Archive for February, 2017

Who Named Oscar?

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

The Birth of Oscar

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

  

Oscar – the name on everyone’s lips in Hollywood at this time of year. Once again on February 22, nominees will stroll down the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre to attend the 81st Annual Academy Awards. There, the phrase, “And the Oscar goes to…” will be repeated numerous times, but who originally coined the term, Oscar? Depending on who you talk to, it could be any one of several suspects, but first, some history.

 

Oscar’s parents, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was chartered on May 4, 1927, when 36 film industry leaders met and organized the non-profit corporation dedicated to improving the artistic quality of the film medium.

 

Academy banquet at the Biltmore Hotel (LAPL)

 

A week later on May 11, a banquet was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the Biltmore Hotel where more than 300 gathered, and Douglas Fairbanks, the Academy’s first president, presided. Film industry leaders such as Louis B. Mayer, Joseph M. Schenck, Will Hays, Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd and Conrad Nagel gave their support.

 

It was Louis B. Mayer who suggested handing out awards as a way of focusing attention on films. Conrad Nagel agreed, saying, “Whatever we give, it should be a symbol of continuing progress – militant, dynamic.”

 

Inspired by the evenings proceedings, MGM art director, Cedric Gibbons began sketching a form on the tablecloth (some versions say a napkin). The figure was a brawny man standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. Gibbons transferred the sketch to paper and it was given to sculptor George Stanley, who molded the trophy in clay. Since then very few changes have been made.

 

“They are a little distorted now because the original mold has been used so often,” Stanley said in 1957. The sculptor later designed and worked on the three well-known statues at the entrance of the Hollywood Bowl.

 

As with many actors, Oscar’s birth name would have been hard to fit on a marquee – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Award of Merit – more than a mouthful. So perhaps this fated him to a moniker, but just how Oscar received its unusual name is debatable. Several Hollywood notables have claimed the distinction of originating the name.

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 Margaret Herrick and Col. W. N. Selig (LAPL)

 

On their website, the Academy does not attribute the nickname to a specific person, however, one version of the story gives credit to the Academy’s executive secretary, Margaret Herrick. The story goes that in 1931, she reportedly saw the statuette, studied it carefully and exclaimed, “Why he looks like my Uncle Oscar.”

 

Sitting in an adjoining office was a newspaper correspondent who, the following day, printed the line: “Academy employees have affectionately dubbed their famous gold statuette Oscar.” (unfortunately there is no known published validation for this story)

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 Irving Thalberg, Bette Davis and Frank Capra (LAPL)

 

Two-time Oscar winner, Bette Davis believed that she created the term Oscar to describe the golden trophy.

“I am convinced that I was the first to give the statuette its name when I received one for my performance in Dangerous, made in 1935,” Davis said in 1955.

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 Bette Davis and her then-husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr.
Was the coveted award named for him?

 

“I was married at that time to Harmon O. Nelson, Jr. For a long time I did not know what his middle name was. I found out one day that it was Oscar, and it seemed a very suitable nickname for the Academy statuette.”

 

Davis, knowing there were other petitioners to the name, hinted that she would be willing to resort to fisticuffs to support her contention.

 

“Of course, that’s all so very long ago – who knows? But I’d suggest that if the other claimants become very insistent we settle the whole thing with a duel.”

 

Still other stories say that John Barrymore first coined the name – in the early days Oscar was reportedly a facetious term. Animation pioneer, Walt Disney has also been quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. However, the person who may have the best claim for originating the name is columnist Sidney Skolsky.

 

Many references credit Skolsky for using the term “Oscar” in a 1934 column in reference to Katharine Hepburn’s Best Actress award for Morning Glory (1933). Still another names Skolsky as the anonymous reporter who supposedly overheard Margaret Herrick christen the statue in 1931; but since Skolsky had not arrived in Hollywood until 1932, that part is unlikely.

 

Skolsky claimed the term referenced an old vaudeville joke that began, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?”

 

Though Oscars true beginning is unknown, what can be proven is the use of “Oscar” in Time magazine on March 26, 1934. If it’s not the original, it certainly is one of the first times the term was used:

 

“In the cinema industry the small gold-washed statuettes which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science annually awards for meritorious productions and performances are called ‘Oscars,’” the article stated.

 

This also negates Bette Davis’ claim of naming the award when she received hers in 1936 – by then the term Oscar had already been in use for two years.

 

Whatever its origin, it definitely will not to be an issue when this years nominees walk the red carpet in hopes of getting their own Oscar.

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The first Academy Awards

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

AMPAS HISTORY

Film efforts rewarded

 

 

Academy announces fifteen awards of statuette for elevating standards of screen

 

Los Angeles Times
February 18, 1929

The first awards for individual meritorious achievements in motion pictures were announced yesterday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The fifteen awards are for outstanding achievements for 1928 and were made after an exhaustive survey.

As a reward for and in recognition of their efforts in raising the standards of motion pictures the winners are to be presented with statuettes in bronze and gold, designed by George Stanley, sculptor, under the supervision and selection of Cedric Gibbons, art director at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio.

The statuette is twelve inches high with a Belgian marble base and consists of an idealized male figure standing on a representation of a reel of motion-picture film. It was announced the trophies will be presented at a later meeting of the academy at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

The winners of the merit awards follow:

Emil Jannings, first award for his outstanding performances in The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Honorable mention to Richard Barthelmess for his performance in The Noose and The Patent Leather Kid.

Janet Gaynor, first award for best performances among actresses in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise and The Street Angel. Honorable mention to Gloria Swanson for performance in Sadie Thompson and to Louise Dresser in A Ship Come In.

For direction of dramatic pictures, Frank Brozage received first award for Seventh Heaven. Honorable mention to Herbert Brenon for his directorial work in Sorrell and Son and to King Vidor for The Crowd. Lewis Milestone received first award for directing a comedy picture, Two Arabian Knights. Honorable mention to Ted Wilde for Harold Lloyd’s Speedy.

The first award for writing an original story was given to Ben Hecht for Underworld with honorable mention to Lajos Biros for The Last Command, while Benjamin Glazer received first award for adaptation of Seventh Heaven with honorable mention to Alfred Cohn for adapting The Jazz Singer and to Anthony Coldewey adapting Glorious Betsy.

For title-sriting the first award went to Joseph Farnham with honorable mention to George Marion, Jr., and Gerald Duffy.

The cinematography award is shared by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss for Sunrise.

George Barnes gets honorable mention for his work in Sadie Thompson, The Devil Dancer and Magic Flame.

The art direction award was given to William C. Menzies for The Tempest and The Dove, with honorable mention to Rochus Gliese for Sunrise and Harry Oliver for Seventh Heaven.

The engineering effects award goes to Roy Pomeroy for Wings, with honorable mention to Nugent Slaughter and to Ralph Hammeras.

The Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation received the first award for the production of the outstanding picture of the year, Wings. Honorable mention went to the Fox company for Seventh Heaven and to the Caddo company for Two Arabian Knights. This is the only award which was decided on box-office returns.

The Fox company won first award for the production of the most unusual and artistic picture, Sunrise, while honorable mention was received by Paramount for Chang and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for The Crowd.

Special first award was given to Warner Brothers for producing the pioneer outstanding talking picture, The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson, while another first special award was given to Charles Chaplin for acting, writing and producing The Circus.

It was announced by the central board of judges which made the award that the board felt that Warner Brothers and Chaplin should be considered separately from the other award classifications owing to the unique character of their accomplishments.

In deciding to make the first awards for individual achievements, the academy members made twelve classifications in addition to the two special awards. The nominations were turned in by the members last August. One thousand nominations were received and these were then referred to class committees consisting of five judges. These judges made three nominations which were then turned over to a central board of judges. This, it was explained, is responsible for the length of time taken in making the awards.

The central board of judges was composed of Alec Francis, Sid Grauman, Frank Lloyd, and A. George Volck. The awards were made for pictures first publicly released during the year ending August 1, 1928, and is the first time the academy has made the awards.

The preceding article is the announcement of the first Academy Awards from the Los Angeles Times in 1929. In the beginning the awards were announced before the ceremony instead of being a surprise that night.

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Lillian Lawrence, leading lady of the legitmate theatre

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Lillian Lawrence was born in Alexandria, Virginia on February 17, 1868, however she grew up in San Francisco when her parents moved there when she was only two years old. Her first exposure to the theater was when she was twelve years old as a toe dancer at the old Tiovoli Theater in San Francisco. The following year she was chosen as one of thirty-two children to become a living chess piece as the Queen’s Knight in operetta, The Royal Middy at the Bush Theatre. A love of theater infected her, however her parents were opposed to her going on the stage, but when they recognized how much she wanted it, they conceded.

Lawrence remained with The Royal Middy after it was transferred to the California Theatre, and for three seasons she sang in light opera at that house in the company of which Emily Melleville was the prima donna. Then her voice failed, and she took her first engagement as an ingénue in a stock company in Oakland, California, where she remained and learned her craft for two years.

She gradually worked her way eastward, affiliating with groups in Dayton, Ohio, and New York, where for years she was prominent in local productions.  She eventually arrived in Boston, where she was a leading lady with the Castle Square Stock Company for five years beginning in 1897. She was immediately embraced by the theater-going public. By this time, she had a decade’s experience in major speaking parts, had trained her memory so she had over 100 roles at her command, and had bloomed into a captivating actress.

During the first decade of the 20th century she appeared on Broadway regularly. In 1919 Lawrence moved to Los Angeles to live with her daughter, Ethel Grey Terry who made her own niche as a film actress. Lawrence divided her time between films and the legitimate stage where she regularly appeared at the Majestic Theater in downtown Los Angeles. She played in numbers of film roles as power matrons for Universal, Joseph Schenck, and the Talmadge Film Companies. Her last legitimate stage role was with Taylor Holmes at the Playhouse in The Great I Am.

Lillian Lawrence died suddenly of heart disease on May 7, 1926 at her daughter’s home at 610 Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills. Funeral services were held at the Strother & Dayton undertakers on Hollywood Boulevard. Afterward her body was placed in a crypt in the fairly new mausoleum addition at Hollywood Cemetery. Just five years later, her daughter, Ethel Grey Terry died and her ashes were interred in her mother’s crypt.

 

Lillian Lawrence and her daughter are located in Building C, Crypt 308, which is behind the new mausoleum that was recently opened.

 

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Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park & Crematory: Hollywood’s Dog Heaven

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

On Thanksgiving Day, 1935, a small group of people gathered on a hill in Calabasas to pay their last respects to actress Alice Brady’s beloved Sammy. Age 16, Sammy had been Brady’s pet wire-terrier, and rather than consign his remains somewhere disrespectful, Brady had him interred in a crypt at the local pet cemetery. The epitaph reads, quite simply, “Sammy—My Boy.” Two years later, her favorite dog Nina passed away and was buried at a cost of $300. The next week, her dachshund died of distemper.

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Newspaper notice of the death of Alice Brady's terrier, Nina

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The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park & Crematory,  was founded in 1928 and is located off the Ventura Freeway twenty miles from Hollywood, has a mausoleum (built in 1929), combined with crematory and columbarium, for the interment of a beloved pet. With more than 40,000 pets interred, on the cemetery’s thirty acres, it is one of the largest and oldest of its kind on the West Coast.

Humphrey Bogart’s cocker spaniel, Lionel Barrymore’s dozen dogs and cats, Tonto’s horses, Good Scout and Smoke, and Hopalong Cassidy’s Topper have been buried here since the 1920s.

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petcemetery-lawn

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Because of its proximity to the film capitol, many of the creatures buried on its thirty acres are the pets of famous movie stars. One of them is Mae West’s pet monkey, Boogie who made his screen debut in I’m No Angel and died in late 1933. Boogie was laid out in a fancy lined casket, but no headstone. Around the same time the Countess di Frasso’s fourteen year-old dog died and was buried in a white casket.

And there is Jiggs, a nine year-old chimpanzee who died in March 1938 of pneumonia. Jiggs had his own social security number and was a member in good standing with the Screen Actor’s Guild. His funeral at the cemetery was attended by Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby and Ray Milland. He last appeared on film in Her Jungle Love (1938) with Lamour.

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Rudolph Valentino and his pet, Kabar

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Marker of Rudolph Valentino's pet, Kabar (Source: Weird California)

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Kabar, a Doberman pinscher, was the pet of Rudolph Valentino and was sent to him as a present from a Belgian diplomat in appreciation of Valentino’s acting. When Valentino died, Kabar disappeared for months and when he returned he was half-starved and his feet were bleeding. Veterinarians who examined him estimated that he had crossed the continent to New York and back searching for his owner. For two weeks he hung around Valentino’s old home, depressed and unhappy, then with a broken heart, he died. Alberto, Valentino’s brother rewarded Kabar’s faithfulness with a grave and a bronze maker that reads, “Kabar, My Faithful Dog. Rudolph Valentino, Owner.”

Not far from Kabar is the pet of Valentino’s former wife, Jean Acker, a pet she named Bunky Valentino. The bronze marker reads: “1931—1945, Bunky Valentino, All My Love. Jean Acker Valentino.” In the same area is Puzzums, the Mack Sennett cat. Puzzums freelanced most of the time and in his heyday earned $250 a week. Found abandoned as a kitten, Puzzums appeared with Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald. His last film was Handy Andy (1934) with Will Rogers. He died from complications caused by an ulcerated tooth in August 1934 at age eight.

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Maurice Chevalier holding Puzzums the cat

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Miriam Hopkins with her wire terrier, Jerry

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When Miriam Hopkins’s wire-haired fox terrier, Jerry passed away in 1932, she telephoned the cemetery. In a short time a funeral car called for the body and he was placed in a hermetically sealed casket. Jerry was then taken to the cemetery and placed in his designated plot, one that had been reserved for him.

Also among the pets buried there are John Gilbert’s Topsy, Dolores Del Rio’s Da Da, and Oscar Strauss’s Hansi. Marian Marsh’s Pekinese, King, has a tombstone costing $150 and there is also Dumpsie, who acted opposite Eddie Cantor, Lee Tracy, Elissa Landi and other stars and who was slain, it was rumored, by foul means.

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petcemetery-bubbie

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Louise Dresser’s Bubbie is honored with an epitaph: “Bubbie. A Gallant Little Soldier, July 12, 1929.” Not far from Bubbie lie two of Corinne Griffith’s pets, Bozo, a prize St. Bernard, and Black Raider, a once lively terrier. In the mausoleum, in one of the crypts, is Jiggs, the Boston bull terrier of Jimmy Murphy. Across from the crypts, there are niches. Here you will find Billie Burke’s police dog, Gloria Swanson’s Rusty, a pet of John Barrymore’s and a dog belonging to stage and screen actor, Edmund Breese.

To learn more, check out the cemetery’s website HERE

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