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What Were Oscar Statuettes Made Out of During WWII?

Updated May 17, 2024
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An Academy Award is arguably the most sought-after accolade for those working in the film industry. At 13.5 inches tall and 8.5 pounds, the Oscar statuette is made of gold-plated bronze. This wasn’t always the case, however. Due to a wartime metal shortage, Oscar statuettes were made of plaster for three years in the 1940s.

Oscar winners in this period received IOU notices from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, assuring them that they would be able to swap their plaster Oscars for the regular gold-plated bronze statuettes once the war came to an end.

Plaster made the prestigious awards quite fragile and susceptible to scratches. Actor Barry Fitzgerald, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1945 for the film Going My Way, found this out the hard way when he was practicing his golf swing and accidentally decapitated his Oscar statuette in the process.

The Oscar statuette wasn’t the only big change to occur during the Academy Awards from 1942 to 1945. Celebrities were asked to dress conservatively, while decorations and speeches took on a patriotic tone. When the war ended, glamour returned to the Academy Awards in the form of fashion and gold-plated bronze statuettes.

And the Oscar goes to:

  • Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman were among the Hollywood legends to receive a plaster Oscar statuette during World War II.

  • MGM art director Cedric Gibbons is credited with designing the first Oscar statuette (though the sculpting was done by George Stanley). The design was adopted by the board of directors and published on the cover of the Academy’s magazine in 1927.

  • The very first Academy Awards banquet took place on May 16, 1929. Since then, over 3,100 Oscar statuettes have been awarded.
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