Let's hear it for ladies of a certain age!
Mary Tyler Moore, television icon and an Oscar nominee for a terrifically icy variation on one of Oscar's favorite archetypes 'the monster mom' in Ordinary People (1980) turns 75 years old today. The last picture I can find of her out and about is the one to your left taken at the premiere of "Follies" starring Bernadette Peters (DO NOT MISS IT IF YOU'RE IN NYC!) which is just about the most appropriate show an aging diva can be seen at since it's all about aging showgirls looking back on their lives. (It's also one of the best musicals ever written but let's not get distracted...)
Mary Tyler Moore got me to thinking about the endurance of our beloved Best Actress nominees. There have been various media Oscar mash notes over the years that have claimed that winning an Oscar helps you live longer and while I can't possibly aim to verify that it does give one pause to realize that Mary Tyler Moore and Vanessa Redgrave just barely made this list. Jane Fonda & Liv Ullman didn't even qualify.
25 OLDEST LIVING "BEST ACTRESS" NOMINEES
01 Luise Methusaleh Rainer (nearly 102 years old)
This two time Oscar winner, the first back-to-back competitive Oscar winner (The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth) is the oldest living Oscar winner or nominee from any category. She turns 102 on January 12th.
Still working? Nope... though she still holds court on occasion. She left the movies behind pretty quickly after her prime.
02 Olivia de Havilland (95 years old)
03 Joan Fontaine (94 years old)
Still working? Nope. The famously estranged Oscar-winning sisters were born to British parents in Japan and became Hollywood stars in short succession in the late 30s. Though Joan beat her older sister to the first family Oscar, Olivia triumphed by winning twice. They're both retired and rarely seen in the media. Fontaine supposedly still lives in California. De Havilland, who has lived in France for decades, did show up at the latest Cesar Awards (the French Oscars) where she received a well deserved standing ovation.
04 Eleanor Parker (89 years old)
The star of Caged (1950) won the Venice Volpi Cup but Oscar always eluded her despite three nominations. If Oscar would ever think to give actresses honorary Oscars, rather than vaguely film-related female celebrities and men from any film profession, she would certainly be worth considering. She's most famous nowadways for her Baroness role in The Sound of Music for which she was not nominated.
Still working? No. Extremely low profile since that last gasp of TV guest work in the 80s.
05 Doris Day (87 years old)
Speaking of Honorary Oscars... her fans get noisy about that all the time. One of the few people you can say "living legend" about without anyone disputing the title.
Still working? No. Some people believe that Oscar isn't interested in an honorary because she's not likely to show up.
06 Julie Harris (newly 86 years old)
She was an awards magnet in the 1950s, winning Emmys and Tonys and being Oscar nominated for The Member of the Wedding (1952). She played James Dean's girl in the classic East of Eden. It's on the stage where her legend truly resides though. She's won five competitive Tony Awards, which means she's tied with Angela Lansbury for the most wins ever.
Still working? Every once in a while -- her last film was The Lightkeepers (2010).
06 Fernanda Montenegro (82 years old)
The Brazilian legend won a well deserved Oscar nomination for Central Station (1998) which was also up for Best Foreign Film.
Still working? Yep. Next up is a role for Manoel de Oliviera, Portugal's 103 year old prolific director!
07 Joanne Woodward (81 years old)
Mrs. Paul Newman, one of the most acclaimed actors of her generation, won her gold man for The Three Faces of Eve but have you ever seen her work in her husband's debut directorial film Rachel, Rachel? Wow!
Still working? Very very infrequently. Her last major film year was 1993 when she played Tom Hanks's mother in Philadelphia and provided the narration for Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence.
More powerhouse legends after the jump... Gena, Baby Doll, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and a couple of Dames that are still acting and hugely beloved for multiple generations.
08 Gena Rowlands (81 years old)
As one of America's most influential actresses, many cinephiles think she deserved better Oscar treatment than just two nominations. Pedro Almodóvar even partially dedicated All About My Mother to her. One of her first films Faces was just inducted into the National Film Registry.
Still working? Yes. Next up is Yellow for her son Nick Cassavettes.
11 Piper Laurie (turns 80 on Jan 22nd)
They're all going to laugh at you remember you! She's got at least two bonafide immortals under her belt (The Hustler, 1961 and Carrie, 1976) and one cult classic TV series (Twin Peaks) so history will be kind. She also just released her memoirs "Learning to Live Out Loud" More on that soon... I have a copy I keep forgetting to give away.
Still working? Yes. Last seen in Hesher with Joseph Gordon-Levitt
12 Debbie Reynolds (79 years old)
Carrie Fisher's Unsinkable mom just had a big auction of her Hollywood memorabilia and made a lot of press rounds in the wake of Elizabeth Taylor's death (a peer, enemy, friend and fellow star who her legend is inextricably tied to thanks to the Eddie Fisher years)
Still working? She pops up on TV on occassion and has her own stage act.
OF NOTE: They're developing a Broadway show around The Unsinkable Molly Brown using some of the songs from her movie musical. The always energetic Sutton Foster may star.
13 Ellen Burstyn (newly 79 years old) "Sara Goldfarb" herself and obviously one of the favorite actresses of Film Experience readers if our "memorable character polls" this past summer were any indication.
Still working? Yep. Get that second Oscar Ellen! C'mon Darren Aronofsky, give her a plum unexpected part again.
14 Anouk Aimée (78 years old) Still working regularly in French cinema. They don't toss their legends out like Hollywood, thank god.
15 Cicely Tyson (newly 78 years old) Just seen in The Help but one kept hoping she'd get more screentime given her emotional weight in Emma Stone's narrative.
16 Shirley Maclaine (77 years old)
Warren Beatty's big sister has been a star since time began and possibly before that too. Still working? Yes. According to the IMDb, though they're not always reliable on such matters, she's got four films in the works.
17 Louise Fletcher (77 years old)
18 Sophia Loren (77 years old)
She's got a real Oscar and a Honorary one... and while you have to honor Sophia's place in movie history we've always kind of been baffled by the practice of giving Honorary Oscars to previous winners when so many other people deserving people never won competitively? Any theories? Or is just the idea of habitual pleasures? Still working? Every once in a while... though I'm still baffled as to why they cut her character's song in Nine. Perhaps it's not best to ask questions of that movie these days.
19 Dame Maggie Smith (turned 77 a few days ago!)
Another beloved icon. Still working? Like a trouper. She finished the last Harry Potter film despite health trouble and now she's proving her comic worth all over again in Downton Abbey... winning yet more prizes and inspiring hilarious tweets like this one from Patton Oswalt.
20 Dame Judi Dench (newly 77 years old)
Still working? Duh! Just last month she terrorized Leo DiCaprio with floral stories in J. Edgar and comforted Michelle Williams nervous star in My Week With Marilyn. We're still waiting for her to sink her teeth into another role as good as the one she devoured in Notes on a Scandal though.
21 Diahann Carroll (76 years old)
Claudine ... "Dominique Devereaux" ... Still working? Pretty steadily for decades. Next up is the matriarch role in We the Peeples with Kerry Washington.
22 Julie Andrews (76 years old)
Words cannot express but here's our embellished "a history of"! A global treasure. Still working? Yes. Hey, Oscar... wouldn't she be a great choice to give Best Picture away instead of one of those boring men you let do it every other year? She's done it once before but given that you're so stuck on repeats... if you must stay stuck on repeats why not a global icon who hasn't had the honor in 40+ years?
23 Glenda Jackson (75 years old)
The two time winner was a staple of the late 60s and early 70s cinema. Still working? Not in showbiz, no. She left for politics long ago.
24 Mary Tyler Moore ....Happy 75th!
25 Vanessa Redgrave (She's turning 75 on January 22nd)
We've been talking about her a lot recently on account of her Coriolanus firepower
If I made an error you'll surely let me know though I think that's accurate. I do have spreadsheets, don'cha know.
This topic might well relate to the upcoming Best Actress race. We'll find out in under a month who the next five additions to the history books will be but if Academy voters follow the precursor favorites and goes with Close, Streep, Swinton and Davis, we'll have one of our oldest skewing lineups ever in a category that regularly prefers the 20 and 30somethings. Does that give Michelle Williams the edge being in Oscar's sweet spot Best Actress years? We shall see.