Oscar Winners Can't Sell Their Awards—Except For One Actor, Who Did

Harold Russell lost both hands in WW2, then played an actor who did the same.
Oscar Winners Can't Sell Their Awards—Except For One Actor, Who Did

In 1944, World War II was still very much still going on, but many soldiers had already returned home and were adapting to life as veterans. Samuel Goldwyn Productions wanted to make a film about this shift back to civilian life, an epic called The Best Years of Our Lives

For the part of Homer Parrish, who loses both his hands in the war, director William Wyler thought he had the perfect man: Harold Russell. Russell was not an actor. But he had appeared in a documentary about veterans, where he spoke about his own experience of really losing his hands, which he'd now replaced with hooks. 

The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge hit, the highest-grossing film of the entire 1940s. It was also nominated for a bunch of Oscars, including one for Russel's performance. The Academy figured he wasn't actually going to win that award, so they set up a special section of the show where they gave him an honorary award for ''bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans."

Sure, that must have been an honor. However, even the organizers of the Oscars don't know the results in advance, because Russell then went on to win the actual Best Supporting Actor award. The Best Years of Our Lives won a bunch of other awards that night too, including Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. 

Russell had two Academy Awards for the same acting gig—no one else has ever done that. He held on to the honorary award, but years later, he auctioned off the other Oscar for $60,500. That didn't please the Academy at all, since they don't want hundreds of the statuettes in the marketplace, reducing awards' value. So they put in a rule: If any winner wants to sell their award, they have to first offer to sell it back to the Academy itself, for just $10. 

Sounds weird, but a judge upheld the demand as legal in 2015. And without that rule, come to think of it, we bet there'd be pressure on most winners to sell their statue and give the proceeds to charity.

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Top image: Martin Vorel/Wiki Commons, Warner Bros.

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