Beverly Hills, Calif. -- The Oscar statuette earned by Frank Capra's 1942 documentary "Prelude to War," the first film in the United States Army Special Services' "Why We Fight" series, was returned to the to the U.S. Army in a ceremony Sept. 3rd at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study.
The statuette, numbered 827, is a duplicate of the orginial Oscar awarded to the Army in March 1943. The duplicate was requested by the Department of Defense in 1958 for a special exhibition. The Army Pictorial Center cared for the Oscar from 1958 until the center was closed in 1970.
The disposition of the statuette following the closure of the Center is unclear, but when Academy officials saw that Christie's auction house was offering the statuette for sale they notified the Army which asserted its claim on the Award. Christie's was pleased to see the statuette put back into the Army's care, according to an Academy press release.
Usually when a statuette is put up for auction, it's because the recipient has died and the surviving relatives have no emotional attachment to the award, according to Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "We believe the Army is alive and doing quite well" said Ganis, as he presented the statuette to Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, deputy chief of Public Affairs, who accepted for the Army.
Phillips then presented the statuette to Spec. Ashleigh Torres, an Army broadcast journalist who he said, "represents the legacy of Major Frank Capra, and the future of the Army."
The "Why We Fight" films, directed by then-Major Frank Capra, are widely recognized as the most effective of the many films produced by the armed services to educate Americans in general, and new servicemen in particular, about the nation's objectives in entering WWII. The original Oscar for "Prelude to War" remains in the care of the Capra family according to the Academy.