Tuesday, April 22

In Their Nineties

Since writing about Doris Day turning 90, I have been giving some thought to those still alive who are also in their 90s.  I began making a list and then Mickey Rooney, one of the first on the list, passes away at 93.  A friend texted me an RIP on Rooney (I think we try to be first to alert the other on famous deaths but she usually beats me) and she said something about those still alive.  So I picked up my list and added a few more names.  I thought I would share with you.  You may know all this or maybe not all.  You probably know some I am not thinking of.  Would love to hear.  Well, anyway, here are those capturing my attention.

You may recall my piece on Day where I said that in 1950 she made a film called Young Man with A Horn.  What seems astonishing to me is that all three lead actors are still with us.  Besides Day there is feisty old tough guy, Kirk Douglas, still hanging in there at 97 and let's give a heads up to feisty old tough girl, Lauren Bacall, who breaks into the 90s in September.  I wonder if this shouldn't qualify for a trivia question out there in Trivialand.  Could there be an older film where the three top stars are still alive?  I say no way.

Coleen Gray

I also came across a DVD I have, a B-western, 1955's Tennessee's Partner, starring John Payne, Ronald Reagan (my mother would be so proud), Rhonda Fleming and Coleen Gray.  Both actresses are still with us... Fleming is 90 and Gray is 91.  I don't know whether you remember Coleen Gray.  She never made it to the top and that may be because she didn't want to, perhaps wanting to devote time to family.  Or maybe not.  I certainly tip my hat to her for memorable performances in four delicious film noirs... opposite Victor Mature in Kiss of Death and with Tyrone Power in Nighmare Alley, both 1947, matched with Payne again in Kansas City Confidential (1952) and opposite Sterling Hayden in The Killing (1956).

We haven't heard about Zsa Zsa lately.  For a while there she was in the news all the time and it didn't sound good for a lady (was ZZ ever a lady... I dunno... I'm jus' askin') of 97.  I am thinking none of us exactly relish getting older, but I wondering if ZZ hasn't found it particularly rough going as her vanity was always a keystone to her persona.

Betty White at 92 does quite inspire me.  If I reach that age (and I confess it's a most unpleasant thought), I wanna be just like Betty White.  Although some of those outfits she wears will have to come in tall.  Oh come on, now, I'm kidding, I'm kidding.  In some ways, Nanette Fabray reminds me of Betty White and NF is 93.

Louis Jourdan

We all know that women generally live longer than men which is why there are more women listed here.  In addition to Douglas there is Eli Wallach, 98.  I haven't heard much about him lately although I recall Clint Eastwood speaking of him a few years ago at some awards show.  Again in the piece on Day I mentioned that only three of her costars are still alive.  The oldest of them, Louis Jourdan, at 92, hasn't been heard from in years.  I think someone should interview him.  By the way, Day's other two living costars are James Garner, who just turned 86 a few days ago, and the kid of the group at 84, Rod Taylor.

We have two gentlemen from merry olde England. Actor-director Richard Attenborough is 90 and horrormeister Christopher Lee is about to turn 92.

Six who reside in Europe fit neatly into our group.  We recently thought of Olivia DeHavilland when her 96-year old sister Joan Fontaine died.  Two-time Academy Award-winning Miss O, who lives in Paris, is 97.  Another two-time Oscar winner, Luise Rainer, who lives in London, actually doesn't belong in our chat of 90-year olds because she is 104.  Two who are as French as ladies can be... Micheline Presle is 91 and Danielle Darrieux will be 97 next month and Italy's Valentina Cortese (so magnificent in 1973's Day for Night) is 91.  A longtime favorite of mine, Maureen O'Hara, now living back in Ireland, is 93.  She will be the subject of an upcoming posting. 

Glynis Johns

Do you remember Glynis Johns (All Mine to Give, The Sundowners, The Chapman Report, Mary Poppins)? I thought she should have been included in with the ladies who live in Europe, but the South African born with Welsh blood coursing through her veins, I am told, lives in Southern California.  She is 90.

Movie stars that had greater success on television are Barbara Hale, Della Street of Perry Mason fame, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who nabbed some prime time in The FBI. Hale will turn 92 later this month and Zimbalist is 95. I'll bet he is a handsome 95 at that.  And actor-writer-director-funnyman Carl Reiner is 92.

Musical-comedy star Carol Channing is 93.  Singer-dancer Marge Champion (famously paired with then-husband Gower Champion in a series of mainly MGM musicals in the 1950s) is 94.  I'd love to think she could still do a soft shoe.  And Lizabeth Scott, ah Lizabeth Scott (to whom I will one day devote a posting), is 91.  Damn, I wish this queen of film noir would unleash her life story in a smashing autobiography.

Lizabeth Scott

Bravo to all these folks for traveling the road for almost a century.  Honorable mention should go to Dorothy Malone, Christopher Plummer, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Eva Marie Saint, Max von Sydow, Angela Lansbury, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Martin Landau, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Mel Brooks, Jane Powell, Harry Dean Stanton, Julie Adams, Jerry Lewis and Lee Grant who will be in their 90s very soon.  Knock on wood.

Next posting:
Another Italian Actress


  1. Nanette Fabray in her 90s! Say it ain't so!

  2. How the H--- did they get that old? Thanks to you and all these great folks from my "movie memories" I now feel like a Spring Chicken. Mostly in mind, the body not so much.

  3. It was a year ago today that I wrote this article. I see that we have lost six in the past year... Eli Wallach, Luise Rainer, Richard Attenborough, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and two I acknowledged at their passings, Lizabeth Scott and Louis Jourdan.