When Hollywood voted for the first Oscars in 1929, the candidate with the most votes in the Best Actor category was a shock. The winner was Rin-Tin-Tin, a German Shepherd and star of 27 movies. Without a doubt, the dog had showed “excellence in cinematic achievements,” but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought the image was not correct. They changed the rules, to allow only humans as candidates, and the award went to Emil Jannings, a German actor. Jannings later made propaganda films for the Nazis and carried the Oscar into battle with him in the Second World War. Possibly the Academy made a mistake changing the rules.


Originally called the ‘Academy Award of Merit’, the 34-centimetre-tall, 3.5-kilogram statue has been known as ‘Oscar’ since 1934. Nobody knows why. One story is that the actress Bette Davis said it looked like her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson. Perhaps we are lucky she did not call it a ‘Harmon’? The most famous award in the world is an art deco medieval knight holding a long crusader’s sword and standing on a film reel. But what happens to the medieval knight when the winner takes it home?

TOILET decor?

Some, like Anthony Quinn, put it on the mantelpiece. Others, such as Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Sean Connery or Jodie Foster, put it in or near the toilet. The idea, it seems, is self-deprecation. Winslet wants her guests to “have a little hold and put it back down again.” For Foster, “they look good with the faucets.”


Out of 3,072 awarded since 1929, fifteen are now missing. Vivien Leigh and Olympia Dukakis lost theirs to robberies. When Whoopi Goldberg sent hers for cleaning to the Academy, it was later found in a rubbish bin. Actor and war hero Harold Russell sold his to pay his wife’s medical bills. There is a rumour, however, that it was actually to pay for a holiday. Michael Jackson paid more than one and a half million dollars for Gone with the Wind’s Best Picture award. 


Over the years, the Oscar ceremony has created numerous records. Katherine Hepburn won four Oscars for Best Actress. Meryl Streep has been nominated a record twenty times, winning three times. Costume designer Edith Head beat them both with eight statues. Controversially, Walt Disney took home twenty-six awards, while Alfred Hitchcock was handed just one Oscar. And it was an honorary award! Titanic, Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings all won eleven Oscars. And while director John Ford went up onto the stage four times, sound engineer Kevin O’Connell never climbed these famous steps despite twenty nominations!


Not everyone is happy to receive an Oscar. Marlon Brando famously refused to attend the ceremony to collect his award for Best Actor for The Godfather. He sent an actress and civil rights activist to protest against the mistreatment of Native Americans. George C. Scott turned down his Oscar for Best Actor for Patton, calling the ceremony “offensive, barbarous and innately corrupt.” It was, he finished, “a meat market!”