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AFI Life Achievement Award

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The AFI Life Achievement Award (not to be confused with the Honorary Academy Award) was established by the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute on February 26, 1973 to honor a single individual for his or her lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television.

The Trustees initially specified that the recipient must be one who fundamentally advanced the art of film and whose achievements had been acknowledged by the general public as well as by film scholars and critics and the individual's peers. The Trustees also specified that the work of the recipient must have withstood the test of time.


History of the award

Director John Ford was the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees for the first award as he "clearly stands preeminent in the history of motion pictures." President Richard M. Nixon attended the gala dinner at which Ford was presented the award on March 31, 1973.

The Board of Trustees later amended the "test of time" requirement to enable the AFI Life Achievement Award to be presented to individuals with shorter careers, such as Tom Hanks, who at age 46, was the youngest recipient ever, and Steven Spielberg, who received the award at age 49.

All 35 Life Achievement Award ceremonies have been televised. Agreeing to appear at the televised ceremony apparently is part of the AFI's criteria for selecting the award.[citation needed] The televised ceremony generates income for the AFI, which is no longer funded by the US federal government. Due to the exigencies of television, the popularity of the award recipient in terms of potential ratings likely is a factor in selecting the Life Achievement Award honoree, which could explain why it never has been awarded to such major American directors as Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola, both of whom were Film Society of Lincoln Center Gala Tribute honorees, or such distinguished actors as Robert Redford, Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman, the latter of whom was a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award for life achievement.

Politics also seems to be a factor in the award, as that likely was behind the notable omissions of Charles Chaplin, exiled from America during the Cold War for his left-wing sympathies, director Elia Kazan, controversial due to his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Cold War, and Charlton Heston, whose presidency of the National Rifle Association made him unpopular in many circles. Heston was the chair of the AFI Board of Trustees that created the award in 1973.

Other notable omissions were Claudette Colbert, John Wayne,George Cukor, Audrey Hepburn, Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Mike Nichols (all of which are recipients of a Lincoln Center Gala Tribute), and Marlon Brando.

David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock and Sean Connery are the only non-Americans to win the award.

Warren Beatty has been named as the next in line to receive the award, which he will be presented at the ceremony set to take place in Los Angeles on 12 June 2008.[1]

List of recipients

1984 recipient Lillian Gish is the only star of the silent film era to win this award.


  1. ^ Movie & TV News @ - WENN - 5 October 2007

External links

Categories: Cinema of the United States | American film awards | American Film Institute AwardsHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from August 2006 | All articles lacking sources | All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since February 2007

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