This year’s Oscars made history for all the wrong reasons. Though the viewership increased, the ceremony will best be known for Will Smith’s slapstick routine with Chris Rock.
Though neither comedian nor the banned Oscar winner has any ties to Oregon, our state still has plenty of Academy Award-worthy history. Starting with Lost Horizons in 1937, the film was set in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India. To save money, the entirety was filmed in Mount Hood. The movie went on to earn two Oscars — the first for a feature set in our state.
However, wasn’t until One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that the area received its time in the spotlight. Both the novel and the adaptations were set entirely in Oregon. Production transpired at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, and went on to earn five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Los Angeles Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson. It is considered one of the greatest films of all time.
These are the Best Oscar Winners Around Portland:
Brad Bird (Corvallis, Best Animated Feature — The Incredibles, Ratatouille)
A Corvallis native, Bird is one of the most respected names in animation. Mentored by Disney legend Milt Kahl, Bird graduated with classmates John Lasseter (Toy Story) and Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas) from the California Institute of the Arts, Bird got his professional start with fellow Oregonian Matt Groening on The Simpsons, later employed by Pixar, Bird won two Oscars, for both The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007).
Dave Metzger (Corvallis, Best Original Song — “Let It Go”, Frozen)
Disney stalwart Dave Metzger has arranged and orchestrated music for over a dozen films in the House of Mouse’s filmography. His arrangement of Frozen’s “Let It Go” was the beloved soundtrack to a generation of children, and the most loathed song to their parents. The tune has gone several times platinum and is the most globally-recorded Disney song, with versions sung in 25 different languages.
In addition to his animation resume, Metzger has orchestrated over 50 films, and currently works out of his state-of-the-art music studio located in Salem.
Melanie Coombs (Portland, Best Short Film — Harvie Krumpet)
Since 1998, Coombs has produced award-winning shorts, animation, and documentaries. Coombs’ Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet financed her critically praised Mary and Max in 2009. She now serves as the Production Supervisor for Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, an upcoming Netflix stop motion animation feature entirely shot and created in her home city.
Joan Gratz (Portland, Best Animated Short — Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase)
The founder of the animation technique of clay painting, Gratz paved the way for the stop motion features we see today. The artist took small chunks of clay and blended them with colors that created fine lines, resulting in a seamless flow of images. During her acceptance speech for Best Animated Short, Gratz thanked notable Portland figures and credited the Portland public library for her research.
She was also nominated in 1982 in the same category for the animated short The Creation.
Jeff Dawn (Bend, Best Makeup and Hairstyling — T2: Judgement Day)
Bend native Jeff Dawn has the distinct honor of being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s go-to makeup guru, working on 19 of the former Mr. Olympia’s features. As of this year, Dawn has headed the make-up department on over 40 films and 300 television episodes. He’s also Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s preferred specialist. He still lives and works out of Oregon.
James Ivory (Klamath Falls, Best Adapted Screenplay — Call Me By Your Name)
Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1951. A four-time nominee, Ivory is best known for his directorial efforts in The Remains of the Day and A Room With a View. At age 89, the Hollywood vet took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Call Me By Your Time”, making him the oldest-ever Oscar winner in a competitive category.
Now approaching his mid 90’s, he’s now editing a film about Kabul he started in 1960 and penning an adapted screenplay of the novel The End of Eddy.
Clark Gable (Best Actor — It Happened One Night)
Though not technically born and bred in Oregon, Golden Era Hollywood legend Clark Gable was a resident in our state for a time, handling several odd jobs. As a teenager, Gable worked as a logger in Seaside and as a salesman in Portland’s “Meier & Frank” department store. Then, he turned to advertising, employed with The Oregonian for a time. James Beard, Mark Rothko, and Gable were classmates in a Portland acting class that Josephine Dillon taught.
Often referred to as “The King of Hollywood”, Gable had roles in 60 movies during a career that lasted nearly four decades, and was one of the most consistent box-office performers in entertainment history. Overall, he was nominated thrice, and took home the trophy for It Happened One Night (1934).
Gus Van Sant (Special Mention)
No, he hasn’t won. But, the Portland-based director has cleaned up at every award show and film festival, besides the Academy Awards.
One of the best directors of his generation, Van Sant began his career directing television commercials in Oregon. Throughout his illustrious career, he earned Best Director nominations twice — once for Good Will Hunting (which won for Best Screenplay) and once for Milk (which also won for Best Screenplay).
Do you want to discover more award-winning locals? Read, “Best Oregon Winter Olympic Medalists.“