Academy Awards Interesting Facts

20 great trivia tidbits about the Academy Awards

Oscar Statuette Exhibit Opening
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Whether you're a classic movie buff or a blockbuster film fanatic, the yearly Academy Awards is likely to be a big deal for you and your friends.

At your next Oscars party, test everyone's knowledge with trivia questions on the award ceremony's history and fun, little-known facts.

The Very First Oscar Winner

The first person to receive an Academy Award did not even attend the first Academy Awards ceremony.

Emil Jannings, the winner for Best Actor in the 1927-28 Academy Awards, had decided to go back to his home in Germany before the ceremony. But before he left for his trip, Jannings was handed the very first Academy Award.

The Only Oscar to Win an Oscar

Oscar Hammerstein II won the Oscar for his song, "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in the movie Lady Be Good (1941).

X-Rated Winner

Midnight Cowboy (1969), the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, is the only X-rated movie to win an Oscar.

Sibling Rivalry

Ethel and Lionel Barrymore are the only brother and sister to ever win Academy Awards for acting. Lionel Barrymore won an Oscar for Best Actor in A Free Soul (1931). Ethel Barrymore won an Oscar for Best Actress in None But the Lonely Heart (1944).

First Color Movie

Gone With the Wind (1939) was the first movie filmed in color to win the Best Picture award.

Posthumous Nominations

There have been a number of people nominated for Academy Awards after their death.

However, the first person to be nominated posthumously and actually win was screenwriter Sidney Howard for Gone With the Wind (1939).

James Dean, on the other hand, has been the only actor to be nominated twice after death; once for Best Actor in East of Eden (1955) and again the following year for Best Actor in Giant (1956).

Wordless Winners

Three actors have won Academy Awards for playing characters that did not utter a single word throughout the entire film. Jane Wyman won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Belinda, a deaf mute, in  Johnny Belinda (1948). Sir John Mills played the mute village idiot in Ryan's Daughter (1970), for which he won the Best Supporting Actor award. Most recently, Holly Hunter won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of the mute Ada McGrath in The Piano (1993).

The Host With the Most

The list of hosts for the Academy Awards ceremony is dotted with prestigious names such as Will Rogers, Frank Capra, Jack Benny, Fred Astaire, Jack Lemmon and David Letterman. However, one man has dominated Academy Award history; Bob Hope hosted a whopping 18 Academy Award ceremonies.

Billy Crystal, who has hosted the ceremonies 8 times, ranks second as the host with the most. Johnny Carson comes in third after hosting 5 Academy Award ceremonies.

How the Oscar Name Came About

The Oscar statuette's official name is the "Academy Award of Merit." The name "Oscar" is actually a nickname that has been around for decades with unclear beginnings. Though there are several different stories that claim to tell the origin of the nickname "Oscar," the most common attributes the nickname to a comment made by Margaret Herrick.

Herrick, as the story goes, worked as a librarian at the Academy and upon first seeing the statuette, commented that the statuette looked like her Uncle Oscar. No matter how the nickname started, it became increasingly used to describe the statuette in the 1930s and was officially used by the Academy beginning in 1939.

A Winner Who Was Never Nominated

The only Academy Award winner who won but was never officially nominated was Hal Mohr for Best Cinematography for  A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Mohr was the first and only person to win via a write-in vote.

When the Phrase "And the winner is..." Was Discontinued

At the 61st Academy Awards, held in 1989, the Academy decided to replace the trademark phrase "And the winner is..." with the phrase "And the Oscar goes to..." Did you notice?

The Streaker

During the Academy Awards ceremony held on April 2, 1974, a man named Robert Opal ran across the stage naked, flashing the peace sign.

David Niven had been on stage to introduce the Best Picture category when the streaker ran behind him. Thinking quickly on his feet, Niven remarked, "The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping ... and showing his shortcomings.”

A 20-Year Wait

In a strange turn of events, Charlie Chaplin's movie Limelight, which was produced in 1952, won an Academy Award in 1972—20 years after its first release. According to the Academy's rules at the time, a movie could not be considered for an Academy Award until it had played in Los Angeles. When Limelight finally played at a theater in Los Angeles in 1972, it became eligible for an award.

Those That Refused

The Academy Awards are one of the highest honors one can receive in the movie business. Yet, 3 people have refused the honor.

The very first person to refuse an Oscar was Dudley Nichols. Nichols, who had won Best Screenplay for The Informer (1935), boycotted the Academy Awards ceremony because of ongoing conflicts between the Academy and the Writer's Guild.

For his dramatic portrayal of the World War II general in Patton (1970), George C. Scott won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Scott refused the honor, stating that the awards ceremony was "a two-hour meat parade."

Marlon Brando also refused his award for Best Actor for The Godfather (1972). Brando, who said he refused the award because of the discrimination toward Native Americans by the U.S. and Hollywood, sent a woman supposedly named, Sacheen Littlefeather, to collect his award. It turned out later that the woman was really an actress named, Maria Cruz.

The Statuette Up Close

The Oscar statuette stands at 13 1/2 inches tall and weighs 8 1/2 pounds. It depicts a knight, holding a sword, standing on a reel of film which has five spokes, representing the 5 original branches of the Academy--actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. In 1949, the Academy started to number the statuettes, starting with number 501.

Postponements

Contrary to the old adage, "the show must go on," the Academy Awards ceremonies have been postponed 3 times.

In 1938, the ceremony was delayed a week because of flooding in Los Angeles. In 1968, the Academy Awards ceremony was pushed back 2 days because of Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral. The Academy Awards ceremony was pushed back a single day in 1981 because of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The Awards First Televised

On March 19, 1953, the Academy Awards ceremony was telecast for the first time across the United States and Canada. Then 13 years later on April 18, 1966, the Academy Awards were broadcast in color for the first time. Both of these ceremonies were hosted by Bob Hope.

Plaster Oscars

Rather than the usual metal Oscar statuettes, the Academy Awards handed out plaster Oscars during World War II in support of the war effort. After the war, the plaster Oscars could be traded in for traditional metal ones.

11 Nominations, 0 Wins

In Oscar history, 2 films tied for the record of the most nominations without a single win. Both The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) received 11 Oscar nominations but won not a single Academy Award.

Sisterly Competition

Twice in Academy Awards history, 2 sisters have been nominated for the same category during the same year. For the 1941 Academy Awards, sisters Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) and Olivia de Havilland (Hold Back the Dawn) were both nominated for the Best Actress award. Joan Fontaine won the Oscar. Jealousy between the two sisters continued to escalate after this and the 2 have been estranged for decades. 

At the 1966 Academy Awards, a similar thing happened. Sisters Lynn Redgrave (Georgy Girl) and Vanessa Redgrave (Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment) were both nominated for the Best Actress award. However, this time, neither of the sisters won.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Academy Awards Interesting Facts." ThoughtCo, Sep. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/academy-awards-interesting-facts-1779239. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2017, September 13). Academy Awards Interesting Facts. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/academy-awards-interesting-facts-1779239 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Academy Awards Interesting Facts." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/academy-awards-interesting-facts-1779239 (accessed September 25, 2017).