Conrad Nagel and Greta Garbo in The Mysterious Lady (1928)

Greta was so beautiful we could use any lighting for dramatic purposes. On her films, my photography had more continuity. Using special lighting effects didn’t handcuff the director. Her face was such that I could have shot in candlelight if the stock in those days had allowed it.
[Cameraman] William Daniels 

Broadway at Christmas, Los Angeles, 1930

Just one month earlier Conrad Nagel (featured in the picture on the Rialto’s marquee) hosted the 3rd Acadamy Awards. Two years later he hosted the 5th, and 21 years later he co-hosted the 25th with Bob Hope.


Several ties have occurred in Academy Awards voting:

22nd (1949): Documentary (Short Subject)
A Chance to Live
So Much for So Little

41st (1968): Best Actress
Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter
Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl

59th (1986): Documentary (Feature)
Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got
Down and Out in America

67th (1994: Short Film (Live Action)
Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life

85th (2012): Sound Editing
Zero Dark Thirty

But in 1932, two gentlemen shared the Oscar for Best Actor even though one of them had more votes than the other.

At the 5th Academy Awards, Fredric March, who starred in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wallace Beery, who starred in The Champ, “tied” even though March had one more vote than Beery.

They both received Oscars that night because the rules at the time stated that if an achievement came within three votes of the winner, then both would receive the award. That rule was soon altered, and subsequent ties were exact ties. 

Top photo: Wallace Beery, presenter Lionel Barrymore, host Conrad Nagel and Fredric March at the 5th Academy Awards banquet.

Middle photo: Lionel Barrymore, Conrad Nagel, and Wallace Beery.

Bottom photo: Oscar winners Frank Borzage (Directing, Bad Girl, 1931), Helen Hayes (Actress, The Sin of Madelon Claudet, 1931), and Fredric March.



In homage to the upcoming Academy Awards, we look back to earlier Academy Awards ceremonies. Here we highlight the historic role of radio in one of Hollywood’s most anticipated events of the year. 

When the first Academy Awards were handed out in May 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the winners had already been announced three months earlier. The following year, due to increased public interest, the ceremony was partially covered in a live radio broadcast.

In anticipation of the highly celebrated event for the 5th Academy Awards, radio station KECA presented a half-hour program called “Hollywood on the Air,” broadcast from Radio Pictures Studio in Hollywood on November 17, 1932, the night before the ceremony. The program featured then Academy President Conrad Nagel, talking about the organization’s humble beginnings.

The Margaret Herrick Library’s Special Collections contains the audio archives of the Academy Awards, beginning with the radio broadcast from 1938, the 11th Academy Awards ceremony. The banquet was held on February 23, 1939 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, with Academy President Frank Capra as the evening’s host. Commentator George Fisher from radio station KHJ narrated an unauthorized live broadcast of the ceremony that within twelve minutes of commencing was shut down by Biltmore Hotel personnel. 

Broadcasters George Fisher and Don Kurlen continue to list the parade of celebrities in attendance, and make this comment on seeing Spencer Tracy at a banquet table.

Radio allowed listeners to be invited into the inner circle of the renowned show. For the first time for the 1944 (17th) annual Academy Awards, the ceremony was broadcast nationally by the ABC network.

On March 13, 1947, the Academy moved its show into the Shrine Civic Auditorium from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. To fill the approximately 6,700 seats, the Academy sold tickets to the general public for the first time, while ABC broadcast the ceremonies to more than 40 million radio listeners, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A new era had begun when on March 19, 1953, NBC televised the Oscars for the first time, appropriately on the 25th anniversary of the Awards. Even after the advent of television, the Academy Awards show was simultaneously broadcast on radio as late as 1968.

On Oscar’s 70th anniversary and at the request of the Board of Governors, Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith wrote “Fanfare for Oscar,” an official opening theme for the annual Academy Awards presentations. Goldsmith, a classically trained composer known for his lush orchestral themes, was an Academy Award winner for The Omen (1976) and an 18-time Oscar nominee. On March 23, 1998, “Fanfare for Oscar” was performed by an orchestra in front of a live audience. At the time, Goldsmith said of the score, “The end result of the 45-second composition is a melding of the Hollywood of the past, the Hollywood of the present, and the Hollywood of the future.”