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OSCAR Frequently Asked Questions
Written by Diana Saenger   

Have you ever wondered how the OSCAR came about? Or how the Academy Awards got started. Who was the mogul behind creating this now world famous organization? What did it cost to join the Academy? When was the first OSCAR presentation and who attended? Find the answers to these questions in this FAQ.

FAQ 1: Who helped to start the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences?  

Answer 1: MGM's Louis B. Mayer, actor Conrad Nagel, director Fred Niblo and 1926 head of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Fred Beetson.  

FAQ 2:   What was the original name?  

Answer 2: The International Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.      

FAQ 3:   What was the original intent?  

Answer 3: To mediate labor disputes.  

FAQ 4:   Who could belong?

Answer 4: Anyone in the five unions - actors, directors, writers, producers and technicians - who contributed to the arts and science of motion picture production.  

FAQ 5:   When did the name change?  

Answer 5: In May, 1927, when 36 members officially formed a non-profit corporation chartered under the laws of California and deleted the word international to name the organization The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  

FAQ 6:   Who was the first president?  

Answer 6: Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was elected president May 4, 1927 at a dinner banquet at the Biltmore Hotel. Louis B. Mayor paid for the banquet. Fairbanks was responsible for selling the Academy memberships at $100 and recruited 231 members that night.  

FAQ 7:   How did the idea for an award come up?  

Answer 7:   Fairbanks came up with the idea and an Awards Committee went into action in 1928 deciding that each member would get one vote in his or her perspective union. 79thoscarstat.jpg

FAQ 8:      Were the categories the same as now?  

Answer 8:   Interestingly, no. Getting categories sorted out was a problem, partly because of the introduction of talkies in 1927, which blurred the category lines. There were two director categories, one for Directing and one for Comedy Directing. A third writing category existed at the time. Title Writing was in along with Best Original Story and Best Adaptation.  

  © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  

FAQ 9:   What was the first ceremony like?

Answer 9:   Some nominees - urged mostly by their studios - were among the 300 attendees, others were not. The ceremony was May 16, 1929 at 8 p.m. Academy president handed out all the awards, William C. DeMille served as chairman.  

FAQ 10: Where was the Academy housed?  

Answer 10:   Initially the Academy rented several different offices in 1946 it moved to 9038 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. In December 1975, the Academy dedicated its new seven-story headquarters at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. By then the Academy had created the Players Directory, the Margaret Herrick Library, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, all which were then located in the same building.  

 When the holdings of both the Herrick Library and the Film Archive were too large, the Academy arranged a 55-year lease in 1988 with the City of Beverly Hills for the conversion of its historic Waterworks building in La Cienega Park, which became the new home of the Academy's film research facilities, designated as the Center for Motion Picture Study. Another decade later, the growth of the holdings of both the Herrick Library and Film Archive required a search for an additional facility. In 2002 the Academy purchased what had originally been the first Hollywood television studio on Vine Street, and converted it into a home for the Film Archive. In honor of two of the Academy's founders-Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford-the La Cienega facility, which still houses the Herrick Library, was renamed the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study, and the Vine Street building is now known as the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study.  

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FAQ 11: What's the evolution of the award itself?  

Answer 11: In 1929 art student/graduate George Stanley was given $500 and the task of sculpting the award from a design by Cedric Gibbons, who revealed a naked man plunging a sword into a reel of film. Nominees not selected as the winner were given Honorable mention scrolls.  

Initially the award was solid bronze, then a white plaster and today a metal alloy - gold-plated britannium. The statuette is 13 ½ inches tall and weighs a 8 ½ pounds. The only alterations to the award were in 1945 when the pedestal was extended the Belgian black marble base was changed to metal.

© Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences    

Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette is better known by a nickname, Oscar, the origins of which aren't clear. A popular story has been that an Academy librarian and eventual executive director, Margaret Herrick, thought it resembled her Uncle Oscar and said so; and that the Academy staff began referring to it as Oscar.

FAQ 12: How many OSCARs have been handed out?

Answer 12: Prior to 1949, the statuettes were not numbered. Since that year, starting with a somewhat arbitrary number 501, each Oscar statuette has worn his serial number behind his heels.

FAQ 13: Who else has served as president of the Academy?

Answer 13: William deMille, M. C. Levee, Conrad Nagel, J. Theodore Reed, Frank Lloyd, Frank Capra, Walter Wanger, Bette Davis, Jean Hersholt, Charles Brackett, George Seaton, George Stevens, B. B. Kahane, Valentine Davies, Wendell Corey, Arthur Freed, Gregory Peck, Daniel Taradash, Walter Mirisch, Howard W. Koch, Fay Kanin, Gene Allen, Robert E. Wise, Richard Kahn, Karl Malden, Arthur Hiller, Robert Rehme and Frank Pierson.  

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FAQ 14: How many members does the Academy have today?  

Answer 14: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a professional honorary organization composed of over 6,000 motion picture craftsmen and women.  

  © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences      

FAQ 15: What is the official dictum of the Academy?  

Answer 15: The purposes of the Academy are to advance the arts and sciences of motion pictures; foster cooperation among creative leaders for cultural, educational and technological progress; recognize outstanding achievements; cooperate on technical research and improvement of methods and equipment; provide a common forum and meeting ground for various branches and crafts; represent the viewpoint of actual creators of the motion picture; and foster educational activities between the professional community and the public-at-large.  

Resource material used for this FAQ include the history link at http://www.oscar.org/ and the book Inside Oscar, publisher Ballantine Books.

 



                       

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