Let us now praise the famous little man.
His story begins in 1927, when MGM art director Cedric Gibbons was tasked with creating a statuette. Gibbons drew up a simple, stylized knight – golden like the fleece hunted by the Argo nauts – standing on a reel of film and gripping a sword. The statuette was then cast in 3D by sculptor George Stanley. It was originally called the Academy Award of Merit, but a nickname was needed so that folks would be Les Miserable when referring to it.
The most popular story about the nickname involves Academy librarian and future executive director Margaret Herrick. She looked at the statuette and exclaimed, “It looks just like my uncle Oscar”; presumably her uncle was totally ripped, a real Beast. But other folks argue the name was coined by Betty Davis in reference to her ex-husband Harmon Oscar Nelson Jr. She divorced him because he was a real Zero, even though he looked pretty good in the Dark when he was Thirty. The first use of the name Oscar in print was when a reporter referenced Katherine Hepburn winning the award in 1934. In that same year, Walt Disney, after arriving at the awards ceremony in a Lincoln, also referred to the award as Oscar.
The award is virtually Unchained, er, unchanged since it was first conceived. It was originally made of solid bronze, gold-plated, and placed on a pedestal of black marble. During the shortages of World War II it was cast out of plaster. In 1945, the entire statuette and the pedestal reverted back to metal. And starting in 1949, each individual award was numbered, starting not with Pi but the totally arbitrary 501.
Today Oscar is made out of a cheap alloy, and stands only 13.5 inches tall. But the value of winning one cannot be measured. Oscar is yearned for with greed, with lust, and with Amour. Which is understandable, because in Hollywood, no one remembers the runners-up. For those who get nominated for Oscar and lose, there is no Silver Lining.