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Orson Welles' Oscar Sold For $862K

The Oscar that Orson Welles won for the screenplay for Citizen Kane was sold at auction tonight in Los Angeles for $861,542 to an undisclosed bidder, Nate D. Sanders Auctions reported. The seller also remained anonymous. Welles shared the 1941 Academy Award for best original screenplay with Herman J. Mankiewicz. The movie was nominated for nine Oscars including best picture and best actor and director for Welles. Welles’ and Mankiewicz’s was the only Oscar the movie won. Welles’ only other Oscar was an honorary statuette for the 1970 awards year “for superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures.”

Underbidder David Copperfield had been eager to acquire the statuette because Welles apparently was something of a magician himself. Copperfield already owns many props from the movie. It’s rare for an Oscar statuette to be sold because since 1950 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has stipulated that all recipients sign a contract giving the organization the right to repurchase the statuette for $1. For a long time the Oscar was lost but it resurfaced when a cinematographer who said Welles had given it to him as payment. Welles’ daughter Beatrice sued and won custody of the statuette. Then the Academy sued her when she tried to auction it in 2003. She won the right to dispense of the Oscar and sold it to a nonprofit that tried unsuccessfully to sell it auction. Sotheby’s also was unsuccessful when it tried to auction the golden guy in 2007 but failed to meet the undisclosed reserve price.

  1. Spielberg usually buys the auctioned academy award statuettes and donates them to the Academy. But he normally does this publicly, it is hard to believe he wouldn’t have got Orson Welles only Oscar.

  2. “because Welles apparently was something of a magician himself.”

    Apparently? Either you’re a young’n, or you never watched any of his appearances on The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, etc :)

  3. I’d bet Spielberg was involved since, if I’m remembering correctly, I believe he actually owns the original Rosebud sled from the movie, too.

    1. I think I recall seeing this so-called ‘Rosebud Sled’ burned into oblivion in the last reel of “Citizen Cane” Perhaps I am mis-remembering.

  4. I can just hear Orson now…

    A gold statue with just one name…Oscar. Ageless, faceless and cold to the touch, he is an unusual idol for a town that covets youth and superficial beauty. Yet in his small hands lay enclosed the keys to fame and fortune. Now, decades old, his lustre long faded, Oscar sits in an auctioneer’s window, like a forlorn puppy looking for a home. How easily are man’s endeavors reduced to but a few pieces of silver.

    1. …not so, the work itself, “Citizen Cane” will continue to be admired as a treasure for the ages. Mr. Welles’ work and endeavors will never be reduced to but a few pieces of silver.

  5. For some of us perhaps, Mr. Welles’ work will never be reduced to those ‘few pieces of silver’, but Hollywood has unfailingly judged all it’s talent by how much silver they can bring to the coffers. Mr. Welles never brought enough (some accounts say none), so his great talent was never given the freedom to bring what might have been many more ‘Kane’s’ (it’s with a K!) to life. The character assassination that took place during his lifetime is unfortunately the most widely accepted story of him, and he is largely considered to have been a talent that ‘burned out’ rather than one that was pushed aside. His later, equally brilliant work, done for pennies compared to what he had to work with on Kane, is mostly ignored or forgotten. All for the sake of a few pieces of silver.

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