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The truth of why the Oscars are called that


A book by the former executive director of the Hollywood Academy ends an old controversy: the merit went to a secretary who guarded the trophies at the first galas

It is not its official name, but it is the popular one.

The Oscar statuette is actually called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award.

The name of the most coveted trophy in cinema was added years after its first delivery, on May 16, 1929, at the Roosevelt Hotel, just one block from the Dolby Theater, where the gala is currently held.

Of course, the Hollywood Academy has it registered.

The nickname, the official name, the silhouette, the statuette, everything... Business is business.

But, if they are not called Oscar, where does that nickname come from?

Well, from a “tall and upright” Norwegian sailor.

A book about the first half century of the institution's life, to be published in the fall in the US, picks up this story and points to Eleanore Lilleberg, a worker at the Academy at the dawn of the trophies,

More information

Michael J. Fox, Diane Warren, Peter Weir and Euzhan Palcy will receive the honorary Oscars

Until now, the theory was accepted that Margaret Herrick was the one who baptized the award (which, obviously, is not solid gold, but britannium - an alloy of copper, tin and antimony - with a gold plating).

In 1931, Herrick — then Margaret Gledhill by her first marriage — entered the Academy library, and on her opening day she came across a statuette, to which she said: “It reminds me of my uncle Oscar. ”.

According to the 1947/1948 Academy of Hollywood almanac, a journalist heard the joke and published it the next day.

As in

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,

legend was printed.

In 1943, Herrick became executive director of the Academy, and was the first to negotiate with a television network to broadcast the gala live in 1953, a fact that gave the institution financial independence, which until then subsisted from the membership fees, and expanded its educational programs and cultural activities.

Margaret Herrick, librarian and first female CEO of the Hollywood Academy.

However, in the book

The Academy and the Award (The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences),

which will go on sale on October 11, Bruce Davis debunks the story.

And Davis knows what he's talking about: For 22 years, until he retired in 2011, he was the Academy's executive director.

In other words, he has had access to the files, which he has been doing since he left office.

Davis is not just anyone: it occurred to him some time ago to invest the remainder of the money that the institution kept in the museum that has now become the pride of the Academy.

And according to the

Deadline website,

which has had access to the 521-page volume focused on the first 50 years of the awards' journey, Davis has successfully delved into files and newspaper archives.

To corroborate Herrick's story, she found a

Los Angeles Examiner

report from 1938 where Herrick explains another version, claiming that she used to joke with her first husband, Donald Gledhill, with the catchphrase: “How's your uncle Oscar? ?”.

First distorting element.

Bruce Davis, at an academy event in November 2010. Amanda Edwards (Getty Images)

The matter becomes entangled, because Davis compared it to the memoirs of the columnist Sidney Skolsky (

Don't Get Me Wrong—I Love Hollywood)

who in 1970 recounted that under the pressure of the closure in 1934 he was the first to use that nickname in homage to a phrase from vaudeville actors, who used to address the conductor with: "Will you have a cigar, Óscar?".

Therefore, he took credit.

However, on March 16, 1934, in the

New York Daily News

, Skolsky himself wrote: "Among the profession, statuettes are called Oscars."

Which knocks down Skolsky's theory, which had already annulled Herrick's.

And there was always a third who wanted to point out the finding: the actress Bette Davis.

The interpreter, who in January 1941 became the first woman to preside over the Hollywood Academy, a position she resigned a few months after confronting the board of directors, recounted in her memoirs

The Lonely Life,

published in 1962, that she was she who launched the occurrence.

In 1936, with her first Oscar in hand for


Bette Davis

She said —always according to her autobiography— that from the back she looked like the image of her husband at the time, Harmon Oscar Nelson, and that is why the statuette had begun to be described as such.

When the actress was stripped of her colors —in 1934, two years earlier, Oscar was already her common name—, she retracted it.

Bette Davis, in 1936, with her Oscar for 'Dangerous' in hand.

So Bruce Davis continued to investigate.

And he found it digging through the press.

The Oscars were baptized by Eleanore Lilleberg, secretary and assistant at the beginning of the Academy.

She was in charge of guarding the awards in the minutes before the ceremonies of the first years of the institution's life.

It was known that Lilleberg was probably the creator of the nickname, due to previous investigations.

Although not the reason.

In a small museum in Green Valley (California) dedicated to her and her brother Einar, a gemologist, Davis found his unfinished memoirs, where Einar explained that it was Eleanore who named them Oscar, after a veteran of the Norwegian army - a country of origin of the Lilleberg family—who both had met in Chicago and who, like the award, “was tall and straight”.

Interviews with Lilleberg's colleagues in newspapers from 1944 confirm the story.

And so it appears in Davis's book, which promises to reveal more Oscar secrets.

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2022-07-05

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