Frank Clifford – The First Academy Awards

Girl on rock top. Mixed media

The Oscar is the ultimate symbol of achievement in entertainment, and its annual award ceremony is broadcast worldwide with much fanfare. Yet, the first Academy Awards were presented during an understated 15-minute ceremony that was accompanied by dinner. This modest start, reflected in the event’s Virgo Midheaven (MC) and elevated Moon (see chart), is far from the hyped and self-congratulatory spectacle it has become.

The Sun (the 9th-house ruler and dispositor of the planet of competitions, Mars) conjoins chart ruler Jupiter in Taurus – fitting for an event honouring larger-than-life celebrities and inducting them into an exclusive club. The square to Neptune in Leo in the 9th reflects the silver screen, the money spent on promotional activity, and the galaxy of stars in glamorous couture who attend an annual extravaganza “televised to a billion viewers.” And together, Taurus and Leo speak of the business of show.

Mars in Leo is symbolic of the winner’s prize – a gold statuette (an Art Deco knight holding a crusader’s sword) – and the nickname ”Oscar” originates from osgar, meaning “god’s spear.” Mars in Leo is also suggestive of the fierce competition in the early years between two studios with Leonine images: Paramount (which means “of greatest importance”) and the glamorous MGM (whose symbol is Leo the Lion).

The chart’s Sun–Jupiter has been triggered by transit at memorable times in the awards show’s history. Saturn was at 24° Leo when Vanessa Redgrave gave her notorious political speech in April 1978 (her Ascendant is also 24° Leo); Neptune opposed the “birth” chart’s Mercury, too, and Oscar was having his Pluto square. In March 2002, transiting (TR) Uranus squared the Sun–Jupiter conjunction (and Pluto opposed Oscar’s Mercury) when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington broke through the glass ceiling and became the first pair of African-Americans to win best actor awards on the same night.

Oscar ceremonies were postponed in 1968 (TR Uranus on the MC), following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and again in 1981 (TR Neptune square the MC) after the attempt on President Reagan’s life. In February 1941 (TR Uranus on the Awards’ Jupiter; Neptune on its MC), the results were sealed and counted independently following a leak, and when Marlon Brando infamously refused his Oscar in March 1973, Uranus (rejection) was opposite the Awards’ Venus in Aries.

The Virgo/6th-house signature reflects the philosophy of rewarding a filmmaker’s work and craft, as well as those (faux humble?) mantras from nominees (“It’s an honour just to be nominated alongside my idols”). The Oscar is truly a phenomenon associated with the United States, and 11° Sagittarius rises, close to the U.S. Sibly Ascendant as well as the Ascendants of many pop culture icons seen as quintessentially American by the world (from Elvis and Brad Pitt to Ted Turner and British-born Elizabeth Taylor, while Walt Disney’s and Marilyn Monroe’s Suns fall across this horizon). Finally, the chart’s MC ruler, Mercury, is in the 7th house and here we have the Mercurial aim and purpose of the Awards: the reading of the nominees, the excitement of opening the envelope, handing over the award to the winner and the winner’s acceptance speech – although with Mercury in Gemini, the plea for brevity is rarely answered.


Note: Celebrity chart data are listed at; the Academy Awards data are confirmed from numerous books.


First published in The Mountain Astrologer, April–May 2016 issue.


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