Year: 1986 (59th) Academy Awards
Category: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
Winner: Steven Spielberg
Presenter: Richard Dreyfuss
Date & Venue: March 30, 1987; Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
I'm resisting like crazy to use Sally Field's line from two years ago.
Thank you very much. Following in the footsteps of some of my heroes, Cecil B. De Mille and George Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Ingmar Bergman and Robert Wise, this award is truly a great honor for me. The Thalberg Award was first given fifty years ago in 1937, which was the year of "In Old Chicago," "Captains Courageous," "Dead End," "The Life of Emile Zola," "Lost Horizon," "Stage Door" and "A Star Is Born"—all having been nominated for Best Picture that year. I'm told Irving Thalberg worshipped writers. And that's where it all begins. That we are first and foremost storytellers, and without, as he called it, "the photoplay," everybody is simply improvising. He also knew that a script is more than just a blueprint. That the whole idea of movie magic is that interweave of powerful image and dialogue and performance and music that can never be separated, and when it's working right, can never be duplicated or ever forgotten.
I've grown up—most of my life has been spent in the dark watching movies. Movies have been the literature of my life. The literature of Irving Thalberg's generation was books and plays. They read the great words of great minds. And I think in our romance with technology and our excitement at exploring all the possibilities of film and video, I think we've partially lost something that we now have to reclaim. I think it's time to renew our romance with the word. I'm as culpable as anyone in having exalted the image of the word at the expense of...exalting the image at the expense of the word. But only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers.
The five films nominated for Best Picture this year are as much the writer's film as the director's. And it's good news that each of these films has found its audience. Because this audience, who we all work for, deserves everything we have to give them. They deserve that fifth draft, that tenth take, that one extra cut and those several dollars over budget. And Irving Thalberg knew that. He would have been proud to have been associated with any of these films, as I am proud to have my name on this award in his honor. Because it reminds me of really how much growth as an artist I have ahead of me in order to be worthy of standing in the company of those who have received this before me. So my deepest thanks to the Board of Governors of the Academy and the audience out there in the dark. Thank you very much.
© Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
[Note: All winners are present except where noted; NOT all winners may have spoken.]