In a story that even Hollywood screenwriters might find incredible, it seems that the Oscar statue which Karl Malden has thought for the last twenty one years to be the one he won for A Streetcar Named Desire is, in fact, a fake. He only found out when the real one cropped up for sale on eBay.
In 1985, Malden sent his statuette, won in 1952, to its makers, R S Owens and Co. of Chicago, for replating. What he received back, according to David Quinto, his lawyer and spokesman, was a different statuette, stamped with the same serial number as the original.
Some twenty years later, that original was put up for auction on eBay, starting price US$30,000.
“The Oscar is a very personal award,” Quinto said. “The Oscar is cheapened if it’s sold as an article of commerce. If you can just buy it on eBay, it doesn’t have the same meaning.”
When officials from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscars’ awarding body, spotted the genuine Oscar for sale on eBay, they immediately had eBay close down the auction, and contacted the sellers demanding details of its provenance.
Randy Mariani claimed that he had worked in a potato chip business next to R S Owens, and that he’d found the statuette thrown out with the garbage, but an investigation discovered that the company had closed down before Malden had sent his award to Owens’. The Marianis had originally agreed to sell the statuette back to the Academy, but had reneged on that deal.
Karl Malden and the Academy are now suing the Marianis for copyright infringement and false representation.