The Oscars: word trivia

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Words aren’t something that spring to mind when we think of the Oscars: maybe gowns, bling, best performances, best direction and best pics. But there are a lot of interesting words going on there too: in the speeches, and in the movies themselves. For example: Who stole the show at the Oscars in 1999 when one of the winners declared that “I would like to be Jupiter. And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everyone”? Who said the immortal words “Frankly, my dear, I dont’ give a damn”? And perhaps more to the point, who wrote those words? Who has received the most nominations for best screenplay writer? Who gave the shortest Oscar acceptance speech? And has anyone named Oscar ever won an Oscar?

Answers to these and other Oscar word trivia questions are below. And as for Sunday, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night…”

Speeches:

  • The record for shortest speech is Patty Duke, accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress in The Miracle Worker. She said simply, “Thank you.”
  • The longest speech in Oscar history was given by Greer Garson, accepting the Best Actress award for her role in Mrs Miniver in 1942. Garson rabbited on for nearly seven minutes.
  • There is now a 45-second limit imposed on all acceptance speeches. Anyone rambling on beyond the 3/4-of-a-minute mark is played off by the orchestra.
  • Some other short Oscar speeches:
    – William Holden: 1954, Best Actor, Stalag 17: “Thank you. Thank you.”
    – Gloria Grahame: 1953, Best Supporting Actress, The Bad and the Beautiful: “Thank you very much.”
    – Alfred Hitchcock: 1968, Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: “Thank you…” … And after a short pause … “…very much indeed.”
  • According to Bob Kaylor, Oscar speeches are getting longer. From 1960 to 1969, for example, the average speech length was 44 seconds for men and 39 seconds for women. Now the speeches have stretched to an average of 1 minute 57 seconds for men and 1 minute 56 seconds for women. (Which, if true, suggests that the orchestra gets to play for more than a minute while shooing off the average acceptance speech.)

Memorable Oscar speech moments:

  • “It has been a long journey to this moment.” — Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor, for his role in Lilies of the Field, 1964
  • “What a thrill. You know you’ve entered new territory when you realize that your outfit cost more than your film.” — Jessica Yu, 1997
  • “I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once. I think I’ll do it again.” — Jane Wyman, accepting an Oscar for her role as a mute character in Johnny Belinda, 1949
  • “I was lucky Mozart wasn’t eligible this year.” — Maurice Jarre, accepting Best Score for Passage to India, in the same year that Amadeus won Best Picture, 1985
  • “I am not able to express all my gratitude because now, my body is in tumult because it is a colossal moment of joy. … I would like to be Jupiter. And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everyone.” — Roberto Benigni, Best Actor, Life Is Beautiful, 1999
  • “Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.’ ” — Robin Williams, Best Supporting Actor, Good Will Hunting, 1998
  • “I’ve loved being hated by you.” — Louise Fletcher, winning the Oscar for best supporting actress in her role as cruel Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975
  • “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” — Sally Field, Best Actress, Places in the Heart, 1984

Screenwriters:

  • Most nominated screenplay writers: Woody Allen, with 16 screenplay nominations and three wins, and Billy Wilder, with twelve nods and three wins.
  • Five writers have been awarded three screenwriting Oscars apiece: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, and Paddy Chayefsky.
  • Most writers on one movie nominated for best screenplay: Toy Story (1995), for Best Original Screenplay, had seven screenwriters named
  • Most writers on one movie winning a screenplay Oscar: three films each had four screenwriters named:
    Pygmalion (1938) (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Screenplay)
    Mrs. Miniver (1942) (Best Screenplay)
    Pillow Talk (1959) (Best Story and Screenplay)
  • Youngest: the youngest winner of a Best Screenplay Oscar: Ben Affleck, at the age of 25 for Good Will Hunting; he co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Damon (aged 27 at the time of their award).
  • Oldest: Woody Allen is the oldest winner of Best Screenplay award, at age 76 for Midnight in Paris, 2011
  • Since the advent of “talkies”, three actors have won an Academy Award without speaking a word of dialogue: Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (1948), John Mills in Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and Holly Hunter in The Pianist (1993). (Deaf actress Marlee Matlin vocalized in 1986’s Children of a Lesser God. Patty Duke spoke one word in 1962’s The Miracle Worker. And Jean Dujardin spoke two words in 2012’s The Artist.)
  • The 34-minute French film The Red Balloon (1956) won best original screenplay with virtually no dialogue.
  • The first posthumous Oscar winner was screenwriter Sidney Howard for Gone With the Wind (1939).

FilmSite.org has a full list of Oscar-winning screenwriters.

 

The name Oscar:

  • According to legend, the name ‘Oscar’ was given to the statuettes by Margaret Herrick, the Academy’s executive secretary in 1931. The statuette apparently looked like her “Uncle Oscar”, a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson.
  • The only Oscar ever to win an Oscar was Oscar Hammerstein II (for Best Song in 1941, 1945).

 

Memorable movie quotes:

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind;
written by Sidney Howard, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel; won Best Adapted Screenplay

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz;
written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allen Woolf, based on L. Frank Baum’s novel

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Rick Blaine, Casablanca;
written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and Casey Robinson (uncredited) based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’s; won Best Writing, Screenplay

“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard;
written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D. M. Marshman, Jr.; won for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay

“May the force be with you.”
Han Solo, Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope;
written by George Lucas, nominated for Best Original Screenplay

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Margo Channing, All About Eve;
written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on Mary Orr’s novel

“Play it, Sam.”
Rick Blaine, Casablanca;
written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and Casey Robinson (uncredited) based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’swon Best Writing, Screenplay

“I’ll have what she’s having.”
Customer, When Harry Met Sally;
written by Nora Ephron; nominated for Best Original Screenplay

“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”
Charlotte Vale, Now, Voyager*;
written by Casey Robinson, based on the book by Olive Higgins Prouty

“Houston, we have a problem.”
Jim Lovell, Apollo 13;
written by William Broyles, Jr. and Al Reinert, adapted from the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger; nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay

“We’ll always have Paris.”
Rick Blaine, Casablanca;
written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and Casey Robinson (uncredited) based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’swon Best Writing, Screenplay

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Rick Blaine, Casablanca;
written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and Casey Robinson (uncredited) based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’swon Best Writing, Screenplay

“I’m the king of the world!”
Jack Dawson, Titanic; 
written by James Cameron

“After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind; 
written by Sidney Howard, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel; won Best Adapted Screenplay

 

*  Prouty took the title of her book from the poem “The Untold Want” by Walt Whitman:

The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

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