Academy Awards: A little history and some Oscars trivia

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, and it honoured the best films of 1927 and 1928 .

Academy Awards: A little history and some Oscars trivia

Screens display the Oscar logo on the red carpet area for this year's Oscars Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California. (Photo: AFP)

Oscars 2019 are here. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be giving away the 91st Academy awards on Sunday, February 24 (US time), celebrating the best in the world of films. As movie fans get ready for the biggest award event of the entertainment industry, here are some Oscars trivia and also a little history about the awards.

How did Oscars get its name

The official name is Academy Awards, but the awards given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are better known as the Oscars. While the official reason to call it Oscars is not clear to anyone, the name got its official status in 1939, a decade after the first Academy Award was given out in 1929.

Conceptualised as the Academy Award of Merit, the Oscars did not take much time to became the ultimate goal for everyone associated with films. It now needed a nickname, and a lot of people started calling it Oscars. According to the most popular theory, when academy librarian Margaret Herrick saw the the award statuette, she exclaimed that it looked like her “uncle Oscar”, and people started referring to it by that name. Another theory says actress Bette Davis coined the name after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson Jr.


Oscar however had remained an informal reference only for a few years. In 1934, when Walt Disney got the award for his The Three Little Pigs, his  acceptance speech mentioned it as an Oscar. The same year, entertainment columnist Sidney Skolsky also used the name to describe the best actress award won by Katharine Hepburn. The Academy made Oscars an official name in 1939.

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Oscars history and facts 

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, and it honoured the best films of 1927 and 1928 . The event was held at a private dinner hosted at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Awards were given in 12 categories. Additionally, there were two special awards.

The statue was designed by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley in 1928. Prior to that, MGM art director Cedric Gibbons had sketched the first design — a knight holding a sword and standing on a reel of film that had five spokes representing the five Academy branches — actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. Stanley redesigned it in 1928, and removed the reel.

The Oscar statue is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds.

The statues would be initially cast in solid bronze and then get a golf finish. Later, gold-plated Britanium metal took over.

Over 3,000 statuettes have been presented until now.

With the awards getting popular across the world, the Academy started giving away an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ as a special award from 1947. in 1956, it became one of the official categories.

RS Owens & Company has been casting the Oscar mould since 1982.

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Oscars trivia

The 1 Academy Awards ceremony was attended by 270 people who bought tickets for $5 each.

Among those who won the 1st Academy Awards was Charlie Chaplin, for his film The Circus. Chaplin not only acted in the film but produced it too, and was its director and writer too.

In 1929, the awardees’ list had been published three months before the event. The practice of outing the name only at the event was started from the next year, though media houses would be sent the names beforehand with an embargo until after the event night. From 1940, after the Los Angeles Times published the list in its evening edition, before the awards were announced that night, the Academy started keeping the names secret till the last moment.

Due to shortage of metal during World War II, the Oscars statuettes have to be made of plaster for three years.

In the year 2000, weeks before the awards were to be presented, the shipment of Oscar statues was stolen. Ever since, the Academy has been keeping a second set of statues handy ever year.

Acclaimed Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, who an Honorary Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement, had called the Academy Awards the “Nobel of Cinema”.

India has been sending entries for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ from 1957, Mother India being the first one and it managed to be among the nominated films. Subsequently, two more Indian films reached the nominations stage  — Salaam Bombay and Lagaan. None of them managed to win an Oscar, though.