Eighteen years after the film industry handed out its first Oscars the Broadway theater community held its first Tony Awards (short for the "Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre"). The ceremony was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the evening of April 6, 1947, which was Easter Sunday. (The Tonys took place every April until 1964 when it moved to late May for one year and then to June every year thereafter.)
For this first gathering there were two Best Actor and Best Actress awards given for Plays - but none for musicals (however, an award for Featured Actor was given). Besides winning Tonys the four winning actors were also Oscar winners:
- Jose Ferrer won for his role in Cyrano de Bergerac. Three years later the play was made into a movie and he won an Oscar for the role.
- Fredric March won the other Best Actor Tony for Years Ago. He'd win another Tony 10 years later for Long Day's Journey Into Night.
- Helen Hayes won the Tony for Happy Birthday. She'd collect another Tony and two Oscars, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Grammy during her career.
- Known mostly as a movie actress (she won three Oscars), Ingrid Bergman won the Tony for her role in Joan of Lorraine. The play was the basis for the 1948 movie Joan of Arc, which Bergman also starred in. Nominated for an Oscar, she lost to Jane Wyman who won for Johnny Belinda.
David Wayne won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for playing the role of the leprechaun Og in Finian's Rainbow. Elia Kazan won Best Director for All My Sons. Interestingly, in this first year there was no award for Best Play or Best Musical.
Beginning in 1956 the show was broadcast on TV in the New York market; it wasn't picked up by a TV network until 1967 when ABC aired it. The audience for the Tonys is only about one-fifth the size of the audience that watches the Academy Awards.