Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The PATSY Awards for Animal Actors

By Langley Cornwell

Actors who give an especially great performance in a movie or television series are usually awarded with an Oscar or an Emmy. That's all well and good, but what about those actors from the animal world? Animal actors are just as deserving of awards for exceptional performance so in 1939, the PATSY Awards were created to do just that.

What are the PATSY Awards?

Created by the Hollywood office of the American Humane Association, PATSY was originally an acronym for Picture Animal Top Star of the Year. In 1958, the PATSY Awards were expanded to include television performers and the acronym Performing Animal Television Star of the Year was added.

The PATSY Awards were originally created with the intent to honor animal performers after a horse was killed during the filming of the movie “Jessie James,” starring Tyrone Powers.

The first actual recipient of a PATSY came in 1951 when Francis the Talking Mule was honored. Who presented Francis with the first PATSY? None other than Ronald Reagan himself, the actor-turned-President who was known for his work with a chimpanzee in the Bonzo movies.

The PATSY Awards were given in four categories: Canine, equine, wild and special. Since there are so many Famous Cat Actors, I wondered why cats didn’t get a category all to themselves. It turns out that cats were thrown into the “special” category along with pigs, goats and everything in between.

The PATSY Awards were given annually until 1986 when the awards ended due to lack of funding.

Who were some of the PATSY winners? 

Francis the Talking Mule won several PATSY Awards. Other movie and television performance winners in the equine and canine categories include Shaggy the dog, from “The Shaggy Dog,” Lassie the dog, from “Lassie,” Spike the dog, from “Old Yeller” and Flicka the horse, from “My Friend Flicka.”

While the majority of PATSY winners come from the equine and canine categories, there are plenty of winners from the wild and special categories.

Remember Arnold the pig from the television series “Green Acres?” Arnold won two PATSY Awards. Orangey the cat won two PATSY Awards, one for “Breakfast at Tiffany's” and one for “Rhubarb.” Pyewacket the cat won a PATSY in 1959 for the motion picture “Bell, Book and Candle.”

Some wild animal winners of PATSY Awards include Jackie the lion, who won several PATSY Awards during the early 1950s. Other unusual wild animals earning PATSY's include Esmerelda the seal (1955 – “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”), Samantha the goose (1957 – “Friendly Persuasion”), Henry the rabbit (1959 – “The Geisha Boy”), Herman the pigeon (1960 – “The Gazebo”), Sydney the elephant (1963 – “Billy Rose's Jumbo”), Raunchy the jaguar  (1964 – “Rampage”), Flipper the dolphin (1966 and 1967 – “Flipper”) and Vindicator the steer (1967 – “The Rare Breed”).

Even though the PATSY Awards ended in 1986, the idea behind the awards hasn't been forgotten. Broadway actress and animal advocate Gretchen Wyler founded the Genesis Awards in 1986 as a means of recognizing individuals in the news and entertainment media who raise awareness about animal issues. Even though the Genesis Awards did not replace the PATSY Awards, this awards ceremony became a new means of keeping animals in the entertainment industry in the spotlight.

In 2011, the American Humane Society created a new award to honor animal performers. Dubbed the “Pawscars” as a play on the Oscars, this award was described as an animal version of an Oscar-like awards ceremony. The American Humane Society is responsible for overseeing and disclaiming that animals were not harmed during the making of a film or television show.

Although the PATSY Awards are no longer given, the glamorous years of Hollywood and the PATSY Awards were a special time. PATSY Award winners may have passed on, but their legacy in the entertainment industry continues to be remembered.

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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