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History of Oscar statue: Stolen, sold, not even solid gold

todayMarch 15, 2022 1

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Acknowledge this statue? [Shows picture of Michelangelo’s “David.”]

Nope? Effectively, how about this one? [Shows picture of the Venus de Milo statue.]

Ring any bells? Nothing? OK. [Sighs.]

How about this one? Sure, you’re proper. [Finally.] That’s an Oscar.

Maybe essentially the most recognizable if not artistically celebrated piece of statuary in a lot of the world doesn’t depict a hero or god of antiquity.

It’s, as an alternative, slightly metallic man, a 24-karat-gold-plated homunculus devoid of hair, facial options and intercourse organs. It’s swaddled in story if not in garments.

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Los Angeles is a posh place. On this weekly characteristic, Patt Morrison is explaining the way it works, its historical past and its tradition.

It was or wasn’t first sketched out on a Biltmore Resort tablecloth. It was or wasn’t modeled on the physique of Mexican director and actor Emilio Fernandez (most likely not). It did or didn’t get the title for its supposed resemblance to the bottom of Bette Davis’ first husband, Harmon O-for-Oscar Nelson (so why isn’t it a Harmon?), or as a result of, almost certainly, it reminded Margaret Herrick, the librarian after which govt director of the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences, of her mom’s first cousin, Oscar Pierce, a person she herself appears to have by no means met.

That the flippant nickname caught to so august a trophy was a supply of mortification to Mrs. Herrick. She wrote, in a 1959 letter to a Merriam-Webster dictionary editor, that she “regretted extra instances than I care to recollect” a “inconsiderate quip.”

“I’ve all the time felt that the Academy loses one thing in dignity each time the statuette is known as Oscar.” However she will need to have acknowledged that “Academy Award of Benefit” was too unwieldy for headlines and an excessive amount of of a mouthful for broadcasters, and “Oscar” too irresistible.

There are one thing over 3,000 of them out on this planet someplace — on mantlepieces, in trophy cupboards, anchored on cabinets in earthquakey California. They’ve been stolen and misplaced, stolen and located, have turned up in a Pasadena flea market, a San Francisco pawnshop, and a Hollywood storage sale.

The Nobel Prize medal is rarer — one thing like a thousand of them awarded in 120-plus years, and product of precise gold — however not one particular person in 100 would acknowledge Alfred Nobel’s dignified, bearded profile on the medal that bears his title, a medal nobody has ever referred to as “the Alfred.”

What a protracted, unusual journey Oscar has had.

First, the heists:

From the earliest Oscar statuettes awarded in 1929, they’ve been objects of lawless need. The primary identified theft was from 7-year-old little one actor Margaret O’Brien — a particular juvenile Oscar award for her position because the rambunctious Tootie within the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Ten years later, as O’Brien’s mom was fatally in poor health, the household maid took the Oscar and two different awards house to shine, as she had executed earlier than. She by no means introduced them again — in reality, she herself by no means got here again.

Within the early Nineteen Nineties, the identical little Oscar had no takers for $100 at a Pasadena flea market. When it confirmed up for $500 at a unique Pasadena flea market two years later, two associates pooled their money to purchase it. They ended up returning it to O’Brien, who had been given a substitute Oscar however was thrilled to have the unique again.

That theft was penny-ante in contrast with the “gold strike” of 2000. A metallic salvager discovered 52 Oscars, nonetheless plastic-wrapped of their transport crates, in trash bins behind a Koreatown retailer.

It’s a tangle of a narrative, as nearly all the things about Oscars tends to be.

The cargo of 55 Oscars from the Chicago producer (the statues are actually made in New York) vanished from a trucking firm’s loading dock within the metropolis of Bell. Willie Fulgear, the salvage man who discovered the 52, acquired a reward, a lot felicitous publicity, and a limo and tickets to attend the Oscars, the place Billy Crystal saluted him from the stage.

Three males have been sentenced in reference to the theft. They’d evidently deliberate on promoting the statuettes however presumably dumped the “sizzling” Oscars as soon as the boys acquired wind of the worldwide publicity — and the serial quantity that every Oscar bears. (One or two of the three lacking Oscars turned up in a federal drug raid in Miami, however no less than one remains to be on the unfastened.)

One of many trio turned out to be Fulgear’s half-brother, however the brothers had been on the outs for years, and the connection between theft and discovery was happenstance. What turned of Fulgear thereafter is one other story however, alas for him, not one which was purchased for a movie, as he’d been advised it might be. Welcome to Hollywood.

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg despatched her finest supporting Oscar, for “Ghost,” to the academy for replating and a polish, however it acquired misplaced between L.A. and the Chicago firm that crafts and tends the Oscars. Somebody intercepted it, took it out of its transport package deal, and despatched the empty container alongside to Chicago. The Oscar was discovered by a safety guard in a trash bin at Ontario Airport. “Oscar,” stated Goldberg, “won’t ever go away my home once more.”

Hattie McDaniel received the Academy Award in 1940 for supporting actress for her “Gone With the Wind” efficiency, the first-ever academy prize for a Black performer. Earlier than 1943, supporting actor awards have been plaques, not Oscar statuettes. McDaniel bequeathed hers to Howard College, whence it disappeared from sight within the early Seventies, maybe caught away in some missed storage field.

In 2018, Frances McDormand’s second finest actress Oscar, for “Three Billboards Outdoors Ebbing, Missouri,” was snatched proper off the desk the place she had set it subsequent to her on the official after-party. A photographer noticed a person hefting the statuette and stopped him and relieved him of the Oscar.

A distraught Frances McDormand in 2018

A distraught Frances McDormand on the Governors Ball after the ninetieth Academy Awards in 2018. Her Oscar statue went lacking that night time however not for lengthy.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Occasions)

The person accused of taking the Oscar, Terry Bryant, had had sufficient time to put up a Fb boast video of himself captioned “My Oscar child.” He hoisted it and stated, “My group acquired this tonight. That is mine,” and smooched the statuette. Fees have been dropped when prosecutors stated they couldn’t go ahead and Bryant’s legal professional stated the person by no means supposed to maintain the statue. Bryant’s Aug. 22, 2019 Fb put up learn, “Oscars Case DROPPED AND DISMISSED TODAY!!! ~ as a result of i didn’t do what they stated i did ! WE WON BECAUSE IM 100 % INNOCENT ! TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY HALLELUJAH !!! GOD DID IT !”

One disappeared proper earlier than the eyes of a few of the most well-known individuals on this planet — snatched proper off the Oscar stage when it was darkened for a business break.

As former academy director Bruce Davis wrote in “The Wrap” years later, the 1972 documentary “Marjoe” had received, however solely one of many two administrators got here onstage to hold off their statues. The second was left onstage on the podium, and when the lights got here again on, it had vanished. What a screenplay that might have made.

Davis adopted the thread on that Oscar, and the one which Marlon Brando refused for “The Godfather.” The Native American lady he despatched onstage to learn Brando’s denunciation for the therapy of Native People on movie and in actual life by no means a lot as touched the Oscar. Actor Roger Moore held on to it as an alternative onstage and took the Oscar house with him, and the academy despatched individuals to choose it up. How that Oscar crossed paths with the lacking finest documentary Oscar is simply one other layer within the Academy Award legend. That’s leisure!

Oscar’s first rejection was from Dudley Nichols, the screenwriter for the 1935 movie “The Informant.” He was making his emotions identified in regards to the academy’s refusal to acknowledge unions just like the screenwriters’ guild. Twice, because the story goes, the academy shipped him his statuette, and twice he despatched it again. He accepted it a couple of years later, after the feds acknowledged the guild.

It was the ceremony itself that revolted actor George C. Scott — “a two-hour meat parade, a public show of contrived suspense for financial causes,” he referred to as it. When his title was introduced onstage by presenter Goldie Hawn for his 1970 portrayal of the World Warfare II common in “Patton,” Scott was in New York, watching an ice hockey recreation earlier than going to mattress. The movie’s producer accepted it onstage, and returned it to the academy per Scott’s needs. (Scott as soon as advised TV Information that he’d requested that his Oscar be despatched to the Patton Museum within the California desert the place Patton did tank maneuvers, however that was by no means put in writing.)

In 1982, The Occasions wrote that Scott had finally proven up for the ceremony — he wasn’t nominated — and was noticed by the indefatigable Selection columnist Military Archerd, who referred to as out after him, “Your Oscar is ready for you on the Academy! Wilshire and LaPeer!”

How a lot is an Oscar price?

As a lot as 1,000,000 5, the worth Michael Jackson paid for the “Gone With the Wind” finest image Oscar.

Or a buck.

Since 1950, Oscar winners have needed to agree in writing to not unload the little man on the open market with out first providing it again to the academy for $1. For a time, the worth appears to have been $10, however $1 was mounted as an unquestionably token quantity.

This has tousled the plans of Oscar winners’ heirs and others who managed to get their mitts on the actual factor. Actress Vivien Leigh received two Oscars, and one, for “A Streetcar Named Need,” was stolen from her house in 1951. However it was her first Oscar, for “Gone With the Wind,” that was put up for public sale by her household in 1993, and it offered for a then-record $510,000. Joan Crawford’s finest actress award, for the 1945 movie “Mildred Pierce,” was offered in 2012 for $426,732.

In 1999, Michael Jackson purchased the perfect image Oscar for “Gone With the Wind” at public sale for a still-record $1.54 million. He died unexpectedly 10 years later, and the Oscar that presumably gleamed someplace in Jackson’s Neverland ranch house disappeared earlier than the property might public sale it off. One other one lacking in motion.

However the academy determined that even older Oscars would possibly fall into its $1 buyback class if early winners have been nonetheless academy members after 1950 and will nonetheless be sure by the brand new guidelines.

There have been some unappetizing public courtroom circumstances. The academy was in a position to cease Beatrice Welles, the financially distressed daughter of actor/director Orson Welles, from promoting her father’s Oscar for the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” for a time, however ultimately, she was in a position to promote.

However heirs of the second spouse of Buddy Rogers, an actor and musician and third husband of pioneering silent actress Mary Pickford, have been barred from promoting Pickford’s 1930 finest actress Oscar, regardless that the proceeds have been meant for charity. A decide discovered that that academy award belonged to the academy beneath the first-refusal rule.

In 2006 a web-based on line casino made an end-run across the no-sale rule. As an alternative, it purchased a 999-year lease on the 1960 finest rating Oscar received by composer Morris Stoloff for “Music With out Finish.” The Canadian firm supposed to ship the Oscar on tour with a touring present of Barnumesque curiosities like Britney Spears’ being pregnant take a look at and William Shatner’s kidney stone — precisely the type of tacky exploitation that the academy’s possession guidelines have been meant to cease.

Solely as soon as, to anybody’s information, has an precise Oscar winner offered his Oscar, and on this event the academy properly backed off moderately than go to courtroom in opposition to a disabled World Warfare II veteran.

The Oscar winner was Harold Russell. He misplaced each arms within the warfare, and was solid as a returning soldier within the 1946 finest image “The Greatest Years of Our Lives,” about servicemen getting back from the warfare. Russell received the perfect supporting actor Oscar, and a particular Oscar “for bringing inspiration and hope to warfare veterans.” He was promoting the perfect actor Oscar in 1992 to pay his spouse’s medical payments. He turned down the academy’s provide of an interest-free mortgage in change for the Oscar as a result of he stated he fearful about having the ability to repay it. The public sale introduced him $55,000. (It was stated that uber-agent Lew Wasserman purchased it and donated it to the academy, which director Steven Spielberg did for 2 of Bette Davis’ Oscars and one in every of Clark Gable’s, writing checks for one thing like $1.3 million to maintain them in academy arms.)

Do not forget that yard sale Oscar I discussed? On a spring Saturday morning in 2007, at a two-story home up within the Hollywood Hills, amid the crystal and china on the market, there it was, an Oscar-ornamented plaque awarded to Joseph Schildkraut as finest supporting actor in 1937 for his portrayal of the persecuted French military officer Alfred Dreyfus in “The Lifetime of Emile Zola.” His widow was promoting it for $150,000, however even essentially the most devoted yard-salers wouldn’t be carrying that type of money. So the Schildkraut Academy Award ended up promoting at public sale in 2013 for $92,866.

The statuettes you see handed out onstage through the ceremony are clean; nobody can take a backstage peek to see who the winners will probably be till these envelopes are opened. Afterward, on the governor’s ball, winners take their statuettes as much as a station arrange within the ballroom the place pre-engraved plaques with the winners’ names and particulars are affixed to the blanks.

A lot care, as you think about, is taken with secrecy and accuracy within the Oscar engravings. In 1938, when Spencer Tracy received finest actor honors for “Boys City,” he agreed to donate the award to the Nebraska house for distressed youngsters if the academy would ship him a substitute. It did: engraved with “Greatest Actor — Dick Tracy.”





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