Thursday, 6 October 2016

We celebrate actors like Max von Sydow and David McCallum who never seem to age, and some cherished oldsters who are still with us

The most outstanding example of an actor who appears to be either growing old in slow motion or not at all is the great Swedish thespian (a French citizen since 2002) Max von Sydow, who made his first film appearance in 1949; played a seemingly middle-aged soul-weary knight in The Seventh Seal 60 years ago; a very old Catholic priest in The Exorcist 43 tears ago - and was nominated for an Emmy this year for his appearance as Three-Eyed Raven in three episodes of Game of Thrones. Who would have imagined that the actor who played the terminally miserable bleeder Johan Borg in Ingmar Bergman's hyper-Scandinavian gloom-fest, Hour of the Wolf, in 1966 would still be strutting his angst-ridden stuff 50 years later? While Max is undoubtedly the daddy (or great-grandfather) of non-ageing players, one American and one Brit deserve a mention...

David McCallum - oh, grow up!
...namely the perpetually tense Robert Vaughan and the bizarrely fresh-faced David McCallum. Vaughan, who turns 84 next month, appears finally to have retired: his last two television appearances were in the British TV series Hustle and the soap-opera Coronation Street (how did that happen?) in 2012. David McCallum, who turned 83 last month,  is still working, having just signed a deal to carry on playing chief medical examiner Donald "Ducky" Mallard for the next two seasons of the American TV crime drama,  NCIS: New Orleans. Whereas Vaughan was showing signs of ageing by 2012 (particularly his voice), McCallum seems almost creepily well-preserved - when he appeared in an episode of NCIS (which we'd never watched before) last year, my wife said, "No! It can't be - that's impossible."

As all three actors must surely have made more than enough money to keep them in luxury should they all live to 120, one presumes they keep on acting because they enjoy it - and the best of luck to them.

Olivia de Havilland
Nehemiah Persoff
While doing a bit of research for this post, I came across a fascinating list of notable actors over the age of 80. Most of them retired years ago, of course, so I hope it won't sound too crass to admit that I was surprised - and delighted - to discover that they're still with us. For instance, did you know that Olivia de Havilland (100) is still alive? So are Kirk Douglas (99) and Glynis Johns (93 yesterday - Many Happy Returns!) The absolutely wonderful Nehemiah Persoff (who I discover was born in Jerusalem) is 97: he's the last survivor from the credited cast of 1959's Some Like It Hot ("In duh last fiscal year we made a hundred an' twelve million dollars before taxes... only we didn't pay no taxes!"). Sultry Jeanne Moreau's is 88 - sacré bleu! 

Clu Gulager, who was super-cool as Lee Marvin's sinister beshaded gangster sidekick in Don Siegel's terrific film The
Clu Gulager
(1964), is 88 next month. He appeared in last year's critically well-received Tangerine, a film about a transgender sex-worker (presumably not played by Mr. Gulager).  Hardy Krüger's still with us at 88, as is Jerry Lewis (90), Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront, North by North-West), who's 92, and Charles Aznavour - also 92 - who I include for his moody acting in films like Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) rather than for his incredibly annoying singing. And 6'5" Clint Walker, one of my earliest small-screen heroes playing Cheyenne Bodie in the Western series Cheyenne, is 89.

Clint Walker in Cheyenne - my spitting image
I could go on, but, if you're in a nostalgic mood, the list of notable actors over the age of 80 (which, let's face it, is the new 60 - well, okay, maybe 65) is available here. Bless them all, every one.


  1. Great post & link. No Shirley MacLaine, no Brigitte Bardot? I was reminded of that wonderful film "Amour" [2012]with Emmanuelle Riva and Trintignant [they were both 85 at the time]and the American riposte was "Elsa & Fred" [2014] starring MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and George Segal [all into their 80s]. The French are adept at avoiding sentimentality and the Americans thrive on it.

    Apart from all the actors who died far too early there is a third list - those who should have been placed on the ice floe as soon as their characters were revealed.

  2. You missed the McCallum/Vaugh connection - The Man from UNCLE.

    Jon T