1. The first Academy Awards took place at private dinner in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel ballroom in 1929, honoring the best films of 1927 and 1928. Wings won the Oscar for best picture.
In an effort to unite the five branches of the film industry – actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers – Louis B. Mayer created the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and "found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them...If I got them cups and awards they'd kill them to produce what I wanted." With the tremendous advancements in the movie making industry and the existence of the Academy Awards eighty-seven years later, it seems his plan worked.
But for its time, Wings was a very impressive film. Released in 1927, this American silent war film used some 300 pilots during filming, including pilots and planes from the United States Army Air Corps. It was the most expensive film of the late 1920s and became known as the “yardstick” future aviation films would be measured against.
2. When the Warner brothers opened their first nickelodeon in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1905, they borrowed fold-out chairs from the funeral parlor next door for theatre seating.
The Warner brothers, wanting to break into the then fledgling film industry, traveled around the mining towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio, showing a used copy of The Great Train Robbery on park lawns. People would come out with blankets and snacks, content to sit on the grass. But when the Warner brothers set up shop in a vacant storefront in New Castle, PA, they realized they couldn’t expect their movie-goers to sit on the floor.
To furnish their makeshift nickelodeon, called the Bijou, they borrowed over fifty wooden fold out chairs from the undertaker next door. A year later, the brothers purchased a small nearby theater and called it the Cascade Movie Palace, which they maintained until moving into film distribution. In 1918, they opened the Warner Bros. film studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, which is what everyone knows them for today.
3. The first feature-length movie shot specifically in Hollywood was DeMille’s The Squaw Man.
The 1914 silent western drama film starring Dustin Farnum is the first screen version of the story. It was adapted from the stage play of the same title and was DeMille’s first movie assignment. He would go on to remake the film in 1918 and then again in 1931 with sound. It’s the only movie successfully filmed three times by the same director/producer – too bad Spiderman isn’t having as much luck.
4. In 1915, Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) was considered the first serious entertainment movie and, for many people, racist because the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed as a heroic force.
Under President Woodrow Wilson, Birth of a Nation – which chronicled the relationship of two families during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era – was the first American motion picture to be screened at the White House.
Also the first 12-reel film, Birth of a Nation was over three hours long and split into two parts with an intermission in between. While a commercial success, it was highly controversial because of its portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan.
And sure enough that same year, the second era of the KKK emerged, which the film is credited for inspiring and was subsequently used as a recruiting tool. Yikes! The NAACP launched a campaign to ban the film but was unsuccessful.