On this day in 1927, Louis B. Mayer, head of the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) film studio, announced the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at a banquet at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for the purposes of acknowledging cinematic excellence. The group was officially formed on May 11 of the same year.
The Academy’s awards for the the motion picture industry would come to be known as The Oscars. Some 6,000 motion picture professionals are not members of the Academy, but the membership list is considered a “closely guarded secret.”
Over the years, the Oscars have not been without controvery. Some of the most notable incidents include:
In 1936, in just the fifth year of the awards, screenwriter Dudley Nichols turned down the awards for The Informer. The Screen Writers Guild and the Writers Guild asked members to boycott the ceremony because studios were trying to prevent unionization.
In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American actress to win an award for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Because of segregation, McDaniels had to sit in the back of the auditorium and not with the rest of the cast.
In 1970, George C. Scott refused his the Oscar for his leading role in Patton. Scott said “The ceremonies are a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons.”
Three years later in 1973, Marlon Brando won Best Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Brando refused the award and sent Native American Sacheen Littlefeather to decline saying “He very regretfully cannot accept this very generious award, and the reasons for this are being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”
In 1974, as David Niven was abou to introduce Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Opel streaked across the stage, leading Niven to quip, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”
In 2014, John Travolta stumbled over his lines when introducing singer Idina Menzel to sing the theme song from Frozen. Travolta came out with “Please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem.” Twitter and meme-makers everwhere rejoiced.
In 2017, actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were handed the wrong envelope and announced La La Land to be the winner. Backstage the stage manager realized that they should have been announcing Moonlight.
The 90th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018.