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The 84th Academy Awards


By Jessie

A glorious celebration of artistic talent and Hollywood glamour? Or irrelevant, narcissistic, over-hyped drivel? Whatever your view, the US entertainment industry’s Awards Season is in full swing, and the curtains of the crown jewel of them all – the Academy Awards – are set to be raised for the 84th time.

The first Academy Awards ceremony (or Oscars, as they have colloquially come to be known) was held on May 16, 1929, at an intimate reception for about 270 guests in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Tickets for the event cost $5, and guests dined upon ‘filet of sole sauté au buerre’ and ‘half broiled chicken on toast’*. 

After the sumptuous feast, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Douglas Fairbanks, gave a short speech before calling the first ever fifteen Academy winners, made up of artists, directors and other ‘creatives’ to the head table to receive their award.

The sense of anticipation was not great, as the winners had all been announced to the press three months earlier. Happily, this small detail was amended in later years, so as not to deprive audiences the experience of witnessing the hyper-anxiety exuded by a room full of highly-strung, hungry and high-as-a-kite over-excited celebrities whose future careers and fragile egos relied completely on taking home a little golden statue.

After the formalities of the inaugural event, the guests moved on to the Mayfair Hotel where (I like to think) they succumbed to wild abandon, knocking back champagne cocktails and Mint Juleps and dancing the Charleston before prohibition agents raided the party at midnight. And lo, the Academy Awards After-Party was born, (and a million future paparazzi rubbed their hands in anticipation – “CLICK”).  

The iconic award trophy was created by MGM’s art director (and original Academy member), Cedric Gibbons in 1928. His wife Dolores Del Rio persuaded Mexican film director and actor Emilio ‘El Indio” Fernandez to pose nude for the design, and his particular assets are still celebrated today in the form of the Oscar statuette. Artist George Stanley sculpted Gibbon’s design in clay, and Sachin Smith cast the statuette in 92.5% tin and 7.5% copper, with gold-plating. During WWII, a metals shortage saw the Oscars made of gold-painted plaster for a period of three years. 

The history behind calling the Award “Oscar” is hotly debated. Bette Davis has claimed she named the trophy Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. Another account has Norwegian-American Eleanor Lilleberg, an Academy employee exclaiming, “It looks like King Oscar II”, when she first caught sight of the Award. (Apparently, at the end of the day she asked, “What should we do with Oscar, put him in the vault?”, and the name stuck forevermore.) Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his “Oscar” as early as 1932.

Disney’s name was once synonymous with the Academy Awards; from 1941 he enjoyed 22 years straight of Oscar nominations in at least one category, a record which has never been beaten. The youngest person to ever win an Oscar (albeit an ‘Honorary’ one) was Shirley Temple, who was handed the award in 1934 when she was five years old. The oldest person to win is Jessica Tandy, who received the Best Actress Oscar in 1990 for her performance in Driving Miss Daisy.

David Niven, who, in 1958, featured in the film Separate Tables for only 15 minutes and 38 seconds, can claim the shortest-ever Best Actor Oscar-winning performance. The fewest lines spoken by an Oscar-winning actress won Patty Duke a Best Actress in a Supporting Role portraying the deaf and blind Helen Keller in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker. In the role she speaks only one word in the last scene: “Wah-wah” (for “water”).

In 1934, Frank Capra (director of Lady for a Day) fell victim to mistaken identity - and public humiliation after leaping upon the stage to collect the Best Picture award after hearing the presenter say, “Come and get it, Frank”. Unfortunately, he meant Frank LLOYD, director of Cavalcade. Seventy-three year old Jack Palance’s acceptance for Best Supporting Actor in City Slickers (1992) was memorable, not because of the speech, but the one-armed press-ups he began demonstrating to the (somewhat shocked) audience.

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1965) is the longest ever name on a Best Picture nomination. Z (1970) is the shortest.  

The year 1974 is remembered fondly by people in ‘the biz’, and those with a penchant for streaking. Actor Robert Opal ran naked onto the stage (and was subsequently mocked by the host, David Niven, for “revealing his shortcomings”). In 1979, Mr Opal was murdered during a robbery in his sex shop in San Francisco.

Over its 80-year history the Academy Awards has been rescheduled only three times, the first in 1938, when massive flooding in Los Angeles delayed the ceremony by a week.  In 1968 the Awards ceremony was postponed from April 8 to April 10 out of respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had been assassinated a few days earlier. They were postponed again in 1981 for 24 hours because of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

Do you watch the Academy Awards ? What’s your favourite Oscar-winning movie? What Award do you think should be given on the night? I can think of a few… 'Best use of Plastic Surgery in a Supporting Role', 'Most Realistic Fake Relationship to Publicise a Movie', 'Most Nauseating Acceptance Speech'... Oh but I’m just being a bitter old cynic! And you know, I actually do quite like passing judgement on the gowns. What are your thoughts, Oscar-wise?

Jessie x

*Only half-broiled! Is that actually a dish?

8 Responses to

The 84th Academy Awards

February 24, 2012 at 4:09 PM

that time again jess best of luck to all concerned ...would rather the logies here

February 24, 2012 at 5:36 PM

I would not know how fair or unfair the awards are when given, but I do feel there should be some such incentive to good work in the film industry, so I am in favour of the Oscar, etc.

February 24, 2012 at 7:16 PM

I was worried about that chicken myself, actually. If half-broiled is half-cooked, there may have been a few sick chicks among the guests that night. As for the award, may it always be given in fair judgement to those who deserve it most.

Xrosie said:
February 25, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Hype is the perfect word. How about they donate all the money spent on frocks etc to a world charity, like hungry children. My favourite movie was Seabiscuit.

sozza23 said:
February 27, 2012 at 1:32 PM

big whoop!!

February 27, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I feel sorry for the Academy. For example in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (my all time favourite), how on earth do you decide to nominate let alone award an Oscar to such superb actors as Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Has there ever been a tie for Best Film, Actor or Actress?

tezza1551 said:
February 27, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Care factor for me - considerably less than minus 3 million. Neither know nor care who won what !

kragzy said:
February 28, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I'm with you tezza.