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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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Shirley and Claudette at the Oscars

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 20th, 2013
2013
Feb 20

AMPAS HISTORY

Shirley Temple holds Claudette Colbert’s Oscar for “It Happened One Night”

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Oscar’s arrival in Hollywood

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 28th, 2010
2010
Feb 28

TODAY IN HOLLYWOOD

Oscar arrives at the Kodak Theatre

 

 

This morning in Hollywood, Oscar is gently lowered and will be placed on his pedastal in time for next Sunday’s 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony

 

 

The spectator’s stand is empty now but by this time next week it will be filled with fans waiting to see their favorite nominee’s arrival for the Academy Awards ceremony at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre

 

 (PHOTOS: Allan R. Ellenberger)

The Hollywood Sign awaits Oscar’s arrival

 

ACADEMY AWARD(S)®, OSCAR(S)®, OSCAR NIGHT® and OSCAR® statuette design mark are the registered trademarks and service marks, and the OSCAR® statuette the copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Mar 28th, 2009
2009
Mar 28

FILM HISTORY

Hattie McDaniel: Equality 41 Years in the Mud

 

Hattie McDaniel and Fay Bainter

 Hattie McDaniel and Fay Bainter

 

By Tom Gregory
The Huffington Post

 

The article that follows is a rerun of a piece I wrote in HuffPo over a year ago. The Academy is still unwavering in its choice not to reissue Howard University McDaniel’s statuette. At this historic time, I hope the Academy will finally do the right thing. — Tom Gregory



Today, more than any day ever before, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is poised on the brink of a crisis of conscience.

 

Hattie McDaniel is best known for her portrayal of “Mammy” in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. She was born in Kansas in 1895, the same year Booker T. Washington delivered his famous “Atlanta Compromise” address. One hundred and thirteen African Americans were officially reported lynched in 1895.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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Glenn Close Wants an Oscar…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Feb 27th, 2009
2009
Feb 27

 ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

 Glenn Close: ‘I still want an Oscar’

 

Glenn Close

  

When Hollywood wants a bitch, they call Glenn Close, 62, thanks to films such as Fatal Attraction. She has won numerous awards but never an Oscar despite five nominations.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for me)

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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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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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Pickford’s Oscars Not For Sale…

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

Jury bars auction of Mary Pickford’s Oscar

 

Mary Pickford Oscar

 

If heirs want to sell the actress’ 1930 award, they must give the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the first chance to buy it, for $10, jurors decide.

 

By Bob Pool
Los Angeles Times

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And the Oscar for best Hollywood courtroom drama goes to . . . the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

The golden statuette was awarded Monday by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, which ruled that if Mary Pickford’s heirs want to sell it, they have to offer it to academy officials for $10 instead of auctioning it off for as much as $800,000.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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Fight Over Mary Pickford’s Oscars…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 3rd, 2008
2008
Dec 3

Trial over Mary Pickford’s Oscars opens in L.A.

 

 

Academy hopes to prevent heirs from selling the famous statuettes

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The Associated Press
Wed., Dec. 3, 2008
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LOS ANGELES – Jurors deciding the fate of Oscars awarded to silent film star Mary Pickford were treated during the trial’s opening Wednesday to a taste of Hollywood, complete with props, fancy visuals and a little intrigue.

 

Pickford was part of early Hollywood’s royalty and a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presented her two Academy Awards over her lifetime.

 

Heirs of a woman married to Pickford’s third husband, actor and band leader Buddy Rogers, hope to sell a statuette given to the actress for her performance in 1929’s Coquette. They claim their mother, Beverly Rogers, wanted the Oscar sold and the money donated to charity.

 

They also claim they are not bound to academy restrictions barring the sale of honorary Oscars awarded later to Pickford and Rogers.

 

But the academy has sued to stop any sale, claiming that Pickford agreed to rules allowing the organization to purchase the award back for $10. They say they are trying to protect their most important symbol.

 

Just in case anyone needed a reminder what that is, academy lawyers had placed a pair of Oscar statuettes on a table, the little gold men directly facing the jury box.

 

To explain the case — and Pickford’s importance to a jury comprised mostly of people too young to remember her work — Wednesday’s opening statements featured a lengthy biography of the actress known as “America’s Sweetheart.”

 

Brangelina of early Hollywood


Before her marriage to Rogers, Pickford was the wife of Douglas Fairbanks, an influential actor, director and producer.

 

Academy attorney Chris Tayback likened the pair to a contemporary power couple. “They were comparable to Brad and Angelina,” Tayback said.

 

To help jurors follow the story of Pickford’s life and the journey of her Oscars, Tayback displayed photos of the actress, images of documents with highlighted passages and even a timeline onto a large screen near jurors. He also played the complete presentation of an honorary Oscar given to Pickford in 1976 in her lavish Beverly Hills home, which was a wedding gift from Fairbanks.

 

It was that award — and a signature attributed to Pickford on a document agreeing not to sell any of her Oscars — that the academy claims gives it the right to block any sale.

 

Attorneys for Rogers’ heirs said Wednesday that they will introduce testimony casting doubt on whether Pickford signed that agreement, and contend that Rogers’ heirs aren’t bound to it anyway because they’re not heirs to Pickford’s estate.

 

Besides, attorney Mark Passin told jurors, the agreement was signed after the 1976 Oscar was given to Pickford. “She already owned the statuette,” he said, adding his contention that made the agreement “unenforceable.”

 

Passin said Pickford would have likely approved of selling her best-actress Oscar and donating the proceeds to charity.

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Obit…Wonderful Smith

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 15th, 2008
2008
Sep 15

Comedian Wonderful Smith, whose edgy routines helped break racial stereotypes, dies at 97

 

 

Wonderful Smith appears with Hattie McDaniel, center, and ABC commentator Frances Scully at the 1947 Academy Awards. His bold comedy routine in Duke Ellington “Jump for Joy” regularly brought down the house. (Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research)

 

The comedian was featured in Duke Ellington’s musical revue ‘Jump for Joy’ and regularly brought the house down with his ‘Hello, Mr. President?’ monologue.

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By Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 15, 2008

 

Wonderful Smith, whose boundary-pushing comedy routine in Duke Ellington’s satirical revue Jump for Joy — staged in Los Angeles in 1941 — helped the black cast counter against racial stereotypes in entertainment, has died. He was 97.   (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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