The INSIDER Summary:
• The Academy Award of Merit — a golden statue of a man — is better known by its nickname “Oscar.”
• The popular story behind the nickname is that Academy member Margaret Herrick said it looked like her Uncle Oscar.
• The name stuck, and now the Academy Awards are known as the Oscars.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed in 1927, and just two years later the organisation held its first annual awards ceremony celebrating the biggest movie-making achievements of the year. But first, they needed to create the physical trophy itself.
According to the Academy’s website, “MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword.”
The Academy then recruited Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley to bring the design to life in a three-dimensional statue, and the Academy Award of Merit was born. So then why do we all call the statue an Oscar?
According to the Academy website, the award was nicknamed “Oscar” after someone saw the golden man and thought it resembled her relative.
While the origins of the moniker aren’t clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy didn’t adopt the nickname officially until 1939, but it was widely known enough by 1934 that Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used it in a piece referring to Katharine Hepburn’s first Best Actress win.
Though the Academy makes sure to call the mythology of the Oscar nickname a “popular story” and not an outright fact, it’s the closest we’ll get to an explanation.
More than 3,000 of the iconic statues have been awarded to filmmakers since 1929. The 13.5″ tall award is made of solid bronze (plated in 24-karat gold) and weighs 8.5 pounds. To this day, the Academy Award of Merit remains the most coveted trophy Hollywood.
Follow along with INSIDER’s coverage of the 2017 Oscars to see who will be taking home the golden statues.
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