The 79-year-old producer and former studio head was billed to receive the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Oscar, but was too sick to show up.
Steven Spielberg accepted the award from presenter Tom Hanks on his friend’s behalf, while fellow moguls George Lucas, Dino De Laurentiis, Saul Zaentz and Warren Beatty paid tribute to Calley.
Honours also went to movie legend Lauren Bacall, director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
Presenting Bacall with her honour at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, Anjelica Huston stated the movie star “defines what it means to be an actress,” adding, “She is a woman of great charisma and beauty but one not to be trifled with.”
Bacall confessed she was “very emotional and grateful” to be honoured at the 2009 Governors Awards.
Honouring B-movie mastermind Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino called the director “the original maverick,” while Ron Howard revealed, “He changed my life.”
A thrilled Corman told the audience, “I’m delighted to accept this Oscar,” adding that those in Hollywood work in “the only true modern art form.”
Saturday night’s gala and awards ceremony marked the first time the academy has presented its honorary awards anywhere other than during the annual Oscar telecast.