The George Eastman Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Film was presented for the first time in 1955. An outstanding list of “stars” from in front of the camera and behind it were celebrated in a gala Festival of Film Artists at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester. They were the leading figures in each of their respective fields during the early days of silent feature films – 1915 to 1925. Two years later, George Eastman House again celebrated great film artists at the Second Festival of Film Artists. At that time, however, the period was 1926 to 1930, the end of the silent film era.
In 1965, in collaboration with the Women’s Committee of the Rochester Civic Music Association, the career of a single outstanding performer was honoured with the George Eastman Award. From 1972 to 1978, seven artists were given the Award in recognition of their cinematic achievements at events held at the Museum’s own Dryden Theatre.
On November 5th 1982 the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House presented The 1982 Festival of Film Artists. The award ceremonies returned to the Eastman Theatre, which was built in 1922 as an elegant motion picture theatre. Seven actresses who made their debuts or reached important heights in their film careers were honoured with the George Eastman Award. They were: Joan Bennett, Louise Brooks, Dolores Del Rio, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Luise Rainer and Sylvia Sidney.
The awards ceremony was hosted by the Honorary Chairman George Cukor, with co-hosts Kitty Carlisle Hart, Brian Aherne and Ray Milland. Four of the honorees were in attendance: Luise, Joan Bennett, Sylvia Sidney and Maureen O’Sullivan. The others (Brooks, Del Rio and Loy) were too ill to travel. In his excellent book Louise Brooks: A Biography, Barry Paris recounts how, whilst in the US to collect her award, Luise paid a visit to Louise Brooks’ apartment with the film critic Jack Garner and they both “hit it off marvellously”. Each actress was introduced by three film clips before the presentation. Luise’s excerpts were taken from The Great Ziegfeld, The Good Earth and Dramatic School.
For more information about George Eastman and the International Museum of Photography and Film visit their website.
Recipients of the George Eastman Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Film:
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Josef von Sternberg
James Wong Howe
Willard Van Dyke
Dolores Del Rio