A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OSCAR ®
Shortly after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was incorporated in 1927, a dinner was held in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to discuss the goals of the new organization.
One of those goals was devising a method of honoring outstanding achievements, thus encouraging higher levels of quality in all facets of motion picture production.
Once the decision had been made to institute an award, a major item of business was the creation of a trophy to symbolize film achievement. MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed the statuette and Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley was selected to bring to three-dimensional form the figure of a knight standing on a reel of film, hands gripping a sword. The Academy’s worldrenowned statuette was born.
Since the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929, in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room, 2,622 statuettes have been presented. Each January, additional new golden statuettes are cast, molded, polished and buffed by R.S. Owens & Company, the Chicago-based awards specialty company retained by the Academy since 1982 to make the award.
Oscar stands 131/2 inches tall and weighs a robust 81/2 pounds. The design of the statuette has never changed from its original conception, but the size of the base varied until the present standard was adopted in 1945.
Officially named the Academy Award ® of Merit, the statuette is better known by its nickname, Oscar, the origins of which aren’t clear.
A popular story has been that Academy librarian and eventual executive director Margaret Herrick thought it resembled her Uncle Oscar and said so, and that the Academy staff began referring to it as Oscar. In any case, by the sixth Awards presentation in 1934, Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used the name in his column in reference to Katharine Hepburn’s first Best Actress win. The Academy itself didn’t use the nickname officially until 1939.
The 15 statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favor of britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy, which made it easier to give the statuettes their smooth finish. Due to the metals shortage during World War II, Oscars ® were made of painted plaster for three years.
Following the war, all of the awarded plaster figures were redeemed for gold-plated metal ones.
Achievements in up to 24 regular categories will be honored on February 25, 2007, at the 79th Academy Awards ® presentation at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center ®. However, the Academy won’t know how many statuettes it will actually hand out until the envelopes are opened on Oscar Night ®.
Although the number of categories and special awards will be known prior to the ceremony, the possibility of ties and of multiple recipients sharing the prize in some categories makes the exact number of Oscar statuettes to be awarded unpredictable.
As in previous years, any surplus awards will be housed in the Academy’s vault until next year’s event.
“Each Oscar statuette is individually hand-crafted,” says Scott Siegel, president of R.S. Owens.
“This statuette is only a tiny portion of our overall business, but it makes us known all around the world. No other award is as universally recognized as the Oscar, and we treat it with the extra-special tender loving care that it deserves. We are extremely proud that the Academy has entrusted its manufacture to us.”
Except in years when the Academy created a publicity event out of the delivery of the Oscars from Chicago to Los Angeles, they normally were sent overland by common carrier.
However, in 2000, only a few weeks before the presentation date, that year’s shipment of Oscars was stolen from the overland carrier’s loading dock. They were recovered a week later, but not before some nerve-wracking days had passed. Since then, the Academy has had the statuettes delivered on a special United Air Lines flight and has kept a ceremony’s-worth of statuettes on hand.
The Oscar statuette is the most recognized award in the world. Its success as a symbol of achievement in filmmaking would doubtless amaze those who attended that dinner nearly 80 years ago, as well as its designer, Cedric Gibbons. It stands today, as it has since 1929, without peer, on the mantels of the greatest filmmakers in history.
The Oscar Statutette
Total number of Oscar statuettes presented since the first Academy Awards: 2,622 (not including 79th
Number of Honorary Awards presented since the first Academy Awards (Oscar statuettes are presented to Honorary Award winners): 113
Awards to be presented at the 79th Oscars)
Best rating and share in the past 30 years
Latest telecast date in the past 20 years April 11, 1988 (60th Academy Awards)
Longest televised show 74th Academy Awards show, in 2002, with a running time of 4 hours, 23
Shortest televised show 31st Academy Awards show, in 1959, with a running time of 1 hour, 40
Date of first televised show March 19, 1953 (25th Academy Awards)
Venue that has hosted the most Academy Awards presentations
Number of Oscar shows hosted at the Kodak Theatre, including the 79th Academy Awards: 6
Miscellaneous Oscar Trivia
Person who has hosted the most Academy Awards shows Bob Hope, with 19 host appearances
Oldest Academy Awards show poster in the collection of the Margaret Herrick Library 32nd Academy Awards
Size of most common set-dressing Oscar 34 in. diameter (base) 7®ˆ feet tall, 65 pounds
“Oscar ®,” “Oscars ®,” “Academy Awards ®,” “Academy Award®,” “A.M.P.A.S.®” and “Oscar Night ®” are the trademarks, and the Oscar ® statuette is the registered design mark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Oscar statuette is the copyrighted property of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the statuette and the phrases "Academy Award(s)" and "Oscar(s)" are registered trademarks under the laws of the United States and other countries. All published representations of the Award of Merit statuette, including photographs, drawings and other likenesses, must include the legend ©A.M.P.A.S.® to provide notice of copyright, trademark and service mark registration. Permission is hereby granted for use of the representation of the statuette in newspapers, periodicals and on television only in legitimate news articles or feature stories which refer to the annual Academy Awards as an event, or in stories or articles which refer to the Academy as an organization or to specific achievements for which the Academy Award has been given. Its use and any other use is subject to the "Legal Regulations for Using Intellectual Properties of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" published by the Academy. A copy of the "Legal Regulations" may be obtained from: Legal Rights Coordinator, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90211; (310) 247-3000
Credit: Albert Watson/Courtesy of AMPAS