The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award is awarded to “Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”

Who was Irving Thalberg?
He was the vice president and head of the Production Division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who was responsible for developing MGM’s top productions. The award is not given every year. It is given to those special individuals to whom it is determined special recognition for achievement in the motion picture industry industry.

This is an award that frustrated a widow and brought Walt Disney to tears.

I suppose that should be explained a bit more.

Walt Disney was given this Academy Award in 1942.
Prior to Walt winning it, Darryl F. Zanuck, Hal B. Wallis, and David O. Selznick had been given this honorary Oscar. Walt Disney at the time was the youngest ever to win it.Today the list of winners is impressive to say the least.

The story of the award presentation in the Daily Variety (February 27, 1942 ) featured the headline -“Walt Disney Weeps as He Gets Oscar

Walt Disney as he was given the award became emotional, choked back tears and said, “I want to thank everybody here. This is a vote of confidence from the whole industry.”

Then as Walt was praised for blending classical music by Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with animation in Fantasia. The presenter insisted that the film had been a breakthrough in helping to introduce classical music to the public in news ways and educating them.

Walt responded with a surprising quote, “Thank you so much for this. Maybe I should get a medal for bravery. We all make mistakes. Fantasia was one but it was an honest one. I shall now rededicate myself to my old ideals.”

It was an emotional moment…a moment to be remembered that sometimes gets lost in the history of Disney.

Ah, but there is also a frustrated widow in this story. The widow is Norma Shearer. She was Irving Thalberg’s widow. The trophy was a bust of Thalberg. But Norma didn’t like it. The trophy frustrated her. It wasn’t that she didn’t care for the award, she just didn’t like the way the trophy captured or in this case didn’t capture the likeness of her husband. After Walt Disney returned to his seat, in another emotion packed moment, she went over to Walt and gave him a kiss. After the award ceremony she commissioned a brand new sculpture, she paid for it herself. She then had new trophies made and then personally sent them to each of the 3 previous winners and of course, Walt Disney. This new style of trophy became the new version officially used by the Academy for a number of years after.

We are used to see a smiling, laughing, and grinning Walt Disney. Those images are the ones that most think of when they think of Walt. Those who worked with Walt would also see moments of intensity and flashes of anger when the pressure was on. They would see his eyes light up when something surprising happened or a new idea began to perculate within him. And he could also be moved to tears during the screening of an emotional scene of a film, at the hearing of an emotional story, or in this case…in receiving an award.

Moments like the Academy Awards in 1942 serve as powerful reminders that Walt was not merely a legendary figure that was created by a public relations firm somewhere…but instead a real man, who loved his wife, loved his family, loved the people he worked with, loved the people who enjoyed the things he created, and loved life. That passion and that emotion helped make this very real man…a man who was willing to chase dreams, not give up, never quit…and as a result change the world.

Often people will let their emotions get the best of them, overwhelm them, and sometimes…keep them from moving forward. Walt was an emotional man…and yet at the same time..those emotions were a part of the reason he was so successful and so driven. There is a lesson for all of us in that…as we move through life there are going to be things that move us, touch our lives, cause us to laugh and even cause us to cry…and each of those moments help make us who we are…and help shape who we can become.

Allow your passions, your emotion, the things that bring you joy, and the things you love to drive you forward in life and share those with others. You have so much to offer those around you…and if you do…well, you just might change the world.

It doesn’t matter if you never win an award or not…those that you impact will forever be different and that lasts for an eternity.




The details and history for this article researched from the following excellent resources (The great Disney historian Jim Korkis…info also featured in USA Today)