Saturday, March 2, 2024

Winner On Display: Public Places To Find Real Oscars

When Oscar winners get their trophy, they sign that contract which says they will not sell their Oscar to anyone except back to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences with the offer of $1. Understandably, the Academy does not want their fancy trophy being found on eBay or auctioned off to random buyers. They want it kept in the hands of their owners and estates. But the contract does not say winners can’t donate their trophy to a museum when they die. Numerous museums around the world have in their possession, one of these Oscars courtesy of the winner’s own donation to that location and the public can get close to touching the gold, but still can’t have a hand on it. 


Emil Jannings – 1927/28 Best Actor

The inaugural Oscar win went to the German-born Jannings for his performances in The Last Command and The Way Of All Flesh. Jannings returned to Germany and showed his Oscar to Allied forces after World War II as proof of his time in America, but his career ended because of his Nazi associations. When the Museum of Film and Television in Berlin opened in 2000, Jannings’ Oscar was and remains part of the museum’s main displays. The museum features an extensive history of German film dating back to the beginning, as well as from other actors who went to Hollywood in the 1920s, the career of Marlene Dietrich from her own donated collection, and even from the Nazi era which Jannings was part of.


Katharine Hepburn – All Four Best Actress Oscars (‘33, ‘67, ‘68, ‘81)

Hepburn never attended the Oscars because of her dislike of major awards, but did accept them. Due to her performances in Morning Glory, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, The Lion In Winter, and On Golden Pond, she holds the record for most wins by an individual actor in any category. In 2009, Hepburn’s estate donated all four trophies to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. The gallery features images of many famous Americans from all areas of society and Hepburn and her Oscars are part of the 20th century collection.


Vivien Leigh – 1951 Best Actress

Leigh won two Oscars, the first being for her performance in Gone With The Wind. But it is her second Oscar for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire that is on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It’s one of two Oscars they have; the other being Paul Scofield’s Oscar for Best Actor which he rightfully won for A Man Of All Seasons. With 2.2 million objects on display, the Victoria & Albert Museum is the largest in the world featuring applied and decorative arts with features from all over the world from the past 5000 years.


Shelley Winters – 1959 Best Supporting Actress

Winters won for her performance in The Diary Of Anne Frank and stated she would donate her award to the Anne Frank House and Museum. She would fulfill that promise in 1975 and the trophy sits in the lobby after going through the hidden annex in a bulletproof glass. I’ve actually seen it, putting my eyes within inches of the trophy, recognizing that it will be as close as I will ever get to holding an Oscar. It’s quite a cool sight after going through the real-life setting of Anne Frank’s hiding place within the center of Amsterdam.


Rex Harrison – 1964 Best Actor 

Harrison won for his role in My Fair Lady, one of eight Oscars the film won, including Best Picture. Today, his Oscar, as well as Gene Kelly’s honorary Oscar, are on display at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in the Mugar Memorial Library in Boston. The center features collections of personal papers and original writings of many artists, actors, and writers; including Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Isaac Asimov, Adele Astaire (sister of Fred), and more. It also has thousands of rare books deep into American history, politics, journalism, and international affairs. 


Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man)

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