The Oscar story

HOLLYWOOD: The golden guy known to the world as the Oscar, the real star of Academy Awards taking place on March 7, has become a

Hollywood icon over the past 82 years.

The venerable statuette, officially named the Academy Award of Merit, is the child of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was created in 1927 to promote films.

Initially made up of 36 members with actor Douglas Fairbanks as its first president, the newly

founded body created the golden trophy to honour performances by the industry’s leading actors, actresses and directors.

An art director from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, Cedric Gibbons, was selected to design the statuette — the figure of a knight standing on a reel of film, his hands gripping a sword.

All about the big O

• The first Academy Awards were held on May 16, 1929 at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. They consisted of a simple dinner banquet attended by around 270 guests. Fairbanks handed out the 15 statuettes in just 15 minutes.

• The early editions of the

statues were bronze, but during the World War II metals shortage, the trophies were made of plaster. Those were later redeemed for the now gold-plated ones.

• The trophy, standing 13.5 inches tall and weighing 3.85 kg, wasn’t always called an Oscar, but his form has not changed since his birth,

except when his pedestal was raised in 1945.

• One legend has it that Academy librarian and eventual executive director Margaret Herrick thought it resembled her uncle Oscar and her staff began referring to it as Oscar.

• Oscar-winner Bette Davis claimed she thought of the name because the nude statuette had a rear end that reminded her of the derriere of her husband Harmon Oscar Nelson.

• Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used the name in a 1934 column in referring to Katharine Hepburn’s first best actress win.

• Academy itself did not use the nickname officially until 1939.

• Carried initially by radio, the Academy Awards were first televised in 1953 in black and white, making the jump to colour in 1966.

• Watched by up to one billion television viewers in more than 150 countries, it has never been cancelled, though on rare occasion, the show was postponed.

• Ceremonies were delayed in 1938 because of heavy flooding in Los Angeles, in 1968 after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and in 1981 after the attempt on the life of one-time actor and then-president Ronald Reagan.