History of the Oscars

Hollywood produces dozens, if not hundreds, of movies annually. Although a significant part of them is meant solely for entertainment and possess little-to-no artistic value, there are also movies in which actors’ performance, plot, camera work, atmosphere, and other components are so brilliant that they deserve to be awarded. In the beginning of the 20th century, such an award had been established; nowadays known as the Oscar Award, it has become a mass culture event year by year throughout almost a century.

The Oscar Awards ceremony was initiated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), formed in 1927 with the goal to honor talented actors, directors, cameramen, and other people involved in the cinema industry. The first president of the Academy was Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., a famous actor back then, and the first ceremony of awarding was held on May, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Surprisingly, the initial ceremony was a rather private event, with only a little over a hundred people being invited, and with the price for tickets equalling only $5. Originally, there were 12 categories and two special honors, and there was no intrigue in the ceremony itself: the names of all the winners were announced in advance, and the ceremony itself served only for handing out the awards and for the banquet. The first actor who received an Oscar statue was the German actor Emil Jannings; the first best actress was Janet Gaynor, who acted in such films as “Sunrise,” “Seventh Heaven,” and “Street Angel” (Awards & Shows).

The award itself–meaning the statue, which the entire Oscar event is usually associated with–does not look impressive. To start with, its name is not Oscar; officially it is called, “The Academy Award of Merit,” and “Oscar” is just a nickname. It is 13.5 inches tall, and weighs about 8.5 pounds. The statue stands on five spokes, which symbolize the basics of the Academy: screenplay writers, producers, technicians, actors, and directors. Initially, the statuettes were made of solid gold-plated bronze, and a bit later–from the alloy of nickel, copper, and 24-karat gold, known as britannia metal; during the years of World War II, statuettes were even made of painted plaster, but this only lasted for three years. Nowadays, the Oscar is traditionally made of gold-covered metal (Oscars.org)

At the same time, despite its cultural value, an Oscar statue is incredibly cheap–it costs only $1. If an actor or another award nominee wanted, for some reason, to sell their Oscar statuette, they are obliged to sell it only to the Academy, for the estimated price of $1. Such practice has been enabled since 1950, and every winner announces whether he or she wants to keep or to sell the statuette. In 1989, the heirs of a producer Mike Todd wanted to sell the Oscar statuette he received for his movie “Around the World in 80 Days,” but the Academy successfully blocked the deal. However, those Oscars that were awarded before 1950 can be sold and bought freely; for example, the statuette received by Orson Welles for “Citizen Kane” was sold in 2011 for $861,542 (The Hollywood Reporter).

The Academy Award of Merit, most often referred to as an Oscar, is a sign of acknowledgement of actors, directors, and other people related to the process of producing a movie, for their contribution and talent. The ceremony originated in 1927, when it was a private event for the chosen few; however, it has gradually become one of the main annual events in world culture. The statue itself is made of gold-plated metal, and despite its cultural value, it can be sold for only $1 due to the rules established by the Academy. Despite this selling price, the Oscar is the most highly recognized award in film.

Works Cited

“Oscar History.” Awards & Shows. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

“Oscar Statuette.” Oscars.org. N.p., 25 July 2014. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

“Oscars Statuettes: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘the Man’” The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

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