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.
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.”
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.