On Tuesday night, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted for this year’s Governors Awards. Honorary Oscar winners are publicist Marvin Levy, composer Lalo Schifrin, and actress Cicely Tyson. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award will go to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshal, all presented at the Academy’s 10th Annual Governors Awards on Sunday, November 18, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center.
This was a relatively happy and carefree decision. Still on the table is the fate of the Best Popular Film award, which was the subject of much discussion at the Telluride Film Festival, where the Academy throws an annual party. Lucasfilm president Kennedy, who is no longer on the Board, wondered if it was an idea worth saving.
The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, a bust of the motion picture executive, is presented to creative producers “whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”
Kennedy is the first woman to win the Thalberg award, and she and her husband are the first married couple to win it. Launched in 1991, the Kennedy/Marshall producing partnership has yielded Best Picture nominations for M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” (1999), Gary Ross’ “Seabiscuit” (2003), Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” (2005) and David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008). Kennedy/Marshall Company productions also include “Congo,” all five “Bourne” films, and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
Prior to forming Kennedy/Marshall, the duo co-founded Amblin Productions with Spielberg, sharing a Best Picture nomination for “The Color Purple” (1985). Additionally, Marshall received a Best Picture nomination for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), while Kennedy was nominated in the same category for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), “War Horse” (2011) and “Lincoln” (2012).
Obviously, Hollywood power brokers Kennedy and Marshall have a close relationship with Spielberg, who has enjoyed a four-decade working relationship with the first publicist to win an Oscar, Marvin Levy. The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
Levy, who began his career in publicity working for MGM in New York before joining Columbia Pictures in Hollywood on the advertising side, so impressed Spielberg with his work on the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” that he worked closely as his personal marketing and publicity man up to the present, holding positions at Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks Studios, and Amblin Partners. He commandeered publicity campaigns for such films as “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “American Beauty,” “Gladiator,” and “Lincoln.”
Argentinian composer Schifrin studied classical music and jazz in France before beginning to write scores for film in ’50s Buenos Aires. He has written scores for more than 100 films, including “The Cincinnati Kid,” “Bullitt,” “Dirty Harry,” “Enter the Dragon,” and “Rush Hour.” His theme for the television series “Mission: Impossible” is iconic to this day, and included in the Tom Cruise franchise installments. Schifrin has received six Oscar nominations: for the original scores for “Cool Hand Luke” (1967), “The Fox” (1968), “Voyage of the Damned” (1976) and “The Amityville Horror” (1979), the original song “People Alone” from “The Competition” (1980), and the adaptation score for “The Sting II” (1983).
Raised in Harlem, Tyson began her career as a model and a theater actress, appearing both on Broadway and Off-Broadway. After playing small roles in feature films and television, she was cast as Portia in “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” in 1968. Four years later, she received an Academy Award® nomination for her leading performance in “Sounder.” Her other notable film credits include “The River Niger,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “The Help,” “Alex Cross,” and “Last Flag Flying.”