Stars gather for AFI tribute to Shirley MacLaine

By Daniel S Levine,

The film industry’s biggest stars gathered in Culver City, Calif. Thursday night to honor the great Shirley MacLaine for her large body of work. The Oscar-winning actress was honored by the American Film Institute in a ceremony in which her co-stars, admirers and friends spoke about her work.

The AFI presented MacLaine with the 40th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award at Sony Studios. As USA Today reports, the multitude of A-listers at the event included Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg, Morgan Freeman, Sidney Poitier, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Sally Field and others. Her friend, comedian Don Rickles, opened the ceremony with a speech that had everyone cracking up.

"I'd like to say, first of all, the fish was lousy," he said. "There's Jennifer Aniston. She took my table at the Tower restaurant one night because she was in heat for some guy...There's Meryl Streep. I've never met you but Dustin Hoffman said he knows you.”

“When the lights goes on, not only as an actress, but as a human being, you make a person feel at home and loved,” Rickles said of MacLaine.

The Associated Press reports that fellow Oscar-winner Meryl Streep presented MacLaine the award, saying, “Some performers are just indelible. We fall early and we fall hard for them, and we follow them for the rest of our lives...That's our Shirl. That's you, babe.”

MacLaine thanked all the Jacks in her life in her speech. MacLaine worked with Nicholson, Lemmon and Black. She also thanked the women who sat at her table. She said they were her “other half of the sky, my sustaining belief that women who speak the truth will make the world a better place.”

“For all of the over-achievers in this room, we should relax and enjoy it,” MacLaine added, “because if we don't do it now, we'll do it next time.”

MacLaine made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry and starred in three Best Picture winners: 1956’s Around The World in 80 Days, Billy Wilder’s 1960 comedy The Apartment and 1983’s Terms of Endearment. She won Best Actress for Terms of Endearment. She continues to work on TV and in film, having been cast in Downton Abbey and Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

TV Land will broadcast the ceremony on June 24.

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