Oscar trivia

Academy Awards 73 years of interesting quirks

Throughout its 72-year history, the Academy Awards has generated many figures of note, as well as many quirky little facts about movies, including many of the following:

  • In order to be eligible for consideration, a film must be released in Los Angeles for at least a week during the year being considered. That’s why so many films will be released on Christmas Day, which would give a film a full week before the December 31 deadline. Also, a film is considered ineligible if it has been shown in a nontheatrical venue (e.g. television, video) prior to its Los Angeles release.

  • The longest acceptance speech was given by Greer Garson in 1942. The best actress winner went on with her thank-yous for a full seven minutes.

  • There have been only three films that have won all five of the major awards (best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay). They were “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

  • Sidney Poitier was the first and only African American to win best actor in 1963 for “Lillies of the Field.”

  • Write-in votes were allowed until 1935, the year in which the Academy awarded its first Oscar to a write-in candidate – Hal Mohr, for his cinematography on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” After that, the nominations were made by each of the respective branches of the Academy.

  • The most profitable best picture winner was “Titanic,” grossing $600,788,188 since its 1997 release.

  • The films that have won the most Oscars are (in descending order): “Titanic” (1997), with 11 wins and 14 noms; “Ben Hur” (1959), with 11 wins and 12 noms; “West Side Story” (1961), with 10 wins and 11 noms; “Gigi” (1958) went 9 for 9; and “Last Emperor” followed suit in 1987. “The English Patient” (1996) won 9 out of 12 noms.

  • The two films with the most nominations but no wins were “The Turning Point” and “The Color Purple,” each with 11 noms. The most nominated non-winning performers are Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, with seven nominations each.

  • The actress with the most nominations is Katherine Hepburn, with 12. She’s also the Academy’s most honored performer, with four best actress Oscars from 1932/33, 1967, 1968 and 1981.

  • The actors nominated most are Laurence Olivier, with 10, and Jack Nicholson, with 11. Olivier was also nominated for directing, and has received two honorary Oscars.

  • The famed Oscar statuettes are all manufactured by R.S. Owens in Chicago. The statuette consists of britannia metal, made up of 90% tin and 10% antimony, then plated successively in copper, nickel, silver, and 24-kt. gold, then lacquered with epoxy to protect the gold. The winners actually have to hand back their statuettes to the Academy so that Owens can affix plates with their names on them to the statues. The statuette is 13.5 inches tall, and it weighs 8.5 pounds.

  • Because silent comedies were so popular, the first year the Academy decided to award two director honors, one for comedy direction, and the other for directing.

  • The first award ceremony had only 13 categories: production, artistic quality of production, actor, actress, director, comedy direction, writing (adapted, original story, title writing), cinematography, interior decoration, engineering effects and special awards.

  • Art school grad George Stanley sculpted the first statuette, a naked man plunging a sword into a reel of film with five holes. The five holes represented the five branches of the Academy.

  • In 1929-30 all members of the Academy voted on the nominations.

  • Ironically, Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy “The Gold Rush,” reissued in 1942, was nominated for best sound recording.

  • In 1943, the winners of the supporting actor awards were given statuettes instead of plaques.

  • The Academy Awards were presented at a private dinner until 1944. The presentation ceremony began the next year. Tickets were sold to aid the war effort. Because of the blackouts that were required during WWII, Bette Davis, then the Academy president, proposed in 1942 that the ceremony be held in a theater at a cost of $25 and the proceeds donated to British War Relief. But Davis resigned, and the new president ordered that tickets cost $10 each, and that female stars not wear flowers, rather donate the money they would have spent to the Red Cross.

  • Nineteen forty-four was also the first year the show was open to the public, but only returning servicemen were allowed. Academy prez Walter Wanger gave free passes to 200 veterans.

  • During the war, the academy decreed that statuettes should be made of plaster, as all metal was being used for the war effort.

  • Hollywood hasn’t always had an adversarial relationship with Washington, as it does now. In 1932, Vice President Charles Curtis offered the awards a White House blessing for boosting morale during the Depression.

Other historical tidbits:

  • Throughout the years, the writing awards have shifted back and forth. Original screenplay was added and dropped throughout.

  • In 1950, all of the writing categories had a husband-and-wife team. (Edna and Edward Anhalt, Francess Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin.)

  • In 1954, three actors from “On the Waterfront” were nominated for best supporting actor.

  • In 1956, people thought to be Communist were barred from the event, a rule that was dropped in 1958.

  • In 1961, two directors won the award — first and only time (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for “West Side Story”).

  • Costume designer Edith Head was nominated every year from 1948 to 1966.

  • In 1973, 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal is youngest person to ever win an Oscar.

  • In 1974, Paramount had all the costume design nominees, the first time a studio had all the nominees in one category.

  • In 1989, Driving Miss Daisy was the first film to win best picture without a Director nominee since Grand Hotel in 1931-32.

  • The number of films that could be nominated for best picture was not restricted to five until 1944. In previous years, the number went as high as 12, as it did in 1934.

  • An outspoken critic of the Academy Awards, George C. Scott refused his best actor award for “Patton” in 1971. “Patton” producer Frank McCarthy accepted it for him.

  • Marlon Brando refused his best actor award for “The Godfather” in 1972 because he objected to the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans. Sacheen Littlefeather accepted for him.

  • Woody Allen’s eschewing of the West Coast has a long history. In 1978, despite being nominated for actor, director and screenplay for his work on “Annie Hall,” Allen did not attend the Oscars.

  • Because the Academy was so poor in 1937, members were charged $5 and guests were charged $10 to attend the ceremony.

  • In 1938, Alice Brady was home with a broken ankle. She was awarded the best supporting actress award, and a stranger accepted her award for her. She never saw the award, and the thief was never found.

  • Joan Crawford became the first star to hire a press agent to mount an Oscar campaign.

  • The person who has won the most awards is Walt Disney. Costume designer Edith Head won eight awards for her work. The most honored director is John Ford, with four awards.

  • The first posthumous award was given to Sidney Howard in 1939 for his screenplay of “Gone With the Wind.”

  • Oscars are sometimes a family affair: Among the married couples who won awards were Laurence Olivier (1948) and Vivien Leigh (1951). The only brother and sister team to win acting Oscars were Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. The only sisters to win acting Oscars: Joan Fontaine and Olivia De Havilland.
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