The Oscar won by Orson Welles for the original screenplay of Citizen Kane movie, was auctioned for $861,542 on Tuesday, at auction in Los Angeles. The award, sold and bought anonymously at Nate D. Sanders Auctions, was awarded to Welles at the 1941 Academy Awards for his groundbreaking debut feature, which he also directed and starred in.
The Oscar, awarded in the Best Original Screenplay category, was one of nine awards the film was nominated for. Incidentally, this was the only award it actually won. The award was particularly significant because it was the only Welles-produced film that ever won an Oscar and it was also Welles’ directorial debut.
The statuette, 12 inches tall and weighing 7 pounds 5 ounces, has a dramatic history of its own. The filmmaker lost the statuette, but it resurfaced nine years after his 1985 death when it was put up for auction by a cinematographer Gary Graver, who claimed to have been given it by Welles as a form of payment. Welles’s daughter Beatrice retrieved the Oscar after a series of legal challenges. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to stop her from auctioning the award in 2003, but a judge ruled that Welles never signed the Academy’s agreement not to sell the statuette. The gold statue last went up for auction in 2007, but failed to meet its undisclosed reserve price.
Auction house owner Nate D. Sanders says, This is a testament to the popularity of Orson Welles and his magnum opus Citizen Kane. I’m proud to have represented this fantastic award to the cinema collecting community.
David Copperfield, who was outbid in the auction, said he admired Welles not only for his cinematic successes, but because he, too, was a magician – Welles hosted Copperfield’s first television special.
Though the academy was successful in blocking the sale of two early Oscars belonging to Mary Pickford, several other pre-1950s trophies have also been sold at auction (since 1950 the Academy has insisted that all winners sign a contract giving the body the right to buy back the statuette for a dollar). For instance, in 1999, Michael Jackson paid $1.5 million to acquire the best picture Oscar awarded to the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.