As if all the money they make at the box office isn’t enough, once a year Hollywood gets together to pat itself on the back and hand out some gold plated statues. They have been doing this for over 90 years and at that time, there have been a lot of surprises, amazing red carpet looks and memorable speeches (good and bad).
Like the films they honor, the Oscars have a rich history that you might find rather interesting.
In 1927, Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM studios put together the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. This was a non-profit organization with the sole purpose of “advancing the film industry.” Keep in mind that this was back before the film industry was even making “talking” pictures. And the only way you could see a movie is to go out to the theater and buy a ticket as opposed to downloading it on your phone.
Two years after it was formed, the Academy held it’s the first awards ceremony. It went down over dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The cost was $5 to cover the meal. Douglas Fairbanks hosted the ceremony and it took him just 15 minutes to hand out all of the awards. For you trivia buffs: Wings was the first film to earn a Best Picture Oscar. It was also a silent film. No other silent film won that honor until 2012’s The Artist.
The Wrong Frank
In 1933, Frank Lloyd and Frank Capra were both nominated for the Best Director award. When Will Rogers read the envelope, he said, “Come on up and get it, Frank.” Frank Capra leaped to his feet and made his way to the stage only to find out he was the wrong Frank. It was the longest walk back to a seat ever. Fortunately, the following year Frank Capra won that award for It Happened One Night.
The Great Oscar Heist (Twice!)
In 1938, Alice Brady was honored in the Best Supporting Actress Award category for her role in In Old Chicago. Sadly, she was too ill to attend the ceremony. When her name was called out, an unknown man took to the stage and accepted the award on her behalf. Before anyone could figure out that the man was an imposter, he had vanished with the statue. They never found him or the Oscar. But that wasn’t the only Oscar heist.
In 2000, a crate containing 55 Oscars were bound for the ceremony when they were stolen. They were late found by a local resident who was rummaging behind a food store looking for boxes to pack for a move. The theory was that some robbers snatched the crate without knowing what was inside. When they discovered what they had stolen, they ditched their treasure.
According to legend, Academy librarian Margaret Herrick quipped that the gold statue looked like her uncle Oscar. That nickname stuck but wasn’t made official by the Academy until 1939. It stands to reason that if Mrs. Herrick’s uncle was named Ralph, the Academy would be handing out the Ralphs each year.
For the first decade, the Academy would send out a list of winners to newspapers who were told they couldn’t print the names until after the ceremony. In 1940, the LA Times published the names early. From that time on, the Academy switched to sealed envelopes with only the accounting firm knowing who the winners are before award night.
Finally, not everyone loves the Oscars. In 1971, George C. Scott told everyone he wouldn’t accept the award for Patton. They gave it to him anyway. In 1973, Marlon Brando was awarded the Best Actor trophy for his role in The Godfather. He didn’t attend the ceremony and when his name was announced, Native American Sacheen Littlefeather went up to refuse the statue on his behalf in protest against the treatment of Native Americans. Roger Moore, who announced Marlon’s name, had no idea what to do and ended up taking the statue home for the night.