Screen legend Maureen O’Hara gets first Oscar at 94

Screen actress Maureen O’Hara has received her first Oscar aged 94.

O’Hara received a standing ovation after Clint Eastwood and Liam Neeson presented her with the honorary award.

She sang the final words of the Irish ballad ‘Danny Boy’ and thanked three men who helped make her career: actors Charles Laughton and John Wayne and director John Ford, with whom she made the 1952 film The Quiet Man opposite Wayne.

Octogenarian actor and singer Harry Belafonte was also honoured. Accepting the top Hollywood human rights award, he asked fellow artists and the entertainment industry to use their powerful platform to show the better side of humanity.

Before a star-studded audience and next to a long-time friend, actor Sidney Poitier, 87-year-old Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his lifelong fight for civil rights and humanitarian causes.

Honorary Oscars were also bestowed on Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, 73, and French screen- writer Jean-Claude Carriere, 83. The Academy’s Governors Awards gala has become the kick-off to the film awards season, gathering stars from a dozen films with potential to win Oscars in February.

“To be rewarded by my peers for my work, human rights, civil rights, peace, let me put it this way: It powerfully mutes the enemy’s thunder,” said Belafonte. He called artists “the relevant voice of civilisation” and hoped they would help the world “see the better side of who and what we are as a species”.

Belafonte was perhaps best known as a calypso singer, but as an actor he starred in ground- breaking films like Carmen Jones and pushed to make films from the black perspective. He also worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr in the civil rights movement, fought against AIDS in Africa, volunteered as a UN goodwill ambassador for decades and now works on gang violence.

Miyazaki was heralded by US director John Lasseter for making 11 feature films, like My Neighbour Totoro, and drawing the storyboards for every single one.

Miyazaki told the audience he felt lucky “because I have been able to participate in the last era where we make films with paper, pencil and film”.


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