LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Octavia Spencer of "The Help" is the winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

The 39-year-old Spencer played tart-tongued maid Minny Jackson in the movie about Southern life as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded.

"Oh, thank you," a tearful Spencer said Sunday as many in the theater gave her a standing ovation.

The movie with Spencer is based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel "The Help." Spencer's longtime friendship with the film's writer-director, Tate Taylor, ended up making the actress an inspiration for her character.

Spencer has played a range of characters in movies including "Dinner for Schmucks" and "Seven Pounds."