A smiling Ann-Margret took the stage of the Fremont Theatre in the most anticipated evening of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Saturday, where an appreciative crowd had gathered to honor the two-time Academy Award nominee.
“I am so thrilled to be here,” she said as the audience welcomed the actress, singer and dancer with a warm standing ovation.
Dressed in a black dress and canary-yellow wrap, Ann-Margret thanked festival director Wendy Eidson for inviting her to San Luis Obispo. “You guys are incredible. I feel so welcome, I really do,” she said.
Ann-Margret was presented with the festival’s highest honor, the King Vidor Award for Excellence in Filmmaking, accepting the award following a showing of clips from some of her best-known roles in the films, “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “The Train Robbers,” “The Cincinnati Kid” and “Carnal Knowledge.”
Oscar-winning actor Alan Arkin introduced the performer, describing her as a brilliant actress who “dances like the wind” and “sings like a bird.”
“What do you do with someone that’s brilliant at everything she does?” Arkin asked. “There’s no way to pigeonhole Ann-Margret ...whose prodigious talent spills into so many areas.”
Arkin described Ann-Margret as kind and gentle, “She is unassuming. ... She is a complete joy.”
After accepting the award, Ann-Margret sat down with Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz for an in-depth conversation about her life and career.
Winners in the George Sidney Independent Film Competition were also announced, with two movies dealing with gender issues winning top prizes.
“Honeyglue,” a romance about a cancer patient who falls in love with a cross-dressing artist, won best narrative feature, while “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which deals with the dearth of female and minority software engineers, won best documentary.
“Passing Orion” won best documentary short film, and “Winter Light” won best narrative short film.
Tying for best student film were “Drone” and “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart.”
The festival continues Sunday with a full day of movie screenings, concluding with a closing night awards ceremony and screening of the movie musical “Bye Bye Birdie” at 5 p.m. Winners of the audience awards and the Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase competition will be announced at that time.