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Movies

The Oscar speeches to remember

Actor Jack Palance did a one-handed push-up on stage at the 64th annual Academy Awards. His family indicated he was 87.

Craig Fuji/AP

Actor Jack Palance did a one-handed push-up on stage at the 64th annual Academy Awards. His family indicated he was 87.

From the poised and controlled to the political opinions, those 45 second speeches — that sometimes run longer — make the broadcast worth watching until the end. Here is a look at a few memorable speeches before the music started:

Shortest speech ever

Year: 1990 (63rd) Academy Awards

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Category: Actor in a Supporting Role

Film Title: “Good Fellas”

Winner: Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci: It was my privilege. Thank you.

[Note: When Mr. Pesci came out to introduce a segment later in the show he smiled and made the comment: “I still can’t talk.”]

Watch here.

One-arm push-ups

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Year: 1991 (64th) Academy Awards

Category: Actor in a Supporting Role

Film Title: “City Slickers”

Winner: Jack Palance

Jack Palance: Billy Crystal, [laughs] I crap bigger than him. You know, there are times when you reach a certain age plateau where the producers say, they talk about you and they say, “Well, what do you think? Can we risk it? Can we do it? Can we use him?” The other guy says, “I don’t know, let’s look at some younger ones. We can make them look older, but this one, you know, it’s kind of difficult.” They forget, they forget to ask that you go out there and you do all these…things. Like for instance, you know, [leaves podium] you go out there, you do these one-arm push-ups. [Does three one-arm push-ups on stage; returns to podium.] That’s nothing, really. As far as the two-handed push-ups are concerned, you can do that all night and it doesn’t make any difference whether she’s there or not. And besides, it’s a hell of a lot less expensive.

Wow. You know, a long time ago in 1949, first picture, 1949, first film, I’d been shooting about two weeks and the producer came to me and he said, “Jack” – my name at that time was Vladimir, but he called me Jack. He says, “Jack, you’re going to win the Academy Award.” Can you believe it? Forty-two years later he was right. How the son of a bitch knew?! Thank you.

Watch here.

Director and actor Roberto Benigni stood on top of the chairs after winning the award.

Eric Draper/AP

Director and actor Roberto Benigni stood on top of the chairs after winning the award.

“I used up all my English.”

Year: 1998 (71st) Academy Awards

Category: Actor in a Leading Role

Film Title: Life Is Beautiful

Winner: Roberto Benigni

Roberto Benigni: Thank you! This is a terrible mistake because I used up all my English. I don’t know! I am not able to express all my gratitude, because now, my body is in tumult because it is a colossal moment of joy so everything is really in a way that I cannot express. I would like to be Jupiter! And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody, because I don’t know how to express. It’s a question of love. You are really -- this is a mountain of snow, so delicate, the suavity and the kindness, it is something I cannot forget, from the bottom of my heart. And thank you for the Academy Awards for the, who really loved the movie. Thank you to all in Italy, for the Italian cinema, grazie al Italia who made me. I am really, I owe to them all my, if I did something good. So grazie al Italia e grazie al America, land of the lot of things here. Thank you very much. And I hope, really I don’t deserve this, but I hope to win some other Oscars! Thank you! Thank you very much! Thank you!

Watch here.

The unfinished speech

Year: 1972 (45th) Academy Awards

Category: Actor

Film Title: The Godfather

Winner: Marlon Brando (not present; award refused by Sacheen Littlefeather aka Marie Cruz)

Sacheen Littlefeather: Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech, which I cannot share with you presently because of time but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.

[Note: When Ms. Littlefeather approached the podium, she refused to take the Oscar statuette being offered to her by presenter Roger Moore.]

Watch here.

Flat-screen TV

Year: 2000 (73rd) Academy Awards

Category: Actress in a Leading Role

Film Title: Erin Brockovich

Actress Julia Roberts celebrated her Oscar win at the 73rd Annual Academy.

Timothy A. CLARY/AFP

Actress Julia Roberts celebrated her Oscar win at the 73rd Annual Academy.

Winner: Julia Roberts

[Note: Academy Awards show producer Gil Cates promised a giant, high-definition flat-screen television to the winner(s) who made the shortest acceptance speech.]

Julia Roberts: Oh, thank you, thank you ever so much. I’m so happy. Thank you. I have a television, so I’m going to spend some time here to tell you some things. And sir [speaking to music conductor Bill Conti], you’re doing a great job, but you’re so quick with that stick. So why don’t you sit, ‘cause I may never be here again.

I would like to start with telling you all how amazing the experience of feeling the sisterhood of being included in a group with Joan Allen and Juliette Binoche and Laura Linney and Ellen Burstyn for these last weeks has been. It’s just felt like such a triumph to me to be in that list. My name starts with “R” so I’m always last, but I still love the list. But I can’t believe this, this is so [looking at the Oscar]... this is quite pretty.

I want to acknowledge so many people that made “Erin Brockovich,” “Erin Brockovich” -- but let me make my dress pretty [adjusts the train of her dress]. Universal, everybody at Universal, Kevin Misher and Stacey Snider and Stacey Sher -- and I can’t believe I’m remembering everybody’s name. Jersey Films, Danny DeVito, and everybody over there. Everyone I’ve ever met in my life. This movie was sinfully fun to make, and Albert Finney is my friend and my pleasure to act with. And Aaron Eckhart and Scotty and Gemmenne and Brittany and Ashley, all the wonderful actors that played my children. And Marg Helgenberger -- and turn that clock off, it’s making me nervous. Greg Jacobs, everybody on our crew that was so great. And, well, just a few other people... But really, the main person -- well, Richard LaGravenese and Susannah Grant who wrote such a nice script.

Steven Soderbergh -- hi, there you are -- you truly just made me want to be the best actor that I suppose I never knew I could be, or aspire to. And I made every attempt -- Stick-man, I see you. So I thank you for really making me feel so... [laughs!] I love it up here! Yeah, anyway, I start working for him again in two days, so I can get to you later. But Benjamin Bratt, my sister Lisa, my brother-in-law Tony. Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who’s been my agent since God was a boy. Jeff Berg. My mom! And just Frances and Marcus and Mike and everybody who’s watching at home. Kelly, Emma, everybody. I love the world! I’m so happy! Thank you!

Watch here.

You like me!

Year: 1984 (57th) Academy Awards

Category: Actress in a Leading Role

Film Title: Places in the Heart

Winner: Sally Field

Sally Field: Oh, Benton, what you did for me; you changed my life, truly. This means so much more to me this time. I don’t know why. I think the first time I hardly felt it because it was all so new. I owe a lot to the cast, to my players, to Lindsay and John and Danny and Ed and Amy and my little friends Gennie and Yankton. I owe a lot to my family for holding me together and loving me and having patience with this obsession of me. But I want to say thank you to you. I haven’t had an orthodox career and I’ve 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 that you like me. Right now, you like me! Thank you.

The longest speech

Year: 1942 (15th) Academy Awards

Category: Actress

Film Title: Mrs. Miniver

Winner: Greer Garson

[Note: The Academy has newsreel coverage of only portions of Garson’s acceptance speech. While it is clear that the opening paragraph is the beginning of her speech, it is not known how the rest of the pieces fit together or the extent of the missing footage.]

Greer Garson: Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished visitors from the armed forces, Governor Warren, honored guests, Mr. Chairman – Mr. President Chairman: Thank you. That is really all there is to say; but, as this is after all the opportunity of a lifetime, I hope you won’t mind if I try to expand that word just, just a little. This is, this is going to be a great evening to remember. We’ve had some very exciting messages and some very exciting speeches. It should make us all very proud to belong to this great and fascinating industry. Praise from our government and our armed forces and from abroad from our allies for work we have done should make us determined to carry on. We have somehow brought very wide horizons into this room tonight. Anything that I have to say now, which is practically unprepared... [camera cuts]

As for the nominations, I’ve always felt that to be nominated simply means that you’ve had the great good luck to be entrusted with one of the best assignments of the current year, and that’s a cause for rejoicing in itself. And there isn’t a single good craftsman in this industry who if given such an opportunity can’t be counted on to measure up to it. Why do we all long to win the award? It’s no question of superiority because we’re comparing different excellences and they’re varied in their nature and they can’t be fairly compared. There’s no rivalry in this room tonight. There’s no competition. As the Dodo said to Alice in Wonderland: “Everybody has won and everybody shall have a prize.” The nominations are really the prizes. The award...I, I can hardly believe that it’s really for me tonight. It’s always seemed to me something very personal, a gesture from the men and women of this industry who choose to show not only recognition of, of work... [camera cuts]

Ladies and gentlemen, I came to this country as a stranger five years ago. I’ve been very happy and very proud to be a member of this community and of this industry all that time. And from everybody I met or worked with truly I have received such ready kindness that for quite a long while I couldn’t believe that it was true, but tonight you have made me feel that you have really set the door of your friendship wide open and that welcome is officially on the mat, and that is why I’m so happy. [camera cuts]

...very humbly, very gratefully I say thank you and I step across your threshold. There... [camera cuts]

...if I may say so, the girl who’s always on the sidelines, my quite specially wonderful little mother. And after her, Sidney Franklin the great, the inimitable Willy Wyler... [camera cuts]

[Note: Total speech time of these combined excerpts is 3 minutes 56 seconds.]

The finest gay Americans

Year: 1993 (66th) Academy Awards

Category: Actor in a Leading Role

Film Title: Philadelphia

Winner: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks: Here’s what I know. I could not be standing here without that undying love that was just sung about by, not Bruce [Springsteen], but Neil Young. And I have that in a lover that is so close to fine, we should all be able to experience such heaven right here on earth. I know also that, I should not be doing this, I should not be here, but I am because of the union of such filmmakers as Ed Saxon, Ron Nyswaner, Kristi Zea, Tak Fujimoto, Jonathan Demme -- who seems to have these [referring to the Oscar] attached to his limbs for every actor that works with him of late. And a cast that includes Antonio Banderas, who, second to my lover, is the only person I would trade for. And a cast that includes many other people, but the actor who really put his film image at risk, and shone because of his integrity, Mr. Denzel Washington, who I really must share this with.

I would not be standing here if it weren’t for two very important men in my life, so... two that I haven’t spoken with in awhile, but I had the pleasure of just the other evening. Mr. Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me to act well the part, there all the glory lies. And one of my classmates under Mr. Farnsworth, Mr. John Gilkerson. I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age. I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends.

And there lies my dilemma here tonight. I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all. A healing embrace that cools their fevers, that clears their skin, and allows their eyes to see the simple, self-evident, common sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men, in the city of Philadelphia two hundred years ago. God bless you all. God have mercy on us all. And God bless America.

Watch here.

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