“And the Winner is… ” A Few Favorite Oscar Acceptance Speeches

The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony takes place this weekend and while the event this year will certainly be different from previous, non-pandemic-plagued years, there is always a certain amount of magic in the air. This magic has been well-earned over the years. Starting in 1929 as a rather insular industry banquet, it has blossomed into the spectacle it is now. An Oscar is worth a good deal more now than it was then. It is a virtual guarantor of profitability for the film that wins Best Picture and an acting award can more or less ensure a lifetime of work for the lucky recipient.

With so many years of history, there are bound to be some moments that stand out above others. Here are a few favorites. It would be impossible to present any kind of comprehensive list, and many others have taken stabs at it, but we hope you enjoy our selection.

Here is Jane Fonda accepting the award in 1979 for her work in Hal Ashby’s COMING HOME. She developed a much greater awareness for disabled people while preparing for the film and it certainly comes across powerfully in her speech.

Next, a couple of groundbreaking moments. Hattie McDaniel accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for GONE WITH THE WIND. McDaniel was the first Black actor nominated for an Academy Award and the first winner. You may notice that the close-up of the speech was done after the fact in a retake, as the camera placement at the time would not permit close angle shots.

Sixty-two years later, Halle Berry was the first Black performer to win the award for Best Actress, for MONSTER’S BALL. You can see how very aware she is of the historic nature of the moment and it adds to her own deeply emotional response.

Here’s another special one. Charles Chaplin’s role in the refinement and perfection of the art of Cinema is well known. What may be less well known today is that he was effectively exiled from the his adopted home in the U.S. for decades thanks to an anti-communist witch hunt spearheaded by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and aided in the sensationalist press by charges of loose sexual morals. Hollywood did not forget, and you can see some of the response here – in fact the video is considerably shortened. The actual ovation that Chaplin received by the industry’s best and brightest was twelve minutes long, a record that seems destined to stand.

Here are two old friends who captured the hearts of the public like few others before them, having fun on stage together for the last time as Cary Grant presents the honorary Oscar to James Stewart in 1985. There’s a lot of love in this room.

This is a two-parter. First, as William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck presented an award at the 1978 Oscars, Holden was seized by a moment of gratitude for his longtime friend and former co-star Stanwyck. Back in 1939, Holden’s film career nearly ended before it began, but Stanwyck, his GOLDEN BOY co-star, took him under her wing. Holden can tell the rest of the story better than we can. It’s hard to see it in the blurry video, but Stanwyck has tears streaming down her face.

Late in 1981, William Holden died unexpectedly. At the next year’s Oscar ceremony, Stanwyck received an honorary lifetime Oscar, her first. In the speech, she remembered her old friend.

Finally, this may be the most iconic Oscar speech. It is certainly the most parodied. But, there’s something so primal and real about Sally Field’s refrain of “You like me” that transcends the glitz and the polish of the show. This is what it is all about for most of us, most certainly for actors, and she comes right out and says it.

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