Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Witty acceptance speeches by British actors

A peek at some Witty acceptance speeches by British actors for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

When Peter O'Toole walked on to the stage to receive a well-deserved Honorary Oscar from Meryl Streep in 2003, there must have been an air of expectation among his celebrity audience who were probably eager to hear his rich and distinctive voice, and laugh at his wit and intelligent humour. It was a short speech but I'm sure he didn't disappoint them.

After greeting Streep and accepting the Academy Award from her, Peter O'Toole said after the extended standing ovation, and I quote him verbatim:

“Meryl Streep, members of the Academy, distinguished guests, viewers, ladies and gentlemen. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride—my foot! I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death us do part.

“I wish the Academy to know that I am as delighted as I am honoured. And I am honoured. The magic of the movies enraptured me when I was a child. As I totter into antiquity, movie magic enraptures me still. Having already bagged this baby, as it were, and so spared uncertainties prior to the opening of an envelope, I'm able to think. I think of our colleagues, our old friends, now gone, who played their parts in this ceremony. I think of the sumptuous talents alive and well and with us now. I think of the astonishing young, the gifted and able young men and women who I meet practically every time I go to work and from whom I grab energy in handfuls. I think of the United States and of the loves and friendships I've known here for more than half a century, and of how much the nation has given to me both personally, privately and professionally. And I am deeply thankful. And now, at this last, you have given me this delightful shock. You're very good. Good night and God bless you.”


Years later, when I watched that Oscar night on YouTube, I marvelled at the renowned British-Irish actor's choice of words which evoked instant mental imagery and laughter. At one point, when O'Toole said, “As I totter into antiquity, movie magic enraptures me still,” his compatriot Michael Caine laughed out loud, and I couldn't help laughing with him.

It was a good acceptance speech, the kind of speech whose lines you remembered long after they were delivered.


Over the years and until his passing in December 2013, Peter O'Toole was no less hilarious in his television interviews. He once rode in on a camel on David Letterman's The Late Show, reprising his famous role in Lawrence of Arabia, and proceeded to regale viewers and spectators with his disarming charm and humour. Except, he wore a suit and smoked a cigarette through a holder.

O'Toole comes from an impressive roster of British actors who are as witty in real life as they often are on screen—actors like Michael Caine, Hugh Laurie, Daniel Day-Lewis, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Maggie Smith, John Cleese, Kate Winslet, Rowan Atkinson and Jim Broadbent, who deliver their lines with deadpan humour, be it in a speech or an interview.

In 1998, Caine had the audience in splits when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor–Musical or Comedy for Little Voice, 1998. He opened his speech with this gem—“Oh, what a shock. My career must be slipping. This is the first time I've been available to pick up an award,” as if the awards were there for the asking. The rest of his speech was peppered with funny lines, which included the confession that he didn't work a lot without producer Harvey Weinstein. The Miramax co-founder was beside himself with laughter.

Colin Firth showed his funny side when he took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The King’s Speech, 2011.

He said, “I have a feeling my career has just peaked. My deepest thanks to the Academy. I'm afraid I have to warn you that I'm experiencing stirrings. Somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves. Joyous as they may be for me, it would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get off stage.” Firth remained impassive throughout his speech which made his appearance that much more hilarious. Don't they feel like laughing too? They are, of course. masters of their craft and I suppose they can hide their emotions. Or, maybe, they don't mean to be as funny as we think they are.

I watch award shows like the Oscars, Golden Globe, American Film Institute, Emmy, and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor only for the acceptance speeches, in the hope that some of the winners will make me laugh with their wit and wisecracks, and liven up my day just a bit.

14 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I agree, Oscar. I have found British stage and television actors Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Rowan Atkinson particularly funny.

      Delete
  2. I love it! This is a great approach to the Overlooked Movies meme, Prashant - thanks for sharing these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Margot. I thought I'd try something different. Emma Thompson also gave a funny speech after receiving an Oscar for HOWARDS END in 1993.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for this post! enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Mystica. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have merely scratched the surface.

      Delete
  4. Thanks, Prashant. Reading these quotes made me smile. I am sure I saw each of them live. Every year, I tell my wife I am not going to watch the Oscars. And every year I watch them. These moments make those four-hour shows worth it. The first speech I can recall was when Laurence Olivier received an honorary Oscar in 1979. Here it is on YouTube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSgvp0l1n2s
    Note all the movie stars no longer with us, including the man who introduces Oliver – Cary Grant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Elgin. I usually don't watch these shows live because they're telecast very early in the morning, and so I catch the repeat telecast late evening.

      Thanks, also, for mentioning Laurence Olivier who I forgot to cite above. I watched his Honorary Oscar speech on YouTube. I also watched the Academy Award where Cary Grant presented a lifetime achievement award to Jimmy Stewart. American cinema has its own share of witty speakers like Don "The Roaster" Rickles, Bob Hope and Rodney Dangerfield. Then there's Jack Nicholson and, of course, Jim Carrey whose brand of comedy is actually very funny. I enjoy his impersonations.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Charles, dry wit is intelligent humour and entertaining, too.

      Delete
  6. I love awards shows like this, Prashant, because I love to see people get excited about winning. The Oscars is the only show of this type that we always watch without fail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, I have been watching some of the early Oscars on YouTube. It's nice to see famous actors and actresses of the 40s through 70s gracing the event and being honoured.

      Delete
  7. Not a fan of the award show. Everyone telling everyone else how marvellous they all are. Pass the sick bucket....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, I watch them only for the humour and there's a fair bit of it, especially from actors in your part of the world.

      Delete