Oscar Speeches: Part One

 Suppose you won an Oscar, what would you say?  How would you grab your one-minute in the spotlight?   Would you follow the late, great Maureen Stapleton (Reds), who thanked “Everybody I ever met in my entire life.”  Would you become more religious, as Lili Zanuck, producer of the 1989 Oscar-winner Driving Miss Daisy: “I hope I’m as religious the rest of the year as I’ve been the last two months.”


Oscar speeches are often the show’s most memorable–and most hilarious–moments, perhaps because they still maintain an aura of spontaneity.


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.  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, who thanked everyone, from the Academy to “the doctor who brought me into the world.”  Garson’s speech became a joke in Hollywood, imitated to death at parties.


The shortest one is 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, 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 split the 1931/2 Best Actor with Wallace Beery, The Champ.


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, 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.


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, 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


The Role’s the Thing:


“I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut. I think I’ll do it again.” Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda, for playing a deaf?mute.


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