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13 Fun Facts About the Academy Awards

From the very first winner to the famed streaker!

The most prestigious night in Hollywood goes to….The Academy Awards — and these facts about the Oscars are sure to get you excited for this year’s ceremony.

Standing 13.5 inches tall and weighing 8.5 pounds, the coveted statuette depicts a knight in an Art Deco style, holding a sword and standing on a reel of film with five spokes representing the original branches of The Academy: Actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians.

Halle Berry, Academy Awards, 2002
Halle Berry, Academy Awards, 2002Getty

The history behind the ceremony

The Oscars are presented annually during a live ceremony by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements. The first Academy Awards presentation was held on May 16, 1929 at a private dinner at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with about 270 people in attendance.

Contrast that with current viewership of around a billion across the globe, who tune in to see their favorite stars in chic fashion and expensive baubles, hoping their name is announced in order to bring home that Oscar.

Ke Huy Quan, Academy Awards, 2023
Ke Huy Quan, Academy Awards, 2023Getty

Where did that nickname come from?

Many stories abound on the naming of Oscar. The statuette’s title was officially the Academy Award of Merit, and Oscar was a nickname that has been around for decades with no clear definition of its origin.

The most bandied about and common attribute goes to Margaret Herrick, who worked as a librarian at the Academy and when she first saw the Oscar statue, she joked with her husband and said it looked like her Uncle Oscar.

 Sound mixers Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O'Connell and Andy Wright, winners of the Best Sound Mixing award for Hacksaw Ridge, Academy Awards, 2017
Sound mixers Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O’Connell and Andy Wright, winners of the Best Sound Mixing award for Hacksaw Ridge, Academy Awards, 2017Getty

Another Hollywood tale goes to Bette Davis, who claimed she named it Oscar in 1936 after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, as the statue’s rear end reminded her of him — But the term had been in use at least two years before and when later confronted with the dates, Davis relinquished her claim to the name. Beginning in 1939, the name Oscar was officially adopted by the Academy.

The hosts with the most

Since the Academy Awards ceremonies began in 1929, 73 different people have hosted or co-hosted the event. Some have hosted multiple times, but Bob Hope holds the hosting champ award, having done so 18 different times beginning in 1940.

Bob Hope, 1953
Bob Hope, 1953Getty

Over the years, Oscar hosts have included actors and actresses, musicians and comedians. And in 1958, Donald Duck via movie magic, co-hosted with Bob Hope, David Niven, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon and Rosalind Russell.

Besides the night’s glamour and glitz, there are also performances for nominated songs. This year’s performers include Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson singing “I’m Just Ken” or Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connel performing “What Was I Made For?,” both tunes from Barbie.

Mark Ronson and Ryan Gosling, 2024
Mark Ronson and Ryan Gosling, 2024Getty

Jon Batiste will be performing “It Never Went Away” from American Symphony while Becky G belts out “The Fire Inside” from Flamin’ Hot.

Get your Oscar ballot all set — The 96th Academy Awards hosted once again by Jimmy Kimmel will be broadcast on Sunday March 10. Here, take a look at some interesting facts about The Oscars. And the winner is…

13 Facts about The Oscars

1. Time crunch

Leonardo DiCaprio, Academy Awards, 2016
Leonardo DiCaprio, Academy Awards, 2016Getty

The first Oscars in 1929 lasted 15 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2002 ceremony lasted four hours and 23 minutes. In 2010, the Academy organizers announced winners had to make their acceptance speeches 45 seconds or less.

2. A hygienic tradition

Billy Crystal, Academy Awards, 2012
Billy Crystal, Academy Awards, 2012Mark Davis/WireImage

Billy Crystal hosted the event 9 times. The comedian isn’t a hygiene freak, but carries a toothbrush in his pocket as a tradition dating back to his childhood when he’d improvise Oscar speeches for his family using his toothbrush as a microphone.

3. What’s your number?

Oscar statues on display, 2010
Oscar statues on display, 2010Getty

In 1949, The academy started to number the Oscar statuettes, starting with number 501.

4. The first Academy Awards ceremony on TV

Cecil B. DeMille, Bob Hope and others at the Academy Awards, 1953
Cecil B. DeMille, Bob Hope and others at the Academy Awards, 1953Getty

The first televised Academy Awards was on March 19, 1953 and it was broadcast across the United States and Canada. Thirteen years later, on April 18, 1966, the Oscars were broadcast in color for the first time. Both of these ceremonies were hosted by Bob Hope.

5. Oscar squared: facts about the oscars

Oscar Hammerstein II, 1945
Oscar Hammerstein II, 1945Getty

The only Oscar to win an Oscar was Oscar Hammerstein II, who won for his song “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in the 1941 movie Lady Be Good.

6. Rated X: facts about the oscars

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy, 1969
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy, 1969Getty

While the Academy is a rather conservative group, the 1969 X-rated Midnight Cowboy won for Best Picture and remains the only X-rated movie to win an Oscar.

7. Honoring an icon: facts about the oscars

James Dean, 1955
James Dean, 1955Getty

Actor James Dean has been the only actor to be nominated twice after death for a Best Actor statuette; once for 1955’s East of Eden and again the following year for Giant.

8. A groundbreaking film

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in a scene from Gone With the Wind, 1939 facts about the oscars
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in a scene from Gone With the Wind, 1939Getty

The first movie filmed in color to win the Best Picture award was 1939’s Gone With The Wind.

9. A change of phrase: facts about the oscars

Jodie Foster, 1989  facts about the oscars
Jodie Foster, 1989 Getty

Up until the 61st Academy Awards held in 1989, the trademark phrase was, “And the winner is…” It was then changed to “And the Oscar goes to…” Not many people noticed the replaced phrase.

10. A historic Oscar moment

David Niven, 1958 facts about the oscars
David Niven, 1958Getty

At 1974’s Oscars, a man ran across the stage naked, flashing the peace sign while David Niven was on stage to introduce the Best Picture category. The streaker was seen fully, running across the stage behind Niven.

Thinking quickly, Niven remarked, “The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping and showing his shortcomings.” The audience howled with laughter and applauded Niven’s quick wit.

11. The Oscars during WWII: facts about the oscars

Paul Lucas, Jennifer Jones, Katina Paxinou and Charles Coburn, 1944 facts about the oscars
Paul Lucas, Jennifer Jones, Katina Paxinou and Charles Coburn, 1944Getty

During World War II, the Oscar was made from plaster instead of the usual metal, in support of the war effort. After the war, the plaster Oscars could be traded in for traditional metal ones, which almost all did.

12. Sibling rivalry: facts about the Oscars

Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave, 1976 facts about the oscars
Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave, 1976Getty

There are many instances of sibling rivalry in Hollywood and it has manifested itself at the Oscars as well. Joan Fontaine and sister, Olivia de Havilland, competed for the same Oscar in 1941 – Suspicion and Hold Back the Dawn respectively. Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave joined sibling rivalry years later. But Ethel and Lionel Barrymore are the only brother and sister to ever win Academy Awards for acting, albeit in different years. Lionel won for 1931’s A Free Soul and Ethel for 1944’s None But the Lonely Heart.

13. The first winner in history

Emil Jannings, 1930 facts about the oscars
Emil Jannings, 1930Getty

The first Best Actor awarded was Emil Jannings for his performances in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. He had to return to Europe before the ceremony, so the Academy agreed to give him the prize earlier; this made him the first Academy Award winner in history.

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