The Design of the Oscar

Oscar Statuette

Have you ever wondered who designed the Oscar statuette? Or which actor may have posed for it? Is it really made of gold? How did he get the name “Oscar” anyway?

The designer of the “Oscar” was MGM Studios’ talented art director Cedric Gibbons, who along with Mary Pickford and Cecil B. DeMille, was one of the 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Gibbons himself was nominated 39 times for his work in film and took home 11 statuettes including his work for “The Merry Widow” (1934),”Little Women” (1949) and “An American In Paris” (1951).

If you were wondering what exactly is Gibbon’s design, it is of a knight standing proudly on top of a film reel with a crusader’s sword in hand. The five spokes of the film reel stands for the essential roles for creating a great film – directors, actors, technicians and writers. The model for the statuette was Mexican director/actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez who was introduced to Gibbons through his wife, the famous Dolores Del Rio. Rumor has it that Fernandez was reluctant at first but eventually posed nude for the design.

The official name for the award is Academy Award of Merit but his nickname “Oscar” has its numerous unconfirmed origins. Actors such as Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis and John Barrymore are amongst the claimants to the name. The Academy did not officially adopt the nickname until 1939.

The Oscar statuettes are born in January of each year, a few months before the actual ceremony. They are made by hand by a Chicago, Illinois company called R.S. Owens. It takes an average five hours to cast the statuettes and in the end they stand tall at approximately 13.5 inches, and weigh 8.5 pounds.

For anyone who may be disappointed to hear, the statuettes are not made of real gold. They are in fact made of Brittania Metal and are plated with 24-karat gold. However, it is worth noting that in World War II, in an effort to extend their patriotic efforts, the Academy decided for the statuettes to be made of plaster but were traded for real ones after the war.

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My Man Godfrey

My Man Godfrey Poster

The Great Depression was winding down by the time “My Man Godfrey” was released to theaters but people were still struggling to make ends meet and looking for hope. “My Man Godfrey” (1936) was the answer. “My Man Godfrey” reunited William Powell and Carole Lombard in this smash-hit comedy about a “forgotten” man being hired as a butler to an eccentric upper class family.

To date, “My Man Godfrey” is the only film to have six Academy Award nominations in writing, directing and acting without being nominated for Best Picture. One of the nominations was for “Best Screenplay” by Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind. Interestingly, Ryskind was always on set to directly rewrite problematic scenes and improvise much of the dialogue with the actors. The film did not win any of its nominating categories.

When it came to casting the role of “Irene Bollock,” a few actresses, such as Constance Bennett, were considered but Powell believed his ex-wife Carole Lombard would be perfect for the part. He was right. With William Powell as Carole Lombard’s “straight man” and Lombard’s impeccable comedy skills, they make a wonderful duo. For a less qualified actress, the immature, scatterbrained characteristics of Irene Bollock would have come off as annoying or redundant. There is no doubt in her performance why she received her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The rest of the supporting cast is perfect with Alice Brady as the flighty “Mrs. Bollock” in one of the two Oscar nominations she would receive for Supporting role. Gail Patrick as Irene’s sister “Angelica Bollock” plays equal parts of trying to rid the household of Godfrey, being a spoiled brat and playing a girl you love to hate.

A special way to enjoy the film is with a viewing of The Criterion Edition DVD. Along with the feature film, it provides an historical archival footage of The Depression and how it effected men who were in Godfrey’s position. Also included on the DVD is an hysterical gag reel in which it is clear why Carole Lombard was called, “Hollywood’s Profane Angel.”

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Longest Speech In Oscar History

Greer Garson Oscar

Forty-five seconds. That is the limit for every person who steps up to the podium when they receive their Oscar. Some have accepted more than one in their lifetime, while some of the most talented people in Hollywood never received one. Forty-five seconds is the allotted time in which the winner has to compress every “thank you” to every person that has ever supported them or gloat to the people who did not. Sometimes those three-fourths of a minute have been memorable and heart-warming, such as Vivien Leigh’s acceptance speech for “Best Actress” in 1939. Some have been launched into pop culture history – “You like me! You really like me!.” But, in truth, some of them are just too darn long. Have you ever wondered who holds the longest acceptance speech for an Academy Award? And how long it was?

The winner is actress Greer Garson for her portrayal as “Mrs. Miniver” in the World War II drama, “Mrs. Miniver” (1942). How long was it? It was so long that not one transcript can be found of the actual acceptance speech. It is a shame, since this was the speech which witnesses and reporters swore lasted for three hours. However, according to “The Guiness Book of World Records,” Greer Garson’s acceptance speech, in actuality, clocked in at about six minutes.

What remains of the speech is the beginning when Greer Garson graciously took her award from Joan Fontaine, stepped up to the podium and began saying, “I’m practically unprepared.” It was not your normal “thank you” speech either. Greer Garson took a different route for her speech. She reiterated why everyone was there, how much the Academy Awards means to the film community, and what film means as a medium of artistic expression.

And if there is anything that a room full of people do not want after a long evening of giving out the same award over and over again is a speech reminding them about why they are there. To make matters worse it was the last speech of the night and it was nearing two in the morning! Greer Garson never won another Oscar.

Before Greer Garson, anyone who won an Oscar could stand up at the podium and talk for as long as they wanted but no one ever thought that a winner would take it literally. After Greer Garson, forty-five seconds was set as the allotted time for an acceptance speech and they were cut off at the mark.

Fortunately, we have Greer Garson to thank for limiting the acceptance speeches. Just think of all the possible speeches Academy Award watchers would have to suffer through now with the inflated egos of today’s Hollywood. It’s incomprehensible. And you may ask, if there is a holding for the longest speech in Oscar history, is there a shortest speech holding in Oscar history? Yes, there is. And the winner is Alfred Hitchcock when he won the Irving G. Thalberg award in 1968. “Hitch” walked onto the stage, took his award from Robert Wise and said, “Thank you.” And walked off.

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In Regards to “Alone Yet Not Alone” Rescinded Oscar Nomination

Naturally, it catches my attention when the Academy’s choice of rescinding a nomination labels Hollywood as “Anti-Christian” and “Anti-disability.” That is the case over the controversy of the ex-nominated song “Alone Yet Not Alone” for the Christian film of the same name.

Rather than reiterate what has already been said, I will direct my dear readers towards the amazing article written by Tim Gray for Variety.com

Gray does a wonderful job of explaining the specific procedure of would-be song nominees to ensure a level playing field. But when a composer, in this case Bruce Broughton, notes the specific track on the DVD that is given to voters, that is a red flag to the Academy. This gives us a general picture of how nominees are chosen in other categories as well – a rare peak into the process.

It is remarkable how the Academy does a very good job at making sure that, at the very least, the voting process is fair. To believe otherwise is cynical towards the industry.
Now, as for the politics of the Academy against nominating minorities and women in other categories, I leave that to a future post.

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