Oscars: where does the name of the precious award come from?

The 93rd Oscars ceremony, with a very special flavor this year due to the pandemic linked to Covid, takes place on the night of April 25. An opportunity – a pretext to return to the genesis: where does this Oscar name come from?

On the night of April 25 to 26, once again, for the 93rd year, it will reward the lucky winners, rewarded for the respective works on which these film talents have worked.

Since 1929, it has been manufactured in 3140 copies. Its measurements have changed very little since its beginnings in the limelight: almost 35 cm high, weighs 3 kg without its base, and is still made in a bronze alloy covered with 24 carat gold leaf. . Except during World War II, during which it was made for three years with painted plaster, due to restrictions.

“She” is obviously the precious statuette of the Oscars. It is to Cedric Gibbons, chief artistic director at MGM, that we owe its superb clean design. Of Irish descent and born to an architect father, he was probably one of the few, if not the only Hollywood executive, to have visited the incredible International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which was held in Paris from April to October 1925. An exhibition which would have a great influence on him, until his house was built in an Art Deco style, the plans of which he would draw and entrust to him. construction by a renowned architect at the time, Douglas Honnold.

Designed by Gibbons therefore, under Art Deco influence, the statuette was transformed into a sculpture by an equally talented artist based in Los Angeles, George Stanley. It then represented a knight with a crusader sword, placed on a film reel with five rays; each of them representing one of the branches of theAcademy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (actors, directors, producers, technicians and screenwriters).

But where does this Oscar name come from?

Designated under the official term of Academy Award, the statuette is best known by its nickname, Oscar, since 1934. The academy itself adopted this nickname in 1939. Its origins are unclear. We were thus able to evoke Walt Disney, who would have used this nickname for the first time. The academy preferred to retain for posterity the little story of Margaret Herrick, the academy’s librarian, who dropped, when she saw the statuette for the first time, that she looked like her uncle, a certain Oscar.

Since 1950, it is no longer possible for a winner or his heirs to sell his Oscar, without having previously offered it for resale to the Academy for a symbolic $ 1. It is because the previous rewards are worth small fortunes. Steven Spielberg, for example, bought the Oscar for Best Actress awarded to Bette Davis in 1938 for the film L’insoumise, for an amount of $ 578,000. In 2011, Beatrice Welles, daughter of Orson Welles, auctioned off her father’s Oscar which he won for Citizen Kane. Prices soared, reaching $ 861,542 …

Oscar’s Private Rin Tin Tin … Best Actor!

The first Oscar winner for Best Actor was Emil Jannings, for two films, Twilight of Glory and When the flesh succumbs. German actor, he made a brief foray into Hollywood before returning to Germany, where he filmed under the tutelage of Joseph Goebbels in propaganda works of the Third Reich, which will definitely destroy any chance of further pursuing his career.

In 2012, an article by The Guardian evoked a rumor that has been going around since the beginning of the history of the Oscars, and that year was the subject of a book written by the American journalist and author Susan Orlean: the Oscar given to Emil Jannings was stolen from the dog Rin Tin Tin, yet designated as the best actor!

Brought back from France in 1918 by an American air force soldier, this German Shepherd has proven to be an exceptionally skilled animal. Performing in various shows, he ended up catching the discerning eye of Darryl Zanuck.

Rintintin will star in a series of thirty westerns produced by the Warner Bros, the first of which came out on screens in 1923. In 1929, the animal was the headliner of no less than four films. He made the studios happy, who saw the dollars pour in thanks to him.

A first round of votes of the members of theAcademy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, newly created under the auspices of Louis B. Mayer, who directs MGM, would have given winner the dog Rin Tin Tin as best actor. A vote that would not have sent a good signal, for his first award ceremony with the Oscar … A second round of votes was decided, this time naming Emil Jannings, even as the popularity of Rin Tin Tin was much more substantial than that of the German actor …

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Oscars: where does the name of the precious award come from?

Hank Gilbert