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Legendary speech at Oscars was 5 minutes, not 90

An e-mail came my way last week, commenting on an Oscar myth that is brought up every year about this time and which a national daytime talk show apparently helped perpetuate again last week.

Suzanne Frasuer, a Salt Lake reader, writes:

That old (and erroneous) legend about Greer Garson's acceptance speech upon winning the Best Actress for "Mrs. Miniver" is being retold.

Through the years, the length of Miss Garson's speech has been variously described as lasting from 20 minutes to an hour. Well the topper came this morning on "The Regis and Kelly Show," when someone said that Garson spoke for 90 minutes!!!"

Well, it happens that a few years ago, Garson addressed this pervasive legend, saying that she herself had become curious about how long she had actually spoken, so she asked the Academy for a recording of that broadcast, timed her remarks and discovered that, while it may have SEEMED like an hour to some, she had in fact spoken for a mere FIVE MINUTES.

Ms. Frasuer is correct, of course. But who really expects Regis to get it right when he doesn't have his army of crack "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" research staffers around him?

For the sake of comparison, winners' speeches are now supposed to be 45 seconds or less. These days, at 45 seconds, the orchestra starts to play the winner(s) off stage . . . although no one is going to hurry Julia Roberts come Sunday evening.

Here's some more Oscar trivia that Regis would probably exaggerate:

Roberts has been nominated twice before — as best supporting actress for "Steel Magnolias" (1989) and as best actress for "Pretty Woman" (1990). And if there is a sure thing for this Sunday's Oscarcast, it's that she will win as best actress for "Erin Brockovich."

With 12 nominations, "Gladiator" is the odds-on favorite in a number of categories, including best picture and best actor (Russell Crowe). But . . . however unlikely . . . if the film should be shut out, it would have the distinction of setting the record for Oscar losses. Two films with 11 nominations each are now tied for that dubious honor — "The Turning Point" (1977) and "The Color Purple" (1985).

John Williams' Oscar nomination this year for his musical score for "The Patriot" is his 39th. His first was for "Valley of the Dolls" in 1967. (He's won five — for "Fiddler on the Roof," "Jaws," "Star Wars," "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Schindler's List.")

Randy Newman's musical nomination for "Meet the Parents" is his 14th. His first was "Ragtime" in 1982. (He has never won.)

The late Alfred Newman (Randy's uncle), a legendary composer, holds the record for individual nominations — 45. (He won nine Oscars.)

Walt Disney holds the record for overall nominations — 60. (He also holds the record for wins — 26, which includes honorary awards, as well as nods for cartoons, short subjects and documentaries.)

If Kate Hudson wins as best supporting actress for "Almost Famous," she and her mother Goldie Hawn (who won the supporting-actress award in 1969 for "Cactus Flower") would be the first mother-daughter winners in competitive categories. Other mother-daughter nominees have been Judy Garland (who took home an honorary Oscar in 1940) and Liza Minnelli (who won as best actress for "Cabaret" in 1972), and Diane Ladd (nominated three times in the supporting cagegory) and Laura Dern (once for best actress).

Albert Finney's nomination as best supporting actor for "Erin Brockovich" is his fifth, the other four being for best actor. If he wins, he'll follow in the footsteps of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, fellow Brits and longtime stars who won as older actors in the supporting category. (Caine did it twice.)

If Tom Hanks wins as best actor for "Cast Away," he'll join Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Brennan as the Academy's only triple winners. (Only Katharine Hepburn has more — four.)

Peter O'Toole has received the most nominations as best actor without ever winning an Oscar: seven. The late Richard Burton tied that number without ever winning, but one of his nominations was as best supporting actor. Ironically, among their best-actor nominations, O'Toole and Burton were nominated in 1965 for the same film — "Becket."

Ed Harris, up for best actor as "Pollock," is the 13th actor to direct the movie that won him an acting nomination. However, only two have won — Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet" (1948) and Roberto Benigni in "Life Is Beautiful" (1998).


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com