30 of the world’s oldest living celebrities are stepping back into the spotlight
With new celebrities making a large splash in Hollywood, it’s easy to forget those who paved the silver screen path for future generations. Hollywood’s Golden Age seems so far away, but when you realize there are still Hollywood stars and influential figures alive and well, you can’t help but wonder about the stories they might tell. History celebrates these influential figures and their achievements.
Mel Brooks (92)
The king of slapstick comedy is 92-years-old and is still making crowds laugh to this day. He is not just the beloved writer, producer, and director of some of the most quotable films ever, but he also served in WWII. It’s hard to imagine a character like Mel Brooks in the military ranks when most are used to seeing him in a comical light.
He was friends with other famous directors and producers such as Carl Reiner and Alfred Hitchcock, who helped Brooks with his comedic style over the years. For instance, a longtime friend and fellow comedian, Carl Reiner (who is 92 by the way) helped him create the “2,000 Year Old Man.”
Olivia de Havilland (102)
Another centenarian makes the list… Olivia de Haviland is another of the few actors that were a part of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”There are a few things many don’t know about the Gone With the Wind star, however. For one, she toured military hospitals during WWII and did some radio work to entertain the troops.
However, aside for her Golden Globe wins for, To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), she was also known for her bitter rivalry with her younger sister, Joan Fontaine. De Havilland said, “My Sister was born a lion, and I was born a tiger, and in the laws of the jungle, they were never friends.” And you thought your sibling rivalry was bad?
Dick Van Dyke (93)
Whether it’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke will always be every generation’s favorite gangly performer and actor. Clocking in at 93 years old, Van Dyke had his ups and downs. Before he was the star of The Dick Van Dyke Show he experienced homelessness in his early acting career.
He and his first wife, Margie Willet, were married on air during the show Bride and Groom. The show paid for their rings, honeymoon, and household appliances considering their financial circumstances. They were so poor, according to Countryliving.com, the newly married Van Dykes lived in their car for a while. Thankfully, he later became a legend.
Tippi Hedren (89)
Many know Tippi Hedren as the lead protagonist in Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds. Beautiful and elegant, Hedren has lived through some pretty incredible roles in her lifetime. One of them includes her involvement in the nail industry. Come again? Well, Tippi Hedren may be a star on the screen, but for many Vietnamese-American women, she was the Godmother of the nail industry.
Hedren visited a Vietnamese refugee camp in California and wanted to give the women a vocation. The women were mesmerized by her elegant and long nails that Hedren sent her personal manicurist to teach the art. Since then, the nail industry has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry.
John Astin (89)
One can’t help but whistle and snap their fingers when hearing the opening theme to the Addams Family. Young or old, the Addams Family has to be the favorite spooky family that will eternally be immortalized by the goths of the world. Aside from Morticia Addams and Uncle Fester, the family romantic, Gomez Addams, will always be pictured synonymously with John Astin.
Before John Astin was an actor, he studied mathematics at John Hopkins University. He discovered his love for the theatre while performing in minor plays until he played a small role in West Side Story. Bada-bing, bada-boom! The rest is history!
Beverly Cleary (103)
Ah, Beverly Cleary, the woman who gave birth to the quirky and trouble-making character everyone knows and loves as Romon Quimbly. Cleary’s stories resonated with the hearts and minds of kids from ages five to 95 and continue to do so to this day. Her days as an author began while working as a librarian.
Cleary was encouraged to write children’s books when a young boy came into the library and asked where all the books about “kids like us” were. The young boy inspired Cleary to write a series of children’s stories that would highlight the innocence of childhood. We don’t know how she did it, but Clearly managed to write about kids honestly and sold over 85 million copies.
Jerry Lee Lewis (83)
In 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis went insane on the Steve Allen Show. Performing A Whole Lotta Shakin’, Lewis’ hair went from smoothly combed to a crazy mess of curls. He played the piano like he was at war with his music. They don’t call him “The Killer” for nothing. Playing and slaying, his fingers might have stayed on the keys, but his feet were everywhere else except beneath the piano.
Lewis’ contribution to rock n’ roll was historical and he continued to be a fan favorite well into the ‘80s (most are still fans). His energy was raw and untapped on stage and he even set a piano on fire while performing. Talk about getting a tad bit carried away?
Christopher Plummer (89)
Most remember Christopher Plummer for many roles, the most recognized would be in The Sound of Music (1965), with co-actress Julie Andrews; and his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Insider (1999). Although Christopher Plummer gained worldwide recognition for his role as Captain von Trapp, The Sound of Music wasn’t his favorite film. Plummer wished to play edgier characters (and is obvious in his selection of later roles).
Plummer said on The Hollywood Reporter, “Because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey,” he explained with a laugh. “You had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some miniscule bit of humor into it.” If that doesn’t kill childhood nostalgia, nothing else will.
Clint Eastwood (89)
Clint Eastwood remains as one of the most prolific actors of his time. The Fistful of Dollars (1964) star is a Hollywood icon, but it wasn’t easy. Many believe famous actors slide into Hollywood without so much as having to work their way to A-list films. This wasn’t the case for Eastwood!
At one point Eastwood was fired from Universal Pictures because of his looks. He and Bert Reynolds were laid off from Universal Pictures because, according to Reynolds, “ [Eastwood] was fired because his Adam’s apple stuck out too far. He talked too slow. And he had a chipped tooth and he wouldn’t get it fixed.” Reynolds was fired because the studio claimed he couldn’t act.
Angela Lansbury (93)
Angela Lansbury is one television’s most beloved actresses of her time. Not only did she reign supreme in hit homicide TV show, Murder She Wrote (1984-1996), but she was also the beloved voice of Mrs. Pots in Disney’s animated film, Beauty and the Beast (1991) (Yes, Millennials rejoice). Lansbury’s life began in a daring and harrowing escape from WWII.
Did you know, before the bombs dropped over England, Lansbury and her family took refuge in the United States by sailing on the Duchess of Atholl? What was so harrowing about her voyage was, a day after she fled England, her home was bombed and her ship sunk soon after her arrival in the US. What a close call!
Little Richard (86)
Little Richard and rock n’ roll are like a scoop of rainbow sherbet, it’s Tutti-Frutti../ Ba-dum-cha! The 1950s rock n’ roll icon has won multiple awards since his debut, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, he was also honored with the Rhythm & Blues Pioneer Award.
Sure he was a star-born musician since his childhood, but not a lot of people know is that as a teenager, Little Richard traveled across Georgia in vaudeville and minstrel shows. In the show circuit, Little Richard would dress in and out of drag for various acts, such as Sugarfoot Sam from Alabama, the Tidy Jolly Steppers, and Broadway Follies.
Bob Newhart (89)
Bob Newhart, is a comedian and actor who is well-known for his deadpan delivery and comedic monologues. For those who have seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, they’d know his work by the Abe Lincoln phone-call bit in the first episode. His monologues made America laugh hysterically and still do to this day.
Though he’s better represented as a comedian, Newhart had an illustrious acting career. Sure, most know he was the voice of Bernard in Disney’s The Rescuers (1977), but he also starred in his own television show, The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), followed by Newhart (1982-1990), oh, and he was also Papa Elf in Elf (2003). Comedian, actor, icon. Awesome.
Tony Bennett (92)
Tony Bennett has recently been circulating in the media when he and diva, Lady Gaga, had the pleasure of touring together in 2014. However, before Gaga, Tony Bennett was nominated for 34 Grammy awards and currently has 18 (including a Lifetime Achievement Award) under his belt. However, an unknown portion of his life is his involvement in WWII.
Bennett fought in France and Germany and helped liberate a concentration camp. Because of what Bennett witnessed in the war, he became a pacifist and an anti-war activist. After the war ended, Bennett has been crooning us with delicate songs such as I Left My Heart In San Francisco and Rags To Riches.
Betty White (97)
Betty White is literally older than sliced bread. That’s a fact, but her accomplishments go beyond the standard Wonderbread. Aside from being this century’s unofficial grandma, Betty White has an impressive resume in front of a camera, so impressive that it made the Guinness Book of World Records. Oh yeah, she’s the record holder for the longest female TV entertainer.
What have you been doing with your life? Not enough, apparently, because Betty White would make everything minuscule in comparison. Don’t worry, everyone starts somewhere. For White, it all began on an experimental TV show, one where she danced with her high school’s student body president in 1939.
Cicely Tyson (94)
Cicely Tyson has stood the test of time (to a point where most aren’t sure how old Tyson really is). CNN reports that Cicely was born in 1924, but alternative sources suggest that it may be 1933. So, which is it? Does it matter? She made audiences cry in Fried Green Tomatoes and made them laugh in Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
Tyson is still with us today creating memorable favorites such as The Help and the hit TV show How to Get Away with Murder. Her age is meaningless as long as she continues to grace audiences with her long-standing appearances on the screen.
Cloris Leachman (93)
Cloris Leachman, like Betty White, is a national treasure. She was the grandma in the Beverly Hillbillies and Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein (We can hear you fact-checking), she’s won eight Primetime Emmys, a Daytime Emmy, and an Academy Award. Before her time as an actress, Leachman was a Miss America Pageant contestant and was named as one of the sixteen semi-finalists.
Why is this piece of her biography so important? Because it directly led to her film debut in 1947 as an extra in Carnegie Hall. Once Leachman got a taste for the cameras, she was hooked, and ta-da! A star was born.
Sam Elliott (75)
Well-suited for Westerns with his deep voice and grizzly mustache, he began his career back in the late 60s, finding steady work on TV shows such as ‘Gunsmoke’. His popularity started to grow with 1989’s ‘Road House’ alongside Patrick Shwayze and a small yet memorable appearance in ‘The Big Lebowski’.
Sam Elliott has been on a hot streak in Hollywood recently, gracing one great movie after another with his presence and his trademark mustache. Most notably, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2018’s ‘A Star Is Born’. He has more wins sure to come with the live-action version of ‘Lady and the Tramp’ right around the corner.
Kirk Douglas (102)
Look out, folks, it’s Hollywoods shinning star (well, between 1946-2008, anyway). Kirk Douglas had many faces in Hollywood. He was Midge in Champion, Spartacus in, well, Spartacus, and finally, he was Ned Lands in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He’s won multiple awards, including a Golden Globes award and an Academy Award.
He’s also 102-years-old. Mind boggling isn’t it? Born Issur Danielovitch, son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Kirk Douglas is an actor that is still alive and well. He is one of the few actors who were a part of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” Before Kirk was an actor, he worked as an usher, bellhop, and waiter.
Delta Burke (63)
Delta Burke is best known for playing the tole of Suzanne Sugarbaker in ‘Designing Women’. She first appeared in the film, Zuma Beach in 1978 before hitting a hot-streak in the 80s. Burke was nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for ‘Designing Women’.
You may also recognize her whenever she’s on the arm of husband and fellow actor, Gerald McRaney since 1989. Fortunately, she’s had a successful career in acting and now, she’s an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights.
Raquel Welch (78)
Actress and pop culture icon, Raquel Welch, achieved the status of being a “household name” following her illustrious career. She began acting in 1959 but knew she wanted to live a life of show-business when she danced ballet a the early age of seven.
While some actresses are remembered for their talents, others are remembered for their beauty. Raquel will always be remembered for both. She won a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Three Musketeers” for Best Motion Picture. She will always hold her place in history as the Hollywood sex symbol that transformed the idea of a beautiful woman from Marilyn Monroe to a brunette, long-haired Latina.
Sean Connery (88)
There’s an unspoken agreement among Sean Connery fans that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen never existed. The only thing that mattered was Sean Connery solidifying his status as a James Bond and only James Bond (although, most agree that his playing Indiana Jones’ father is just as acceptable).
Although Connery is known for his role as 007, his first film debut was in 1957 as an uncredited role in the movie Lilacs in the Spring. After that, he was molded into James Bond, a franchise that would immortalize his fame and anyone who accepted the role after. Now, go watch Dr. No (1962).
Queen Elizabeth II (93)
The code has been cracked and, now, Britain’s tightest-kept secret is out. Every time someone says “Long Live the Queen” the Queen gains a year of longevity. Joking aside, Q.O.E. has a long-lasting legacy that entails 67 years. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Aside from her impressive collection of Corgis, Her Royal Highness has also served in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service.
Bonus! She also trained as a military truck driver and mechanic up until 1945. The Queen remains the only female royal family member who entered the armed forces. Aside from being a hands-on monarch, she drinks gin, owns all the dolphins in the UK, and doesn’t have a driver’s license.
Diahann Carroll (83)
Let’s smooth over the folds on who this magical and amazing woman is. She’s not just another actress; she’s the first black actress to receive a Tony Award in her performance for No Strings and an Academy Award for Claudine. Yes, all these achievements should warrant Carroll infinite amount of respect.
Really, what pinned her as a celebrity was her lead in Julia in 1968. This role further marked Carroll as the first African-American woman to star in her own television series. Carroll is best-known, however, for her role in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979), as well as recurring guest appearances in Grey’s Anatomy.
Eva Marie Saint (94)
Everyone wishes they can age as well as Eva Marie Saint. At age 94, she is still throwing her lot with stars (she presented the 2018 Best Costume Design at the Oscars). Saint is best known for her performance in On the Waterfront (1954) alongside co-star Marlon Brando and in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959).
She’s a talented and beautiful movie star who touched the hearts and minds of her fans worldwide. She even had a serendipitous romance; Saint met her husband of 65 years while riding a subway under Rockefeller Center in 1949. After pestering Saint for lunch, they finally dined and he encouraged her to go into the movies. Saint loved her husband for his devotion and faith. The rest, of course, was history.
Sidney Poitier (92)
Director, actor, and producer, Sidney Poitier’s career began in 1950 in the film No Way Out. Unlike many other actors who sought Hollywood specifically to be an entertainer, Sidney Poitier had absolutely no aspirations of being an actor. Before becoming an actor, Poitier was content as a dishwasher. Until one afternoon, while looking for a job, Poitier found an ad for “actors wanted.”
He thought, “I could do that,” and answered the call, but was immediately rejected. He was told he should stick to dishwashing. Fumed by the incident, he sought to prove them wrong. In the end, Poitier became one of the most influential actors of his time.
Julie Andrews (83)
Julie Andrews will forever be Mary Poppins (and Maria from The Sound of Music). She will always be the younger generation’s unofficial grandmother and queen (of Genovia). Classy, elegant, and one heck of an actress, Julie Andrews has a sparkling career dedicated to her fans falling in love with musicals and cinema.
What you don’t know about Julie Andrews is that she nearly said “no” to playing Maria in The Sound of Music. Who would take her place, one would ask? Producers were considering Grace Kelly or Doris Day for the part. Phew! Aren’t they glad that the lovely Andrews played the part?
Kim Novak (86)
Kim Novak is best recognized in her performance in the Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller, Vertigo. Novak, like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, was groomed to be Hollywood’s next sex symbol. Unfortunately, Hollywood wasn’t as kind to Novak as Monroe or Russell. In fact, her performance in Vertigo was regarded as “tepid,” and unimpressive.
Through the rise and fall of stardom, and in the constant butt-end of horrid reviews, Novak left Hollywood for good and retired in Oregon. Novak opted for the outdoors and kept it that way. She’s a painter and finds that her new hobby as an artist is much more fulfilling than commanding the stage.
Jane Seymour (68)
Jane Seymour is a drop-dead gorgeous actress who had the misfortune of being in her fair share of not-so-great films. However, she won two major awards, one Golden Globe for her performance in East of Eden (1981), and a Primetime TV Emmy for Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988).
What Seymour is most recognized for is her role as a Bond girl named Solitaire in Live and Let Die (1973). She also co-starred with Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time (1980). If you’re wondering about her name, Jane Seymour isn’t really her name. She was born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg and took her current stage name from the wife of King Henry VIII.
Bob Barker (95)
Everyone knows and loves The Price is Right host, but how much is really known about the fabulous Bob Barker? Aside from making history for hosting the longest-running show in TV history, Bob Barker has a pretty interesting background. Not only did he make a cameo appearance in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore (1996), but Barker also won an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
If you look further into Barker’s past, you will learn that Barker is a member of the Sioux Indian tribe and grew up in South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation. He also trained as a fighter pilot during WWII. Who would have thought?
Prince Phillip (98)
Of course, Prince Philip must see a spot on this list. Born in 1921, Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh grew up with the Queen of England. They were third cousins, after all, and share the same great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Although he is The Queen’s husband, His Royal Highness was not crowned at The Queen’s coronation ceremony in 1953.
Marriage aside, Prince Phillip is also related to Kings of Prussia and the Emperors of Russia. He also holds titles such as Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Despite being 98, His Royal Highness accompanies The Queen and has assisted her in over 18,600 official engagements and all 251 overseas trips.
Sophia Loren (84)
Known as the “Screen Goddess,” of cinema’s Golden Age, Sophia Loren is one of the more popular names that ever graced Hollywood. The Italian actress is considered to be the silver screen’s official sex symbol (aside from Marilyn Monroe, of course) and has left her trail of spurned lovers along the way. One example would be Loren rejecting Cary Grant’s proposal in 1957.
Their love affair was the talk of Hollywood, but Loren turned Grant down for Carlo Ponti. Despite tireless gossip, Loren kept her personal life private. So private that she burned her diaries. Every year, Loren would gather her journals and set them on fire. For Loren, it was gaining control over her life.
Shirley MacLaine (85)
Terms of Endearment (1983), Steel Magnolias (1989), and The Turning Point (1977) are all movies that have one thing in common, Shirley MacLaine. Not only was MacLaine an actress, but she was also a singer and dancer, as well. To this day, MacLaine remains just as talented and witty and continues to capture the hearts of audience members worldwide.
Her popularity is still recognized and MacLaine believes it remains intact due to her constant curiosity. That same tenacious curiosity led her to various good fortunes in her life and rewarding her with roles such as Sweet Charity (1969). A seven-time Golden Globe and Oscar winner, MacLaine’s legacy is a reminder of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Robert Redford (82)
Of course, the best way to wrap up this story is by closing it with Mr. Charming himself, Robert Redford. For those who opted for cliff notes and movie versions from classic lit in high school, they would remember Redford as the elusive Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1974).
For everyone else, Redford is best remembered in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) or All the President’s Men (1976). Sure, he’s an actor, but he directed, too. Big whoop, sure. However, it’s not every day an actor turns into a director and wins an award in his directorial debut. He won an Academy Award for Ordinary People (1981).