The Rambling Oscar Speech That Inspired the Academy to Set Time Limits
Like red carpet looks and bizarre musical numbers, rambling acceptance speeches are an Oscars tradition. The music the Academy Awards plays when recipients hog too much airtime has become shorthand for "get off the stage," but it wasn't always part of the program. It took a record-breaking speech delivered at the 1943 ceremony for the Academy to start cutting people off.
Greer Garson won her first (and only) Academy Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance in Mrs. Miniver (1942). It was after 1 a.m. when she got on stage to accept her statuette—the final award of the night. The late hour didn't dissuade her from speaking longer than any recipient before or since. After stating that she was "practically unprepared" to give a speech, she managed to go on for nearly seven minutes. Presenter Joan Fontaine had already taken a seat by the time she wrapped up.
Greer set the record for longest Oscar acceptance speech of all time, and she's believed to have been the catalyst for the introduction of time limits in future ceremonies. Many winners have famously plowed through the play-off music, but no one has come close to beating Greer's time. In 2010, the Academy lowered its cap on speeches to 45 seconds, meaning her record will likely continue to stand.
Some Oscar winners have trouble shutting up, but that's not always the case. Joe Pesci, Alfred Hitchcock, and Billy Wilder all kept their acceptance speeches under 10 words.