[Ads-l] Antedating of "Oscar" (Discovered by Brazilian Film Scholar)

James Eric Lawson jel at NVENTURE.COM
Sun Feb 26 06:38:24 UTC 2023

Interdating of 'Oscar' (Academy Award statuette); OED 1934, 19 Mar; 
1933, 05 Dec, as detailed on ADS-L.

1933  *The Seattle Star* (Seattle, Washington) 15 Dec 16/2 
(newspapers.com)  It should have been over long before this, but to date 
“Oscar,” which is the players’ pet name for the statue, is without an owner.


See also these background references:

1973  Pierre Norman Sands *A historical study of the Academy of Motion 
Picture Arts and Sciences (1927-1947)* (Internet Archive) 91   Note: 
This adds “publicity director John LeRoy Johnston” to the list of 
candidates for the origin of 'Oscar'. See note 115, p 91.


1978  Roy Pickard *The Oscar movies from A-Z* (Internet Archive) 10 
Note: Pickard is cited by Fischer as support for the Herrick theory of 
'Oscar' origin. See Preface (p 10 in archives reader).


1988  Erika J. Fischer *The inauguration of “Oscar”* (Internet Archive) 
257   “The nickname ‘Oscar,’” Richard Shale states, "dates from the 
early 1930s’, and several people, including Margaret Herrick...Bette 
Davis...Sidney Skolsky, have claimed credit for the nickname.


1993  Anthony Holden *Behind the Oscar: the secret history of the 
Academy Awards* (Internet Archive) 83–84  It would be a few years before 
the statuette was christened “Oscar,” which turned out to be one of the 
most enduring and celebrated nicknames in the history of corporate 
logos. Bette Davis used to lay claim to this distinction. Upon winning 
her first statuette in 1935, she examined “the little gold-plated man in 
the palm of my hand”--"a Hollywood male and, of course, epicene"--and 
decided that his backside reminded her of that of her then husband, 
Harmon O. Nelson. “Since the O. in Harmon O. Nelson stood for Oscar, 
Oscar it has been ever since.” But Davis’s claim has been hotly disputed.
Though the Academy’s extensive archives offer no conclusive evidence, 
insiders prefer the story that Margaret Herrick, the organization’s 
first librarian (and subsequently its executive secretary), picked up a 
statuette on her first day at work in 1931 and mused that it reminded 
her of her uncle, Oscar Pierce. (Mr. Pierce, of Texas, was really 
Herrick’s second cousin, but he was old enough for her to have always 
called him “Uncle.”)
But the Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky also claimed that he was the 
first to use the word Oscar in 1933, irritated by Katharine Hepburn’s 
Best Actress award for *Morning Glory*...Searching for a name that would 
“erase the phony dignity,” Skolsky fastened on the popular vaudeville 
routine in which comics would josh the orchestra leader in the pit: 
“Will you have a cigar, Oscar?”
The Academy archives reverentially record that Skolsky’s column, 
supposedly the first official reference to the Academy Award as an 
“Oscar,” was datelined Palm Springs, California, March 18, 1934.


On 2/25/23 15:23, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> I should add that this citation occurred in the "Cinematters" column written by Relman Morin.
> Fred Shapiro
> ________________________________
> From: Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>
> Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2023 6:15 PM
> Subject: Antedating of "Oscar" (Discovered by Brazilian Film Scholar)
> Oscar (OED 1934)
> 1933 Los Angeles Evening Post-Record 5 Dec/ 4/2 (Newspapers.com)
> What's happened to the annual Academy banquet?  As a rule, the banquet and the awarding of "Oscar," the bronze statuette given for best performances, is all over long before this.
> NOTE:  I believe that this citation tends to nullify the theory that Sidney Skolsky coined "Oscar."  Skolsky in 1934 referred to "Oscar" as an already existing term in the film industry, and now we have proof of its use in 1933.  The citation was discovered by a Brazilian film scholar, Dr. Waldemar Dalenogare Neto.  It was brought to my attention by Barry Popik, who has previously performed important research on "Oscar."
> Fred Shapiro

James Eric Lawson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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