The Academy Award statuette won by Joseph C. Wright for Best Color Art Direction for 1942’s My Gal Sal sold at auction last night in Rhode Island for $79,200, including purchaser’s premium. The Oscar, put up for auction by one of Wright’s heirs, fetched more than twice its evaluated worth of $5,000 to $30,000.
In 1950, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences mandated that all Oscar statues being awarded going forward could not be sold be the award winner or their heirs without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for the nominal sum of $1.00. The rule doesn’t apply to statuettes awarded pre-1950 and the last several years have seen the Best Picture Oscar for Gone With The Wind (1939) fetching $1.5 million at auction while its star Vivien Leigh’s Best Actress statue went for $550,000.00. In 2012, Michael Curtiz’s Oscar for directing Casablanca sold for $2 million.
Due to the Academy’s strictures on selling Oscars, less than 200 have come up for auction over the decades.
The 1942 Academy Awards ceremony was a good night for Wright, as he also claimed the Oscar for Best Black And White Art Direction for This Above All. Over his career he would receive another 10 Academy Award nominations.
The Oscar was purchased by an anonymous buyer from California. Director Steven Spielberg has previously shelled out six-figures for pre-1950 Oscar statues awarded to Clark Gable and Bette Davis in order to donate them back to the Academy in perpetuity. He also lives in California. Just saying.