And the Oscar goes to . . .
THIS time last week we were all atremble with excitement wondering who would win the prized Oscars.
Well, I wasn’t but I do love all the trivia associated with the awards.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was conceived at a banquet in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel on January 11, 1927, where legend has it that the original sketch of the Oscar statuette was drawn on a Biltmore napkin.
Thirty-six guests were present including Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford, Sid Grauman, Jesse Lasky, George Cohen, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, Cedric Gibbons and Irving Thalberg. The artistic director Cedric Gibbons is credited with the design of Oscar.
George Stanley, a Los Angeles sculptor, created the statue, which soon came to be known as Oscar.
The Oscar statuette is of a knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film with five spokes, representing the original branches of the academy: actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians.
One popular theory about Oscar’s name involves then academy librarian and future executive director, Margaret Herrick, who upon seeing the statuette sitting on a table exclaimed: ‘‘ It looks just like my Uncle Oscar!"
Bette Davis claimed that she named the award after her ex-husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson. This is contested.
The first awards were held on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Oscar name was first used in 1934 by Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky discussing Kathryn Hepburn’s win.
The Oscar is 34.3cm and 3.8kg. It was originally made of gold-plated bronze. Now each statue is made of a composite metal called britannium ( 93% tin, 5% antimony, 2% copper) heated to its liquid state and cast in a mold.
After some sanding and buffing, an electroplating process covers it in 24-carat gold. Oscar’s base is solid brass plated with black nickel.
During World War II, when the US experienced a metal shortage, the statuettes were made of painted plaster. Recipients could exchange them after the war.
Only three refusals have occurred – screenwriter Dudley Nichols ( 1935, who refused to accept an Oscar at a time when the Writers Guild was on strike against the movie studios), and actors George C. Scott ( 1970) and Marlon Brando ( 1972). The Oscars were first telecast in 1953 with Bob Hope as the master of ceremonies.
See you next week for the Ides of March and remember to join me on ABC Radio on Wednesday nights from 8pm.