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Happy 102nd Luise Rainer! Celebrate The Oldest Living Oscar Nominees!

The double Oscar winner (The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth) turns 102 today!  She's the oldest living Oscar nominee or winner! Her most recent appearance was just four short months ago when she showed up for her star ceremony in Berlin. They now have a "Boulevard des Stars" much like Hollywood's walk of fame and as the only German Best Actress winner (Hollywood and the media who nicknamed her "The Viennese Teardrop" promoted her as Austrian for obvious reasons in the 1930s), she was a natural for inclusion.

happy birthday to you
happy birthday dear Luise,
happy birthday to you
.......and many more ♫

Odets and Rainer in Hollywood. Odets also romanced actress Frances Farmer (as seen in the Jessica Lange picture "Frances")Luise is on record as saying that she doesn't believe in the Oscar curse and her short-lived Hollywood career was her own doing.

"The Oscar jinx! There is no Oscar jinx. I couldn't carry the burden of being the middle of the universe. I had to withdraw and find myself".

My favorite anecdote about Luise is that her husband during those heady Oscar years activist / screenwriter / playwright Clifford Odets (Luise was not his only actress romance) was so furious with her for flirting with Albert Einstein at a party that he took a photo of Einstein and chopped off Einstein's head with a pair of scissors. Hee! But also: flirting with Albert Einstein at a party???. What storied lives those Golden Age movie stars lived. You can read a lot more about Luise's life at this comprehensive unofficial fan site

My friend Nick is also discussing Luise's odd legacy and one of her lesser known films today on this historic occassion. As per usual he puts her efforts in brilliant context.

I previously published a list of the oldest living Best Actress nominees which is over here. But the following list casts a wider net. Celebrate these folks while they're still with us by renting their signature films.


  1. Luise Rainer (2 time Best Actress winner) is now 102
  2. Douglas Slocombe (3 time nominee) cinematographer of Raiders of the Lost Ark is 99 next month.
  3. Elmo Williams, also about to turn 99, won his Oscar for editing High Noon(1952) one of the earliest movies (though not the earliest) to be told in "real time."
  4. Oswald Morris recently 96. He received all of his nominations for Best Cinematography for musicals (The Wiz, Oliver!, Fiddler on the Roof) but he also worked frequently with legendary director John Huston. Puppet classic The Dark Crystal (1982) was his last job.
  5. Eli Wallach (Honorary) the enduring character actor is recently 96. 
  6. Olivia de Havilland (2 time winner The Heiress & To Each His Own) is 95.
  7. Kirk Douglas (Honorary Oscar and 3 time nominee), Spartacus himself just turned 95.
  8. Ernest Borgnine (Actor winner Marty) turns 95 in two weeks. His next role is a leading one (!) in The Man Who Shook The Hand of Vicente Hernandez.
  9. Celeste Holm (Supporting Actress winner Gentleman's Agreement) is 94.
  10. Joan Fontaine (Actress winner Suspicion) recently turned 94. 
  11. Joyce Redman (2 time nominee most famous for Tom Jones) just turned 93. [Trivia note: Tom Jones is the only film to have ever won three nominations in Supporting Actress. Pity that Robert Altman's Nashville didn't repeat that trick because it was deserving.]
  12. Michael Anderson (nominee, directed Around the World in 80 Days) turns 92 later this month.
  13. Ravi Shankar (nominee, the co-composer for Gandhi) is 91.
  14. Ray Harryhausen (Gordon Sawyer Award recipient), the f/x legend, is 91.
  15. Mickey Rooney (Honorary Oscar and 4 time nominee) is 91.
  16. Carol Channing (nominee Thoroughly Modern Millie) turns 91 later this month. "Razzzzzbbberrries!"

    This new documentary on Carol Channing opens in theaters in a week. It's really fun if you like yourself some Channing.
  17. Ken Adam is almost 91. He's a two time winner for Art Direction and his nominations stretch across 4 decades of cinema.
  18. Hal David (winner "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" fromButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) is 90.
  19. Deanna Durbin (Juvenile Award winner) just turned 90. She was only 18 when she won her Juvenile statue (shared with Mickey Rooney) but she retired from the screen just nine years later.
  20. Eleanor Parker (3 time nominee Caged) in 89. She's best remembered today as the (not totally) wicked would be stepmother in The Sound of Music but that doesn't paint the whole picture at all. Isn't it time for renewed interest in her career?
  21. Norman Lear (television giant who was Oscar nominated for writing Divorce, American Style) is 89.
  22. Juanita Moore (nominee Imitation of Life *see it* It's a beauty) is 89.
  23. Valentina Cortese (nominee Day for Night) turned 89 a week ago. She holds the extremely rare honor of a supporting acting nomination from a foreign language film. Those are so very infrequent.
  24. Franco Zeffirelli (2 time nominee, director of Romeo and Juliet), another Italian (!), turns 89 next month.
  25. Charles Durning (2 time nominee, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) turns 89 next month.
  26. Richard Attenborough (2 time winner, director of Gandhi) is 88.
  27. Glynis Johns (nominee The Sundowners) is 88. Well done, Sister Suffragrette ♪ ! 
  28. Arthur Hiller (Hersholt Huminatarian winner, Director nominee for Love Story) is 88.
  29. Ron Moody (Actor nominee "Fagin" from Oliver!) turned 88 this week! For a previous article on this underappreciated sixties musical, click here.
  30. Doris Day (Actress nominee Pillow Talk) is 87. Some people say 89. There is much dispute but we'll go with IMDb's birthdate.
  31. Stanley Donen (Honorary Oscar) is 87. He's one of the best musicals director of all time, most famous for that thrilling barn sequence in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and the entirety of Singin' in the Rain.
  32. Theodore Bikel (The Defiant Ones) is 87. 
  33. Eva Marie Saint (winner On the Waterfront) is 87.
  34. Martha Hyer (nominee Some Came Running) is 87.
  35. Lauren Bacall Recently won an honorary Oscar and is 87 and going strong. She recently completed Carmel with Josh Hutcherson.
  36. Ruby Dee (Supporting actress nominee American Gangster) is 87.
  37. Dorothy Malone (Supporting Actress winner Written on the Wind) turns 87 later this month. Can she still do a mean mambo?
  38. Hal Holbrook (Supporting Actor nominee Into the Wild) turns 87 next month.
  39. George Kennedy (Supporting Actor winner Cool Hand Luke) turns 87 next month. Bonus Trivia! Funnily enough the oldest living Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor (that'd be Kennedy) is just one day younger than the oldest Supporting Actor Nominee ever (living or otherwise) which would be Hal Holbrook who was nearly 83 when he was nominated for Into the Wild.
  40. Colette Marchand (Moulin Rouge) is 86.
  41. John Briley (Oscar winner for writing Gandhi) is 86.
  42. Cara Williams (supporting actress nominee The Defiant Ones) is 86.
  43. D.A. Pennebaker (The War Room) is a documentarian. He's 86.
  44. Angela Lansbury (3 time Supporting Actress nominee) is 86 and still a big name to multiple generations. Most people know her as a TV and stage star (she's won 5 Tony Awards) but she had quite an ascendance on the big screen. How many people have won two Oscar nominations within their first three movies? Not too damn many.

    Angela Lansbury is still quite active on Broadway
  45. Julie Harris (Actress nominee Member of the Wedding) just turned 86. 
  46. Haskell Wexler (two time winner) the Cinematographer turns 86 next month.
  47. Andrzej Wazda (Honorary) This 85 year old legendary Polish director who is still working has four Foreign Language Film nominees to his credit including the recent Katyn (2007). 
  48. Jerry Lewis (Jean Hersholt Huminatarian Award) this 85 year old showbiz legend and King of Comedy star rarely won competitive prizes but lots of career honors now.
  49. Roger Corman (Honorary) is 85 and the subject of the new documentary Corman's World. Like many celebrities (and me!!!) he is from Detroit Michigan.
  50. Joan Lorring (Supporting Actress nominee The  Corn is Green) is 85

Cloris Leachman as "Maw Maw" on Raising Hope. Are you watching?Just outside the list: Cloris Leachman (Supporting Actress winner The Last Picture Show

We're super glad they're still with us but they were never Oscar nominated: Manoel de Oliveira (103!!! and still directing feature films in Portugal) Danielle Darieux (94), Zsa Zsa Gabor (94), Maureen O'Hara (91), Louis Jordan (90), Esther Williams (90), Betty White (turns 90 next week!), Christopher Lee (89), Elaine Stritch (almost 87) and Harry Dean Stanton (85).

A smidgeon too young for this list though they are Oscar nominees or winners: Mel Brooks, Norman Jewison, Samuel Goldwyn Jr, Albert Maysles (of Grey Gardens fame), Shirley Temple Black, Sidney Poitier, Rosemary Harris, Lee Grant, and Estelle Parsons. 

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Reader Comments (15)

Cloris, sadly, was only nominated for an Emmy for Raising Hope. She totally deserved to win though. That show is great.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

One addition: Joan Lorring should sneak in between Roger Corman and Cloris Leachman.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

YAY Luise! I'm so happy she made it to 102! xoxo Here's hoping for many more! Oh the stories her maid could tell - I know she lives in London. I think it was last year someone interviewed her and it was a very interesting read!

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLola

Ms. Lansbury (why is she still not a Dame and where is her Honorary Oscar, or better yet why can't someone give her a nice film role so she could win a competetive one and set another record?) will be back on Broadway this March with the revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man co-starring Candice Bergen, James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Michael McKean and Eric McCormack. Can't wait.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Excellent post Nathaniel, but I miss Mr. John Briley (Winner Best Screenplay for 'Ghandi'). He's 86 year old.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEndora

Oh, and a very Happy Birhday to Ms. Rainer, of course!

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Happy birthday Luise, and wonderful list Nathaniel! One correction though-Cloris Leachman didn't win an Emmy for Raising Hope, she was just nominated (let's not take away that Emmy in Gwyneth's inevitable Triple Crown).

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Great post. Wow Angela Lansbury has been nominated for like 19 Emmys and never won one? How Susan Lucci of her :)

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterramification

Endora and Mr W. I have fixed. thank you

Rami -- right ;) ?but she hasn't won the Oscar either so that triple crown is just not working out.

Amanda --i've corrected. I was so annoyed that they were "cheating" with her category placement (she's on every episode! how is she a "guest star?" ) that i assumed it would benefit her. But i should have remembered Gwynnie's "Holly Holiday"

January 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I've recently seen ( and talked to! ) Ernest Borgnine and Eva Marie Saint on the TCM Cruise in December. They both look fantastic and more than willing to share stories. Such great people.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

you went on a TCM cruise? how fun.

January 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Happy birthday Louise!

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Wow, a TCM cruise sounds like a lot of fun if you're a big movie fan. I'm jealous. I think that Luise looks really fantastic in that photo. She sure wears a century pretty well.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Referring back to one of your recent posts, maybe Oscar should pull people from this list to present the Best Picture Oscar in February. Such as:
1. Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland (I know it would never happen)
2. Doris Day and Angela Lansbury
3. Celeste Holm and Eva Marie Saint (my favorite choice)
4. Stanley Donen and Franco Zeferelli
5. Sidney Poitier and Christopher Lee

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCash

You forgot Lisabeth Scott!! I think she will be 90 this year!

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
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