Film critic special guest at Mathontes Club’s ‘Oscar Party’

Life-sized, free-standing cutouts of Hollywood icons, members portraying movie stars and characters from films, oversized Oscars holding arrangements of flowers and “swag bags” filled with special treats were all part of the “Oscar Party” as the Mathontes Club continued its yearlong study, “Hooray for Hollywood.”

The meeting was held recently at the Pine Bluff Country Club.

Renee Shapiro of Little Rock was a special guest. The Pine Bluff native is the first broadcast film critic in the state and co-hosts “Saturday Daybreak,” which is seen on television station KATV (Channel 7) of Pine Bluff and Little Rock. She shared a variety of her experiences with movie stars and offered advice on selecting this year’s Academy Awards winners.

Each guest was given an Oscar ballot and encouraged to make her best guess as to the Academy Award winners.

Catherine Anne Atkinson shared a history of the Oscars. The first Academy Awards first were given on May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Los Angeles. Fifteen Oscars were given out, and the ceremony took 15 minutes. Tickets cost $5 each.

The model for the original Oscar statuette in 1928 was Emilio Fernandez, a Mexican film director. It is said that he posed nude to model for the statuette, which was sculpted by George Stanley. The statuettes are about a foot tall and weigh 8 ½ pounds. There has only been a minor adjustment to the base from the original design.

The origin of the name Oscar is disputed. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. One of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a Time magazine article about the 1934 sixth Academy Awards.

Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. Another claimed origin is that the Academy’s executive secretary, Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to its reminding her of her “Uncle Oscar,” a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce. Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick’s naming and seized the name in his byline, “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar’.” The trophy was officially dubbed the “Oscar” in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Since 1950, neither winners nor their heirs may sell an Oscar without first offering it back to the Academy for $1. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statuette. Although some Oscar sales transactions have been successful, some buyers have subsequently returned the statuettes to the Academy, which keeps them in its treasury.

Literary agent Swifty Lazar is credited with hosting the first “Oscar Party” on April 16, 1964. He continued hosting the event until his death in 1993. After his death, Vanity Fair took on this party.

In keeping with the theme, each guest received a solid chocolate replica of the Oscar statue dipped in edible gold glitter; a mini picture frame adorned with Swarovski crystals holding a photo of a movie star; and a “swag bag” filled with a variety of goodies, including jewelry, perfume, sunglasses and mirrors.

Dessert crepes on crystal plates set atop gold chargers were served with champagne. Among the table decorations were oversized replicas of the Oscar statuette holding arrangements of hydrangeas, stargazer lilies, roses and tulips.

The hostesses were Susan Brown, Trudy Pascale, Norma Roberts and Harra Windsor. The program was arranged by Atkinson and Jody Henslee.

During the business session, Lela Murray was welcomed as a new member.

DiAnn Jones, club president, appointed Sue Smith as chairman of the nominating committee. Jones also announced that Sue Trulock and Susan Railsback were preparing a history of the club.