American Made: The Oscar Statuette
In late February/early March, celebrities and cinema professionals from around the globe meet in Hollywood, CA for the Academy Awards. The nominees all vie for a chance to have their name called and to walk on stage for their Oscar. While that small, gold statuette has been a staple in film making for nearly the last century, many have no clue the history of the trophy itself.
The Oscar was originally created in 1928 by artist George Stanley. The original statuette was cast of solid bronze and manufactured by the California Bronze Factory. This process would stay in place for nearly twenty years. The start of World War II made metals like brass hard to come by due to the war effort. Starting in 1944, the statuette was manufactured out of cast plaster and painted metallic gold.
Following the war, the Oscar was manufactured by Chicago based RS Owens. Over the years, changes were made to the composition and design of the statuette. During this time the statuette was cast out of a pewter alloy. The statuette was finished with an electroplated coat of 24-carat gold, polished and inspected by hand in the factory and shipped to their Hollywood destination.
In 2016, the Academy desired the statuette to return to its roots. They wanted the award to return to being cast in bronze and finished with a coat of 24-carat gold. Unfortunately, RS Owens did not have the ability to cast in bronze to the standard required. The Academy had to seek out a new company to manufacture the American icon. The search brought them to Rock Tavern, NY, home to Polich Tallix. Originally a fine art foundry, Polich Tallix was able to use modern technology to complete the redesign of the award. Using everything from 3D printing, to an advanced electroplating system, the Oscar is now manufactured in a way that would have been impossible 30 years ago.
The Academy Awards and the Oscar are an American tradition spanning more than 85 years. Manufacturing advances over that span have taken the award to new heights. Many say the gold statue would be impossible to replace. While many of the conventions of the year 1928 are long obsolete, the Oscar remains a steadfast reminder of the history of cinema.