A who's who of Hollywood -- Alec Baldwin, Warren Beatty and Steven Spielberg among them -- turned out Saturday night for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 2009 Governors Awards.
The academy bestowed its honorary awards during a three-hour-plus ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on 85-year-old actress Lauren Bacall, who made her film debut opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1944's "To Have and Have Not"; noted cinematographer Gordon Willis, 78, who brought new meaning to shadow and light in such classics as "The Godfather" trilogy; and maverick 83-year-old producer-director-writer Roger Corman, who excelled in making stylish films on a shoestring budget while giving up-and-coming directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Jonathan Demme their start.
Producer and former studio executive John Calley, 79 ("Remains of the Day") was the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Award, but because Calley is ill he was unable to attend the ceremony.
"Lauren Bacall defines what it means to be an actress," said Anjelica Huston as she presented the award to Bacall. "She is a woman of great charisma and beauty but one not to be trifled with."
Bacall, looking radiant in a brown gown with her hair pulled back, then lifted her Oscar and whooped. "I can't believe it, a man at last!" she quipped. "This is quite an event. I've been very lucky in my life," she said. "I feel very emotional and grateful."
Several of Hollywood's reigning filmmakers stood up for the ailing Calley. Spielberg, Beatty, George Lucas, Norman Jewison, Walter Mirisch, Dino De Laurentiis and Saul Zaentz -- all previous winners of the Thalberg Award -- took to the stage, with Spielberg accepting the honor for Calley from Tom Hanks.
Speaking for the group, he said, "We are privileged to accept this award that he is so deserving of."
Others spoke in tribute to Corman before he took the stage earlier in the evening.
"He changed my life," actor-director Ron Howard said in a toast. "Dying for him was a badge of honor."
Honoring Corman, Quentin Tarantino added, "is a dream come true. Only Roger would make 'The Raven' a comedy. Roger was the original maverick," he said while showing clips of Corman's films based on Edgar Allan Poe works.
"People, what took you so long?" Demme asked, referring to the Oscar bestowed upon the "Little Shop of Horrors" director.
But Corman showed no frustration at the wait. "Needless to say, I'm delighted to accept this Oscar," he said, adding that those in Hollywood work in "the only true modern art form."
Of Willis, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel said he was a true New Yorker: "He loved to complain about Hollywood." The honor, he went on, was "well deserved."
Woody Allen added to the praise in a taped segment, saying, "He is the best cinematographer we have ever seen."
As Jeff Bridges presented him the award, Willis noted that moviemaking is a collaborative affair, saying, "Everything good that happened to me happened because of another person."
Saturday night's banquet and awards ceremony marked the first time the academy has presented its honorary awards anywhere other than during the annual Oscar telecast, scheduled this season for March 7.
By giving the awards their own showcase, producer Bruce Cohen hoped the event would pay homage to the Academy Awards' early years, when the ceremonies were a more intimate affair.
Although Saturday's event was not televised, Oscars producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman may decide to show highlights of the night's events during the broadcast of Hollywood's biggest awards celebration.