Interesting Facts About the Academy Awards
In 1927, the American Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AAMPAS) held a dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in order to establish its goals. Among the topics discussed that night was how best to honor outstanding moviemaking achievements and thereby encourage excellence in all facets of motion picture production…and, as they say, the “Oscar” was born!
I’m sure most of you watch the Oscars each year, whether it’s to see the fashions walking the red carpet, the Oscar winners and their thank you speeches, or the antics of the evening’s host, you might even watch it with a few friends. No matter how you enjoy watching the Oscars, here are some interesting facts with which you can dazzle your fellow Oscar enthusiasts.
OSCAR STATUETTE FACTS
- Official Name: Academy Award of Merit
- Nickname: Oscar. A popular story has it that the Academy’s first librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked in 1931 that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy officially adopted the nickname in 1939.
- Height: 13½ inches
- Weight: 8½ pounds
- Design: A stylized figure of a knight holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes signifying the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers).
- The statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years, the statuette was made of Britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy, which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-karat gold.
- Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones.
- Since 1950, Oscar winners cannot officially sell their statuette without first offering it back to the Academy for one dollar! However, Oscars awarded before 1950 are not bound by this agreement. In 2011, Orson Welles’ 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane was sold at auction for over $860,000!
AMERICAN ACADEMY of MOTION PICTURES, ARTS and SCIENCES
- The “birth of the Academy” was 1927, with Douglas Fairbanks as their first president.
- The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel (Hollywood, California) with 270 attendees and the recipients were actually announced three months earlier. The next year the Academy kept the results secret, but gave an advance list to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. However, in 1940 the Los Angeles Times published the winners in its evening edition! That is what prompted the sealed-envelope system in use today.
- The very first Oscars ceremony in 1929 was only 15 minutes long!
- The shortest Oscar telecast happened in 1959, running one hour and 40 minutes.
- The longest Oscars telecast ran for four hours and 23 minutes in 2002.
- The first televised Oscar ceremony in 1953, enabled millions throughout the United States and Canada to watch the proceedings.
- The Oscars were telecast in color for the first time in 1966.
- The Oscars were broadcast internationally for the first time in 1969 and now the show reaches movie fans in over 225 countries.
- A single ticket to the first Oscars cost $5.00! Today they’re a whopping $750! Mezzanine seats are $375 and the “nosebleed seats” (top level) are $150 each.
- 1937 was the first year the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress Academy Awards were presented for performances in films of 1936.
- The first special award to honor a foreign language motion picture was given in 1947 to the Italian film Shoe-Shine. Seven more special awards were presented before Foreign Language Film became an annual category in 1956.
- In 1964, the Special Effects category was divided into Sound Effects and Special Visual Effects.
- The Oscar ceremony was postponed from April 8 to April 10, 1968 out of respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had been assassinated a few days earlier.
- In 1981 the Awards were once again postponed, due to the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
- Makeup became an annual category in 1982, with Rick Baker winning for his work on An American Werewolf in London.
- The “In Memoriam” segment has been part of the Oscar ceremony since 1993.
- The Animated Feature Film Award was established in 2002, with Shrek winning for films released in 2001.
OSCAR WINNERS, LOSERS, and OTHERS
- Youngest Award Winner was Tatum O’Neal. She won Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon (1973) when she was only 10 years old. Shirley Temple won the short-lived Juvenile Award at 6 years old.
- At the age of 76, Henry Fonda became the oldest actor to be presented the Best Actor award, for the film On Golden Pond (1981).
- At the age of 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role for the film Beginners (2010).
- Marty (1955) was the shortest movie, at 90 minutes, to win Best Picture.
- At 234 minutes (including the overture and end credits’ music), Gone with the Wind (1939) is the longest of all movies to win the Best Picture award.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” was originally going to be deleted! It won Best Music/Original Song in 1940!
- The first Oscar award for Best Actor was presented to actor Emil Jannings, who won for his performances in two movies, The Last Command (1928) and The Way of All Flesh (1927).
- Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director award for her film The Hurt Locker (2009). Bigelow beat out ex-husband James Cameron, who was nominated for the technological wonder Avatar.
- Music composer John Williams is the most Oscar-nominated person alive today, with 50 nominations (as of 2016) and five wins.
- Alfred Hitchcock was nominated five times for Best Director, but never won an Oscar.
- Walt Disney won 22 Academy Awards from 59 nominations, and four honorary Academy Awards.
- Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors who have won an Oscar for playing the same character, that of Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974) respectively.
- Bob Hope has hosted the Oscars 19 times, making him the most frequent host ever.
- Linda Hunt won an Oscar for playing a member of the opposite sex for The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).
- Greer Garson delivered the longest acceptance speech ever (five minutes and 30 seconds) after winning her Best Actress award for the film Mrs. Miniver (1942). Maybe that’s why the speech limit is now 45 seconds!
- Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win the Best Actress in a Supporting role, for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939).
- In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win the Best Actor award (Lilies of the Field, 1963).
- Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the only X-rated film to win the Best Picture award.
- After winning an award for Best Actress for Cabaret (1972), Liza Minnelli became the only Oscar recipient whose parents were Oscar winners too. Liza’s mother, Judy Garland, received an honorary award in 1939 and her father, Vincente Minnelli, won Best Director for Gigi (1958).
- Three of the most successful films in Oscar history are Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), with each winning 11 Oscars. Return of the King is the only one to win every award for which it was nominated.
- Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell has 20 nominations, but no wins, making him “the unluckiest nominee” in the history of the Academy Awards.
- During the 1974 Academy Awards, a streaker ran across the stage (Robert Opel, a photographer and art gallery owner)!
- Since the 2016 nominations, there have been 42 movies nominated in the “Big Five” categories (Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Directing, and Writing), but only three films in the history of the Oscars have ever won all five of the top categories. They are: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Silence of the Lambs (1991).
© By Kathleen R. McKissick