Entertainment & Arts

Dispute derails auction of Joan Fontaine's Oscar

Joan Fontaine. Photo: 1952 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Joan Fontaine's possessions are being sold for charity a year after her death

Actress Joan Fontaine's estate will not sell her best actress Oscar as planned because they say the Academy Awards organisers have threatened to sue them.

Fontaine won the statuette in 1942 for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion. She died last year aged 96.

It had been expected to raise between $200,000-$300,000 (£125,000-£190,000) for the SPCA animal charity at auction.

But Fontaine's estate said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had pledged to take legal action.

The Academy has banned people who have won Oscars since 1950 and their families from selling their statuettes without first offering it to them for $1 (£0.64).

A spokesperson for Fontaine's estate pointed out her win came before the rule was introduced.

'Pleading' to sell

In a statement to the Reuters news agency, the estate said: "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was unmoved in the pleadings of all involved, and announced they would file suit if the sale continued.

"We feel that to fight this promised legal suit against the estate (and SPCA), everyone except the lawyers would lose."

A statement from the Academy said: "The Academy, its members and the many film artists and craftspeople who've won Academy Awards believe strongly that Oscars should be won, not purchased."

But the organisation added it did not "have the legal means of stopping the sale of certain statuettes, including this one".

In response, Noel Beutel, a senior trustee for Fontaine's estate, told Reuters: "[The Academy] told us they will sue us if we sell it."

The dispute comes after the Academy sued the family of art director Joseph Wright, who sold his Oscar for 1942's My Gal Sal.

Paintings, jewellery and other possessions owned by Fontaine are still being sold by the Christie's auction house to raise funds for the SPCA in Monterey, California.

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