Oscars: Who Came Up With the Name "Oscar" and More About the Statuette's History (Video)


Plus past winners Whoopi Goldberg, Benicio Del Toro, Helen Mirren and others recall how amazing it is to get the nod.

Why are the Academy Awards called the Oscars? Who came up with the "Oscar" name to refer to the awards handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

Oscar historian Robert Osborne answers that question in a new video from the Academy that explores the history of Hollywood's most wanted golden man.

Osborne explains that there are three people who claim to have nicknamed the statuette "Oscar," something that happened around 1935, roughly the seventh or eighth year of the Academy Awards.

Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, who got tired of writing about "the gold statue of the academy," said he started calling it "Oscar" in his column after a vaudeville joke involving the name. The second person to take credit for the Oscar name was former Academy librarian and later executive director Margaret Herrick, who said she named it "Oscar" after an uncle of hers by the same name. The third person, Bette Davis, claims she named it "Oscar" because the rear end of the statue reminded her of her husband when he got out of the shower in the morning.

In terms of how the Academy decided to give out the statuette at its first ceremony in 1929, Osborne says there was talk of handing out a plaque or a scroll. MGM art director Cedric Gibbons ended up sketching what became the award, which was sculpted by George Stanley.

The Oscar is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds and features a knight, holding a crusader's sword, standing on a reel of film with five spokes, representing the original five branches of The Academy.

The video also features past winners Whoopi Goldberg, Benicio Del Toro, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda and Ben Kingsley talking about what it means to win an Oscar.

"We do all love a gold star," Mirren says. "It makes us feel proud, that we've achieved something."

Goldberg adds: "No matter how cool everyone says they are, everybody wants one. It's your moment and there aren't that many moments that people aspire to because everybody tries to act like it's not a big deal. It's a huge deal."

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