Hollywood Flashback: MGM Took Out the First Oscars For Your Consideration Ad in 1936
The first Academy Awards were presented in 1929, but almost a decade later MGM ran the first awards solicitation ad in The Hollywood Reporter for 'Ah, Wilderness!,' an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's only comedic play.
It didn't take long for Hollywood to go from Oscars to Oscar campaigns.
The first Academy Awards were presented in 1929, and by 1936 MGM had taken out the first awards solicitation ad in The Hollywood Reporter. Actually, it was more an eight-page section that modestly proclaimed "1936 Belongs to Metro Goldwyn Mayer." It promoted just one film: Ah, Wilderness!, an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's only comedic play. (It's set in turn-of-the-20th-century New England and deals with the coming of age of a family's middle son.)
THR had said the Clarence Brown-directed production "stands head and shoulders above the run of the mill for gentle humor, the drama of youth, the lovely memory and entertainment that one and all should see."
The film starred Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore (great-uncle of Drew) with a 15-year-old Mickey Rooney popping up in some scenes. But the studio's trailblazing Oscar campaign flopped: Wilderness didn't get a single nomination. (Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable, won best picture that year.)
RKO would have more luck with Oscar ads. In 1940, it created one that successfully promoted Ginger Rogers for best actress in Kitty Foyle. And in 1947, one of the studio's anonymous copywriters came up with a brilliant phrase that had just the right tone: "For Your Consideration." The rest is history.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.