From the Archives: The Historic Architecture of the Oscars

With preparations for the 88th Academy Awards well underway this week, did you know that this star-studded event did not always take place in the epicenter of the Hollywood drag? Right around the corner from the downtown Central Library, the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel was the founding site for the Oscars when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a luncheon in its Crystal Ballroom in May of 1927. Between 1931 and 1977, eight Oscar ceremonies were held at the Biltmore, including the 50th Anniversary hosted by Bob Hope. Built by Schultze & Weaver, the architects behind New York City’s Waldorf Astoria and Park Lane Hotels, the ever glamorous Biltmore opened in October of 1923. With its hand painted fresco ceilings and 24 carat gold accents, here’s a look back at how the Biltmore hosted one of L.A.’s most lavish gatherings of the year–these archival images of the Academy Awards are courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection.
This photograph of the first organizational meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was taken in the Crystal Ballroom of Los Angeles’ Biltmore Hotel on May 11, 1927. Some of the Hollywood pioneers in this photo are Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks (the Academy’s first president), Louis B. Mayer, Jack L. Warner and Darryl F. Zanuck. from the 4th annual Academy Awards event caption dated November 11, 1931, reads “Photo, taken at the banquet of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, shows Norma Shearer presenting a gold statuette to Marie Dressler as the academy‘s award for the best performance by an actress in 1931, her portrayal in ‘Min and Bill.’ At left is George Arliss, wearing a monocle and watching the ceremony. At right is Lionel Barrymore, who won the award for the best performance by an actor because of his work in ‘A Free Soul.'”
Clark Gable receiving the Best Actor Award for his role in the film “It Happened One Night” at the 7th Annual Academy awards held at the Biltmore Hotel on February 27, 1935. photographs side-by-side showing winners of the 9th Annual Academy Awards. From left to right, Walt Disney and Shirley Temple; Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy, Charlie McCarthy. Disney won an Oscar in the Short Subjects, Cartoon category for “The Country Cousin” and Bergen was honored for his outstanding comedy creation, Charlie.
The 9th Academy Awards, hosted by George Jessel and held on March 4, 1937, was the first time in which the categories of Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were awarded.
Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine sitting together, 1942. The caption reads, “One of the real dramas at the dinner was this scene showing Miss Fontaine and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, also contender for the honor. This was the first [illegible] that two sisters had ever vied for an Oscar.” Engaged in a rivalry that lasted most of their lives, De Havilland and Fontaine are the only siblings to have won lead acting Academy Awards. Disney receiving the Irving Thalberg Award at the 14th Academy Awards, held at the Biltmore Bowl. Photograph dated February 29, 1942.


Browse more historic images through the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection.

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