Celebrating the Naked Man Who Made the Oscar Possible

By  · Published on February 22nd, 2013

Every year, dozens of people wrap their hands around Emilio Fernandez’s torso and hoist him high into the air while thanking their supporters. Usually, they’re played off the stage by a swelling orchestra, but they still get to take Fernandez home. Fortunately for everyone involved, he comes in portable size that you can keep easily on your shelf because Emilio Fernandez is the Oscar.

Or, rather, the Oscar statue is Emilio Fernandez.

As the story goes, he was a good friend of actress Dolores Del Rio who introduced Fernandez to her future husband, Cedric Gibbons in 1928. Gibbons was an art director at MGM, an original academy member and the man who supervised the design of the trophy that would go on to become an international icon. All he had to do was convince Fernandez to pose nude, and AMPAS had their statue.

But Fernandez was more than just the body that would become Oscar. He was an accomplished actor, director and writer who worked nearly six decades making movies right up until the year he died.

Fernandez never won an Oscar himself (which might have been just slightly unsettling), but he was no stranger to international awards. During his career he won numerous Ariel Awards from his home country of Mexico as well as a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale (Una Cita de Amor, 1958), wins at Cannes (Maria Candelaria, 1944; Rosanna, 1953), and Golden Lion nominations at Venice (La Perla, 1947; La Malguerida, 1949). His output was prolific and often worthy of the worldwide stage.

He also found his way onto the screen as the villain in the sequel to The Magnificent Seven (where he battled Yul Brenner) as well as roles in classics like The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

However, Maria Candelaria (the first Latin American film to win the Prix at Cannes) remains his most celebrated work.

Sadly, his work is a bit hard to find. Netflix has about a dozen, but they aren’t available on streaming. Amazon carries some of his movies as well, but not all of them are subtitled. Still, if you can find them take the opportunity to check them out.

And when you watch the Oscars on Sunday and see a famous face lift that heavier-than-it-seems statute above her shoulder, be sure to thank Emilio Fernandez for getting naked 85 years ago.

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