In A Nutshell
The Academy Award is one of the most coveted awards in the world. Sure, a Pulitzer or a Nobel are a little more prestigious, but millions of people around the world tune in every year to watch actors receive the golden Oscar. However, during World War II, Oscar wasn’t gold at all. Due to a metal shortage, between 1942 and 1945 they were just paint and plaster.
The Whole Bushel
Think of a major award, and odds are that if you don’t immediately think of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, one of the first ones that pops into your head is the Academy Award. Oscar stands 34 centimeters (13.5 in) tall and has been handed out for more than 70 years. The statuette is famously gold, reflecting the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Of course from 1942 to 1945, the Oscar was a little less glamorous. That’s because of a little thing called World War II, which had the audacity to cause the manufacturing company to stop using gold-plated metal and go with a plaster replica painted to look like the real thing.
You see, during World War, II there was a shortage of precious metals, and the folks who hand out the Academy Awards decided that maybe letting the military monopolize those metals in order to defeat Hitler was more important than making a few trophies. After the war ended, the Academy decided to basically create an exchange program so that recipients could trade in their cheaper plastic Oscars for the real, 24-karat gold version.
The Academy was apparently pretty insistent that winners take part in this exchange, which is what makes it interesting and a little funny that an Australian producer named Ken G. Hall absolutely refused to return the plaster version. Hall had won an Oscar as a producer of a wartime documentary in 1943, and up until 1984 no one even realized he still had it. When the people at the Academy urged him to trade it in for the real thing, he steadfastly protested. Of course, considering it was the lone plaster Oscar still in existence, maybe he realized it was a whole lot more valuable than the high-falutin’ gold-plated version.