Clark Gable’s 1934 Oscar for “It Happened One Night” has found its way home to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with the help of Steven Spielberg.The “E.T.” director, who anonymously purchased the award at an auction Sunday for $607,500, has presented the statuette to the Academy Foundation, which will place it on permanent display at the Academy’s Center for Motion Picture Study. “If not with the Clark Gable estate, I could think of no better sanctuary for Gable’s only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy,” said Spielberg. “The Oscar statuette is the most personal recognition of good work our industry can ever bestow, and it strikes me as a sad sign of our times that this icon could be confused with a commercial treasure.” Academy president Arthur Hiller said that he was still reeling from the “breathtaking generosity” of Spielberg’s act. Academy executive director Bruce Davis acknowledged that the Academy does not expect to be able to prevent entirely the commercial exploitation of statuettes awarded before 1949, when the Academy instituted a “winners agreement” that prevents the sale of the award. “We’re realistic about the fact that there will always be a dispiriting minority of the people who inherit Oscars who find that their commercial instincts outweigh their sense of family history,” Davis said.
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