Steven Spielberg Once Bought An Oscar From This Veteran Actor

For some actors, an Academy Award is the pinnacle of their career. Entertainers sometimes spend their whole lives chasing the coveted prize, and for good reason. In a world where celebrities can purchase almost any kind of jewelry, an Academy Award is the one piece of gold that no amount of money can buy.

However, that’s not always the case. There have been rare instances where Oscars have been up for sale and even purchased. One of those instances involved Steven Spielberg, who bought a best actor’s Oscar from a veteran star.

Steven Spielberg is a three time Oscar winner

Steven Spielberg wearing a suit on stage
Steven Spielberg | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If there’s anyone who might realize the significance of Oscars it’s Steven Spielberg. Nominated for several Academy Awards in his career, the Jaws director certainly holds them in high regard. He’s won two best director Oscars for Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, while also earning a best picture Oscar for the latter.

In his first Oscar speech, an emotional Spielberg says, “I have friends who have won this before, but, and I swear, I have never held one before. This is the first time I’ve ever held one of these in my hands.”

Winning a single Oscar for any director is already an impressive feat, and winning three is close to miraculous. But with as many accolades as he’s won, the renowned director still ended up purchasing even more Oscars, this time from veteran actors. Spielberg didn’t buy these Oscars for himself, however, but rather bought them for the Academy.

Steven Spielberg purchased actor Bette Davis’ Oscar

Bette Davis wearing a dress
Bette Davis | Martin Mills/Getty Images

According to ABC News, Spielberg once purchased an Oscar that was given to late acting legend Bette Davis. Davis, who was an aspiring dancer growing up before finding her calling in acting, is a two-time Oscar winner. She won an Academy Award for best actress for Dangerous in 1936. She repeated the feat three years later when she earned another best actress Oscar by playing a southern belle in Jezebel.

After dedicating a lifetime to entertaining her audience, the actor succumbed to breast cancer and died October 6, 1989. She was 81 years old.

In July of 2001, ABC news reported that the Oscar she won for Jezebel was sold at an auction for $578,000. The statue before the auction was worth less than half that, valued between $150,000 and $200,000. ABC News reported that the anonymous bidder was actually Steven Spielberg, who didn’t keep the Award. Instead, the War of The Worlds filmmaker returned Davis’ prize back to the Academy.

But this wasn’t the first time Spielberg saved a late actor’s Oscar. Before Davis, there was yet another Academy Award winner who he ended up protecting.

Steven Spielberg also rescued ‘Gone With the Wind’ actor Clark Gable’s Oscar

Spielberg also saved legendary actor Clark Gable’s Oscar from potential exploitation. The prolific actor made a name for himself featuring in films like 1931’s Dance, Fools, Dance, and A Free Soul. The 1934 film, It Happened One Night, was released to critical acclaim and earned Gable an Academy Award for best actor.

In November 16, 1960, Gable died at the age of 59 after a heart attack. Like Davis, Variety reported that Gable’s Oscar was put up for sale at an auction. Spielberg anonymously purchased the Academy Award in 1996 for $607,500. He later returned the statue to its original home at the Academy Awards.

“If not with the Clark Gable estate, I could think of no better sanctuary for Gabe’s only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy,” Spielberg said. “The Oscar statuette is the most personal recognition of good work our industry can ever bestow, and it strikes me as a sad sign of our times that this icon could be confused with a commercial treasure.”

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