From its unique look to its funny nickname, the history of the Oscar statuette follows the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' attempts to honor those who achieved the highest recognition in the industry. Known around the world as a symbol of moviemaking excellence, the Oscar is officially known as the Academy Award of Merit.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences formed in 1927 and held a banquet in 1929 to honor those outstanding contributions to motion pictures, from directors to actors to costume designers. Founders of the Academy wished to create a statuette that symbolized the grandeur and pride they all felt about the awards. An art director employed by MGM named Cedric Gibbons designed the award and a local artist named George Stanley created a statuette of a human figure holding a sword and standing on a film reel. The first statuettes were 13 ½ inches tall; today's modern Oscars retain the same dimensions.
The first statues were given out at the Academy Awards banquet in 1929 and were made of gold-plated bronze. Throughout the decades, the materials that make up the Oscar statuettes have changed. In the 1930s, the base metal was changed to a pewter alloy with several different plating layers, finishing with gold. In the 1940s, the statuettes were made of plaster because of the metal shortage, but were restored to gold-plated metal after the war. Today's Oscar statuettes weigh 8 ½ pounds.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn't use the name "Oscar" to describe the statuette until 1939, however it was widely known by the nickname throughout the 1930s and both journalists and academy actors and directors were referencing the nickname in speeches and interviews. While there are several variations as to how the Academy Award of Merit received the nickname "Oscar," one story remains the most popular. Supposedly, Academy employee Margaret Herrick commented that her Uncle Oscar and the Academy Award of Merit strongly resembled each other.
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