The Academy Awards were first held in 1929; the proceedings were nicknamed "the Oscars" in 1939. The event is considered the gold standard of awards ceremonies in the United States, and photos of old Hollywood stars at the famous gala showcase the glamour of the first award shows - and the flaws, too. For example, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra stun in their closeups, but Hattie McDaniel was the only Black person to win an Academy Award for decades. She earned her accolade in 1940; Sidney Poitier was only the second Black actor to take home a statue when he won in 1964.
These black and white snapshots, immortalized in America's history, demonstrate the long-lasting, bittersweet nature of the Oscars and how the Academy operates. It acknowledges talented actors, writers, and producers, but as movements like #OscarsSoWhite highlight, it oftentimes ignores the accomplishments made by people of color and other marginalized communities.
1. Hattie McDaniel Poses With Her Oscar, 1940Photo: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinemas Archive/Contributor / Moviepix/Getty Images
2. Shirley Temple Presents An Oscar To Claudette Colbert, 1935Photo: Bettmann/Contributor / Bettmann/Getty Images
3. Ernest Borgnine Receives An Award From Grace Kelly, 1956
4. Barry Fitzgerald, Ingrid Bergman, And Bing Crosby With Their Statues, 1945Photo: Bettmann/Contributor / Bettmann/Getty Images
5. Jack Lemmon Gives Charlie Chaplin An Honorary Oscar, 1972
6. The First Oscars, 1929