Oscar's big snub: Uggie the dog, a true "Artist"

Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:27pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He steals the show on the red carpet, his co-stars regard him as a solid actor, and his director believes he is an essential character in "The Artist."

But Uggie, the playful, loyal Jack Russell terrier who stars in the silent movie, was left out in the cold by Oscar organizers on Tuesday despite having won the hearts and minds of millions of movie-goers.

"He's been an amazing partner and a very kind and very good actor," Berenice Bejo told Reuters after winning a best supporting actress nod for her "Artist" role as the rising new star at the dawn of talkies.

With 10 Academy Award nominations, "The Artist" and its tale of a silent star whose career dives as talking pictures take over Hollywood, is seen as a front-runner for Oscar gold in February, thanks partly to the cute canine who goes from playing dead, to ultimately saving the day.

Despite a long list of previous film credits to his name, including "Water for Elephants", little Uggie, 10, never stood a chance of winning a nod in his own right from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

That's because more than 80 years ago, the Academy drafted rules that specifically exclude animals being nominated for Oscars, all because of the success of another superstar dog of the silent era, Rin Tin Tin.

Susan Orlean, author of "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend", says that Rin Tin Tin was so popular with movie audiences in the silent era that he almost won the very first best actor Oscar in 1929.

"The reporting that I did, indicated that Rin Tin Tin got most votes for best actor. But as much as he was admired and beloved, the Academy was trying to establish itself as a serious new awards program and they thought 'We can't give awards to animals. This will cause all sorts of embarrassment for us.' So the rules were then drafted so that no non-human could receive an Oscar," Orlean told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Uggie, the dog featured in "The Artist" is held next to the Golden Globe award the film won as best comedy or musical motion picture at the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, January 15, 2012. REUTERS/ Lucy Nicholson</p>