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THE OSCARS

From That Special Occasion, Some Memorable 'Thanks'

For better or worse, these winners have left their mark on the ceremony with acceptance speeches that reveal a lot.

March 24, 2001|EMANUEL LEVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Suppose you won an Oscar, what would you say--how would you immortalize your moment in the spotlight?

Oscar speeches are often the show's most memorable--and sometimes hilarious--moments, perhaps because they retain an aura of spontaneity.

Over the years, the speeches have shown great variety 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 ("Reds") covered all her bases in 1982 when she thanked "everybody I ever met in my entire life."

Oscar can have a profound effect on the contenders, as Lili Fini Zanuck, producer of "Driving Miss Daisy," said when she received the award in 1990: "I hope I'm as religious the rest of the year as I've been the last two months."

Here are samples of Oscar speeches that capture some of the flavor of the winner's personality and time.

The Long and the Short of It

The all-time record (over five minutes) belongs to Greer Garson, "Mrs. Miniver," who in 1943 thanked everyone, from the academy to "the doctor who brought me into the world." Garson's best actress acceptance speech became a joke in Hollywood, imitated at parties.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 27, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Oscar winner--Louise Fletcher received an Academy Award in 1976 as best actress for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." An article in Saturday's Calendar about acceptance speeches by Oscar winners mistakenly said she won as supporting actress.

The shortest one has to be supporting actor Joe Pesci's, "GoodFellas," who simply said when he received the honor in 1991, "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 winner for "Gandhi" in 1983, and he did. So did supporting actress Beatrice Straight, whose 1977 speech was almost as long as her part in "Network," practically three scenes!

Oscar Pregnancies

"I may have the baby right here out of excitement." --Eva Marie Saint, accepting best supporting actress in 1955 for "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." --supporting actress Donna Reed, in 1954, for "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, in 1949, best actress for "Johnny Belinda," in which she played a deaf-mute.

"I'd like to thank Mrs. Christy Brown. Anybody who gives birth 22 times deserves one of these." --Brenda Fricker, in 1990, accepting the supporting actress Oscar for "My Left Foot."

Mixed Nuts

"I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the academy as anywhere else." --Jack Nicholson, in 1976, accepting best actor for "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, supporting actress Louise Fletcher

Don't Forget the Crew

"On behalf of the 60-odd-thousand people who worked on this show." --producer Mike Todd, at the 1957 show, for "Around the World in 80 Days."

Don't Forget the Props

"Half of this Oscar belongs to a horse someplace out in the valley." --Lee Marvin, in 1966, accepting the best actor award for "Cat Ballou."

"Maybe the award should really go to my car." --Gene Hackman, in 1972, accepting best actor for "The French Connection" and referring to the chase scene.

"If I'd known what I know now, I'd have put a patch on my eye 35 years ago." --John Wayne, in 1970, accepting best actor for "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, in 1949, best supporting actor for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," directed by 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, in 1985, accepting supporting actress honor for "Prizzi's Honor."

All You Need Is Love

"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, in 1985, accepting best actress for "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, best supporting actress in 2000 for "Girl, Interrupted."

Pomp and Circumstance

"I would like to thank my colleagues, Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Richard Strauss." --Dimitri Tiomkin, in 1955, accepting the dramatic score award for "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, in 1962, winning the adapted screenplay award for "Judgment at Nuremberg."

Viva Democracy!

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