A Fledgling Technology
March 19, 1953:
First Academy Awards Telecast on NBC
The year 1953 marked the first time that the Academy Awards were broadcast on the fledgling medium of television. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) TV network carried the 25th annual awards ceremony live from Hollywood’s RKO Pantages Theatre.
Bob Hope was the master of ceremonies, while Fredric March, a two-time Academy Award winner for Best Actor (for 1932’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives), presented the awards. The statuette for Best Picture went to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, while John Ford won Best Director for The Quiet Man. Winners in the top two acting categories were Gary Cooper (High Noon) and Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba).
The heavily-favored High Noon lost to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, which is now considered among the worst films to have ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The American film magazine Premiere placed the movie on its list of the 10 worst Oscar winners and the British film magazine Empire rated it #3 on their list of the 10 worst Oscar winners. It has the lowest spot on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 81 films to win Best Picture.
Hope, a star of stage and screen who tirelessly performed in United Service Organization (USO) shows for American troops during World War II, would become a mainstay of the new TV medium. He was also the most venerated Academy Awards host, playing MC no fewer than 18 times between 1939 and 1977.
There were no tapes from 1953 but here is classic Hope from the 1955 awards: