From left: Groucho Marx and Rosemary LaPlanche; Fred Astaire; Alan Alda; Mary Tyler Moore; Betty Thomas and hoaxer Barry Bremen; James Earl Jones; Barbra Streisand; Michael Chiklis; Neil Patrick Harris; Melissa McCarthy; the "We Solved It!" performers: Sterling K. Brown, Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson and RuPaul; Billy Crystal; Peter Dinklage
With the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards airing Monday, January 15th, here is a sampling of the drama and delights of TV's night of nights in our Emmy Awards timeline. Like the industry itself, the show has changed a lot in seventy-five years, but those golden statuettes remain a classic.
1st: January 25, 1949
Six hundred guests paid five dollars a piece to attend the first Emmys ceremony, held at the Hollywood Athletic Club on Sunset Boulevard. Only six awards were presented, including Most Popular Television Program, which the public had voted on by postcard. They chose KTLA’s Pantomime Quiz, a television version of charades. The ceremony was broadcast only in Los Angeles — where fewer than 50,000 households had TV sets.
4th: February 18, 1952
The Emmys went wide this year, opening the contest to national programming. On show night, two high profile nominees, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, waited by the phone in their New York apartments in case they won. Caesar ended up with Best Actor, Coca took Best Actress and their series (Your Show of Shows) was named Best Variety Show. Back then, long-distance calls required operator assistance, but presenters Ed Wynn and Eve Arden eventually got through to Caesar, who had news of his own: his wife, Florence, had given birth the day before to their son.
5th: February 5, 1953
Lucille Ball delighted in her first Emmy win at the fifth annual awards. After losing the previous year to Red Skelton, she was twice honored: I Love Lucy was named Best Situation Comedy and Ball was crowned Best Comedienne. The event at L.A.'s Statler Hotel was Ball's first night out since giving birth two weeks earlier. "Gee, Desi, we got it!" she exclaimed to her husband, costar and producer, Desi Arnaz, of the new golden addition to their household. And to the audience, she admitted, "I'm a nervous wreck!"
9th: March 16, 1957
For the first time, the Emmys were broadcast nationwide in living color. Another first: Dinner was not served, so that attention would fall squarely on the awards. For a show with no food, there were plenty of beefs. For example, why hadn't the top winner of the night, anthology series Playhouse 90, been nominated for Best Series – One Hour or More? But it did get twelve noms — and won in six categories. Five of those Emmys were for Requiem for a Heavyweight, named Best Single Program of the Year. Its writer, Rod Serling, and heavy-hitting star, Jack Palance, were winners, too.
To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of emmy magazine HERE.
This article originally appeared in its entirety in emmy magazine, Issue No. 12 under the title, "75 Years of Emmys."
The interview for this story was completed before the start of the SAG-AFTRA strikes.