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Early Accolades

Hollywood has a long, glittering history of lauding its own. From Academy Awards to Oscars to independent films, the industry ensures every actor, director, producer, screenwriter, and other professional involved in the production of silver screen entertainment has a chance to receive recognition and express gratitude for the opportunity to strut their stuff.

While today’s hours-long programs filled with the reigning glitterati in their designer-best draw viewers from around the globe, the awards presentation at the first Academy Awards ceremony, held on May 16, 1929, took only fifteen minutes--hardly worth getting all gussied-up for. Louis B. Mayer, founder of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation (which later merged into the iconic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios), presented the awards which he created. Mayer also established the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in an effort to unite the disparate components of movie making and inspire their best efforts through savage competition to be the prize winners. The strategy worked.

The first Academy Awards covered only 12 categories, with 7th Heaven (1927, based on the popular play Seventh Heaven by Austin Strong) and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, adapted from “The Excursion to Tilsit” by Carl Mayer published in Litauische Geschichten by Hermann Sudermann) each receiving three awards.

On June 6, 1930, film critics and journalists formed their own international organization, the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (International Federation of Film Critics). With a focus extending beyond a certain suburb of Los Angeles, California, this organization gathered together the various, mainly European associations in the movie industry, to recognize what they considered the best in movie making. Currently spanning over 50 countries, the organization presents awards at various events such as the Vienna International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, and the Warsaw International Film Festival.
Other than the United States, probably the country with the most film industry awards is India. Famous for its “Bollywood” productions, the Indian movie industry presents over 30 awards, among the earliest is presented by the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association. Founded in 1937, the BFJA draws its membership from dailies, periodicals, and film journals. With an eye toward improving the quality of Indian films, they presented their first awards in 1938 at the first Motion Picture Congress held in what is now Bangladesh.

Although the USA ranks as the first country to form an organization recognizing movie industry awards, Italy takes the credit for the first film festival, held in August 6 - 21, 1932, in Venice. Organizers did not award official prizes, so the audience determined the unofficial winners. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) was the first film to be screened at the festival. That movie, which won two of those unofficial awards for favorite actor and most original story, was based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson. The festival recognized its first official awards in 1934.

By Karen M. Smith

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