CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, February 28, 2016 – It’s Oscar night and, for whatever reason, it is arguably the best of all the awards shows. Music awards don’t count, by the way, because they offer an award show every week.
In tribute to the Academy Awards, we offer a special edition of Myth Trivia, chock full of goodies and worthless tidbits of information. So as Julie Andrews would say, “Let’s start at the very beginning….”
The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with about 250 people attending. Following the private dinner, the winners were named during the event, which lasted approximately 15 minutes.
The first person to win Best Actor was Emil Jannings, who failed to attend the ceremony. He decided to return home to Germany instead, so he was handed his award before he departed. So much for Price Waterhouse.
In those days, sound was just beginning to make the cinema scene where, of course, the pictures were all black and white. The first moving color images had been made as early as 1902 by British inventor Edward Raymond Turner. They featured a girl on a swing, marching soldiers and a goldfish.
The first full-length color movie to be named Best Picture was Gone with the Wind in 1939.
The Academy Awards were televised (in black & white) for the first time in 1953, and for the first time in color 13 years later in 1966. Bob Hope was host for both these televised ceremonies.
In the 87 years of the Academy Awards, the oldest Oscar-nominee was Gloria Stuart who played “Old Rose” in Titanic in 1997. She was 87.
At 81, Jessica Tandy gets the honor of being the oldest winner for her 1989 performance in Driving Miss Daisy.
When it comes to copping the most gold statuettes, everyone assumes it must be Meryl Streep who seems to get nominated for something every year. Streep does, in fact, hold the record for the most nominations at 19. But, believe it or not, she has only won three Oscars, two for Best Performance by an Actress and one for Supporting Actress. The most-Oscar title holder is actually Katherine Hepburn with four trophies and 12 nominations.
On the male side, Daniel Day Lewis has the most Lead Actor wins with three. However, Jack Nicholson claims three Oscars as well with two as a leading man and one as a supporting actor.
But here’s a real trivia treat. One other actor also has three Academy Awards for his work as a supporting actor. Do you know who it is?
If you guessed Walter Brennan, you really know your flicks. By the way, Nicholson was nominated a dozen times to tie with Katherine Hepburn in Best Supporting Actor category.
Wanna take a stab at the youngest actor to home with the gold? It was Tatum O’Neal who grabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Paper Moon in 1973. At the time, she’d attained the ripe old age of 10.
Speaking of nominations, two films share the dubious honor of having the most nominations without a single win. Both The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) had 11 nominations without a victory. (Pssst, don’t tell Spike Lee.)
This year, in order to speed up the show, winners are supposed to be limited to 45 seconds for their “thank yous” while the names of the people they wish to recognize are supposed to scroll across the screen at the bottom. Probably a good idea, but that now leaves more time for incisive political commentary by the winners.
In terms of length, three Best Picture winners clocked in at over three-and-a-half hours’ running time: Gone with the Wind (1939), Ben Hur (1959) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Only two film sequels ever won Best Picture. In 1974 The Godfather Part II did it, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King repeated that feat in 2003.
One X-Rated film, Midnight Cowboy (1969) won Best Picture. But this one probably needs an asterisk. Compared even to today’s PG-13 standards, this one seems pretty tame.
Barry Fitzgerald accomplished something in 1944 that will never be repeated in Oscar history. In that year, he was nominated twice for the same performance. Fitzgerald was up simultaneously for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in Going My Way.
Five actors claimed Oscars two years in a row. Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks achieved this significant career pinnacle, but the remaining two may surprise you: Jason Robards and Luise Rainer.
The first actor to refuse a Best Actor Oscar was George C. Scott for his role as General Patton in 1970.
Now for a few lesser known fun facts.
The only Oscar to win an Oscar was Oscar Hammerstein II for his song “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in 1941.
George Bernard Shaw is the only person ever to win an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. In 1925 Shaw won the Nobel Prize in Literature and in 1938 he got his Academy Award for Pygmalion (Best Adapted Screenplay).
This is an Oscar Trivia trifecta: Three actors won Oscars for roles in which they never uttered a single word. Jane Wyman took Best Actress for playing Belinda, a deaf mute, in Johnny Belinda (1948). John Mills was also mute as the village idiot in Ryan’s Daughter in 1971, a role for which he captured Best Supporting Actor. Finally, Best Actress winner Holly Hunter played a mute Ada McGrath in The Piano in 1993.
As far as Oscar shows themselves are concerned: Though entertainers say it all the time, “the show must go on,” the Oscars have actually been postponed three times.
In 1938 they were delayed a week due to flooding in Los Angeles. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral pre-empted the show in 1968, and the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan caused a one day postponement in 1981.
Just a few words about “Oscar.” The statuette itself is 13 ½ inches tall and weighs 8 ½ pounds. It depicts a knight holding a sword while standing on a reel of film, which has five spokes. The spokes represent the five original branches of the Academy; Actors, Directors, Producers, Technicians and Writers.
In 1949 the Oscars were numbered beginning with the number 501.
During World War II, in order to help support the war effort, the Oscars were made of plaster. Following the war, the plaster representations could be traded for the traditional trophies.
All these are only a small subset of the countless trivia tidbits that have accrued in the years since the Academy Awards began in 1929. There are plenty more just waiting to be researched.
But before we leave you, one final tidbit: In 1989 the phrase “And the winner is…” was discontinued. Today, the proper phrase is “And the Oscar goes to…”
In conclusion, although the Internet did not exist in 1939, the first viral movie quote in history actually belongs to Rhett Butler, portrayed by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. You’ve already guessed it: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Then again, for some strange reason, you know we really do “give a damn.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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