One of the rare EGOTs — a winner in the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys — Rita Moreno still “has it.”
The veteran talent left no doubt upon accepting the Life Achievement honor Saturday (Jan. 18) at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Gulld Awards, regaling the audience with humor, song and even a touch of profanity in her speech.
Presenter and longtime Moreno friend Morgan Freeman opened the tribute by noting her varied performing gifts, adding that she “broke through racial and sexual barriers” professionally, with her human-rights activism also noted in a filmed profile that offered clips from projects as diverse as “West Side Story” and “The Ritz” to TV’s “The Muppet Show” and “Oz.”
As Freeman — with whom Moreno had appeared on “The Electric Company” — then took “greater than great pleasure” in inviting Moreno up from her seat, she jogged around the stage and raised her arms in victory. And declared, “I am so [expletive] old!”
After the audience’s laughter subsided, she said, “I hope the man with the [censor’s] button was there in time. (He was.) I’m sorry about that. Actually, I’m not.” And the laughter rose again.
Moreno earned more chuckles by pausing to say “hello” to Jeremy Renner and Brad Pitt, but she eventually turned emotional in recalling how “astonished and surprised” she was to receive her Academy Award for “West Side Story” in 1962. “Now, this unexpected honor at 82. Hopefully, it’s early in the third act of my life.”
As her speech wound down, Moreno actually didn’t speak — she sang. Twice. A cappella. Stanzas from “This Is All I Ask” provided her exit lines, concluding with, “As long as there’s a song to sing, I will stay younger than spring.”