Most Watched Event
Ah, the Oscars. The annual telecast is the most widely watched awards ceremony in the world. How big is it? It is estimated that you and one billion other people will watch it.
We love it when our favorites win, hate it when our favorites lose, and say, “What the hell!” when some magical moment comes out of nowhere, like in 1991 when Jack Palance did one-armed pushups as he accepted his Best Supporting Actor prize.
That Wonderful Little Gold Statuette
The official name of the gold statuette is “The Academy Award of Merit. ” It is 13.5 inches tall and weighs about 8.5 pounds. It depicts a knight holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes, signifying the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers and Technicians.
Where it got the nickname of “Oscar” is in doubt. One story has Bette Davis claiming that she coined the name after her then-husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.
Both “Oscar” and “Academy Award” are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and are rigidly protected by the Academy.
Since 1950 the statuettes have been legally encumbered by the requirement that neither winners nor their heirs may sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for $1. If a winner refuses to agree to this then the Academy keeps the statuette. Academy Awards not protected by this agreement have been sold in public auctions and private deals for six figure sums.
“Ben Hur” (1960) and “Titanic” (1997) hold the record for most wins: 11 each. Katherine Hepburn has the most wins for an actress, four of them, spanning the period from 1932-1980. And some of the best pictures ever made that did not win the Best Picture Award include “Citizen Kane, ” “Taxi Driver, ” “Raging Bull, ” and “Goodfellas. ”
Keeping Track of Oscar
What do the stars do with their coveted prize?
Jennifer Jones, who won in 1944 for “Song of Bernadette, ” left hers in the back seat of a taxi. Fortunately, it was returned to her.
Emma Thompson, who win Best Actress in 1992 for “Howard’s End, ” keeps hers in the “loo” (British term for toilet). It is said that Frank Sinatra used his Best Supporting Actor Oscar (for “From Here to Eternity”) as a doorstop.
Some, like Spencer Tracy have donated theirs. Tracy won Best Actor for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in “Boy’s Town. ” The Oscar can be seen on the tour of Boy’s Town in Omaha, Nebraska. Others on public display include Francis Ford Copolla’s several Oscars for his Godfather films. These can be seen at the Niebaum Copolla Wine Estates in Napa, California.
10 Great Oscar Moments
So, as you curl up on the sofa, get ready for a really big show. For sure, you may be bored as the show runs long, as it usually does. Some of the production numbers are ponderous. The “thank you’s” go on and on. In fact, Maureen Stapleton, winning for “Reds” in 1982, said “I want to thank everyone I ever met in my entire life. ” And she almost did.
But occasionally the magic of the movies carries over to the telecast and we remember why we cough up $10 on a Saturday night to see our favorite stars. We remember why we sit in the dark. We remember what it would be like to live the lives of those up on the silver screen.
Here are 10 Great Oscar Moments of all time:
1. The first awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at 8:00 PM, in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, attended by 250 people who paid $10 each to get in. “Wings” was given the Best Picture Award, the only silent film to win the top prize. Douglas Fairbanks announced fifteen awards that night in about five minutes flat. Only one went to a woman (Janet Gaynor).
2. In 1973 a nude streaker bolted across the stage flashing a peace sign. Presenter David Niven made the evening as he looked over his shoulder at the intruder and said, “"Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was bound to happen. But isn't it fascinating to think that the only laugh that man will probably ever get in his life was when he stripped off to show his shortcomings. "
3. In 1976 boxing great, Muhammad Ali, surprised presenter Sylvester Stallone on stage, claiming he was the real Apollo Creed, and the two traded (gentle) punches. After the clowning, Stallone paid tribute to Ali, saying that he was standing next to a “100% certified legend. " Thirty years later, Stallone opened with still another movie in his boxing series, “Rocky Balboa, ” where at 60, he is still in the ring.
4. George C Scott described the Oscars as “a two-hour meat parade. " He hated the idea that actors would “compete” with each other for an award. When nominated for his 1970 starring role in “Patton, ” he said that he would refuse it. When his victory was announced, Scott was at home in New York watching a hockey game on TV. He went down in Oscar history as the first star to refuse an Academy Award. He would not be the last.
5. “Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I'm Apache and I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening. " So said a young woman in Native American clothing who took the microphone after Marlon Brando won the Best Actor award for “The Godfather” in 1972. Brando sent Littlefeather to protest the treatment of Native Americans in the movies. In future years, the Academy would not permit a proxy on stage to accept an award for an absent star.
6. In 1963 Sidney Poitier got the Best Actor nod for “Lilies in the Field. ” He played construction worker, Homer Smith, whom a group of nuns believed was sent to them by God to build their church. It was a historic event during historic times for race relations in America. That year, Medgar Evans was murdered. In August of that year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington. And in the same year, Sidney Poitier became the first black male to win one of the coveted leading acting awards.
7. The best Oscar hosts. Bob Hope set the standard with 16 hosting gigs. His famous line, noting that he had never been nominated: “Welcome to the Academy Awards. Or as it’s known in my house, Passover. ” Billy Crystal hosted eight times and began a tradition of editing himself into a montage of scenes from the Oscar nominated films of each year. In one shot he appeared opposite Tom Cruise in a scene from “Jerry Maguire, ” screaming “Show me the money!” Johnny Carson, a five-time host, looking out at the audience as actors George Murphy and Ronald Reagan began their political careers, quipped, “Sitting out there are the stars of today and the senators of tomorrow. "
8. In 1993 Tom Hanks won the first of his consecutive Best Actor awards for “Philadelphia, ” portraying a gay attorney with AIDS. In accepting, he said: “I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. ” The evening was topped off with another emotional award for “Philadelphia, ” as Bruce Springsteen sang and accepted the award for Best Song. He received a standing ovation.
9. In 1993 Italian film star, Roberto Benigni, won the Best Actor award for “Life is Beautiful, ” a film about a Nazi concentration camp. The exuberant director, actor, and writer turned his “walk” to the stage into an Olympic event as he jumped up on seat backs and scrambled to the podium to accept his award.
10. And finally, it is all summed up in a few words, as Barbara Streisand stated in winning the Best Actress Award in 1969 for “Funny Girl. ” She fondled the Oscar, gazed lovingly at it, and said, as hundred of other winners probably thought as well, “Hello, Gorgeous. ”
Murphy James is the pen name of Harry Murphy. He has been published in men's magazines, business journals, gaming publications, and newspapers. His website is http://www.murphyjames.com