At the beginning of every year, the entertainment industry, the connoisseurs of the seventh art and film lovers from all over the world turn their attention to the Oscars. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences honors and recognizes outstanding cinema achievements since 1929. The greatest motion picture artists and professionals determine the nominees and the Academy’s 6000 members vote.
The nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards have been announced, the ceremony is right around the corner, so we thought to post a Top 10 list of Oscar fun facts.
Did you know that Maggie Smith is the only actress to ever win an Academy Award by playing an Oscar-losing actress? She won the Oscar for playing “Diana Barrie” in California Suite, a 1978 American comedy film directed by Herbert Ross. Check out the rest of Oscar curiosities and records:
10. Who’s Oscar?
One of the most recognized trophies in the world is the Academy’s gold-plated statuette, better known by its nickname, Oscar. But who’s Oscar and how did the statuette get its name?
The statuette was designed by art director Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by George Stanley, but the origins of its name are disputable. Although there are various theories, many sources credit Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky for using the name Oscar for the first time in a 1934 article. Skolsky explained in his memoirs: “I needed the magic name fast. But fast! I remembered the vaudeville shows I’d seen. The comedians having fun with the orchestra leader in the pit would say, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” The orchestra leader reached for it; the comedians backed away, making a comical remark. The audience laughed at Oscar. I started hitting the keys. “Katharine Hepburn won the Oscar for her performance as Eva Lovelace in Morning Glory, her third Hollywood film.” I felt better. I was having fun. I filed and forgot. During the next year of columns, whenever referring to the Academy Award, I used the word “Oscar.” In a few years Oscar was the accepted name. It proved to be the magic name.”
Another common story involves Margaret Herrick, AMPAS’ first librarian, who remembers calling the famous statuette Oscar because it resembled her cousin Oscar Pierce.
9. The Winners’ Agreement
What if you get nominated, win an Oscar, bring it home to your proud mother, but decide to sell it one day? Or worse…you need to sell it. How much is it worth? Well, $1 according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The nominees who win an Oscar, have to sign a ‘winners’ agreement’ in which they commit to never sell the Academy’s Awards without first offering the Oscars back to the AMPAS for a fee of $1. This is the Academy’s way of controlling the trophies that go on sale. They want to make sure that no award arrives in the hands of private collectors. If someone refuses to sign the agreement, the Academy is entitled to keep the award. AMPAS began issuing this kind of agreements in 1951.
The case of Harold John Russell is very interesting. He is one of the two non-professional actors to ever win an Oscar. Russell sold the Academy Award to cover his wife’s medical expenses. AMPAS offered to loan him money, but Russell refused. Some controversy was sparked after he sold the Oscar for $60,500.
Experts speculate that more than 140 Academy Awards have been sold since the first ceremony.
8. Saying NO to the Oscar
So far, only two of the greatest actors in history shocked Hollywood by refusing the Academy’s Awards. George Scott won the 1970 Best Actor Oscar for his magisterial performance in “Patton: Lust For Glory”, but decided to refuse it. Scott said that the politics surrounding the ceremony was “demeaning” and characterized the Hollywood event as “a two-hour meat parade”.
Three years later, a Native American activist took the stage during the 45th Academy Awards ceremony to decline Marlon Brando’s Oscar for the title role in “The Godfather”. Sacheen Littlefeather delivered the refusal speech on the actor’s behalf. Marlon Brando protested against America’s poor treatment and Hollywood’s misrepresentation of American Indians.
“For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ”Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.” When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember…”( That Unfinished Oscar Speech – by Marlon Brando)
7. The Only Silent Movie to Win an Academy Award
“Wings” won the very first Academy Award for Best Picture and in addition to this, it holds the distinction of being the only silent movie to win an Oscar. Completed with an estimated budget of $2 million, the movie was considered one of the most expensive films of its time. The Academy’s Award for Engineering Effects was among the first categories to honor outstanding technicians. “Wings” was a winner also in this category.
Valued as a timeless triumph of the silent film era, “Wings” starred Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, Clara Bow, Jobyna Ralston and Richard Arlen. It was produced by Lucien Hubbard and directed by William A. Wellman. The movie was set during 1917-1918 and focuses on the life of two WWI fighter pilots who fall in love for the same woman.
6. The Youngest Oscar Winner
The youngest actress to win a competitive Academy Award is Tatum O’Neal, who was 10 years old when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in “Paper Moon”. The film was adapted from “Addie Pray” (1971), a well crafted novel written by Joe David Brown. Tatum O’Neal starred as a child also in other notable movies such as “The Bad News Bears” with Walter Matthau, “International Velvet” with Anthony Hopkins, and “Little Darlings” with Kristy McNichol.
5. Most Oscars Awarded to a Movie
Three movies share an amazing record: “Ben-Hur”, “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” have each won 11 Academy Awards.
“Ben-Hur”, the epic 1959 movie that redefined the art and science of cinema, won 11 Oscars of the 12 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color and Best Cinematography. James Cameron’s epic romance won 11 Academy Awards out of 14 nominations and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” dominated the 76th Academy Awards ceremony by winning 11 Oscars from 11 nominations.
4. Three Generations of Oscar Winners
The first family to have three generations of Oscar winners is the Huston family with Walter, Anjelica and John. Walter Thomas Huston was the father of film director, screenwriter and actor John Huston and the grandfather of actress Anjelica Huston.
Walter Huston was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar in 1936 for his role in “Dodsworth” and five years later for “The Devil and Daniel Webster”. The “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, a great adventure film set in old time Mexico, gathered a total of three Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Walter) and Best Director (John). Anjelica became the third generation of the Huston family to win an Oscar, for her performance in “Prizzi’s Honor”.
The second family to have three generations of Oscar winners consists of Hollywood veteran Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia and Carmine Coppola. Movies produced through Coppola’s company have earned more than 60 Oscar nominations and 15 trophies. Carmine Coppola’s Oscar for Best Music (The Godfather II) and Sofia’s 2003 Oscar for “Lost in Translation,” made the Coppola’s a family with three generations of Oscar winners.
3. The Oldest Oscar Winner
Legendary actress Jessica Tandy is the oldest winner of a Best Actress Academy Award for her role in “Driving Miss Daisy”. This outstanding performance was awarded also with a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe. “Driving Miss Daisy” is a wonderful 1989 comedy-drama adapted from a play written by Alfred Uhry. It is a slow and poignant story of great love, sensibility, kindness and patience, a story that takes a quarter of century to unfold. Even if there is not much action, Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman really bring the story to life. If you didn’t watch this movie, I highly recommend to do so. “Driving Miss Daisy” is a timeless film that really goes out and touches people’s hearts.
2. First African-American Performer to Win an Oscar
Do you remember dear old Mammy from “Gone with the Wind”? Seventy-two years ago, Hattie McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Mammy in “Gone with the Wind”. She was the first African-American performer to receive an Academy Award.
In 1963, another actor made history as the first African-American to win a competitive Oscar as Best Actor, Sidney Poitier. More than 100 Oscar nominations have been officially made to a large number of African American directors, actors, engineers writers and musicians. Here are some of the winners: Louis Gosset Jr., Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Mo’Nique and many more.
1. Most Oscars in a Lifetime
Who’s got the Guinness World Record for the ‘Most ‘Oscars’ won in a lifetime? Walter Elias Disney with 32 awards from more than 60 nominations!
Sir David Cecil Low, a prominent political cartoonist of the 20th century, considered Disney “the most significant figure in graphic arts since Leonardo.” A pioneer and innovator, Walter Elias Disney revolutionized the way we were entertained. He invented the multiplane camera in 1936, a camera that gave the illusion of depth in cartoons by making everything look more natural and believable. The camera was used for the first time in the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
Although Walt Disney didn’t invent the “Technicolor process”, he made it very famous. After signing an exclusive agreement with Technicolor, Disney released in 1932 the industry’s first full-color animation, Flowers and Trees. It was awarded with an Academy Award for Best Cartoon. This Oscar was the first of 32 trophies Disney won personally.