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On Sunday, movie stars will gather in all their finery at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the 90th Academy Awards, Hollywood’s annual celebration of itself.

Those of us who haven’t been invited to the event, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, needn’t worry. We can have our own private glimpse of the awards by stopping by Mugar Memorial Library, where four Oscars are on display. Those Oscars represent just a fragment of the Academy Award–related ephemera contained in the collections of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center (HGARC).

Oscar items from the Gotleib Archival Center.

Among the numerous Academy Award–related objects in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center collections is the honorary Oscar awarded to Lauren Bacall in 2009. Photo by Cydney Scott

The center itself, on the fifth floor of Mugar, includes a trove of letters, screenplays, photographs, and personal items from 36 Academy Award winners, making it one of the country’s largest repositories of memorabilia of movie stars and other Hollywood celebrities. Many of those items, along with the aforementioned Oscars, are now on display on Mugar’s first floor.

There is, for example, a ticket stub belonging to actor-comedian Robin Williams from his appearance at the 1989 Oscar ceremony, one of the years he served as host. Williams went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1998 for his role as a sympathetic therapist in Good Will Hunting. It was Williams’ fourth and final Oscar nomination, and his only win.

Oscar winners Robin Williams, Michael Douglas, Billy Crystal, Jack Nicholson, and Penny Marshall in a photo from a collection of Academy Awards history housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
Oscar winner Michael Douglas' handwritten notes for his Best Actor acceptance speech from a collection of Academy Awards history housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.Oscar winner Robin Williams' handwritten notes from hosting the 1989 Oscars, part of a collection of Academy Awards history housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

Top: Robin Williams (right) with his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting and friends Michael Douglas (left), Billy Crystal (third from left), Jack Nicholson (fourth from left), and Penny Marshall (fifth from left). Bottom left: Michael Douglas' handwritten notes for his Best Actor acceptance speech for 1987's Wall Street, the official envelope and card naming him the winner, and his ticket to the ceremony. Bottom right: Robin Williams' handwritten notes made in conjunction with his hosting of the Oscars in 1989.

The center also holds a draft of actor Forest Whitaker’s script for The Last King of Scotland, the film that earned Whitaker the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Forest Whitaker with his 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor

Among the Oscar winners whose collections are housed at the Gotlieb Center is Forest Whitaker, here with his Best Actor award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Then there is the HGARC’s Bette Davis collection. The Lowell, Mass., native, who racked up an impressive 11 Oscar nominations over a lifetime, won twice for Best Actress—for Dangerous in 1936 and Jezebel in 1939.

Photos from from the personal scrapbook of actress Bette Davis, part of a collection showcasing Oscar winners and Academy Awards history housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

In the HGARC’s Bette Davis collection are a photo of her with her first Best Actress Oscar, for 1935’s Dangerous, some of the certificates documenting her nine Academy Award nominations, and a photo of her with her second Best Actress Oscar, for 1938’s Jezebel, Fay Bainter, with her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Jezebel, and the film’s producer, Jack Warner.

But the star attraction is easily the center’s four Oscars, those much-coveted 13.5-inch-tall gold-plated statuettes that were first handed out at a small private dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in May 1929.

Among the four is the Best Actor award given to Sir Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison in 1964 for his performance in the musical My Fair Lady. Harrison reportedly claimed that when he sang “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” he was thinking about his third wife, Kay Kendall, who had died from leukemia five years earlier. He is one of the few actors who have been awarded an Oscar for a musical role.

Photo of Oscar winners Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews at the 1965 Academy Awards.

The Gotlieb’s Rex Harrison’s collection includes a photo of the actor with Julie Andrews at the 1965 Academy Awards. Harrison won that year’s Best Actor Oscar for My Fair Lady and Andrews won Best Actress for Mary Poppins.

The gold on Robert Carson’s Oscar appears to be worn thin from handling. The screenwriter shared the award for Best Writing, Original Story, for 1937’s A Star Is Born with director William A. Wellman. Carson was also nominated that year in the Best Writing, Screenplay, category for the same film, along with fellow New Yorker contributor Dorothy Parker and her husband, Alan Campbell, but they lost to The Life of Emile Zola. A Star Is Born was remade in 1954, in a musical version starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and again in 1976, with Barbra Streisand and singer-actor Kris Kristofferson as the leads.

Legendary dancer and actor Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris) was nominated for Best Actor for Anchors Aweigh in 1946, but lost to Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend). Six years later, however, Kelly received an honorary Oscar in “appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director, and dancer, and specifically, for his brilliant achievement in the art of choreography on film.”

Ticket for the 1999 Academy Awards Board of Governors Ball donated by Geena Davis (CFA'79).

From the HGARC’s Geena Davis (CFA’79, Hon.’99) collection: Davis’ ticket to the 1999 Academy Awards Governors Ball and an undated photo of Davis, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1989 for her work in The Accidental Tourist.

Myrna Loy, the legendary film star of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s (The Thin Man, The Best Years of Our Lives, Cheaper by the Dozen), was never nominated for an Oscar, despite appearing in more than 100 films, but in 1991, at age 86, she was presented with an honorary Oscar in recognition of her life’s work onscreen an off, including her service in the Red Cross during World War II.

The fifth Oscar in the Gotlieb archives, and the only one not on public display, was a posthumous gift from actor Lauren Bacall. It arrived on the desk of HGARC director Vita Paladino (MET’79, SSW’93) in a brown box one day several weeks after Bacall died in 2014.

The statue, awarded to Bacall in 2009, was “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures,” starting with her 1944 screen debut with future husband Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not. She starred in such classics as The Big Sleep, Key Largo, and Murder on the Orient Express.

Bacall had been nominated only once for an Oscar, for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in the 1997 film The Mirror Has Two Faces. Despite her front-runner status that year, she lost to Juliette Binoche in The English Patient.

Upon receiving the lifetime achievement Oscar, Bacall held it up over her head, let out a hoot, and proclaimed, “A man at last!”

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at mwj@bu.edu.

Read other stories in our “Capturing History” series here.

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