as of december 16th, 2013 - this list is no longer being updated
With the back-to-back departures of Peter O'Toole and Joan Fontaine I've been really bummed about losing great artists from Hollywood's Golden Age. The Golden Age is roughly considered to be from Hollywood's 1930s through the 1950s. I still hadn't recovered from the loss of Eleanor Parker, an underappreciated actress I had honestly planned a retrospective of but never got around to.
This morning in my movie grief I inadvertently killed dozens of people off on twitter by claiming there were only six stars of the Golden Age still living. So consider this list my penance. In the past I've published a semi-annual list of all living Oscar-vets in any capacity. It ws never meant to be a morbid countdown list but a way for us to honor people while they're still theoretically conscious of our appreciation for their indelible contributions. So though I normally publish such a list on Ms. Luise Rainer's birthday and it normally includes all crafts, I thought I'd publish an actor specific list that is NOT about Oscar... so send out telepathic waves of appreciation to these talents. Rent one of their movies this month!
100 OLDEST LIVING SCREEN STARS OF NOTE
DISCLAIMER: Not all screen actors who are old enough for this list are represented. We had to stop somewhere lest the list become a full time job. Check the comments for a rich treasure trove of names NOT included here that are still with us
01 Carla Laemmle (10/20/09)
Her career was largely uncredited but she's one of the very last silent film players and appeared in both Phantom of the Opera and Dracula ! And she recently completed work on a new movie Mansion of Blood at 104 years of age!
02 Luise Rainer (1/12/10)
She is 103 going on 104 ♫... that doesn't have a great ring to it but The Sound of Music is such an earworm and Hollywood did like to pretend she was Austrian nicknaming her "The Viennese Teardrop" (she was actually German but that wouldn't do in late 30s Hollywood). Oscar's first back-to-back Acting winner for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) was recently name-checked not so flatteringly in Hitchcock (2011) but she can handle it. The outspoken actress was very vocal about what she thought of Hollywood, her unsatisfying films, and "The Oscar Curse" which she doesn't believe in. Other key works: Not really. Her acting career was short-lived.
03 Mártha Eggerth (4/22/12)
A major star in opera houses -- her best known production being a revival of "The Merry Widow" -- she frequently acted in musicals and for multiple countries, too (Germany and Hollywood for the bulk of them). She's undoubtedly best remembered State side for back-to-back Judy Garland vehicles: For Me and My Gal (1942) and Presenting Lily Mars (1943) and if you've never seen either, you're in for such a treat. They're both such good movies.
04 Eli Wallach (12/7/1915)
This beloved character actor and recent Honorary Oscar recipient, played "Mr Freeze" on the Batman TV series. He's most famous for frequent television apperances and for his role as "Tuco" in The Good The Bad and The Ugly (1966). In terms of contemporary film, he popped up in Oscar favorite Mystic River (2003) and his most recent acting gig was in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). Other Key Works: He was busiest from the late 50s through early 60s stretching from Baby Doll (1956 - Golden Globe Nomination) to The Magnificent Seven (1960) and on throughThe Misfits (1961) and Moon Spinners (1964).
05 Olivia de Havilland (7/1/1916)
The oldest truly enduring movie star on this list had won Best Actress twice by the time she was 33 for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). Olivia's legend was cemented years earlier than either of her Oscar wins, though, with her first nomination as the kind-hearted "Melanie" in the immortal Gone With the Wind (1939). She is the one of the only four remaining living actors with speaking roles from that historic film. The Snake Pit (1948) and Hold Back the Dawn (1941) also won her Oscar attention. Other Key Works: Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and Light in the Piazza (1962).
06 Kirk Douglas (12/9/1916)
Spartacus himself and father to two time Oscar winner Michael Douglas. He was nominated for Best Actor three times for Champion, Lust For Life and the Hollywood on Hollywood heavily Oscared The Bad and the Beautiful which he is just incredible in. He finally won an Honorary Oscar and his irascibly energetic public appearances including onstage shenanigans with Melissa Leo (discussed here) even after debilitating strokes have kept his name in lights for younger audiences, too.
07 Zsa Zsa Gabor (2/6/17)
This Hungarian immigrant socialite who married multiple rich husbands and starred in movies and television, would have been even more famous today in the 24/7 media cycle. Zsa Zsa, who co-starred in Moulin Rouge (1952) is best remembered for her extravagant life and 9 husbands -- more than Liz Taylor -- rather than her film roles but she's the only Gabor sister who remains with us.
08 Danielle Darrieux (5/1/17)
This French legend's filmography spans her debut in the 30s (Le Bal) through the 00s with smaller roles like voice work for Persepolis. Her biggest splash in recent times was as the grand-matriarch in François Ozon's musical Sirkian homage 8 Women (2002) but her peak came in the 1950s when she was courted by Hollywood while starring in French classics like The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1955)
>>> Marsha Hunt (10/17/17) The Human Comedy, Raw Deal
09 Movita (12/4/17) Exotic beauty from Mutiny on the Bounty. Later married Marlon Brando!
10 Baby Peggy (10/26/18) (Silent) child star of infinite short films
11 Michèle Morgan (2/29/20) another classic French movie star - they're long lasting there and they treat their actresses right with roles for decades and decades
12 Setsuko Hara (6/17/20)
Yasujirô Ozu's muse and one of Japan's most respected actresses. Films include classics like Tokyo Story and Late Spring. She is referred to as "The Eternal Virgin" possibly because she often played devoted daughters and in offscreen life she never married, retiring from acting upon the death of Mr. Ozu.
13 Maureen O'Hara (8/17/20)
We keep asking why everyone's favorite maternal Irish redhead beauty (this side of Greer Garson) doesn't have an Honorary Oscar. The Academy won't listen though we honestly couldn't tell you why but for their histor reluctance to honor women. (The gender gap in Honorary Oscars is insane). You try watching Miracle on 34th Street, Black Swan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Parent Trap and the five films she made for director John Ford back to back and you'll be just as angry that she doesn't have a golden statue.
14 Mickey Rooney (9/23/20)
Arguably Hollywood's all time most successful teen star, this workhorse actor churned out a ton of films in his youth. His first competitive Oscar nomination was for Babes in Arms (1939), and another Best Actor nomination followed for The Human Comedy (1943) making him the youngest actor to reach two Best Actor nominations at the age of 23. To give you a hint at how impossible that is to do consider that only two actors ever came close, James Dean at 26 and Brando at 28, and nobody since the 1950s has managed anything remotely like it. Rooney's final two nominations were in supporting for The Bold and the Brave (1956) and The Black Stallion (1979). In addition to his four nominations he was honored with a Juvenile Oscar (shared with Deanna Durbin who is no longer with us) in the 30s and an Honorary Oscar in the 80s.
>>> Nanette Fabray (10/27/20) Emmy winner, TV star of Caesar's Hour fame, film musicals, and SAG lifetime achievement recipients
15 Carol Channing (1/31/21)
This Broadway legend was essentially too large for movie screens but she did manage one Oscar nomination for her hilariously out-there work as "Muzzy" in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). You have to see this performance to believe it. My favorite part of the movie is her "Jazz Baby" solo. Another must-see for Carol fans is the documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Tribeca Film Festival a couple of years ago with a very frail Carol in attendance. She spoke briefly to the crowd afterwards, telling us stories that she'd just shared in the movie... I considered it a happy Double Feature. Despite the brushes with television and film fame "Razzzzberries!" her claim on history is her Broadway legend, a lifetime of Hello Dolly! on stage and originating the Marilyn Monroe part in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
16 Louis Jourdan (6/19/21)
The suave and often villainous (onscreen) Frenchmen is probably best remembered for today's middle aged movie fans from Octopussy (simply because the Bond films, even the bad ones, endure) and Swamp Thing. Other less low rent and more prestigious credits include Letter From an Unknown Woman, The Best of Everything and the Best Picture winning musical Gigi. He retired 20 years ago.
17 Betty White (1/17/22)
Actress. Golden Girl. Ham...
At this point she's practically "People's Choice" for favorite ubiquitous old lady. Overexposed she may be but when she goes that's the last of The Golden Girls which will be hella depressing. That seminal show is not her only classic. She also co-starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
18 Christopher Lee (5/27/22)
Some actors have second acts in their career. Some get three. With Christopher Lee I've lost track. Who can count that high! This 91 year-old one time Hammer Horror era Dracula is still a favorite for genre-fans everywhere from his recent roles in Lord of the Rings and Hugo and more...
19 Lizabeth Scott (9/29/22) Noir beauty
20 Juanita Moore (10/19/22)
She was never as frequently employed as an actress as her talent merited and hasn't worked in over a decade but that Supporting Actress nomination for Imitation of Life (*see it*) in which her daughter, who is passing as white, resents her for the reminders of her identity as a black woman, sure was a beauty. Her most recent work was a few TV guest spots and a supporting role in the Bruce Willis flick The Kid (2000).
21 Valentina Cortese (1/1/23)
This Italian Day for Night (1973) actress holds the extremely rare honor of a supporting acting nomination from a foreign language film. Those are about as infrequent as it gets. Other key films include in an early version of Les Misérables (1948) in which she played both Fantine AND Cosette -- take that Anne Hathaway!, The Glass Mountain (1949), The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), and The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
22 Rose Marie (8/15/23) TV star The Dick Van Dyke Show, My Sister Eileen, The Doris Day Show, and more...
23 Richard Attenborough (9/29/23)
He's actually "Lord Attenborough" now. I always think of him as a director (Oscar winner for Gandhi but he just wrecked A Chorus Line in movie form) but in truth he acted very frequently, and here's a neat trivia note: he won back to back Golden Globes for Supporting Actor for The Sand Pebbles and Doctor Dolittle and Oscar snubbed him both times without a nomination. How rare is that! Today's audiences know him best as the short-sighted impresario behind Jurassic Park (1993)
24 Glynis Johns (10/5/23)
Every time I think of this 90 year old delight I start singing "♫ Well done, Sister Sufragrette ♪" but she actually wasn't Oscar nominated for her distracted politically-minded mother in Mary Poppins. Her only nomination came for a a terrific turn as the lusty bar owner "Mrs Firth" in The Sundowners (1960). Sister Sufragette is but a ripple in her blissful pond of movie roles. Two early roles as mermaids in Miranda (1948) and Mad About Men (1954) and her swashbuckling love interest in The Court Jester (1956) have devoted followings, too. Awesome performances for modern audiences include The Ref (1994) - so memorable as the irritable stingy matriach - and While You Were Sleeping (1995) though she is now, sadly, retired. Little discussed factoid: Stephen Sondheim wrote "Send in the Clowns" specifically for her voice during the development of the stage musical A Little Night Music. It went on to become his biggest hit.
25 Doris Day (4/3/24)
The movie musical / romantic comedy legend received only one Best Actress nomination (for Pillow Talk, 1959) and hasn't worked in forever but her fans are still among the most dedicated of any stars. Everyone grouses that she doesn't have an Honorary Oscar and many argue that it's only because she's totally withdrawn herself from Hollywood and probably wouldn't show to receive it. Have you heard her recent NPR interview? Other Key Works: Calamity Jane, The Pajama Game, The Man Who Knew Too Much, That Touch of Mink and many other hits.
26 Theodore Bikel (5/2/24) Supporting Actor of many classics including My Fair Lady and The African Queen
27 Eva Marie Saint (7/4/24), who is 89, won Best Supporting Actress for On the Waterfront (1954). That glove scene surely cinched it. Her last film role was as Superman's mom in Superman Returns (2006) before Diane Lane had a crack at it but she's back in front of cameras now for A Winter's Tale with an all star cast. Other Key Works: Exodus and Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. There are quite a few Hitchcock heroines on this list. He may have tormented his leading ladies but they survive.
28 Martha Hyer (8/10/24) was Oscar nominated for Supporting Actress for Some Came Running (1958). She also appeared in 50s hits like Sabrina (1954) and Houseboat (1958) and key 60s films like The Carpetbaggers (1964) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and was talked up for many roles but big stardom never truly happened. She quit acting in the 1970s.
29 Lauren Bacall (9/16/24) this 1940s screen siren, paired with Humphrey Bogart onscreen and off, recently received an honorary Oscar (we curse AMPAS producers for removing these from the broadcast!) and was nominated for her whole career under the guise of The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). Now 89 this tough actress is still working. Her best contemporary roles were both in icy fantastic Nicole Kidman pictures (Dogville and Birth). Other Key Works: Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Murder on the Orient Express and How to Marry a Millionaire (recently discussed).
30 Ruby Dee (10/27/24) is the third oldest actress ever to receive an Oscar nomination. She got it for slapping Denzel Washington silly in American Gangster (2007) at the age of 83. She's now 89 but her history with show biz goes way back and she has several lifetime achievement prizes to show for it and she still looks great, too! Other Key Works: The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) and Do The Right Thing (1989).
AND 80+ MORE BECAUSE ONCE WE START WE CAN'T STOP...
31 Joan Leslie (1/26/25) Sergeant York, Yankee Doodle Dandy
32 Dorothy Malone (1/30/25) Mambo-Loving Supporting Actress Winner
33 Elaine Stritch (2/2/25) "Stritcheyyyyyyy!" Broadway Legend, Lady Who Lunched, 30 Rock Mama
34 Hal Holbrook (2/17/25) Oldest man to ever receive an acting nominaton for his tremendously moving brief role in Into the Wild (2007)
35 George Kennedy (2/18/25) Best Supporting Actor 1967
36 Colette Marchand (4/29/25) Best Supporting Actress Nominee 1952. Then she vanished.
37 June Lockhart (6/25/25) Lost in Space matriarch. I always thought she had the best stage name ever but it's her real name. How about that?
38 Cara Williams (6/29/25) Defiant One, and Best Supporting Actress nominee
39 Gloria DeHaven (7/23/25) a working actor of stage, tv, and film for nearly 70 years
40 Honor Blackman (8/22/25) "Pussy Galore"
41 Angela Lansbury (10/16/25) Multi-Platform Legend, Recently Honored by Oscar which you can read about right here.
42 Michel Bouqet (11/6/25) Prolific French actor, star of current Oscar submission Renoir
43 Kaye Ballard (11/20/25) Funny lady
44 Michel Piccoli (11/27/25) Abundant French classics: La Belle Noiseuse, Belle de Jour, Contempt, etcetera
45 Dina Merrill (12/9/25) Operation Petticoat, BUtterfield 8
46 Dick Van Dyke (12/13/25) "it's a jolly holiday with you Bert!" ♫
47 Peggy Cummins (12/18/25) Gun Crazy'
48 Jerry Lewis (3/16/26) Nutty Professor, King of Comedy, March of Dimer
49 Joan Lorring (4/17/26) Supporting Actress Nominee
50 Charlotte Rae (4/22/26) "Mrs. Garrett"!!!
51 Cloris Leachman (4/30/26) Workhorse from The Last Picture Show through Raising Hope
52 Don Rickles (5/8/26) Comic actor, Emmy winner, voice of "Mr Potatohead" in the Toy Story films
53 Mel Brooks (6/28/26) Writer/Director/Actor/Comedy Icon
54 Harry Dean Stanton (7/15/26) Oddity
55 Frank Finlay (8/6/26) Best Supporting Actor Nominee, 1965
56 Irene Papas (9/3/26) Greek actress from Oscar nominated classics like Zorba the Greek and Z. Also: The Guns of Navarone
>>> Julie Adams (10/17/26) Creature from the Black Lagoon and a ton more credits
57 Sidney Poitier (2/20/27) Icon, Topic of conversation in The Butler, Perpetually Chased By Denzel Washington
58 Emmanuelle Riva (2/24/27) Victim of Jennifer Lawrence Larceny
59 Harry Belafonte (3/1/27) Singer/Actor, Beauty, Civil Rights Activist
60 Pat Carroll (5/5/27) "Ursula"!!!
61 Jerry Stiller (6/8/27) Comic Actor, "Frank Costanza", Father of Ben
62 Gina Lollobrigida (7/4/27) Italian sex symbol
63 Rosemary Harris (9/19/27) Actress, Aunt May, Passed her fine acting talent genes down to daughter Jennifer Ehle.
64 Roger Moore (10/14/27) Bond. James Bond. The Other One.
65 Lee Grant (10/31/27) Supporting Actress Winner, Shampoo
66 Estelle Parsons (11/20/27) Loud Occasionally Sensational Actress, Oscar Winner
67 Jeanne Moreau (1/23/28), French Powerhouse, Subject of both Jules et Jim's Affections
68 Stuart Whitman (2/1/28) Best Actor Nominee The Mark (1961)
69 Paul Dooley (2/22/28) instantly familiar character actor
70 James Garner (4/7/28) Actor. Maverick. Rockford. Best Actor Nominee Murphy's Romance
71 Hardy Krüger (4/12/28) Highly Regarded German Star. Once refused a Golden Globe nomination!
72 Shirley Temple (4/23/28) The Ür Child Star
73 Alice Drummond (5/21/28) Instantly Familiar Character Actress
74 Martin Landau (6/20/28) Oscar Winner of Much Awesomeness. Plus Space 1999 if that's too prestigey for you.
75 Katharine Helmond (7/5/28) Sturdy Sitcom Superstar, Stretched by Brazil
76 Nancy Olson (7/14/28) Supporting Actress Nominee, Sunset Blvd
77 Orson Bean (7/22/28) you may remember him with the speech impediment on the 7½ floor?
78 Ann Blyth (8/16/28) Slapped by Joan Crawford (not that that's a rare distinction). Supporting Actress Nominee
79 Marian Seldes (8/23/28) Superb on Stage
80 Adam West (9/19/28) Batman Pre-Bale. Pre-Everyone.
81 Ann Morgan Guilbert (10/16/28) Please Give
82 Marion Ross (10/25/28) Versatile tv/film star. Best known for Happy Days
83 Terry Moore (1/7/29) Storied Starlet, Best Supporting Actress Nominee for Come Back Little Sheba
James Hong (2/22/29) Character Actor (Blade Runner, RIPD, and more)
84 Jane Powell (4/1/29) One Bride of Seven, also had Royal Wedding
85 Max Von Sydow (4/10/29) Bergman Muse. Acting God
86 Vera Miles (8/23/29) > Jessica Biel who played her in Hitchcock
87 Bob Newhart (9/5/29) Famous Comic
88 Anne Meara (9/20/29) one of the teachers from Fame (1980)!
89 Fernanda Montenegro (10/16/29) Brazilian Goddess
90 Joan Plowright (10/28/29) British Dame / Actress
91 June Squibb (11/6/29) Oscar Hopeful for Nebraska - currently expected to be nominated by most pundits which would make her the third oldest nominee ever in that category
92 Ed Asner (11/15/29) Emmy & Globe Magnet
93 Christopher Plummer (12/13/29) Best Supporting Actor winner for Beginners. (The Oldest Oscar Winner for Acting EVER) Also: Capt. Von Trapp.
94 Frances Sternhagen (1/13/30), stage/film/tv
95 Tippi Hedren (1/19/30), feathered Hitchcock heroine & Mother O' Melanie. Which is scarier?
96 Gene Hackman (1/30/30) Actor. Can't anyone talk him out of retirement?
97 Robert Wagner (2/10/30), Mr Natalie Wood of Hart to Hart fame.
98 Marni Nixon (2/22/30) the voice of the 1960s musical
99 Joanne Woodward (2/27/30) Awesome Actress. Widow of Paul Newman. Best Actress Winner.
100 Jean Rochefort (4/29/30) French star
101 Clint Eastwood (5/31/30) Indefatigable Icon
102 Gena Rowlands (6/19/30) Actressexual™ Fixation, A Woman Exerting Much Influence
103 Gordon Pinsent (7/12/30) actor, recently seen in Away From Her
104 Polly Bergen (7/14/30) actress
105 Sally Ann Howes (7/20/30) "Truly Scrumptious" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
106 Sean Connery (8/25/30) The Original Bond, Also Indiana Jones Papa, Robin Hood, Untouchable.
107 Philip Bosco (9/26/30) TV star, Character Actor
108 Lois Smith (11/3/30) Character Actress, Sookie's "Gran"
109 Maximilian Schell (12/8/30) Best Actor Winner Judgement at Nuremberg. Also nominated for Julia and the Man in the Glass Booth.
110 Jean-Louis Trintignant (12/11/30) Amour star
111 Chus Lampreave (12/11/30) Awesome Almodóvarian
112 Armin Muehller-Stahl (12/17/30) Charactor Actor, Shine Supporting Actor nominee
113 Donald Moffat (12/26/30) Character Actor
114 Robert Duvall (1/5/31) Acting God
115 James Earl Jones (1/17/31) The Voice of... Dar-- well, everything really. Who has ever monetized their non-singing voice this well? No one.
116 Dean Jones (1/25/31) Frequent Disney Star
117 Rip Torn (2/6/31) Storied Actor. Widower of Geraldine Page
118 Mamie Van Doren (2/6/31) Sex Symbol
119 Claire Bloom (2/15/31) Character Actress
120 Dominic Chianese (2/24/31) TV regular, Emmy nominee
121 William Shatner (3/22/31) Kirk
122 Leonard Nimoy (3/26/31) Spock
Too confusing for this list Doris Roberts sitcom star's birthdate fluctuates depending on the source. And by 6 years, too! Cicely Tyson's birthday is also a source of apparent confusion. Some say she's 88, others that she's 79.
Too young for the list John Gavin (4/8/31) Psycho Hunk, Robert Morse (5/18/31) How to Succeed in Business... and on Mad Men, Barbara Barrie (5/23/31) , Michael Lonsdale (5/24/31) Character Actor... still working!, Carrol Baker (5/28/31) Baby Doll, Olympia Dukakis (6/20/31) "Clairee", Moonstruck Diva, Leslie Caron (7/1/31) "Gigi" herself, Tab Hunter (7/11/31) Heartthrob, Jerry Van Dyke (7/27/31) Sitcom star , Mitzi Gaynor (9/4/31) Musical Star, Della Reese (9/6/31) Touched By Angels, Philip Baker Hall (9/10/31) P.T. Anderson Favorite, Sir Ian Holm (9/12/31), Silvia Pinal (09/12/31) Mexican Legend, Barbara Bain (9/13/31) Space 1999, Anita Ekberg (9/29/31), Angie Dickinson (9/30/31) Monica Vitti (11/3/31) Italian Sex Symbol L'Aventurra, Policewoman, Tough Broad , Rita Moreno (12/11/31)
They're younger than you think They're still talked up and working and today's audiences think of them as belonging on this list but they're a smidge younger than we realize: Debbie Reynolds, John Williams, Ellen Burstyn and Sophia Loren