Almost 3,000 Oscar awards have been presented to professionals in the motion picture industry, dating back to the first ceremony in 1929. The official statue stands 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds total. But through the years, some non-official Oscars have been given away. What else don’t you know about this instantly recognizable statue?
The chief art director at the time for MGM, Cedric Gibbons, designed the Oscar statue to look like a knight holding a sword, standing on a film reel. The reel has 5 spokes to represent actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. The nickname Oscar wasn’t officially adopted by the Academy until 1939, but it was in popular culture several years before this.
Because the Academy does not know how many Oscars will be awarded during the ceremony, several extra statues are made each year. The extra Oscars are in place to award ties, collaborators and casts who take home statues. At the end of the event, any leftover Oscars are stored in a vault to be used next year.
Through the years, the Oscar statue has become known as the highest achievement in film. The design is iconic. But over the years, other Oscars have been awarded.
At least twice, special Oscars were made to honor certain individuals. Edgar Bergen, ventriloquist, received an honorary Oscar in 1938 that was made of wood instead of gold plating over bronze. In 1939, Walt Disney was given an honorary Oscar prize pack that included one full-sized statue and 7 mini Oscars. Disney was being honored for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Supplies, particularly metal, were short during World War II. Because of this, the Academy made the Oscars in plaster. Once the war was over and more materials were made available, the plaster statues were exchanged for the real thing.
Oscars are highly-coveted, but it is possible for you to have your own without joining the Screen Actors’ Guild. Oscar-like statues can be affordably purchased as party favors, gifts or decor. And if you have much more to spend, sometimes real Oscars do become available at auction.
Since 1929 the Academy Awards ceremony has never been cancelled, but there have been occasions where it was necessary to delay the event. In 1938 the ceremony was put on hold for a week because of flooding near the theater. In 1968 the awards were delayed for two days because of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1981 the ceremony was pushed back 24 hours for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. This may be due to the fact that there was a celebrity connection; the man who shot at Reagan claimed to have done so because of his love for Jodie Foster .
Some Oscars go missing and never return to those who won them…but sometimes they do. Margaret O’Brien received a miniature Oscar for being an Outstanding Child Actress, but it vanished in 1954. It wasn’t returned to her until 1995, after a shopper discovered it at a swap meet.
Oscar has a long history, and a story all of his own to tell. The next Academy Awards will only add to his growing legacy.