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.
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!
"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."
"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."
"It's very fortunate to live in a country where any man, no matter how humble his origins, can become a president, and to be part of an industry where any picture, no matter how low its budget, can win an Oscar." --producer Harold Hecht, at the 1956 ceremony, accepting the award for best picture for "Marty."
While the Getting's Good
"I hope this isn't a mistake, because I won't give it back for anything in the world." --Yul Brynner, in 1957, accepting best actor for "The King and I."
Dreams Come True
"I've been daydreaming about this since I was 9 years old." --Joanne Woodward, in 1958, best actress for "The Three Faces of Eve."
"Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted this. As a kid I lived in the projects, and you're the people that made me want to be an actor. I'm proud to be an actor. And I'm gonna keep on acting." --Whoopi Goldberg, in 1990, on being named best supporting actress for "Ghost."
The Thrill of It All
"I don't think ever in my life so many people were so directly responsible for my being so very, very happy." --Marlon Brando, in 1955, on receiving best actor for "On the Waterfront."
"No matter how much you try to imagine what this is like, it's just so incredibly thrilling right down to your toes." --Meryl Streep, in 1983, accepting best actress for "Sophie's Choice."
"I never expected in a million years that I would be in this position, it's a miracle. I am on cloud nine!" --Jessica Tandy, in 1990, at the time 80 and the oldest best actress winner (for "Driving Miss Daisy").
"When I was 19 years old, I was the No. 1 star for two years. When I was 40, nobody wanted me. I couldn't get a job." --honorary recipient Mickey Rooney, in 1983.
"I'm especially grateful that this does not come wrapped as a gift certificate to Forest Lawn." --Paul Newman, honorary Oscar winner in 1986. The next year, Newman won a competitive Oscar for "The Color of Money."
With Help From My Friends
"It would only be proper to cut it in half and give it to the two most valuable players--Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine." --Billy Wilder, in 1961, accepting the directing award for "The Apartment."
"Right now, I'm so happy I want to thank all the members who didn't vote for me." --Burt Lancaster, in 1961, on being named best actor for "Elmer Gantry."
"I'd like to thank Sidney Poitier, whose friendship gave me the knowledge to enhance my performance--and we shall overcome." --Rod Steiger, in 1968, accepting best actor for "In the Heat of the Night."
"And all you other four guys, this is ours." --Louis Gossett Jr., in 1983, best supporting actor for "An Officer and a Gentleman."
"I think we're all marvelous, but I've got it." --Milena Canonero, in 1982, accepting the Oscar for costume design for "Chariots of Fire."
"I have to thank two fair ladies." --Rex Harrison, in 1965, accepting best actor for "My Fair Lady," and referring to Julie Andrews, who played Eliza Doolittle onstage but lost the screen role to Audrey Hepburn, who was snubbed by the academy at nomination time.
"I am grateful to have Dustin Hoffman as my leading lady." --Jessica Lange, in 1983, best supporting actress for "Tootsie."
"I would not be standing here, if it were not for two important men in my life, Mr. Farnsworth, my high school drama teacher who taught me act well the part there all the glory lies, and Mr. Gilkerson, one of my classmates, two of the finest gay Americans, wonderful men whom I had the good fortune to be associated with and fall under their inspiration at such a young age." --Tom Hanks, in 1994, best actor for "Philadelphia."
"What you're saying is that for the first time, you really understood what happened over there, and that it should never, ever in our lifetime happen again." --Oliver Stone, in 1987, receiving the directing Oscar for "Platoon."
"My deepest thanks for your acknowledgment that Vietnam is not over. . . . Vietnam is a state of mind that continues all over the world, for as long as man, in his quest for power, interferes in the affairs of other men." --Oliver Stone, in 1990, upon being named best director for "Born on the Forth of July."
Here's Looking at You
"Hello, gorgeous." --Barbra Streisand, in 1969, for her shared best actress Oscar (with Katharine Hepburn), repeating her line from "Funny Girl."