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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 2 May 1905New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 3 May 1983Los Angeles, California, USA

Mini Bio (1)

The famous columnist Sidney Skolsky, who perhaps has the best claim to having invented the term "Oscar" for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Award of Merit (the official name of the Academy Award, which bore the inscription "First Award for Merit" up until the 1950s), was born in New York City in 1903. A graduate of New York University, he became a Broadway press agent, then graduated to the newspapers, becoming a Broadway columnist in 1929.

Skolsky's column was yclept "Times Square Tintypes" and offered typewriter-written caricatures (tintypes) of the leading lights of Broadway (those that didn't come powered by Con Edison). These "tintypes" were a staple of Skolsky's journalism career, and while he was never as powerful as Walter Winchell or as famous as Mark Hellinger, he did -- like Hellinger -- become a movie producer, though not as successful as his fellow New York scribe.

In 1932, Skolsky left the Big Town (a.k.a. The Big Apple) for Lotus Land (a.k.a. Tinseltown or LA-LA Land for those seeking to make an eponym out of the name of the City of Angels). He made Schwabb's drugstore famous in his nationally syndicated gossip column, as that was his headquarters, where he worked on his column gathering the skinny on Hollywood. He became one of the premier entertainment reporters of his time, dishing scoops of celebrity corn and confabulations.

His column and stories appeared in the flagship New York Post on the East Coast and in the Los Angeles Herald on the Left, and was carried by many other newspapers. It was perhaps inevitable, being in such close proximity to the Dream Machine, that Skolsky would be called on to spin some tales of his own for the silver screen. He co-wrote the story for The Daring Young Man (1935) for fellow writer Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox, and produced The Jolson Story (1946) for Harry Cohn's Columbia and The Eddie Cantor Story (1953) for the brothers Warner. He also made cameo appearances as himself in several films, including Billy Wilder's classic Hollywood tale Sunset Blvd. (1950) and Robert Aldrich's unspeakable take on the Greta Garbo mystique, The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), which featured Kim Novak spouting gibberish clad only in a brassiere and a German accent.

In addition to his movie appearances, Skolsky also worked on radio and television, helming "Sidney Skolsky's Hollywood." He also contributed to the TV series Hollywood: The Golden Years (1961), produced by David L. Wolper.

He played a role in Marilyn Monroe's rise from bit-part player to star in the early 1950s. Upon meeting Skolsky in 1950, Monroe confessed that Jean Harlow had been her role model her entire life, Skolsky, who had known Harlow, decided to help Monroe become a star, and for several years he mentioned her in his column and used his pull with the studios to get her better roles. She made it, and the pair planned to make a Harlow movie together.

Skolsky's greatest claim to fame arguably is his contribution of the nickname "Oscar" to the Academy Award. Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not attribute the nickname to a specific person (longtime Academy librarian Margaret Herrick was one of the claimants to originating the moniker), it does cite Skolsky's use of the term in a 1934 column tagging the name "Oscar" to Katharine Hepburn's first First Award for Merit from the Academy. The Academy stops short of admitting that this was the first instance where the Award was called "Oscar" in print, which it was. On his part, Skolksy claimed that his use of the term referenced an old vaudeville joke that began, "Will you have a cigar, Oscar?" The gist of the joke was that the Academy's First Award for Merit was little better than a tchotchke of dubious value.

Skolsky published his memoirs in 1975, using his famous closing line from his columns, "Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood," as the title for his autobiography. He died in 1982, and his widow donated his papers to the Academy Library, which is named after fellow Oscar "namer" Margaret Herrick.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trivia (4)

Father of Steffi Sidney and Nina Marsh.
Is portrayed by Michael Laskin in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996)
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 742-743. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
It's widely accepted that Skolsky coined the term "beefcake.".

Personal Quotes (1)

[on Richard Burton, 1952] He is astonished by the salary he now commands. He carries a copy of his movie contract around in his pocket. He still can't believe the figures are true after his years of poverty.

Salary (1)

Sunset Blvd. (1950) $2,000

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