A Star Is Born

Written by: BlueDog89

One of the brightest stars to appear on the Hollywood scene in 1929 was a golden knight gripping his mighty sword while standing atop a reel of film with five spokes. His greatest role has been to honor outstanding achievements in filmmaking. His name is Oscar®.

For one of the most recognized trophies the world over, the statuette’s dimensions are not nearly as imposing as the overwhelming emotions experienced by the individuals honored by a nomination or receiving the award itself. Oscar® is a mere 13 ½” and weighing 8 ½ lbs., standing regally atop a base of a film reel. The five spokes displayed on the black base represent the original branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.

Cedric Gibbons and Dolores del Rio

Cedric Gibbons and Dolores del Rio

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief art director Cedric Gibbons was responsible for the design of the trophy. Gibbons’ wife, actress Delores del Rio, introduced him to Mexican film director Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez to pose for the original sketches. Sculptor George Stanley, renowned for designing the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowl, sculpted Gibbons’ sketches and Sachin Smith cast the statuette in 92.5% tin and 7.5% copper and then gold-plated it. The only addition to Oscar since its original design was a minor streamlining of the base.

The original award presented at early ceremonies was gold-plated solid bronze. The statuette’s material changed over the years, such as during World War II, when there was a metal shortage, and the Oscars® were made of painted plaster. Once the war was over, wartime recipients were allowed to redeem their plaster figurines for gold-plated metal figures. Today Oscar® is constructed of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base rendered in an Art Deco style.

The Academy® initially named the statuette the Academy Award of Merit®, however Oscar® is what it’s most known for. Many rumors surround how the nickname of Oscar came about. One of the most well known is that of Bette Davis saying that the award resembled her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. Davis supposedly mentioned the term Oscar® when she received her Best Actress award for Dangerous in 1935. Walt Disney was rumored to use the moniker in 1932, and Time magazine made mention of Oscar® in 1934. The Authorized Version from the Academy® is based on a popular story about an Academy® librarian who remarked that the statuette resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy® officially adopted the nickname in 1939. However the name came about, it stuck. And many people today often refer to the award ceremony as The Oscars®.

From left to right: Douglas Fairbanks Sr., D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Charles Chaplin, around the time they founded United Artists in 1919

From left to right: Douglas Fairbanks Sr., D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Charles Chaplin, around the time they founded United Artists in 1919

The first Academy Awards®, hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and screenwriter/director from the silent film era William C. DeMille, were presented on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and lasted a mere 15 minutes. This was the only Academy Award® ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television. This was also the first and only year that the Academy® recognized two best pictures and the only time that winners were recognized for more than one movie. It was also the only time a silent movie reached best picture status.

Wings, Best Picture winner 1927

Wings, Best Picture winner 1927

Films that had been released between August 1, 1927 and July 31, 1928 were eligible for awards. Unlike later ceremonies, awards could be granted to an actor or director for multiple works within a year. The movie Wings, which starred the popular silent film star Clara Bow, won Best Picture, while Emil Jannings won Best Actor for two separate roles and Janet Gaynor won Best Actress for three separate roles. There were two Best Director Awards, Lewis Milestone won for Best Comedy and Frank Borzage won for Best Dramatic Picture.

Two special awards were also presented that night. One to Warner Brothers for producing The Jazz Singer and one to Charlie Chaplin for writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus.

Yet today, no matter what you call the glam evening of a 1,000 stars or the gleaming knight holding a crusader’s sword, it all represents the best in Motion Picture achievement. Only now The Oscars® come complete with bright lights, designer dresses, and the all-important red carpet.

It may be a little different from what the early founders of the Academy® had in mind; but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

44-D’s Virtual Red Carpet to the Oscars® Main PageBack to 44-D’s Virtual Red Carpet to the Oscars® Main Page


Filed under 82nd Academy Awards, Culture, Entertainment, History, Hollywood, Media and Entertainment, Movies, Pop Culture, Television, TV Shows, Uncategorized

15 responses to “A Star Is Born

  1. Great writing and research BlueDog! I really learned alot from your piece…thought that Bette Davis named the ‘Oscar’, thanks for putting that rumor to rest 🙂

  2. This was a great subject to write about, especially for a film lover like me. I, too, had always heard the Bette Davis rumor & believed it to be true, but not so, according to the Academy. Thanks for the opportunity to write about something I truly love (films & the Oscars). Can’t wait for the big night! 🙂

  3. I’m rooting for Sandra Bullock to get “Best Actress”, 🙂

  4. What an interesting story bluedog, I too thought that Bette Davis named it “Oscar”. Now I know the true story.

    • Thanks Bets! The subject matter is fascinating, and I’ve learned so much more about the Academy that I’d love to share with 44-D’s readers. Stay tuned…

    • I’ve read a couple of biographies on Bette Davis, and I bet she absolutely loved to encourage that rumor… 🙂

      She was quite a fighter, going up against the ‘studio moguls’ back in the old days in Hollywood.

      • I’ve read some funny anecdotes about her. For instance, when she filmed “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” with Joan Crawford – they were at each others throats on- and off-screen. At the time Crawford was the widow of the CEO of Pepsi, so naturally, Ms. Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on set.

        Davis did indeed claim to give the Academy Award the nickname “Oscar” after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, although at some point she later withdrew the claim. She and Nelson were married from 1932-1938, thus proving the rumor false since the first Oscars were awarded in 1929.

  5. thelcster

    wow. please accept a high five from a fellow movie lover. loved the post bd! a great look back. we’ll see who wins this year

    • Thanks LC! I can’t even wrap my head around which movie will win, or is deserving of a nomination, due to the expanded best pic category. Either way, it will be fun to see who wins.

  6. A Little off topic maybe, but anyways – which template are you using? I genuinely love the menu style. +_AUp where can i buy proactol yr$bV

  7. Hello, you old to engrave magnificent, excluding the last little posts have been kinda boring… I pass on your vast writings. Former a number of posts are emphatically a insufficiently tad out of track! come on!

  8. Regarder des films gratuitement en ligne est devenu la tendance la plus recente et donc vous pouvez aussi essayer de regarder les films sur Internet gratuitement
    via sans depenser le moindre sou unique.

  9. When i had been curious should you ever regarded as transforming the actual structure of your respective web site? It’s adequately published; I like what youve got to state. Yet you could possibly a little more in the way of content material so men and women might talk with this better. You’ve obtained a lot involving text message intended for solely acquiring one particular or a couple of photos. Maybe you may space this out there far better?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s