already forgotten. The Los Angeles Times did not publish an obituary – only a listing of his name in the death notices. However, three weeks later, Lee Shipley, a columnist for the Times made this mention in his column:
“Little Pierre Collings, who wrote the script for Louis Pasteur, died the other day. His close friends tell me his decline in health resulted from heartache and despair because, after that truly great picture, he was given hardly any work. The producers thought one Louis Pasteur was great, through some accident, but the public wouldn’t stand for another picture like that – not when it could go to the next show house and see Ben Bernie.
“In fact, I think the sin of Hollywood is that it gathers genius from all the world and then says to it: ‘You mustn’t do your best or anything approaching it. Our public wouldn’t understand it.’”
Four months after Collings death, Charles Mackay, a wanna-be actor who was down on his luck was living at the Mark Twain Hotel in Hollywood. Mackay had graduated from Washington and Lee University the year before and decided to “try” Hollywood. His friends told him he should be an actor; his father, a prosperous St. Louis broker, told him he shouldn’t. He was told to go if he wanted, but don’t come home for help. Mackay decided to ignore his father and prove him wrong.
By April 1938, Mackay was down to his last quarter. His best prospect for finding lodging for the night was an afternoon working on a rock pile. He returned to his room sweaty, tired and discouraged. In hopes of finding a clean shirt, he looked through a closet reserved for the belongings of guests who left the hotel without paying their rent in advance. There Mackay discovered a threadbare blue sweater, and wrapped in the garment was Pierre Collings’ Oscar statuette.
Concerned that he would be arrested for the possible theft of the Oscar if he tried to return it to its owner, Mackay walked up to Hollywood Boulevard to think. By chance he ran into screenwriter Arthur Caesar, who himself won an Academy Award a few years earlier for Manhattan Melodrama (1934). He told Caesar his story and the writer took him and the Oscar to the Academy’s office where the secretary told him that Collings had died a few months earlier in poverty. It was assumed that, probably in need, Collings had been forced to leave the sweater and Oscar as hostage for his unpaid rent. The Academy gave Mackay $25 for the Oscar, told him to clean up, and they assumingly kept the Oscar.
Charles Mackay, center, is shown holding the Oscar given to Pierre Collings. At left is Donald Gledhill, scretary of the Academy, and at right is screenwriter Arthur Caesar.
During research for this article, I contacted the Academy and was told that Pierre Collings’ Oscar was not in their possession and there were no records of the transaction. It’s possible the unclaimed statue could be lying in a box somewhere in the Academy’s attic or, since his father was still living at the time, it was returned to him. In any event, both Oscars won by Collings that night are missing.
If you watch the Academy Awards ceremony in two weeks, when the award for Best Screenplay is presented, remember Pierre Collings – may he rest in peace.
Hattie McDaniel and Fay Bainter
By Tom Gregory
The Huffington Post
The article that follows is a rerun of a piece I wrote in HuffPo over a year ago. The Academy is still unwavering in its choice not to reissue Howard University McDaniel’s statuette. At this historic time, I hope the Academy will finally do the right thing. — Tom Gregory
Today, more than any day ever before, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is poised on the brink of a crisis of conscience.
Hattie McDaniel is best known for her portrayal of “Mammy” in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. She was born in Kansas in 1895, the same year Booker T. Washington delivered his famous “Atlanta Compromise” address. One hundred and thirteen African Americans were officially reported lynched in 1895. (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)
Just a few of the stars who passed away last year that were not mentioned in last evenings Academy Award ceremony.
Lest we forget…
ANN SAVAGE (1921-2008)
EARTHA KITT (1927-2008)
SAM BOTTOMS (1955-2008)
ROBERT PROSKY (1930-2008)
BEVERLY GARLAND (1926-2008)
IRVING BRECHER (1914-2008)
YMA SUMAC (1922-2008)
EDIE ADAMS (1927-2008)
ANITA PAGE (1910 – 2008)
FRED CRANE (1918-2008)
ESTELLE GETTY (1923-2008)
GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)
HARVEY KORMAN (1927-2008)
Emil Jannings’ Oscar
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Emil Jannings, one of Germany’s most favorite actors, was Swiss-born and was raised in Germany as a child. An undisciplined student, his first ambition was to be an actor, however a close friend who was in the Navy, convinced him to run away and go to sea. He eventually returned and tried to obey his parents wishes to be an engineer but soon ran off again and joined a theatrical road company. This time he was returned home by the police, but his father thought a good dose of theatrical hardship would cure him of his dramatic ideas and allowed him to continue with his pursuit.
For several years he traveled with one company or another eventually becoming a stock member at Bremen and Leipzig. For some time Jannings was with the Darmstadt Royal Theatre in Berlin, where he played in Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg and Goethe plays. There he made the acquaintance of Robert Wiene, who would later become the producer of Caligari. He soon played in a series of one-reelers in which one of the directors was a young Ernst Lubitsch.
Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh (1924)
In F.W. Murnau’s, The Last Laugh (1924), in which Jannings plays an old man who sees his world fall about him, he caused critics to rave about him. After his success in Faust (1926), again with Murnau, he came to the United States for Paramount and appeared in The Way of All Flesh (1927), The Street of Sin (1928), The Last Command (1928), The Patriot (1928) and Sins of the Father (1928).
In 1929, the first year of the Academy Awards, Jannings won a Best Actor award for his performances in the The Way of All Flesh (1927), in which he played an embittered family man, and The Last Command (1928), in which he was an exiled Russian general reduced to playing bit parts in war films.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929. However, at that time talking pictures had arrived and Jannings became one of that group of foreign actors who, because of their accent, was suddenly forced to abandon his career in the United States.
The first Academy Award (kori.bustard/Flickr)
Since the actor was returning to Germany on April 27 – before the banquet was to be held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel – he asked the Academy if he could receive his gold statuette early. The fledgling organization agreed, making his the very first Academy Award ever presented.
The remainder of Jannings film work was done in Germany. During World War II, it became apparent that Jannings had become a favorite of the Nazi government, particularly since he was one of a handful of people entrusted by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels with running that phase of the film industry most closely dominated by the Hitler regime. After the war he was not seen on the screen again.
Emil Jannings’ Academy Award at the Berlin Film Museum (Jacob.Theo/Flickr)
Emil Jannings died at his home in Strobl, Austria from liver cancer complicated by pneumonia on January 3, 1950. He was buried at Saint Wolfgang Friedhof Cemetery. The very first Academy Award won by Jannings is currently on display at the Berlin Film Museum.
The Birth of Oscar
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Oscar – the name on everyone’s lips in Hollywood at this time of year. Once again on February 22, nominees will stroll down the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre to attend the 81st Annual Academy Awards. There, the phrase, “And the Oscar goes to…” will be repeated numerous times, but who originally coined the term, Oscar? Depending on who you talk to, it could be any one of several suspects, but first, some history.
Oscar’s parents, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was chartered on May 4, 1927, when 36 film industry leaders met and organized the non-profit corporation dedicated to improving the artistic quality of the film medium.
Academy banquet at the Biltmore Hotel (LAPL)
A week later on May 11, a banquet was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the Biltmore Hotel where more than 300 gathered, and Douglas Fairbanks, the Academy’s first president, presided. Film industry leaders such as Louis B. Mayer, Joseph M. Schenck, Will Hays, Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd and Conrad Nagel gave their support.
It was Louis B. Mayer who suggested handing out awards as a way of focusing attention on films. Conrad Nagel agreed, saying, “Whatever we give, it should be a symbol of continuing progress – militant, dynamic.”
Inspired by the evenings proceedings, MGM art director, Cedric Gibbons began sketching a form on the tablecloth (some versions say a napkin). The figure was a brawny man standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. Gibbons transferred the sketch to paper and it was given to sculptor George Stanley, who molded the trophy in clay. Since then very few changes have been made.
“They are a little distorted now because the original mold has been used so often,” Stanley said in 1957. The sculptor later designed and worked on the three well-known statues at the entrance of the Hollywood Bowl.
As with many actors, Oscar’s birth name would have been hard to fit on a marquee – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Award of Merit – more than a mouthful. So perhaps this fated him to a moniker, but just how Oscar received its unusual name is debatable. Several Hollywood notables have claimed the distinction of originating the name.
Margaret Herrick and Col. W. N. Selig (LAPL)
On their website, the Academy does not attribute the nickname to a specific person, however, one version of the story gives credit to the Academy’s executive secretary, Margaret Herrick. The story goes that in 1931, she reportedly saw the statuette, studied it carefully and exclaimed, “Why he looks like my Uncle Oscar.”
Sitting in an adjoining office was a newspaper correspondent who, the following day, printed the line: “Academy employees have affectionately dubbed their famous gold statuette Oscar.” (unfortunately there is no known published validation for this story)
Irving Thalberg, Bette Davis and Frank Capra (LAPL)
Two-time Oscar winner, Bette Davis believed that she created the term Oscar to describe the golden trophy.
“I am convinced that I was the first to give the statuette its name when I received one for my performance in Dangerous, made in 1935,” Davis said in 1955.
Bette Davis and her then-husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr. Was the coveted award named for him?
“I was married at that time to Harmon O. Nelson, Jr. For a long time I did not know what his middle name was. I found out one day that it was Oscar, and it seemed a very suitable nickname for the Academy statuette.”
Davis, knowing there were other petitioners to the name, hinted that she would be willing to resort to fisticuffs to support her contention.
“Of course, that’s all so very long ago – who knows? But I’d suggest that if the other claimants become very insistent we settle the whole thing with a duel.”
Still other stories say that John Barrymore first coined the name – in the early days Oscar was reportedly a facetious term. Animation pioneer, Walt Disney has also been quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. However, the person who may have the best claim for originating the name is columnist Sidney Skolsky.
Many references credit Skolsky for using the term “Oscar” in a 1934 column in reference to Katharine Hepburn’s Best Actress award for Morning Glory (1933). Still another names Skolsky as the anonymous reporter who supposedly overheard Margaret Herrick christen the statue in 1931; but since Skolsky had not arrived in Hollywood until 1932, that part is unlikely.
Skolsky claimed the term referenced an old vaudeville joke that began, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?”
Though Oscars true beginning is unknown, what can be proven is the use of “Oscar” in Time magazine on March 26, 1934. If it’s not the original, it certainly is one of the first times the term was used:
“In the cinema industry the small gold-washed statuettes which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science annually awards for meritorious productions and performances are called ‘Oscars,’” the article stated.
This also negates Bette Davis’ claim of naming the award when she received hers in 1936 – by then the term Oscar had already been in use for two years.
Whatever its origin, it definitely will not to be an issue when this years nominees walk the red carpet in hopes of getting their own Oscar.