February 23, 2008 / 12:17 AM / 10 years ago

Oscar's first Thalberg award set for auction

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It takes producing a lot of movies -- and good ones -- to earn one of Oscar’s Irving G. Thalberg awards. But if you want to pay up to $200,000 you can buy one.

As the world’s top film honors given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences neared their Sunday start, Los Angeles-based Profiles in History announced plans to auction the first ever Thalberg award given to legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck in 1938.

Joseph Maddalena, chief executive of Profiles in History, which sells movie and other artifacts, said the award could fetch up between $150,000 and $200,000 because it is so rare.

Unlike the 25 or so Oscars given out annually, the academy picks winners for a Thalberg award only periodically.

“I‘m hoping, because of the significance, somebody buys it and donates it back to the academy,” Maddalena told Reuters.

The award goes to “creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production,” according to the academy’s Web site.

Thalberg was one of Hollywood’s luminaries whose career straddled the silent era and first talking films. He ran production at the old Universal Film Manufacturing Co. at age 20. A few years later he went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s film unit to work for Louis B. Mayer. He died in 1936 at age 37.

Zanuck, a legend in Hollywood, also was a top producer and studio executive whose career spanned five decades. It started in the 1920’s and included dramas like “How Green Was My Valley” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” In his life, he earned three Thalberg awards.

Maddalena said he obtained the trophy from a private collector who had bought it from Zanuck’s daughter, Darrilyn Zanuck. The award comes with a handwritten note on her personal stationery to establish its provenance.

Since 1950, the academy has required Oscar winners to give it a first right of refusal to buy back the coveted awards for $1 to keep them off the market.

Maddalena said the academy is aware he is selling Zanuck’s award, but he did not know if the group would bid for it.

Prestigious Oscars can fetch sums in the millions of dollars. The best film Academy Award for 1939’s “Gone with the Wind” was sold at auction in 1999 for $1.5 million.

In December last year, Orson Welles’ screenwriting Oscar for co-writing “Citizen Kane” went up at auction, but bidding fell short of the reserve prize. Auctioneer’s at Sotheby’s had expected to fetch between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb

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