The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or AMPAS, is primarily known for hosting the Academy Awards. This year’s awards air this Sunday night, and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back at some vintage materials about AMPAS way back at its inception.
This item (click to enlarge; on some browsers, click a second time) was published in the 1928 Film Daily Yearbook, which is published at the beginning of each year, so the content of each edition all comes from the prior year. In this case, that means that this is vintage AMPAS publicity material from before AMPAS ever hosted the most famous awards show in the world.
It shows. You have to read carefully to find any mention of awards at all — it’s buried near the end of the “Its Purpose” section. Contrast this with the AMPAS web site. The awards very quickly became a big deal. The industry and the world at large became interested in these particular awards, and that created the opportunity for AMPAS to gain publicity and income by continuing to give them out. So the gave out another set of awards, which created a scandal, because all the awards seemed to go to the films and artists with particular connections to the Academy’s Board. But the organization survived the scandal and cleaned up its act for the third ceremony.
But back in 1927, AMPAS wasn’t all about the awards, and this early ad does a great job of illustrating its focus. In particular, note the first paragraph of the “Year In Review” section, which discusses the deal filmmakers made with studios to avoid a 10% across-the-board salary cut. I previously commented about this on Page 5 of the Vintage: The Onrush of Sound post, and I’ll eventually get back to it and talk about it some more.
This page was published one year later, in the 1929 Film Daily Yearbook, and the first awards ceremony is on its way. It would be held on May 16, 1929, and last about 15 minutes. (The winners had all been announced previously, and none of them made speeches.) Still, though, the awards are a footnote to the organization’s other activities.
Today, AMPAS is still actively involved in a lot of different things to further the art of film. To quote the Wikipedia’s apt summation: “In addition, the Academy gives Student Academy Awards annually to filmmakers at the undergraduate and graduate level; awards up to five Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting annually; and operates the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California and the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood, California.”