It’s once again Academy Awards time. Every year, even those of us who haven’t seen any of the nominated movies, tune in to see the excitement, spectacle, glamour and occasional stupidity of Oscar Night in Hollywood. It’s like non-baseball or non-hockey fans tuning in to watch the World Series or the Stanley Cup. It’s an event to experience, regardless of your degree of interest.
In the case of Oscar, many of us probably don't even know which movies are nominated, other than a few in the major categories.
It’s also interesting to see how long the Oscar show runs every year. It's usually a pretty sluggish affair, but the telecast is often highlighted by a few great showbiz moments that help to make up for a very long evening.
Anyway, with the Oscars being given out on Sunday, February 26, try this timely quiz (answers follow):
1. Let’s start logically at the beginning. Do you know why the Academy Award statue is known as “Oscar?”
2. Down through the years, which host is most associated with the Academy Awards ceremony?
3. Name the first movie to win more than 10 Oscars in one year.
4. What was the first song to win an Academy Award?
5. Who is the only person in Academy Award history to present an Oscar to himself?
6. What actor won an Oscar in 1952 for a movie in which he was unrecognizable?
1. The origin of the name “Oscar” for the Academy Award appears to be unclear. There are several versions of who came up with the nick-name. Here are three:
• It may have been Margaret Herrick, a former executive director of the Academy. The story goes that in 1931 she named the statue after her uncle, Oscar Pierce. This would have been two years after the first Academy Award was won by the movie Wings (1929), which starred Buddy Rogers and Clara Bow.
Extra trivia at no extra charge: Gary Cooper was also in that movie.
• The name may have originated with Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, who allegedly got the name from the punch-line of a showbiz joke, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?”
• The inspiration for the name may have come from the first husband of actress Bette Davis, who was Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr. Hollywood legend has it that she thought the statue’s derriere resembled that of her husband’s.
I’m sure the “esteemed” Academy cringes over that illustrious explanation.
2. Comedian Bob Hope is probably the first name that comes to mind in discussing Oscar hosts. His first appearance was in 1940, followed by many more throughout the ’40s and ’50s, including the first televised Academy Awards in1953. That show had the largest TV audience ever, up to that time.
Over the years, one of Hope’s best bits was about his never having won an Oscar. Although he was never nominated, he won four special or honourary awards.
In addition to Hope, Johnny Carson hosted quite a few times. In more recent years, Billy Crystal garnered rave reviews. He’s back this year and it will be fun to see if the old Billy magic is still there after a hosting hiatus of several years.
3. The first movie to win more than 10 Academy Awards was Ben-Hur in 1959. It received 12 nominations and won 11 Oscars.
Most of us would think that Gone With The Wind would surely also have been in this category. Well, almost. It was the first movie to win 10 Oscars in 1939. GWTW was also the first colour film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
4. The first Best Song Oscar went to - The Continental in 1934. It was from the movie, The Gay Divorcee, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
5. Irving Berlin presented himself with the Oscar for White Christmas in 1942. This was the first version of the movie then called Holiday Inn. The second version, which we see every year on TV, came in 1954 and was appropriately called White Christmas. Berlin's presentation embarrassment came before the academy realized that it would make sense to separate presenters from the categories in which they were nominated.
6. Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar in 1952 for his role as a clown in The Greatest Show on Earth. He was never seen without his clown makeup on.