Oscar Scandals: Gable's Statuette Bought in Auction and Returned to the Academy

In 1996, director Steven Spielberg returned Clark Gable's 1934 Oscar statuette for “It Happened One Night” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Spielberg anonymously purchased the statuette for $607,500 from an auction. The statuette will be displayed at the Academy's Center for Motion Picture Study.

In a statement, Spielberg said: “If not with the Clark Gable estate, I could think of no better sanctuary for Gable's only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy. The Oscar statuette is the most personal recognition of good work our industry can ever bestow, and it strikes me as a sad sign of our times that this icon could be confused with a commercial treasure.”

Arthur Hiller, the Academy's president, described Spielberg's act as one of “breathtaking generosity.”

The Academy's executive director Bruce Davis does not foresee being able to prevent the sale of Oscars awarded before 1949, when the Academy instituted a winners agreement that prevents the sale of the award. Said Davis: “We're realistic about the fact that there will always be a dispiriting minority of the people who inherit Oscars who find that their commercial instincts outweigh their sense of family history.”