36th Life Achievement Recipient, 1999
Award acceptance speech:
I came from a far away place, across 73 years to stand here tonight. And here, at the outset, I wish to state clearly that mine was not a solo flight. I’ve had company all the way here, because the hands of many people go into the making of a life.
First among all my traveling companions across the years was a mother and a father who brought me as far as they could over the rockiest of roads – when they had to stop to take their rest - they sent me on with the hope that Guardian Angels along the way would keep an eye on me. Though I never saw even one of them, I knew they were there doing exactly that. Because of countless numbers of them keeping an eye on me, I’ve grown to be an aged person in this business. Therefore, to accept this honor with the grace it deserves I must share it – first with those unknown forces who have been keeping an eye on me; and then with my Mom and Dad who believed in them and in me.
Needless to say that my heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation also go to that small distinguished collection of filmmakers who were the engines behind the incredible journey of 51 years that I was privileged to make as a professional actor in American motion pictures. They were producers, directors, and writers who needed the world to be better than it was and had the courage to take a hand in shaping it. Without them standing tall in difficult times, some of us might be in different places than we are, especially me. They were, unquestionably, traveling companions all; yet, each was on a journey of his own. I’m hopeful that history will never let it be forgotten that they passed this way.
Finally, to my fellow actors with whom I worked whose individual brilliance made me look good enough to be thought of for this most distinguished honor; a special thanks to each and every one of you.
Along the way I have accumulated no words of wisdom; and have, therefore, arrived with no message of importance. But I will leave you with a simple observation: The rewards were in the journey and there were many. Because of my traveling companions, the world is better than it was. And because of many of you, I am confident it will be better than it is. Thank you.