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Vanessa Redgrave gets Hollywood honors

Actress Meryl Streep, left, talks to British actress Vanessa Redgrave, right, at a central London cinema for an evening to pay homage to the Oscar-winning actress, called 'An Academy Salute to Vanessa Redgrave', Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011. AP Photo/Joel Ryan

(CBS/AP) LONDON - A day after he was honored by the Oscars, actor James Earl Jones took the stage at an AMPAS tribute Sunday to praise British star Vanessa Redgrave.

Pictures: Vanessa Redgrave
Pictures: The Oscar's Governor's Ball

He was among a host of A-list stars - Ralph Fiennes and Meryl Streep among them - paying tribute to the 74-year-old Oscar-winning actress and long-time social activist. It was a significant event because it was the first time AMPAS, the academy behind the Oscars, was honoring a British star.

That it chose to honor Redgrave is also significant because the actress shocked Oscar organizers and audiences when she gave a political speech while accepting the award for her supporting role as an anti-Nazi activist in 1977's "Julia."

"I love this woman. My wife understands," said Jones, who is currently starring alongside Redgrave in "Driving Miss Daisy" on the London stage. The show arrived in London after a stint on Broadway.

"I stand in profound admiration of her courage, both on and off the stage," said Jones, who received an honorary Academy Award on Saturday, presented to him in front of a surprised matinee audience at Wyndham's Theatre. He spoke from London at the Saturday night ceremony honoring him in Los Angeles

A member of a famous British acting dynasty that includes her father, sister, brother and two daughters, Redgrave has appeared in more than 100 films since her 1958 debut in "Behind the Mask." She is also known for her humanitarian work as a UNICEF ambassador, and for decades of left-wing political activism.

The six-time Oscar nominee was part of one of the most startling moments in Oscar history. The Jewish Defense League had objected to her nomination and picketed the ceremony because Redgrave had narrated and helped fund a documentary, "The Palestinian," which supported a Palestinian state.

In her acceptance speech, Redgrave praised the academy for not being intimidated by "a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression." Her comments were met by gasps, boos and growing applause.

Streep, who made her film debut in "Julia," said that speech was the moment when she first recognized that "fame was not just this stupid vanity ... you could use it to make a difference in the world."

Fiennes, British actress Eileen Atkins, Liam Neeson and Jane Fonda added their own tributes to a performer Fonda called "my friend ... my idol .. my mentor."

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