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It's Heavier Than You Might Think

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 8, 2007 5:22PM

2007_1oscar-award.JPGDid you know that there's an Oscar available for viewing right here in Chicago, and that you can even make an appointment to see it and actually hold it in your hand? It's at the Newberry Library, a private institution that's open to the public and just far enough west of Michigan Avenue that you won't have to worry about shopaholic tourists when you visit.

The Oscar was awarded to Ben Hecht for Best Original Story for Underworld at the first Academy Awards in 1929. Hecht was a great Chicagoan who was also a top screenwriter, contributing to such classics as His Girl Friday, the original Scarface and Hitchcock's Notorious (which was just added to the National Film Registry). His papers and personal effects (all 163 boxes of them) are now in the collection of the Newberry. One rumor has it that Mr. Hecht used his Oscar as a doorstop for many years. That's the kind of guy he was.

As part of the Newberry's Wednesday Club, this week Trib film critic Michael Wilmington will discuss Hecht's career, from his early days as a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Journal and the Chicago Daily News through his movie career and involvement in the early decades of television. The actual Oscar will not be on display, but there will an accompanying slide show of many materials housed at the Newberry. You can register online or just show up.

Admission is $9 and includes wine, soft drinks, and light refreshments. Reception begins at 5:30 p.m., and programs begin at 6:15 p.m. For more information, please call 312-255-3510.