The king spoke and Oscar voters curtsied, bowed and applauded, naming the
British historical drama best picture of 2010.
In a 10-movie contest that primarily pitted "The King's Speech" against "The Social Network," Academy Award voters opted for grand tradition, inspiration and a cast led by Colin Firth, whose coronation as best actor was made official Sunday in Hollywood.
"I have a feeling my career just peaked," he said with classic self-deprecating humor. His Oscar was one of four earned by the picture.
Mr. Firth thanked his fellow cast members, screenwriter and one-time stutterer David Seidler, director Tom Hooper for "immense courage and clear-sightedness," and mogul Harvey Weinstein who took him on 20 years ago "when I was a mere child sensation."
Mr. Firth, who is 50, portrays King George VI, a stutterer who overcame his debilitating impediment with the help of an understanding wife and a speech therapist named Lionel Logue.
The man known to his family by his childhood nickname of Bertie was an unexpected monarch, crowned after his father died and his older brother gave up the throne for the woman he scandalously loved.
King George VI may have been an accidental king but Mr. Firth is no accidental Academy Award winner. A classically trained British theater actor, Mr. Firth was nominated a year ago for "A Single Man" and has handled a range of roles in projects such as "Pride and Prejudice," "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Mamma Mia!" and "Valmont."
As he invariably has done, Mr. Firth thanked his Italian wife, Livia Giuggioli, for "putting up with my fleeting delusions of royalty and who I hold responsible for this and for, really, everything that's good that's happened since I met her."
In the contest between showy and solid, Natalie Portman danced into Oscar history while fellow contender Annette Bening's record advanced to 0 for 4.
The pregnant Ms. Portman, radiant in a violet-colored Rodarte gown and expecting a child with fiance and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, plays a ballerina who taps into her dark side and loses herself in "Black Swan."
"Thank you so much to the Academy, this is insane," Ms. Portman said upon taking the stage. She thanked her parents for giving her life and the opportunity to work from such an early age and providing an example of how to be a "good human being."
Just 29, she is a rarity in Hollywood: a child actress who made a smooth, problem-free transition to adulthood, graduated from Harvard -- and even gets along with her parents.
Ms. Portman thanked directors Luc Besson, Mike Nichols and Darren Aronofsky along with those who spent a year training her, and the men and women who ministered to her daily on the set. She also singled out her beau "who now has given me my most important role in my life."
In addition to proclaiming "King's Speech" its top film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences embraced Mr. Hooper, who was considered a frontrunner but not a sure thing going into the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Mr. Hooper congratulated his fellow nominees, thanked "the triangle of man love which is Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and me" along with the balance of the cast and crew. "To David Seidler, whose extraordinary journey from
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