As the Academy grapples with multiple crises, it’s a good time to look back at how it came into existence 95 years ago.
MGM‘s Louis B. Mayer announced the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1927, but it wasn’t intended to give awards. Mayer needed a way to deal with Hollywood labor issues without having filmmakers & studio workers represented by unions, which we’re trying to get a foothold in the movie industry.
Mayer (pictured) was one of the dozen or so Jewish immigrant movie industry pioneers who founded Hollywood — but that today’s Academy chose not to honor in its new $480M Museum. After an outcry by some members & the media, the Academy decided to open a movie moguls exhibit late next spring. Mayer first brought his Academy idea to top director Fred Niblo, who’d made the 1925 epic BEN-HUR, actor Conrad Nagel & Association of Motion Picture Producers executive Fred Beetson. Mayer envisioned an annual members banquet, but awards weren’t on the table yet.
The Academy’s members were to represent 5 moviemaking branches — acting, directing, producing, writing & technology. Mayer invited 36 prominent movie people to a banquet on Jan. 11, 1927, at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel, making them Academy founders. The group was incorporated on May 4 and elected superstar Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. President & Fred Niblo First VP. There were 230 members and an honorary membership for pioneer movie inventor Thomas Edison.