The Importance of knowing Oscar
By Douglas Kennedy
When the first Oscars were staged at a private party hosted by Douglas Fairbanks at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929, there was no television and radio simply didn’t care.
The $5 a head event attracted 270 guests, who already knew the result, – William A Wellman’s sky-high World War I epic Wings took out best movie while German star Emil Jannings (the Way of All Flesh) and Janet Gaynor (Seventh Heaven) were named best actor and actress – and little other interest.
In contrast the 89th Academy Awards this year will be hosted by TV star Jimmy Kimmel at the Dolby Theatre and beamed to several hundred million in more than 225 countries around the world.
In between a total of 3,048 Oscars have been awarded as the ceremony has become a business model for a swag of ceremonies including the Emmys (TV), the Tonys (theatre) and the Grammy (music and recording among others).
Each year the Oscars have been notched-up to a new level, starting with the first radio broadcast in 1930, but over the years it has also generated its own stories as the members of the academy are a motley crew of the world’s most revered show biz talents and publicity seeking celebrities.
To begin at the beginning the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)’s most converted statuette is semi-clouded in a little mystery as there are several claims on its nickname, Oscar.
The most popular is golden age star Bette Davis’ assertion that it came courtesy of her first hubby, musician Harmon Oscar Nelson (married 1932-38), but others also have a stake.
As for the model for the naked art deco ‘little man’ standing 34.3cm tall as a knight holding a crusader’s word, that’s said to be Mexican movie star Emilio Fernandez.
The story goes that the artist Cedric Gibbons persuaded the reluctant model to pose naked for the creative process.
Now for some stats from the awards’ history books starting with the all-time biggest winner, Walt Disney, who walked away with a 22-Oscar haul, as well as being nominated 59 times, over an amazing career spanning five decade.
In 1931 nine-year-old Jackie Cooper was nominated for a best actor Oscar for the movie Skippy, but when he lost out to Lionel Barrymore the academy decided it was time for youngsters on the big screen to be recognized.
The result was a pint-sized Oscar – The Academy Juvenile Award – which first went to six-year-old Shirley Temple in 1935.
The ward – dubbed the Oscarette by Bob Hope in 1945 – continued until 1961 when 12-year-old Harley Mills was the last recipient for the title role in the Disney movie Pollyanna.
Other important Oscar milestones include Hattie McDaniel becoming the first African-American to win an Oscar, when she was named best supporting actress for her role as Mammy in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind (Halle Barry was the first black woman to win for best actress in Monster’s Ball (2001)), and Sidney Poitier who was first black best actor winner for Lilies of the Field (1964).
Mrs. Miniver (1942) star Greer Garson is credited with the longest acceptance speech, running at five minutes-30 seconds, and Patty Duke with the shortest when receiving the best supporting actress gong for The Miracle Worker (1962).
Her message was a simple, “Thank you.”
Navy veteran Harold Russell, who lost both his hands in a training accident in World War II made Oscar history twice in 1947.
Russell, who was picked by director William Wyler to play returned serviceman Homer Parrish in his homecoming film, The Best Years of Our Lives, made history on several fronts.
He was the first so-called ‘non-professional’ to win an Oscar for best supporting actor as well as the first to win two for playing the same role.
The academy believed there was little chance of him winning but decided to honour him with a special Oscar for bringing ‘hope and courage to his fellow veterans.’
However, despite being a novice he did win best supporting actor in his own right.
Russell who only made a couple more appearances in films and on TV in his life-time, also made history when he sold his Oscar for US$60,500 in 1992.
He is reportedly the only Oscar-winner to sell his gong although Orson Welles’ award for best screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941) was sold on line in 2011 for nearly US$900,000.
Since 1950 the statuettes have been protected from re-sell by a stipulation that if a winner no longer wants the award they must sell it back to the academy for $1.
With four Oscars for best actress Katharine Hepburn holds the record for most wins in Morning Glory (1934), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1968), The Lion in Winter (1969 and On Golden Pond (1982).
No mean feat for an actress once dubbed by the Theatre Owners of Americas ‘box office poison’ and of whom wit and writer Dorothy Parker once said, ‘she runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.’
Meanwhile Daniel Day-Lewis leads the male actors with three gongs for My Left Foot (1990), There will be Blood (2008) and Lincoln (2013).
Three films have won 11 Academy Awards Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
Actor George C. Scott earned his own special place in the Oscar history books when he refused the best actor award for his 1970 film Patton, while Marlon Brando sent a native American, Sacheen Littlefeather, to pick-up his Oscar for The Godfather two years later.
The red carpet is an essential ingredient in the Oscar hoop-la but wardrobe malfunctions are a very real part of modern celebrity.
When Janet Gaynor pick-up the first Oscar acting award in 1929 she was reported to have worn an off-the-rack dress with a Peter Pan collar, but that would hardly do today.
When Barbra Streisand went to pick-up her best actress award for Funny Girl in 1969 (she was a joint winner with Katharine Hepburn) her Arnold Scaasi pants suit ripped as she was walking onstage.
The sheer outfit left her doubly exposed and Streisand would later comment: “I didn’t realise the outfit was so see-through.”
Back in 1997 actress Jenny McCarthy went to the Oscars in a Valentino dress but was shocked when the designer approached her at the after party and told her she was wearing his dress backwards.
“I was wondering why it was so tight in the boobs …” McCarthy later quipped.
This article has been little more than the tip of a giant Oscar iceberg, but let’s end back home with a few facts and figures about Australia’s contribution to this remarkable entertainment award.
Since Australian-born May Robson earned an Oscar nomination back in 1933 for A Lady for the Day, the academy has given out 43 Oscars to 154 nominees. In addition there have been four scientific and engineer award given.
The most ‘decorated’ winner is Catherine Martin who won best costume design and best production design awards for Moulin Rouge (2002) and the Great Gatsby (2014).
However, the first Australian winner was Ken G. Hall for Kokoda Front Line! In 1942, which featured the cinematography of Damien Parer.
In 1976 Peter Finch became the first actor to win a posthumously Oscar for best actor in Network, while another Aussie, Heath Ledger, the only other posthumous award for best supporting actor in The Dark Knight.
Kidman won an Oscar in 2003 for The Hours while Gibson earned two in 1996 for Braveheart (best picture and best director).
href=”https://hushhushbiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Oscars-on-the-GC-FBT.jpg”>Caroline Russo and East will present Oscar on the GC Feb 27th at East Nightclub 88 where we will broadcast the event on Channel Nine and have our own after party and stage events to highlight the night of nights.
Tickets info https://www.facebook.com/events/1234443673301281/
Some photo credits are to Getty and The property of The Academy awards and Caroline Russo