The Academy Awards are only a month away, and, as we look forward to Hollywood’s biggest night, we also remember the cinematic history of the Oscars and the magical films that graced our screens in decades past. Here are 10 Oscar facts that remind us of the glamour and innovation of Hollywood.
The first Academy Awards was held on May 16, 1929 at the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Thirteen categories were represented, including Writing (Title Writing) and Engineering Effects. The Best Picture, then called Outstanding Picture, went to “Wings,” a romantic story about two fighter pilots in World War I who are both in love with the same girl back home. The ceremony lasted only fifteen minutes.
In 1933, the category of Short Subject (Cartoon) was added to the ceremony. This marked the first time animation was honored at the Academy Awards. That year, Walt Disney received a Special Award for his creation of Mickey Mouse. He would go on to win another twenty-one Oscars.
While the official name for the statuette presented to recipients is the Academy Award of Merit, we know it better as its more personal nickname: the Oscar. The Oscar statuette was designed by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and physically brought to life by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley. It stands 13 ½ inches tall and weighs 8 ½ pounds. Almost 3,000 Oscars have been given out since the beginning of the annual ceremony.
At age 82, Christopher Plummer was the oldest winner of an Academy Award for his supporting role in “Beginners.” The youngest winner, at age 10, was Tatum O’Neal for her supporting role in “Paper Moon.”
“Ben-Hur,” “Titanic,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” have all won eleven Oscars, the most ever received by a film. However, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is also the only film to win in every category nominated.
The Academy Award for Best Song has been awarded to everything from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “White Christmas” to “Lose Yourself” and “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.” If you were to create a playlist of all the Best Song winners, you would have quite an eclectic mix of genres, styles, and performers.
In 1957, the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film category was added to the ceremony. Previously, honorary awards were presented to one select foreign language film each year. The first competitive Foreign Language Film winner was “La Strada,” an Italian film. Italy has since won a total of fourteen awards, and over a hundred countries have been represented in this category since its inception.
The Big Five is a term that applies to films nominated in all of the Big Five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. Many films have been nominated in all of these categories, but only three are Big Five winners: “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Everyone remembers Jennifer Lawrence’s infamous stumble as she walked onstage to receive the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” But do you remember the dress she wore? The beautiful blush pink Christian Dior ball gown holds the record for the most expensive gown worn on the Oscars red carpet. The cost? Four million dollars.
Earlier this week, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced that membership requirements for the Academy would change to increase diversity amongst voters. New members’ voting status will be active for ten years, after which it can be renewed only if that member has been active in the motion picture industry during those ten years. After three of these ten-year terms, or if a member has been nominated for an Academy Award, voters will receive lifetime voting status. There will also be three new governor seats added to the board, which will be filled by women and people of color. These changes are meant to ensure that the voting body is made up of people active in the motion picture industry and that the integrity of nominating worthy and groundbreaking films, performers, and other filmic artists is upheld.
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