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Distributed for Brandeis University Press

The Academy and the Award

The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

The Academy and the Award

The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The first behind-the-scenes history of the organization behind the Academy Awards.
For all the near-fanatic attention brought each year to the Academy Awards, the organization that dispenses those awards—the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—has yet to be understood. To date, no one has ever produced a thorough account of the Academy’s birth and its awkward adolescence, and the few reports on those periods from outside have always had a glancing, cursory quality. Yet the story of the Academy’s creation and development is a critical piece of Hollywood’s history.

Now that story is finally being told. Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy for over twenty years, was given unprecedented access to its archives, and the result is a revealing and compelling story of the men and women, famous and infamous, who shaped one of the best-known organizations in the world. Davis writes about the Academy with as intimate a view of its workings, its awards, and its world-famous membership. Thorough and long overdue, The Academy and the Award fills a crucial gap in Hollywood history.

512 pages | 54 halftones | 6 x 9

Art: American Art

Film Studies

History: American History

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"A fond look at the genesis and growing pains of the world’s foremost film organization."


"The story of the first 50 years (1927–77) of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts is fascinating, and the Academy’s former executive director Davis (who worked there for 30 years) is the ideal person to write it…  A book of wide appeal, starting but not ending with film buffs."

Library Journal

"A tremendously in-depth history"

The Hollywood Reporter

"If you happen to care about the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (at least in its first fifty years), you’ll have no shortage of reasons to read Bruce Davis’ forthcoming book, The Academy and the Award."


“With a discerning eye and a wealth of experience, Bruce Davis transforms what could have been dry and academic into an erudite and witty saga. He buries a number of myths and rumors surrounding the Oscars, and reveals how the organization survived its chaotic early years. The Academy and the Award is a major contribution to Hollywood history—and a great read.”

Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

“Wide ranging in his objective perspective, but always humanly intimate, Davis examines the in-house records of the Board of Governors, memos of its Presidents, and letters from the Academy’s more activist members, with much added flavoring and gossip. Davis’s seminal history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reads with all the honed stagecraft and drama of an Oscar nominated screenplay.”

John Bailey, cinematographer; Academy President 2017-2019

“In this entertaining, well-researched history, Bruce Davis traces how a marginal organization that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy for years became a major cultural institution that awards a coveted prize.”

Charles Solomon, author of The Man Who Leapt Through Film

“There are few people who know (and can explain) the inner machinations of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but if anyone can do it, Bruce Davis is that man. I am thrilled that there is finally a serious history of the organization and the people behind it, with names that you'll recognize and those you won't. This is the definitive history of the Academy: it deserves a place on one's shelf, or inside one's Kindle. Mr. Davis’s magnum opus is essential reading for any serious cinephile.”

Robert Harris, Motion Picture Archivist

“With the skill and wit of a great story teller, Bruce Davis transports us into the secret boardrooms filled with powerful moguls and charismatic stars, the screenwriters and directors, the cinematographers and visionary scientists who frame-by-frame crafted the movies into the art form we cherish today. Here is the fascinating tale of how the coveted golden statuette of Oscar almost wasn’t and came to be. How I wish I had known this history when I joined the Academy. Pure magic!”

Kathy Bates, Oscar recipient, past Academy Governor

“I recommend this book to everyone who loves the movies and the Oscars!”

Walter Mirisch, Academy President 1973-1977

“This wonderful book is often funny, sometimes shocking, and always incredibly informative as we get the inside story at the Academy, from its humble beginnings at the Biltmore, to its eventual phenomenal industry success.”

Ed Begley, Jr., Actor, and three-term Academy Actors branch governor

Table of Contents

1. The Beginning: Unions, Censors and Scandals
2. Academies. And Awards?
3. A Little Figure for Cedric Gibbons
4. A System Evolves
5. The Hays Incursion
6. . . . And Sciences
7. Academy Washed Up
8. Better than Precious Ointment
9. Frank Capra’s New Deal
10. Honorary Awards
11. Bette Davis and the War
12. Post-War and Cold War
13. Straining at the Leash
14. Into the Modern Era
15. Oscar Full-Blown

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