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James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith, whose unexpected deaths this year devastated fans, were honored last night at the 65th Annual Emmy Awards by their co-stars Edie Falco and Jane Lynch, respectively. While we wish they'd shown clips of the actors' finest TV moments, the speeches were a touching and heartfelt tribute. Watch them below!
Falco held back tears as she remembered the generosity and kindness of her "pretend life partner," The Sopranos star Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in June at the age of 51.
"His portrayal of Tony Soprano had such depth and dimension that a lot of people still have a hard time believing that's not who he really was," Falco told the audience. "Well, I'm here to tell you: Jim was really quite different. He had tremendous warmth and heart. He was kind and uniquely generous."
"One got the feeling Jim was never entirely comfortable with all the attention he got. ... He was far more interested in turning the light onto people he considered more worthy," said Falco, describing Gandolfini's work with Iraq war veterans and his "fierce loyalty to his friends."
"You all knew James Gandolfini, the actor. But I was lucky enough to know Jim, the man: For 10 years as his close colleague, pretend life partner, and for many more years as his friend," she concluded. "And it's Jim the man, a very dear man, that I will miss most of all."
Emmy winner Lynch was chosen to memorialize Monteith, the 31-year-old Glee star who passed away from a drug overdose in July.
"From the first time you saw Cory, he had a star quality and genuine sweetness that made it impossible not to fall in love with him. ... I'm here to say that all that warmth and that charm, that open-hearted quality that we loved in Cory, was no act," said Lynch. "Cory was a beautiful soul. He was not perfect, which many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction. Tonight, we remember Cory for all he was, and mourn the loss for all he could have been. To a generation that loved Cory so, please know that this gifted and wonderful young man was worthy of your love."
Monteith and Gandolfini were two of the five TV stars given special tributes during the ceremony. Jean Stapleton, a.k.a. Edith Bunker from All in the Family, was memorialized by her onscreen son-in-law Rob Reiner for her "fearless" acting and "brilliant comedic timing ... that could also break your heart."
Robin Williams remembered his "mentor," comedian Jonathan Winters, who taught him the art of "comedy at the speed of thought."
And Michael J. Fox talked about Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg, whom he described as "a second father" with "a generous spirit and a great laugh."
As lovely as these tributes were, the choices were controversial; some felt that the late Dallas star Larry Hagman or The Odd Couple's Jack Klugman were more accomplished actors, and therefore should have been honored instead of Monteith (who never won an Emmy). Emmys producer Ken Ehrlich defended his choice, saying, "It was important to be responsive to younger viewers, to whom Cory Monteith meant as much as the other four individuals meant to their own generations." Hagman and Klugman were honored in a more traditional "In Memoriam" montage at the end of the show, alongside Roger Ebert, Julie Harris, Dennis Farina and Annette Funicello.