Hollywood has presented its first Oscars of the awards season, honoring screen acting legend Lauren Bacall with a statuette for her life's work in film.
UPDATED 2:09 PM - 23 Aug 2013

Hollywood presented its first Oscars of the awards season, honoring screen acting legend Lauren Bacall with a statuette for her life's work in film.

"I can't believe it!" Bacall gushed, as she was awarded the Governor's Award at a ceremony that offered a foretaste of Oscar glitter and glamour.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also honored B-movie director Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and producer John Calley at the ceremony attended by an array of Hollywood luminaries - from George Lucas to Quentin Tarantino.

Bacall, one of the most successful screen sirens of the 1940s and 1950s made her screen debut in To Have and Have Not in which she played the love interest of real-life future husband Humphrey Bogart, to whom she paid homage in her remarks.

"He gave me a life and changed my life," she said of the Casablanca screen hero to whom she was married from 1945 until his death in 1957.

The Oscar statuettes for most recipients will be given out at a star-studded ceremony on March 7 next year, at Hollywood's Kodak Theater.

Star-studded event

Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening, Morgan Freeman and Steven Spielberg were among the 600 invited guests at the inaugural Governors Awards event on Saturday.

Guests drank champagne and dined on filet mignon as each honouree was celebrated with tributes, toasts and a generous montage of film clips - leisurely elements not possible in previous years when special-Oscar presentations were built into the Oscar broadcast.

Corman, 83, was the first to be honoured. The longtime producer-director was lauded for being a champion of independent and efficient filmmaking and for promoting women to positions of leadership long before it was popular.

Quentin Tarantino said the man behind films such as Bloody Mama and X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, inspired him to become a filmmaker.

He praised Corman for his "undeniable impact on the industry, both as a business and as an art form".

"The movie lovers of Planet Earth thank you," Tarantino said.

'Feisty' Bacall honoured

Ron Howard credited Corman with giving him his start as a filmmaker, saying working for Corman was "a badge of honour".

Corman's advice to his peers? "Keep gambling. Keep taking chances."

Kirk Douglas honoured Bacall, his friend for more than 60 years, and confessed he once tried to seduce her - "without success".

Anjelica Huston presented the award to the legendary actress, saying she "defines what it means to be a great actress and also a huge movie star" and praising her "steadfastness, honesty and extraordinary beauty".

Ever feisty, the 85-year-old actress shooed away an escort who tried to help her to the podium to accept her Oscar.

She spoke of her late husband, "my great love" Humphrey Bogart, and her dashing leading men: Douglas, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda.

Bacall said she did not expect to receive an Oscar but gratefully welcomed the honour.

Cinematography award

"The thought when I get home that I'm going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting," she quipped.

Willis, whose cinematography credits include The Godfather, Annie Hall and All the President's Men, was honoured for his decades of work.

He was nominated for an Oscar twice: For Allen's Zelig in 1983 and The Godfather: Part III in 1990.

Presenter Jeff Bridges noted Willis' "unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, colour and motion".

Willis, 78, told his industry peers, "Do your best. Take care of your kids."

Health concerns kept Calley from accepting his award in person, so seven previous Thalberg Award winners did it for him, including Spielberg, Jewison, Beatty and George Lucas. They lauded Calley for his willingness to support creativity throughout his career.

"Please know how proud all of us are to welcome you to our ranks," Spielberg said.

Though not televised, the Governors Awards were taped and portions will be shown during the 82nd annual Academy Awards next March.