Almanac: Academy Awards broadcast

Jennifer Jones receives the Oscar for Best Actress for "The Song of Bernadette" at the 16th Annual Academy Awards, March 2, 1944. YouTube

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: March 2nd, 1944, 70 years ago today . . . the wartime day on which CBS Radio broadcast the 16th Academy Awards ceremony.

Though not the first Oscar radio broadcast, two things stand out.

First, the location: Grauman's Chinese Theater, where Ronald Reagan's older brother Neil was the Red Carpet announcer: "This is the first time in the history of the Academy that the awards ceremony has taken place in a theater; heretofore they have been banquets."

Inside the theater, stage announcer Ken Carpenter revealed the show's second superlative -- a special effort to reach American forces fighting overseas:

"It's being shortwaved by the Armed Forces Radio Service. All of Hollywood's greats are here tonight. The winners themselves are seated in the audience, but no one knows yet who those winners until the sealed envelopes are broken. ... So stand by New Delhi and Naples, Cairo and Kiska, Sydney and Sicily. Here to act as top kick for this round-the-world broadcast for servicemen is Jack Benny."

Jack "Ain't Got a Chance" Benny got straight to the joke, including his long-running complaints about never winning an Oscar: "I hope that somebody who won it last year will win it again this year. I haven't got time to hate new people, you know?"

In fact, NOBODY had much time that long ago evening.

Believe it or not, the entire Oscar broadcast took just 25 minutes!

Complete CBSNews.com coverage: The Academy Awards

Though "Casablanca" won Best Picture, Humphrey Bogart lost Best Actor to Paul Lukas for "Watch on The Rhine," and Claude Rains lost Best Supporting Actor to Charles Coburn in "The More the Merrier."

Jennifer Jones won Best Actress for "The Song of Bernadette."

Katina Paxinou won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

Oscar ceremonies have changed a lot since 1944.

The 1945 awards were the first to be heard on radio coast-to-coast.

And then in 1953 the very first Oscar ceremony to be seen on TV, with Bob Hope handing out the honors.

"Television," Hope told the audience, "is where movies go to die."


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