CELEBRATING the Academy Awards (nicknamed The Oscars) is as old as a man’s knowledge of entertainment, music, laughter and despair. It is as fresh as a child’s first taste of make-believe — the magic splendor of filmmaking has always been a part of our lives.

The movie industry matters because it measures more than just society’s  affluence and leisure — our temper and taste, our stature and maturity, and our pursuit of taste and excellence in filmmaking.

The spotlight is on celebrities at the red carpet, where the glow is, backstage or among the audience.

These are universal experiences: the promise of laughter, the catch on one’s throat, the agony of waiting, the awe and ecstaty over winning.

In a way, moviemakers record pictures, words and music with perception and style,.

They seek stories, which best chronicle entertainment, diversion and the arts, as well as those accomplished in our time –  whether pleasure or pain, in joy or in crisis.

Most of all, the world of entertainment is stimulating, exciting and endlessly absorbing.

The Oscars has been sought and spurned by Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, George Scott, Mr. Bogart and John Wayne. It has been revered and reviled; it has been called an incentive for both excellence and commercial purposes.

But what does the Oscar mean for winners and nominees? What have been the reactions of both winners and losers?

Winning an Oscar is not an achievement that just happens. It is considered as the ultimate  symbol of attainment – a metaphor for success.

Winning an Oscar is considered not just the climax of one’s professional career, but the greatest achievement of one’s life.

That six-week purgatory (between the announcement of nominees and The Oscars) is usually a period of tremendous anxiety and high emotions.

The immediate reaction is spontaneous and less fabricated, nothing like the behavior during ordinary days in Hollywood.

Despite all the preparations for the event, there are always elements of unpredictability during the telecast. The reactions to winning (and to losing) have assumed greater significance.

They are shown live, to hundreds of millions of television viewers all over the world. It is exciting for the winners, but terribly embarrassing for the losers.

Anxiety and tension on the night of the Oscars are immense — their effects are equally felt by both male and female nominees.

Oscar magic does not distinguish between genders nor age.

At 82, Christopher Plummer was the oldest Oscar winner, chosen by an academy that now has 6,000 members.

Nostalgia (with half-remembered memoirs of stars now gone) and back stories of acceptance speeches of yore. Here are some “Interesting” speeches we’ve gathered.

There are two kinds of acceptance speeches: one type asserts that the awards mean nothing to them: the other is where one breaks into tears upon receiving an award – thanking their mothers, fathers, children, producers and directors.

In the beginning (prior to public broadcasts), the acceptance speeches tended to be modest.

Janet Gaynor, the first winner said: “I am deeply honored.” But as her voice cracked, she couldn’t continue and tears filled her eyes. She set a standard of behavior for female winners in their future speeches.

Of course, the speeches vary in length, content and originality. Some were as simple as Vivian Leigh’s 1940 speech in which she thanked “Mr. Selznek, all my co-workers, and most of all Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone With The Wind.

Greer Garson’s was extremely long, thanking everyone including “the doctor who brought me into the world.” She realized that she had broken a “sacred rule” — leading ladies, aren’t supposed to go further than “thank you, thank you, thank you” and bursting into tears.

Her speech soon became a joke in Hollywood, imitated at parties. It was rumored that  she refused to speak in public in the next decade.

Charlton Heston (of Ben Hur) thanked “the first secretary in Broadway casting office who let me in to get my first job.”

Shelley Winters thanked her agent for getting her the part in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Burt Lancaster’s speech evoked laughter and applause, when he thanked those who worked with him in Elmer Gantry, those who voted for him and those who did not.

Rod Steiger was truly gracious,  when he thanked his In the Heat of the Night co-star, Sidney Poitier, “whose friendship gave the knowledge to enhance my performance.”

Here are some of the speeches that stood out in humor.

Claudette Colbert at the Biltmore Hotel Oscars said: “I am happy enough to cry, but I can’t take the time to do so. A taxi is waiting outside with the engine running.”

Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront) was in an advanced state of pregnancy and feared that she “may have the baby right here out of excitement.”

Yul Bryner (The King and I) said: “ I hope this is not a mistake, because I won’t give it back for nothing.”

Lee Marvin broke the tradition of acceptance speeches by saying that “half of this Oscar belongs to a horse.”(Cat Balou)

Barbra Streisand  simply looked at the statuette and said “Hello, Gorgeous!” her line from Funny Girl.

My gentle readers, until the next Oscars.

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E-mail Mylah at moonlightingmdl@aol.com

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