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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Spielberg buys Bette Davis' Oscar
Steven Spielberg and KKate Kapshaw
Spielberg - and wife Kate Kapshaw - won an Oscar for Saving Private Ryan
Movie director Steven Spielberg has been revealed as the anonymous telephone buyer of the Bette Davis Oscar sold at auction on Thursday.

Spielberg paid 413,000 for the Oscar from the sale at Christie's in New York and has donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas).

The academy awarded Davis with the statuette, her second Oscar, for her role in the 1938 costume drama Jezebel.

Bette Davis' Oscar
Davis' Oscar was bought after fierce bidding

It is the second time in five years that Spielberg has bought an Oscar statuette at auction in order to return it to the Academy.

In 1996 he bought the Oscar won by Clark Gable in 1934 for It Happened One Night and gave it to the Academy.

Ampas president Robert Rehme said, "For Steven to do this once was breathtaking - but for him to do it again is unbelieveable.

"It is a noble and extremely generous act.

"The Academy Award is a highly-respected honour within the film community."

He added: "Those of us who make our living in the industry don't like to think of it as an item that might end up on the mantel of someone who hadn't earned it."

Anonymous

Bette Davis' Oscar was sold by Christie's at its Rockefeller Centre in New York as part of an entertainment memorabilia sale.

Spielberg bought the statuette anonymously after a fierce series of bids lifted the sale price to more than double the auction house's estimated top price of 170,000.

A spokeswoman for Christie's said: "The lot sold for $578,000 (413,000) to a telephone bidder who has asked to remain anonymous."

Pop star Michael Jackson paid the record amount for an Oscar in 1999 when he bid $1.54m - more than 1m - to own the Best Film Oscar awarded to producer David O Selznick for Gone With The Wind.

The next highest amount was the $607,000 (425,000) paid by Spielberg for the Gable Oscar.

Special

Legend has it that Davis' statuette is the reason the trophies, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, were christened Oscars.

Bette Davis as Jezebel
Davis played the fiery Julie Marsden in Jezebel

Davis said her statuette's bottom looked like that of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.

In period drama Jezebel, Davis played the impetuous Julie Marsden. The film also starred Henry Fonda.

The 12-inch high Oscar is different from the modern version of the award.

Davis' award has a black stone base, a material used by the academy until World War II when it was replaced with plaster and then brass, as used today.

The plaque on the front of the statuette reads: "Academy First Award to Bette Davis for Her Performance in Jezebel."

Another on the back reads: "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences First Award 1938."

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