Do you know your Oscars?
It's getting to that time of year when the main topic of conversation in movie circles is which movies and actors will win Oscars this year.
We take a slightly oblique look at the Academy Awards, and arm you with some lesser known facts and trivia snippets about them.
If you're planning on gate-crashing an after-party, this might be useful for breaking the ice when hanging out with stars 🙂
1. How Old is The Oscar Ceremony?
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929
The very first recipient of an Academy Award was Emil Jannings, named Best Actor for his performances in “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh”.
The first ever award for Best Picture went to Wings, a silent movie set in the First World War, notable for the appearance of Gary Cooper in a role that helped launch his career.
The awards were hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, then at the height of a career that was about to decline with the advent of talking pictures. But one of his lasting contributions to the industry was being a founder member of the Motion Picture Academy.
2. Who Designed "Oscar"?
The design of the famous statuette is credited to Cedric Gibbons, chief art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was created to his design by sculptor George Stanley.
Gibbons was a prolific art director, and probably worked on around 150 films in a career that lasted until the 1950s.
However, he is credited with over 1,500 movies, because of a neat clause in his MGM contract that stipulated he was credited as Art Director for every MGM film released, even if others did the bulk of the work!
Gibbons was nominated for an Oscar himself many times, winning 11 of them.
3. What's An Oscar Made Of?
Depending on the year, it could be Bronze, Britannium (a pewter-like alloy that's 92% tin) or Plaster, all gold-plated.
The first oscars were in solid bronze, plated in gold. But this was soon replaced by Britannia metal, also known as Britannium. It was covered in 3 layers of plate - copper, silver and then gold.
But for three years during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster to support the American war effort because of a metal shortage. Recipients were later invited to trade them in for metal ones. It's not known of any of the plaster rarities still exist.
Each statuette weighs 8.5 pounds, and is 13.5 inches tall.
4. Who Makes The Oscars?
Today, it's R. S. Owens & Company in Chicago. The original statuettes were made by C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry, also from Illinois
They make around 50 statuettes each year, and it takes around 3-4 weeks to produce the batch.
To prevent the winners' names leaking ahead of the ceremony, the statuettes have blank baseplates. Until 2010, winners had to wait several weeks for inscriptions. Since 2010, winners can have engraved nameplates applied to their statuettes at the Governor's Ball after-party.
In 2010, the R.S. Owens company tried saving time by making 197 engraved nameplates ahead of the ceremony, with names of every potential winner. The 175 or so nameplates for non-winning nominees were recycled afterwards.
5. What Does A Used Oscar Cost?
Between $1 and $861,542
Since 1950, Oscar winners and their heirs are legally obliged to offer their Award back to the Academy for $1 if they wish to sell it, and may only sell it on if the Academy declines.
This doesn't apply to Awards presented before 1950. The record for the highest price paid goes to Orson Welles' 1941 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Citizen Kane, sold by his estate in 2011.
6. What's the Correct Name for an Oscar?
According to the Academy marketing folks, it's "Oscar"!
An Oscar is officially called an Academy Award for Merit, and is a registered trademark of the Academy - full name the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But have you noticed that they're rarely referred to by their full name anymore in public or by official sources?
That's because after 84 years, the Awards were officially re-branded to "The Oscars" in 2013, complete with new logo.
A marketing example of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"?
7. How Many Categories Are There?
25, but only 24 have been presented since 1984
There are 25 awards, the most important being Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Most of them have been in place since day one, or added in the early years. However 4 have been added in more recent times:
Best Sound Editing (since 1963)
Best Sound Editing (since 1963)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling (since 1981)
Best Animated Feature (since 2001)
The Award for Best Original Musical is still in the rulebooks, but the lack of eligible films means it's has not been awarded since 1984, when it was won by Purple Rain.
8. Which Movie Won the Most Oscars?
The current record is for 11 Oscars, an honour shared by 3 movies: Ben-Hur" (1959), "Titanic" (1997), and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003).
Ben-Hur followed Cecil B. DeMille's successful remake of his own 1923 silent movie "The Ten Commandments". The iconic figure of Charlton Heston was again cast for the lead after the role was turned down by Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson and Paul Newman.
As well as receiving critical acclaim, Titanic was a huge commercial success. It was the first film to gross a billion dollars, and remained the highest-grossing film of all time until its director James Cameron beat his own record in 2010 with Avatar.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all of its 11 nominations, another record. The first fantasy film to win the top award, it failed to be nominated in any of the acting categories.
9. Which Person Won the Most Oscars?
Katharine Hepburn leads with 4 best Actress trophies. 5 people have won 3 acting Oscars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Walter Brennan
Kathrine Hepburn's Oscar successes were Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981).
Daniel Day-Lewis is the only winner of 3 Best Actor Oscars, for My Left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007) and Lincoln (2012).
Ingrid Bergman's Oscar wins spanned 3 decades, with Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
Jack Nicholson is one of the most versatile actors of his generation, with his 3 Oscars covering 3 very different characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), As Good as It Gets (1997) and Terms of Endearment (1983).
Meryl Streep is another giant of the industry, with wins spread over a long and still strong career: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011)
Finally, Walter Brennan is not as much of a household name today as the others in the 3+ Oscar list, but that's as much as anything else because his successes pre-dated World War II, with Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940).
10. Who is the Most Prolific Oscar Nominee?
As a director, actor and screenwriter, Woody Allen leads the way with at least 64 nominations depending on definitions.
He has been personally nominated 20 times, and has won 3 times.
But his films have been nominated for 44 Academy Awards and have won 9.
Meanwhile actresses in his movies have won 4 of their 10 nominations (including Dianne West who won twice), and his actors 1 from five (Michael Caine).
He also holds some kind of record for the number of nominations while not appearing at the ceremonies - as writer or director for 13 films where he no-showed. The previous record was Kathrine Hepburn who failed to appear on 12 occasions.
Despite his success, Woody Allen has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Oscars. This possibly goes back to the lack of nominations for his acclaimed 1974 film Sleeper, when he said:
"The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t".
11. Who is the Youngest Oscar Winner?
Tatum O'Neal won her 1974 Oscar for Supporting Actress role in Paper Moon - at the age of 10
Tatum O'Neal played the role of Addie Loggins, a child con artist being tutored by a Depression-era grifter played by her father, Ryan O'Neal.
As is the case with so many child actors who experience success, in later years she gained more fame for her personal life than her acting.
Initially this was because of her high profile personal relationships, for example as (now ex-) wife of John McEnroe. More recently it was her participation in an Oprah Winfrey Network reality TV series about her relationship with her father.
12. Who is the Oldest Oscar Winner?
The oldest Oscar winner is Christopher Plummer, at 82
In a five decade career, Plummer has played many critically acclaimed roles, but will forever be known by most for his performance in The Sound of Music.
He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Beginners in 2010.
At 84, Robert Duvall was the oldest nominee ever in this category, for his role in The Judge in 2015. But he was pipped by winner JK Simmons in Whiplash - at a youthful 60 years old.
13. Who was the first Woman to receive the Best Director award?
14. The first ever woman to win Best Director was Katherine Bigelow for Hurt Locker in 2009
The Hurt Locker was the movie for which Bigelow received the highest award. But her career is filled with high quality output across a number of genres - including the music video for New Order's "Touched by the Hand of God".
One of the most well-known features of her award was that she was up for this Oscar against her ex-husband James Cameron with Avatar. Her film beat his to both Best Director and Best Picture, something the press couldn't get enough of talking about.
Perhaps less known is that the multi-talented Bigelow was also an actress in earlier times, including playing the leader of a cowgirl gang in a music video directed by her ex-husband. And the phrase "not just a pretty face" is very apt for her, as early in her career she modelled for The Gap in an advert!
14. Did Walt Disney Himself Win Any Oscars? (or was it just his movies?)
13. Walt Disney was awarded with a total of 26 individual Academy Awards over his entire lifetime, out of 59 nominations.
Walt Disney is synonymous with innovative animation, and some of the best-loved cartoon films of all time. But as a result, especially as he died 50 years ago, people today associate his name with his films, his company and his legacy. What is starting to fade from popular memory is the recognition he achieved as an individual in the film industry.
He was as much entrepreneur as animator, and also was a talented voice actor and film producer. And with his less well-known brother Roy, he set up the Walt Disney company and became a fully-fledged Hollywood mogul.
As well as 7 Oscars for Best Short Subject, he received an Award for Best Documentary in 1954 with The Living Desert, and 4 honorary awards in his lifetime. This included a special award in 1932 for the creation of Mickey Mouse.
His honorary award in 1939 for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was unique because the statue consisted of one large and seven miniature statuettes.
His final Oscar in 1969 for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was awarded posthumously.
So that's it for this year - which one was your favourite? If you enjoyed this, you might be interested in our feature on movie set holiday destinations.