The Golden Icon: “Oscar”

When one thinks of the “Oscars” today, a vivid mental image of the paparazzi photographing the beautifully clad actors and actresses as they make their entrance onto the red carpet to this formal ceremony…Oh, so Hollywood. And then there is the image of that golden statue…

According to wikipedia, an Oscar is an award bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize the professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors and writers. The actual statuette is officially named the Academy Award Of Merit.

The Oscars are one of the most prominent award ceremonies in the world today. The Grammy (music), Emmy (television) and the Tony (Theatre) are all modeled after the Oscars. Tonights 84th Academy Awards honoring outstanding films from 2011 will be held at the former and historic Kodak Theatre (now known as the Hollywood & Highland Center Theatre).

But did you know that it is also one of the oldest award ceremonies in media? It all began as the conception of studio boss Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Mayer’s goal was to help improve the image of the film industry as well as help mediate labor disputes common at the time. In May of 1929, the first Academy Award ceremony was held in Hollywood at Hotel Roosevelt to honor the film achievements of the 1927/1928 film season. It was a private affair, a brunch, that included under 300 guests!

And what about the history of this golden icon? In 1928, the supervision of the design of this icon was under MGM’s Art Director, Cedric Gibbons (one of the original Academy members). Gibbons need for a model for this statuette prompted his future wife, Dolores del Rio, to introduce him to Mexican actor & film director, Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez. Fernandez, although hesitant initially, was finally convinced to pose nude. Gibbons design was sculpted into clay by sculptor George Stanley and was casted into the statuette in 92.5% tin and 7.5% copper and finally, plated in gold at the C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry in Batavia, Illinois). (Living in Illinios, this bit of Hollywood history was exciting to learn!). Since 1928 only the base of the statue has been altered.

And what of the name “Oscar”? This is one topic where there is no definitive answer. However, it is known that in 1939 the trophy was officially dubbed the “Oscar” by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Who knew?
So in appreciation of the history of this awards ceremony, the circumstances for the creation of it, and the icon that represents it, ponder this event in a different light. If you choose to view this 84th Academy Award Ceremony this evening, perhaps your appreciation will be deepened. Understanding history has a way of impacting everything. A golden insight on a golden evening, indeed.

Kristin

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