History Of the Oscar Awards
The first awards were presented on May 16, 1929, at a private brunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an audience of about 270 people. The post Academy Awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. The cost of guest tickets for that night’s ceremony was $5. Fifteen statuettes were awarded, honoring artists, directors and other personalities of the film making industry of the time for their works during the 1927–1928 period.
Winners had been announced three months earlier; however, that was changed in the second ceremony of the Academy Awards in 1930. Since then and during the first decade, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11 pm on the night of the awards. This method was used until the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result, the Academy has since 1941 used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners.
For the first six ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years. For example, the 2nd Academy Awards presented on April 3, 1930, recognized films that were released between August 1, 1928 and July 31, 1929. Starting with the 7th Academy Awards, held in 1935, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year from January 1 to December 31.
The first Best Actor awarded was Emil Jannings, for his performances in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. He had to return to Europe before the ceremony, so the Academy agreed to give him the prize earlier; this made him the first Academy Award winner in history. The honored professionals were awarded for all the work done in a certain category for the qualifying period; for example, Jannings received the award for two movies in which he starred during that period. Since the fourth ceremony, the system changed, and professionals were honored for a specific performance in a single film. As of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony held in 2011, a total of 2,809 Oscars have been given for 1,853 awards. A total of 302 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or have been awarded Honorary or Juvenile Awards.
The 1939 film Beau Geste is the only movie that features as many as four Academy Award winners for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Susan Hayward, Broderick Crawford) prior to any of the actors receiving the Best Actor Award.
At the 29th ceremony, held on March 27, 1957, the Best Foreign Language Film category was introduced. Until then, foreign-language films were honored with the Special Achievement Award.
Although there are eight other types of annual awards presented by the Academy (the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, the Academy Scientific and Technical Award, the Academy Award for Technical Achievement, the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, and the Student Academy Award) plus two awards that are not presented annually (the Special Achievement Award in the form of an Oscar statuette and the Honorary Award that may or may not be in the form of an Oscar statuette), the best known one is the Academy Award of Merit more popularly known as the Oscar statuette. Made of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base, it is 13.5 in (34 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 kg) and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes each represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.
In 1928, MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy members, supervised the design of the award trophy by printing the design on a scroll. In need of a model for his statuette, Gibbons was introduced by his future wife Dolores del Río to Mexican film director and actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was finally convinced to pose nude to create what today is known as the “Oscar”. Then, sculptor George Stanley (who also did the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowl) sculpted Gibbons’s design in clay and Sachin Smith cast the statuette in 92.5 percent tin and 7.5 percent copper and then gold-plated it. The only addition to the Oscar since it was created is a minor streamlining of the base. The original Oscar mold was cast in 1928 at the C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry in Batavia, Illinois, which also contributed to casting the molds for the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Emmy Awards statuettes. Since 1983,approximately 50 Oscars are made each year in Chicago by Illinois manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company.
In support of the American effort in World War II, the statuettes were made of plaster and were traded in for gold ones after the war had ended.
The root of the name Oscar is contested. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson; one of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a Time magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. Another claimed origin is that the Academy’s Executive Secretary, Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette’s reminding her of her “Uncle Oscar” (a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce). Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick’s naming and seized the name in his byline, “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar’”. The trophy was officially dubbed the “Oscar” in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.It may also be named after the famous Irish playwright Oscar Wilde.On disembarking at New York to start a “Grand Tour” of America on 3rd January 1882 he was asked by a Custom officer if he had anything to declare?His reputed reply was “NOTHING BUT MY GENIUS”
Ownership of Oscar statuettes
Since 1950, the statuettes have been legally encumbered by the requirement that neither winners nor their heirs may sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statuette. Academy Awards not protected by this agreement have been sold in public auctions and private deals for six-figure sums. In December 2011, Orson Welles’ sole 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane (Best Original Screenplay) was put up for auction, after his heirs won a 2004 court decision that Welles did not sign any agreement to return the statue to the Academy.
While the Oscar is under the ownership of the recipient, it is essentially not on the open market. The case of Michael Tod’s grandson trying to sell Tod’s Oscar statuette illustrates that there are some who do not agree with this idea. When Tod’s grandson attempted to sell Tod’s Oscar statuette to a movie prop collector, the Academy won the legal battle by getting a permanent injunction. Although Oscar sales transactions have been successful, some buyers have subsequently returned the statuettes to the Academy, which keeps them in its treasury.