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Who Named Oscar?

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 26th, 2017
2017
Feb 26

 FILM HISTORY

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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Best Picture Noms at 10

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 24th, 2009
2009
Jun 24

ACADEMY NEWS

Academy Awards, in bid for populism, doubles Best Picture nominations to 10

 

Oscar

 

Los Angeles Times
June 24, 2009

 

The Academy Awards just grew twice as crowded at the top. For the first time since 1943, 10 movies — instead of the current five — will be nominated for the best picture Oscar.

 

The surprise announcement today by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences means that some acclaimed genres that typically don’t make the shortlist for the top Academy Award — animated movies, comedies, documentaries and crowd-pleasing spectacles such as “The Dark Knight” — will now have a much better chance of being invited to Hollywood’s biggest party.

 

The number of nominees in other major categories will remain at five.

 

Click here to continue reading

 

UPDATE

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The First Oscar…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 17th, 2009
2009
Feb 17

AMPAS HISTORY

Emil Jannings’ Oscar

 

Emil Jannings and his Oscar

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

Emil Jannings, one of Germany’s most favorite actors, was Swiss-born and was raised in Germany as a child. An undisciplined student, his first ambition was to be an actor, however a close friend who was in the Navy, convinced him to run away and go to sea. He eventually returned and tried to obey his parents wishes to be an engineer but soon ran off again and joined a theatrical road company. This time he was returned home by the police, but his father thought a good dose of theatrical hardship would cure him of his dramatic ideas and allowed him to continue with his pursuit.

For several years he traveled with one company or another eventually becoming a stock member at Bremen and Leipzig. For some time Jannings was with the Darmstadt Royal Theatre in Berlin, where he played in Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg and Goethe plays. There he made the acquaintance of Robert Wiene, who would later become the producer of Caligari. He soon played in a series of one-reelers in which one of the directors was a young Ernst Lubitsch 

Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh

Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh (1924)

In F.W. Murnau’s, The Last Laugh (1924), in which Jannings plays an old man who sees his world fall about him, he caused critics to rave about him. After his success in Faust (1926), again with Murnau, he came to the United States for Paramount and appeared in The Way of All Flesh (1927), The Street of Sin (1928), The Last Command (1928), The Patriot (1928) and Sins of the Father (1928).

In 1929, the first year of the Academy Awards, Jannings won a Best Actor award for his performances in the The Way of All Flesh (1927), in which he played an embittered family man, and The Last Command (1928), in which he was an exiled Russian general reduced to playing bit parts in war films.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929. However, at that time talking pictures had arrived and Jannings became one of that group of foreign actors who, because of their accent, was suddenly forced to abandon his career in the United States.

 Emil Jannings' Oscar

 The first Academy Award (kori.bustard/Flickr)

Since the actor was returning to Germany on April 27 – before the banquet was to be held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel – he asked the Academy if he could receive his gold statuette early. The fledgling organization agreed, making his the very first Academy Award ever presented.

The remainder of Jannings film work was done in Germany. During World War II, it became apparent that Jannings had become a favorite of the Nazi government, particularly since he was one of a handful of people entrusted by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels with running that phase of the film industry most closely dominated by the Hitler regime. After the war he was not seen on the screen again.  

Emil Jannnings' Oscar

 Emil Jannings’ Academy Award at the Berlin Film Museum (Jacob.Theo/Flickr)

Emil Jannings died at his home in Strobl, Austria from liver cancer complicated by pneumonia on January 3, 1950. He was buried at Saint Wolfgang Friedhof Cemetery. The very first Academy Award won by Jannings is currently on display at the Berlin Film Museum.

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First Academy Award Ceremony…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 7th, 2009
2009
Feb 7

FILM HISTORY

Film-merit trophies awarded

 

Douglas Fairbanks and Janet Gaynor Oscar presentation

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president, Douglas Fairbanks, presents award of merit to Janet Gaynor for her performances in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise and The Street Angel.

 

Recognition bestowed for notable achievements

 

Los Angeles Times
May 17, 1929

 

Before a large gathering of motion picture celebrities, Janet Gaynor and other notables last night received statuettes of bronze and gold for outstanding achievement in different branches of the industry. The trophies were awarded at the merit banquet held simultaneously with the celebration of the second anniversary of the of the organization of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

The program of the evening was opened by Douglas Fairbanks who gave the chairmanship over to  William C. De Mille. Fifteen first and twenty honorable mention awards were presented following a program which started at 7 p.m. with an unusual showing of sound and talking pictures.

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Oscar Nominees List…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 22nd, 2009
2009
Jan 22

AWARDS 

Nominees for the 81st Academy Awards

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films)
  • Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)
  • Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Josh Brolin in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder” (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.)
  • Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Angelina Jolie in “Changeling” (Universal)
  • Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Meryl Streep in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Viola Davis in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

 

(Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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Continue Reading »

Academy Award Nominations…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 22nd, 2009
2009
Jan 22

AWARDS

And the Oscar nominees are…

  

Slumdog-Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is one of the five nominated films with 10 nominations

 

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ leads all contenders with 13 nods including best actor for Brad Pitt.

 

By Susan King
Los Angeles Times
January 22, 2009

 

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” a fable about a man who ages in reverse, dominated the 81st annual Academy Award nominations this morning, earning 13 nods, including best film, best actor for Brad Pitt and best director for David Fincher.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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Continue Reading »

Academy Award Nominations…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 21st, 2009
2009
Jan 21

ACADEMY NEWS

Forest Whitaker to Join Academy President Sid Ganis for Oscar® Nominations

 

Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker (AMPAS)

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Beverly Hills, (CA January 20, 2009) — Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards® will be announced on Thursday, January 22, by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and Oscar-winning actor and Academy member Forest Whitaker.

 

Ganis and Whitaker will unveil the nominations in 10 of the 24 award categories at a 5:30 a.m. news conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, where hundreds of media representatives from around the world will be gathered. Nominations information for all categories will be distributed simultaneously to news media in attendance and via the Internet on the official Academy Awards Web site, www.oscar.com.

 

In 2006 Whitaker took home the Leading Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” He recently completed work on “My Own Love Song” and will be seen next in “Hurricane Season.” Whitaker is not only an accomplished actor, he is also director of several films, including “First Daughter,” “Hope Floats” and “Waiting to Exhale.” His other acting credits include “Vantage Point,” “The Great Debaters,” “Phenomenon,” “Smoke,” “The Crying Game,” “Bird,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Platoon.”

 

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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“The More the Merrier” Screening

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 19th, 2008
2008
Nov 19

ACADEMY FILM SCREENING

The More the Merrier (1943)

 

 

November 20 at the Linwood Dunn Theater

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Produced and directed by George Stevens, THE MORE THE MERRIER stars Jean Arthur as a career woman who finds herself with more roommates than she bargained for when she rents her “half-apartment” during the housing shortage in wartime Washington, D.C.  Arthur earned an Academy Award® nomination for her performance, and Charles Coburn (as an enterprising lodger) took home the Supporting Actor Oscar®.  The film also garnered nominations for Outstanding Motion Picture, Directing, Original Motion Picture Story, and Screenplay.

 

THE MORE THE MERRIER is the latest presentation in a lecture series named for George Stevens, a prolific producer-director who enjoyed the autonomy, respect and creative freedom that few did during Hollywood’s studio era.  While his films as a whole defy easy description, they all reflect a definitive filmmaking style as well as a unique and nuanced view of American life and values.  His many other notable films include the Best Picture nominees THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942), A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951), SHANE (1953) and GIANT (1956), two of which (A PLACE IN THE SUN and GIANT) earned him Directing Oscars®.  In 1953 Stevens received the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, honoring a producer’s body of work.

 

In her introduction to THE MORE THE MERRIER, Cari Beauchamp, Academy film scholar and author of the upcoming book Joseph P. Kennedy Presents, will offer insights into the making of the film, the context of its wartime production, and Stevens’s approach to comedy.

 

Cast: Jean Arthur (Connie Milligan), Joel McCrea (Joe Carter), Charles Coburn (Benjamin Dingle), Richard Gaines (Charles J. Pendergast), Bruce Bennett (Evans), Frank Sully (Pike), Don Douglas (Harding), Clyde Fillmore (Senator Noonan), Stanley Clements (Morton Rodakiewicz), Ann Savage (Miss Dalton), Grady Sutton (Waiter).

 

Produced and Directed by George Stevens. Associate Producer Fred Guiol. Screenplay Robert Russell, Frank Ross, Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster. Story Robert Russell, Frank Ross. Cinematography Ted Tetzlaff. Film Editing Otto Meyer. Art Direction Lionel Banks, Rudolph Sternad. Music Leigh Harline.

 

About Cari Beauchamp:

Cari Beauchamp is the author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood and the upcoming Joseph P. Kennedy Presents, and is the editor, with Mary Anita Loos, of Anita Loos Rediscovered: Film Treatments and Fiction. Beauchamp was named an Academy film scholar in 2004.

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