Oscar: Memorable Acceptance Speeches

Suppose You won the Oscar! What would You say How would you grab your 45 seconds–unless you are Warren Beatty or Julia Roberts and get to talk much longer–in the spotlight?

The Oscar speeches are often the show’s most memorable–and most hilarious–moments, perhaps because they still maintain some aura of suspense and spontaneity if not sensibility.

Over the years, the speeches have shown great variability in length, substance (or lack of), and originality. The “Thank You” is the only customary note in the speech, but various people and objects have been thanked for different reasons.

Maureen Stapleton (“Red”) was the first to outdo them all, when she thanked “everybody I ever met in my entire life,” a sentiment that was echoed last week by no other than the estimable Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), my choice for the Supporting Actor, when he accepted the SAG Award last week.

Oscar can do strange things to the contenders, as Lili Zanuck, producer of the 1989 Oscar-winning “Driving Miss Daisy,” said: “I hope I’m as religious the rest of the year as I’ve been the last two months.”

Here is a sample of Oscar speeches that capture the flavor of their winners’ personality and their times.

The Long and the Short of It:

The all-time record (over 5 minutes) still belongs to Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver (one of the worst films to ever win Best Picture), who thanked everyone, from the Academy to “the doctor who brought me into the world.” Shortly after the ceremonies, Garson’s speech became a joke in Hollywood, imitated to death at parties. The stately British lady, Louis B. Mayer’s discovery and fave actress, never spoke in public again!

The shortest speech was given by Joe Pesci’s (“GoodFellas”), who simply said, “It’s my privilege. Thank you.”

“I wrote a long movie and I’m going to make a long speech,” quipped John Briley, winner of Original Screenplay for “Gandhi.” And he did. So did Beatrice Straight, whose speech was almost as long as her part in “Network,” practically three scenes!

It’s All in the Timing

“It just happened that this year Mrs. March and I adopted a child and Mr. and Mrs. Beery adopted a child. And here we are, both getting awards for the best male performance of the year.” Fredric March (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”), who shared the 1931/2 Best Actor with Wallace Beery (“The Champ”) in one of those rare occasions of ties; the other being Streisand (“Funny Girl”) and Katharine Hepburn (“The Lion in Winter”), in 1968.

The Long, Long Way to Oscar:

“It sure is a wonderful world when a tired crooner like me can walk away with this hunk of crockery.” Bing Crosby, one of the least deserving Best Actors, winning for “Going My Way.”

“It took me as long to win this as it took to win the West.” James Webb, Original Screenplay, “How the West Was Won.”

“I thought some day I might win an award for lasting so long! But I never thought I would get this particular award.” A tearful John Wayne, “True Grit,” accepting his first Oscar from no other than Streisand.

Tears, But No Time to Cry:

“I’m happy enough to cry, but I can’t take the time to do so. A taxi is waiting outside with the engine running.” Claudette Colbert, Best Actress for “It Happened One Night,” while rushing to the train station.

Oscar Pregnancies:

“I may have the baby right here out of excitement.” Eva Marie Saint (“On the Waterfront”).

“It was a long walk, I didn’t think I would make it. As wonderful as From Here to Eternity was, what’s even more wonderful is Eternity to Here.” Donna Reed (“From Here to Eternity”).

Remember, for that matter, when the very pregnant Meryl Streep (“Sophie’s Choice”) kneeled down to her knees to look for her thank you note that somehow got knocked to the ground.

The Role’s the Thing:

*Keywords:(comma separated list)Thumbnail Photo:Select oneNO PHOTOcarycukor.jpgew10.jp”I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut. I think I’ll do it again,” Jane Wyman (“Johnny Belinda”), for playing a deafmute.

“I’d like to thank Mrs. Christy Brown. Anybody who gives birth 22 times deserves one of these.” Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot”).

Mixed Nuts:

“I guess this proves there are many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else,” Jack Nicholson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”).
“It looks like you all hated me so much that you are giving me the award for it. All I can say is I’ve loved being hated by you.” Nicholson’s co-star, Louise Fletcher that should have been nominated for the supporting league but won Best Actress.

Credit Where Credit’s Due:

“It reflects a more particular credit on the freedom of expression we have in our American society and the lack of censorship from the government or the people who put up the money,” Warren Beatty (“Reds”), thanking studio honcho Barry Diller for green lighting a movie about Communism.

Don’t Forget the Crew:

“I accept this on behalf of the sixty-odd thousand people who worked on this show,” producer Mike Todd (“Around the World in 80 Days”).

“I’d like to thank the stunt men and women who taught me so well,” Barbara Stanwyck, accepting Honorary Oscar from her “Golden Boy” star, William Holden.

Dont’ Forget the Props:

“Half of this Oscar belongs to a horse someplace out in the valley,” Lee Marvin (“Cat Ballou”).

“Maybe the award should really go to my car,” Gene Hackman (“The French Connection”), alluding to the breathtaking chase scene.

“If I’d known what I know now, I’d have put a patch on my eye 35 years ago,” John Wayne (“True Grit”).

All in the Family:

“Many, many years ago I raised a son and I told him, if you ever become a writer or a director, please find a good part for your old man,” Walter Huston (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) about his son, John Huston.

“This means a lot to me, since it comes from a role in which I was directed by my father. And I know it means a lot to him,” Anjelica Huston (“Prizzi’s Honor”).

“I guess I’m lucky that my grandmother was such a terrible driver,” Alfred Uhry, Adapted Screenplay, “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“I’ve got a spirit that guides me, starting from a great-grandmother who died at the age of 117,” Louis Gossett, Jr (“An Officer and a Gentleman”).

All You Need Is Love:

“I have had an orthodox career and I wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time, I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it and I can’t deny the fact you like me–right now, you like me,” Sally Field (“Places in the Heart”).

“I’m so in love with my brother, right now, and he just tells me and says he loves me, and he’s so happy for me,” Anjelina Jolie (“Girl, Interrupted”).

Pomp and Circumstance:

“I would like to thank my colleagues, Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Richard Strauss,” Dimitri Tiomkin, Dramatic Score Award (“The High and the Mighty”).

“I believe a writer worth his salt at all has an obligation not only to entertain, but to comment on the world in which he lives, not only to comment, but maybe have a shot at reshaping the world,” Abby Mann, Adapted Screenplay (“Judgment at Nuremberg”).

Vive Democracy!

“It’s very fortunate to live in a country where any man, no matter how humble his origins, can become a president, and to be part of an industry where any picture, no matter how low its budget, can win an Oscar,” producer Harold Hecht (“Marty”).

While the Going’s Good:

“I hope this isn’t a mistake, because I won’t give it back for anything in the world, the lucky Yul Brynner (“The King and I”) who won at his first and only nomination.

Dream Come True:
“I’ve been daydreaming about this since I was 9 years old, tearful Joanne Woodward (“The Three Faces of Eve”).

“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted this. As a kid I lived in the projects and you’re the people that made me want to be an actor. I’m proud to be an actor. And I’m gonna keep on acting,” Whoopi Goldberg (“Ghost”).

The Thrill of It All:

“I don’t think ever in my life so many people were so directly responsible for my being so very, very happy,” an unusually humble Marlon Brando (“On the Waterfront”) before he became political and a vocal critic of the Oscars and Hollywood.

“No matter how much you try to imagine what this is like, it’s just so incredibly thrilling right down to your toes.” Meryl Streep (“Sophie’s Choice”), the all-time record-holder, with 13 Oscar nominations to her credit.

“I never expected in a million years that I would be in this position, it’s a miracle. I am on Cloud 9!” Jessica Tandy, Academy’s oldest Best Actress (“Driving Miss Daisy”).

Sour Grapes:

“When I was 19 years old, I was the number One star for two years. When I was forty, nobody wanted me. I couldn’t get a job,” Honorary recipient, Mickey Rooney, who never won a legit Oscar.

“I’m especially grateful that this does not come wrapped as a gift certificate to Forest Lawn,” Paul Newman, Honorary Oscar. As luck or justice would have it, the next year, Newman won a competitive Actor Oscar for “The Color of Money.”

International Oscar:

“I wanted to be dignified, but I can’t. You can’t imagine what it means to me, being French.” Simone Signoret (“Room at the Top”).

“What you’ve done for the British film industry! You may have started something: The British are coming!” Colin Welland, Original Screenplay (“Chariots of Fire”).

Collegiality–But Oscar Is Still Mine:

“It would only be proper to cut it in half and give it to the two most valuable players–Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine,” Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”).

“Right now, I’m so happy I want to thank all the members who didn’t vote for me,” Burt Lancaster (“Elmer Gantry”).

“I’d like to thank Sidney Poitier whose friendship gave me the knowledge to enhance my performanceand we shall overcome,” Rod Steiger (“In the Heat of the Night”).

“And all you other four guys, this is ours,” Louis Gossett Jr. (“An Officer and a Gentleman”) in a hypocritical speech.

“I think we’re all marvelous, but I’ve got it,” Milena Canonero, Costume Design (“Chariots of Fire”), doing a more honest variation of Gossett’s speech.

Ladies First:

“I have to thank two fair ladies,” Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”), referring to Julie Andrews, who played Eliza Doolittle on stage, but lost the screen role to Audrey Hepburn, snubbed by the Academy at nomination time.

“I am grateful to have Dustin Hoffman as my leading lady,” Jessica Lange (“Tootsie”), the year she lost the Best Actress (“Francis”) to Meryl Streep.

And Justice for All:

“This is unfair. I want this award to go to Valentina Cortesa (“Day for Night”). Please forgive me Valentina, I didn’t mean to,” Ingrid Bergman (“Murder on the Orient Express”), winning a third Oscar for one of the tiniest roles in history, playing a Swedish missionary.
The Ten Percenters:

“I’d like to thank Mary Pickford who, incidentally, was the first actor to get a percentage of her pictures. Speaking of percentages, last but not least, I thank my agent, who about ten years ago said I had no business being an actor,” Jack Nicholson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”).

Outing for Inspirational Reasons:

“I would not be standing here, if it were not for two important men in my life, Mr. Farnsworth, my high school drama teacher who taught me act well the part there all the glory lies, and Mr. Gilkerson, one of my classmates, two of the finest gay Americans, wonderful men whom I had the good fortune to be associated with and fall under their inspiration at such a young age,” Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia”). Paul Rudnick would use the speech as the premise for his comedy, “In & Out.”

Oscar as the Nobel Prize:

“Your great folk hero, Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Gandhi. Lech Walesa, that noble Polish patriot, came out of prison the other day and said that what he had attempted to do was not going to work. The only way in which we could find human dignity and peace was through the philosophies and teachings of Gandhi. It’s not me…you truly honor,” Richard Attenborough, (“Gandhi”).

Oliver Stone’s Political Sermons:

“What you’re saying is that for the first time you really understood what happened over there, and that it should never, ever in our lifetime happen again,” Oliver Stone (“Platoon”).

“My deepest thanks for your acknowledgement that Vietnam is not over…. Vietnam is a state of mind that continues all over the world, for as long as man, in his quest for power, interferes in the affairs of other men,” Oliver Stone (“Born on the Forth of July”).

Here’s Looking at You, Kid: Streisand

“Hello, gorgeous!” Barbara Streisand, citing her line from “Funny Girl.”

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