tina fey amy poehlerThe Golden Globe Awards will air on NBC on January 12, 2014, and buzz is already building about who’s going to win what award and what hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have planned for the show’s notoriously outrageous opening monologue. Around 20 million people around the world are expected to tune in. But how did the Golden Globes come about, and who are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, anyway? Well, it’s quite an interesting story.

During World War II, a bunch of foreign journalists based in Los Angeles decided to form an association. They assumed, correctly, that banding together into an official organization would make it a lot easier to get access to Hollywood stars than it had been as reporters for overseas newspapers and magazines that studio publicists often had never even heard of. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was organized in 1943 and they had their first awards ceremony in ’44, an informal to-do held at 20th Century Fox.

hfpa logoIt was far from smooth sailing at first. A rift within the group caused them to separate into two factions in the 1950s: The Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association and the Foreign Press Association of America. After a few years of infighting, they decided that working together would be in their own best interests. Patching up their differences, the two groups reunited as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1955.

So what exactly is it that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does other than throw the best party in town every January? From the beginning, they’ve been a outward-looking organization: when the HFPA first formed, they adopted the motto “Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race,” which was strong talk in the midst of World War II. They’ve continued that spirit in the decades since, using film and television as a bridge between America and other cultures around the globe. This generosity of spirit is evident in their widespread philanthropic works, from efforts toward post-war reconstruction in Europe to a recent push for donations for the rebuilding of the Philippines following the massive Typhoon Haiyan. Closer to home, grants from the HFPA have funded both film restoration and preservation projects and practical education for disadvantaged youth.

MBDOCEL EC004The Golden Globes got their start with that first low-key soiree back in 1944, but the ceremonies weren’t aired nationally on television until the mid-1960s. Before then, they were shown locally on TV in southern California.  Back in the day, the journalists themselves announced the winners at a ceremony that was no more exciting than the average industry awards show. But in 1958, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. decided to go up on stage and start presenting the awards themselves. The crowd couldn’t get enough of their charm and wit, and the trio was invited back as the official hosts the next year. This was also the beginning of the Globes’ reputation as a more loose-limbed and swingin’ party than the comparatively staid Oscars.

Over the years, the Golden Globes have become nearly as popular a TV event as the Oscars, and many have tried to use the Globes’ 15 film categories as a litmus test to see what may happen on Oscar night. Those years when the two groups’ nominations differ wildly, of course, arouse even more discussion. There’s been no shortage of controversial moments, such as Marlon Brando refusing to accept his award for The Godfather in a protest against “American Imperialism and racism.” Perhaps more damagingly, giving tiny blonde sexpot Pia Zadora an award for “Best New Star of the Year” in 1982 after extensive lobbying by her billionaire husband Meshulam Riklis made the awards a laughing stock for years. Conversely, people cheered last year when Ben Affleck won the Best Director Award for Argo, for which the Oscars had snubbed him even though the film ended up winning their Best Picture statue.

The Golden Globes and the HFPA are chugging along just fine.  Right now, the HFPA has 93 members from countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and Central and South America, and they claim the readership of all those places is over 250 million people. Its current president is Dutch photographer Theo Kingma and its vice president is Lorenzo Soria. Get ready to tune in again in January.

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