Why did they turn to a secret system?
You have Los Angeles Times to thank for that. The Academy’s official history lays blame on The Times for breaking an embargo and publishing the winners in the paper’s evening edition before the previous year’s ceremony was underway. Think of it as the era’s equivalent of a tweet that scooped everyone else.
As the Oscars site says, the premature publication took place “much to the Academy’s dismay” and made the winners list “readily available to guests arriving for the event.”
Not much suspense there. And this is an industry that knows not to give away an ending.
The next year, the top-secret winners envelopes – like the one that went awry at this year’s Oscars – were put into action. The Times report on the new system (see the clip here) pronounced it pretentious.
“No vestige of an authoritative pre-release was vouchsafed while the roll call of honorees went on until the midnight hour.”
The details about how “La La Land” won, then lost, the best picture award to “Moonlight,” are still being sorted. But the consensus is that it started when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope.
If the LA Times hadn’t broken an embargo in 1940, the Oscars envelope mix-up might have never happened – Los Angeles Times