1 Kirk Douglas, 97
The original slave-warrior who stood up to declare “I am Spartacus” in 1960’s iconic Spartacus. Steely-eyed he-man Douglas, father of Michael Douglas, first jutted his famous cleft chin onto the screen in a 1946 film noir flick, The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers. Since then, he has logged up about 80 films.
Among them – The Bad And The Beautiful (1952), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Paths Of Glory (1957), Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), The Vikings (1958), Lonely Are The Brave (1962) and Tough Guys (1986), partnering him again with longtime buddy, Burt Lancaster. Douglas’ last theatrical film was Illusion in 2004, poignantly about a movie director nearing the end of his life. He received an Honorary Academy Award in 1996.
He famously summed up the movie industry with this memorable quote – “If the good guy gets the girl, it's rated PG; if the bad guy gets the girl, it's rated R; and if everybody gets the girl, it's rated X.”
Quotable quote: Onstage in 2011 to Anne Hathaway, host of the Oscars, who is 66 years younger: “Wow! Where were you when I was making pictures?”2. Olivia de Havilland, 98
One of the last surviving members of Hollywood’s Golden Age (1920s to 1960s). Only principal cast member of Gone With The Wind (1939) who is still alive. She is the older sister of Joan Fontaine, who died last year. De Havilland and Fontaine are the only siblings in Hollywood history to have won Best Actress Oscars with the former snagging two for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
With her film debut in 1935 in a rom com called Alibi Ike, de Havilland made nearly 50 movies, eight of them with the iconic swashbuckling action hero, Errol Flynn. Including notably The Adventures Of Hollywood (1938) and They Died With Their Boots On (1941). Her last cinema film was 1979’s The Fifth Musketeer, although she continued to act on TV, including an episode of the 1980s series, The Love Boat. She now lives in Paris.
Quotable quote: Asked if she missed acting in 2006: “Not at all. Life is too full of events of great importance that is more absorbing and enriching than a fantasy life. I don't need a fantasy life as once I did.”3. Doris Day, 92
America’s purest sweetheart. Or rather so goody-two-shoes she became the primary satirical symbol of abstinence as the butt of the joke in this hilarious statement – “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin”.
In reality, singer-actress-bubbly blonde Day was one of the most popular actresses in America in the 1950s and 1960s, and actually became the biggest box-office star for four years in the early 1960s, being the only actress to do so. Making 39 films and releasing 31 albums, she is best known for the 1953 Wild West musical, Calamity Jane (where she sang the hit song, Secret Love) and three rom coms with Rock Hudson – Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). Any girl who is feeling down used to hum this Doris Day anthem – Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) – from her 1956 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Day ended her movie career in 1968 and picked up a TV new lease of life with the sitcom, The Doris Day Show (1968 to 1973). She now lives in California.
Quotable quote: Only other line (from a song in Grease) which can rival the Doris Day virgin quote: “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee; Lousy with virginity.”4. Dick Van Dyke, 88
“Laurence Olivier is one of the greats. Dick Van Dyke is most certainly not,” insists Emma Thompson, playing Brit novelist, P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins, in Saving Mr. Banks. Van Dyke, though, really starred in 1964’s Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews, cartoon penguins and some magical nanny stardust. He danced and jiggled with the light-footed ease of a song-and-dance vaudeville comedian.
But his most famous acting partner apart from Andrews, however, was a mechanical contraption – the flying car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968 way before the inception of COE. Beginning with the hit musical-comedy, Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Van Dyke made 21 movies, including animated ones, and is still going strong as No. 21 – Night At The Museum 3: Secret Of The Tomb (also starring the late Robin Williams) is coming up this year.
Making a transition from movies to TV, he had a huge hit series lasting eight seasons – the medical crime drama, Diagnosis: Murder (1993 to 2001). The man is still in the thick of things, prompting longevity jokes such as: “How do you stay more alive than Dick Van Dyke?”.
Quotable quote: His learned thought on retirement: “I've retired so many times now it's getting to be a habit.” 5. Christopher Lee, 92
The ultimate Dracula. Back in the days when only the pointy teeth, cape, casket and British manners mattered and vampires went after blondes with delicious, luscious necks.
Maybe this classy English chap really knows the secret to immortality because decades after that 1960s to 1970s horror chest of Dracula flicks, younger audiences today mostly know him as the nefarious Count Dooku in the later Star Wars trilogy and as the sinister Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films. All very Dark Lord-y for somebody who is actually very urbane, cultured, was a World War II war hero and knighted by Britain for his services to drama and charity.
Not only that, he is related to the late Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and, with his deep, imposing and basically scary voice, has been working with heavy metal bands since 2005 in his supposed dotage.
The Wikipedia page for Sir Lee’s over-200 films says “begins in 1948 and continues to the present day”. Even it knows not to get picky with immortality.
Quotable quote: When fiction becomes fact for him: “There are many vampires in the world today – you only have to think of the film business.”
6. Christopher Plummer, 85 in Dec this year
The other exceedingly old thespian named Christopher. Who would have thought that the World War II military officer and father of seven singing kids in The Sound Of Music would still be so occupied – no military pun intended – in his retirement years? Seriously, he has not just climbed every mountain, as the song goes, but he basically jogged right up them. Plummer is the oldest person ever to win an Oscar - for 2012’s Beginners at the age of 82.
He is the only person to have played a puzzling Chinese Klingon named General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And he must be the only Canadian to keep telling people he is Canadian, not British, after so many damn long years. That is actually a pleasant thing for him to do because it means that starting with a 1958 Henry Fonda drama called Stage Struck, he is still working to cross maybe 10,000 films before he is done.
Right now, he has a number of movies coming up, including one called Hector And The Search For Happiness where he plays a happiness guru. Now, that is very handy because if the man is somewhat sad since his calendar is not filled up until 2050, he can always cheer himself up.
Quotable quote: What he thinks of retirement: “Too many people in the world are unhappy with their lot and then they retire and they become vegetables. I think retirement in any profession is death, so I'm determined to keep crackin'.”7. Betty White, 92
America’s favourite grandma. Favourite Golden Girl. Favourite crocodile feeder. Yes, because some people may have forgotten that back in 1999’s Lake Placid, White was the person who fed and raised a crocodile to Godzilla-nephew size to chomp on people and basically did not give a damn.
She cared, you see, more for animals than humans which is actually her calling in real life as a ferocious animal-rights advocate. Of course, the young old gal is famous for her TV roles which started earnestly in the 1950s – from the 1970s’ The Mary Tyler Moore Show to the adorable simpleton, Rose Nylund, in the classic 1980s sitcom, The Golden Girls, to Saturday Night Live to her current comedy series, Hot In Cleveland, to even WWE Raw where, as guest host, she intimidates wrestlers five times her size.
The reason why she is America’s best-loved geriatric is due to that TV exposure which puts her into the living room of every home as though she is family. And the spunky hot chick with the cheeky twinkle in her eye milks it for all it is worth like there is no tomorrow. In Betty White’s case, tomorrow always comes with more love and more laughs.
Quotable quote: On being creakin' and smokin': "I may be a senior, but so what? I'm still hot."