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Old Posted Feb 26, 2011, 8:18 AM
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sopas ej sopas ej is offline
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The Oscars are this Sunday. Interesting, because on February 27, 1941, the 13th Academy Awards were presented-- 70 years ago to the date. It was held at the Biltmore Bowl of the Biltmore Hotel.

For the occasion, the Academy installed a 15-foot neon Oscar over one of the entrances to the Biltmore.

The Biltmore Bowl itself used to be a very elegant ballroom.

USC Archive

It doesn't look like this anymore. It's been massively remodeled/destroyed. You'd think it'd be restored to its original elegance, being that the rest of the hotel and some of its ballrooms look like how they originally did.

Two of the big winners that night: Best Actor winner James Stewart for "The Philadelphia Story" and Best Actress winner Ginger Rogers for "Kitty Foyle."

The Academy Awards were first presented in 1929 at the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. From 1930 to 1943, the awards ceremonies would flip-flop between the Fiesta Room or Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, and the Sala D'Oro or Biltmore Bowl at the Biltmore Hotel. They were presented in a dinner banquet format. By 1943, Academy membership had grown so large that at that year's ceremony, held at the Cocoanut Grove, people were seated at dinner tables cheek to jowl:

After the ceremony, the Hollywood Reporter complained, "Never in the history of Academy dinners was there such a compression of tables and people. It was almost impossible to get through the aisles and, with tables stacked up as far as the bandstand, there wasn't a foot of space on the dance floor."

It was clear that dinner banquets were no longer practical for the Oscar ceremonies. That was the last ceremony held in a dinner banquet format. The following year in 1944, the Oscars moved into a theater for the first time. The venue was Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and ceremonies would be held there from 1944-1946. In 1945, a bona fide film noir was up for Academy Awards: Double Indemnity. It received 7 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Screenplay, Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Best Sound Recording and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. It won none.

Here's Grauman's Chinese on March 7, 1946, the night it hosted the 18th Academy Awards. That was the year Joan Crawford won Best Actress for Mildred Pierce and Ray Milland won Best Actor for The Lost Weekend.

The fans in the bleachers across the street:

In the 1960s, some old-time Academy members started reminiscing about the old Academy Award dinners, saying that since the awards moved into theaters, and with them being televised since 1953, the awards ceremonies have never been the same. Gone was the intimacy; they were no longer a private movie industry event. And now, they've gotten bigger since even the 1960s; today the Oscars are a complete international media circus.

Here's the Cocoanut Grove back when it was happenin' and glamorous.

Here's the Ambassador Hotel's Fiesta Room in 1926:

The Fiesta Room during the 3rd Academy Awards, November 5, 1930. All Quiet on the Western Front won Best Picture that night, as well as Best Director for Lewis Milestone. Norma Shearer won Best Actress for The Divorcee and George Arliss won Best Actor for Disraeli.

Here it is in 2005, before the Ambassador's demolition in January of 2006:

If those walls could talk. But of course those walls have been knocked down.

Addendum: I failed to mention earlier that the Fiesta Room was later remodeled in the 1950s by noted architect Paul Williams in that Greco-Roman style, and renamed the Embassy Ballroom; this is the ballroom that Robert F. Kennedy made his victory speech in, before walking into the pantry and being gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan.
"If the climate were a bank, the U.S. would have already saved it."

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Last edited by sopas ej; Feb 27, 2011 at 4:13 AM.
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