as of december 16th, 2013 - this list is no longer being updated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).