Some actors are so devoted to their trade that they reach their twilight years and still don’t quit. These 20 stars of the Golden Age are all over 90 years old now, but they’re still working in the entertainment business. So from Harry Belafonte to Clint Eastwood, let’s learn more about some of Hollywood’s top stalwarts who are still going strong in their twilight years.
20. Cloris Leachman
Back in 1946 the world had never heard of Cloris Leachman. But that year, she decided to try out the Miss America contest while studying at Northwestern University. She didn’t win, but the student used the money made from the competition to get started in acting. And the rest is history. The star did TV roles in shows such as The Untouchables and films including Kiss Me Deadly.
And Leachman simply continued to act from that early career break. With the dawning of every new decade she introduced herself to a new generation of people with a new TV show. These included The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Facts of Life, Malcolm in the Middle and Raising Hope. She’s also the oldest person to have ever competed on Dancing with the Stars.
19. Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte became a star in an era when it was hard for a black man to do so. The Navy vet spent his early years perfecting his music talents and then began appearing in movies. He was especially big in the 1950s; during that decade Belafonte appeared on Broadway, won a Tony Award and starred in Bright Road and Carmen Jones.
Belafonte went on to star in many famous films during the 1990s and and the following decade: including Kansas City, Swing Vote and Bobby. He suffered a seizure in 2015, but the actor later continued working regardless. A few years later he played an important role in Spike Lee’s movie BlacKkKlansman, which was nominated for an Oscar.
18. Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart is generally considered one of the funniest comedians of his era. And his comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart in 1960 was a massive success. The star then went on to television with The Bob Newhart Show. But modern-day audiences will probably know him best from The Big Bang Theory.
In 2019 The New York Times asked Newhart, “What do you think happens on the other side?” And the actor answered, “What I’m actually hoping is there’s the Pearly Gates and God’s there and he says to me, ‘What did you do in life?’ And I say, ‘I was a stand-up comedian.’ And he says, ‘Get in that real short line over there.’”
17. Nancy Olson
Actress Nancy Olson was a mere 20 years old when she was cast in the iconic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. This not only won the star an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, it also catapulted her into a great career. She went on to appear in several Disney movies: including Pollyanna and Son of Flubber.
Olson – who took Alan Livingston’s surname in 1962 after they married – appeared in an episode of Big Love in 2010. That year she told the Los Angeles Times what happened when she walked on set. The star explained, “I said, ‘What are they whispering about?’ [They responded], ‘You are here.’ I said, ‘Am I now an icon? That’s fantastic.’”
16. William Daniels
The young William Daniels grew up in an entertainment family. The clan sang and appeared on variety shows, and that was how his career got started. As the star grew older, he moved from theatre to television and then on to films. Audiences might remember Daniels best from The Graduate, where he played Dustin Hoffman’s father.
Nowadays, Daniels is perhaps most famous for being the voice of KITT on Knight Rider and for playing George Feeny on both Boy Meets World and its sequel Girl Meets World. Oh, and in 2018 the then-91-year-old actor foiled a burglar at his house – prompting his co-star Will Friedle to tweet, “Don’t ever mess with Mr. Feeny!”
15. June Lockhart
June Lockhart was born in June 1925 as the daughter of two established actors: Gene and Kathleen Lockhart. She began her career acting alongside them – playing their daughter in the 1938 MGM remake of A Christmas Carol. She then did several more films before embarking on a career on television and Broadway.
At the time of writing, Lockhart is 94 years old and still acting. She’s been in multiple famous TV shows over the years: including Lassie, Lost in Space, Full House and General Hospital. She’s also moved with the times, as in 2013 she appeared in a Full Motion Video game called Tesla Effect.
14. Marsha Hunt
In 1934 a 17-year-old girl named Marsha Hunt moved to Hollywood in an attempt to find acting work. And she was successful, for the most part. Her photogenic good looks helped get her in front of the camera and she began appearing in Westerns and comedies. But some think that Hunt’s blacklisting during the McCarthy era probably damaged her career too much to come back from.
Hunt survived those tough times in the 1950s and, at the time of writing, she is still with us at the age of 102. In 2017 she told the BFI about the McCarthy era, “I couldn’t not speak up. Some of my friends were communists. It was not against the law. But I cannot be too bitter about this, because it gave me free time to live my life. I had been making movies since I was 17 and suddenly, I discovered the world.”
13. Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson began working in entertainment at the age of just 18. The actress’ mother cut her off for this choice and the two reportedly didn’t speak for two years. But Tyson became famous for her acting; in 1963 the television show East Side/West Side made her the first ever black star of a small-screen drama.
Throughout her life, Tyson dealt with both racism and sexism. In 2015 the then-90-year-old told People magazine, “I used my career as my platform in an effort to address these issues, and every now and then when I receive an achievement award I realize that I did make the right choices. The sacrifices that I made as a result were worth it.”
12. Marge Champion
Actress Marge Champion played a very important role in the development of Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was the live-action model for the titular princess. And that wasn’t all she did during the Golden Age; Champion also starred in many musicals alongside her husband Gower.
And Champion is still active today. In 2016 she spoke to Entertainment Weekly magazine about the legacy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She said, “I still get fan mail from Russia and Germany and all kinds of places… I’m in my 96th year, and I must say that I’ve had a real interesting life.” Champion then went on to mark her centenary in September 2019.
11. Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks got into the entertainment industry after working as a combat engineer during World War II. And his talent for comedy soon put him on the map. He made his directorial debut with The Producers, which won him an Academy Award for the screenplay. After that, Brookes also helmed two other classic comedies: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
And Brooks is still a force to be reckoned with today. In 2020 – not long after providing the voice of Melephant Brooks in Disney’s Toy Story 4 – he starred in a documentary called Mel Brooks: Unwrapped. In it, he mused, “All my films are serious. They are passionate and they depict human behavior. [My movies] are not dramatic, that’s the difference.”
10. Jimmy Lydon
The young Jimmy Lydon grew up poor, and he started acting work primarily to support his family of eight siblings. Unfortunately, being a child actor wasn’t an easy job back then. The young Lydon appeared in movies such as Tom Brown’s School Days and Life with Father, but the young performer often disliked the way that he was treated.
By the 1950s Lydon had become a producer instead and was one of the people who helped get the iconic TV show M*A*S*H on the air. He also appeared in some famous programs of the ‘80s: such as The Greatest American Hero and St. Elsewhere. Nevertheless, Lydon reportedly steered his own kids away from the acting business.
9. Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint began working as a radio actor during the 1940s, and from there she gradually moved on to television. The star’s movie debut came in 1954’s On the Waterfront, and it became one of her most famous performances. In fact, Saint’s efforts in the movie were so good she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.
Saint subsequently went on to appear in many more classic films: including North by Northwest and Exodus. In more modern times she’s appeared in the TV show Moonlighting, Superman Returns and Winter’s Tale. Plus, she lent her voice to the animated series The Legend of Korra.
8. Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner served in an entertainment unit during World War II – which should give some clue as to his comedy talents. After the conflict, he went onto acting and ended up winning two Emmys for the sketch show Caesar’s Hour. He also happens to be the director behind a number of Steve Martin films.
In 2017 Reiner gave an interview to David Hochman of AARP Bulletin. The star was asked, “What is the secret to your enduring career success?” And he answered, “Enjoy the good times, and walk away from the bumps. That’s it. Even failures can turn into something positive if you just keep going.”
7. Norman Lloyd
When Norman Lloyd turned 100, people were awestruck that he was still working. The actor – born Norman Permutter in 1914 – can be seen in many older movies: such as the Alfred Hitchcock hits Saboteur and Spellbound. Meanwhile, in more modern times he played Dr. Daniel Auslander on NBC’s St. Elsewhere.
But now, at the time of writing, Norman Lloyd is an incredibly impressive 105 years old. And he still has an acting career today. While many people would probably have quietly retired after hitting triple digits, Lloyd didn’t. In 2010 he appeared in the movie Trainwreck – playing a character who was also called Norman.
6. Olivia de Havilland
Olivia de Havilland has lived an extraordinary life. She was born in 1916 in Japan and then moved to California. After appearing in plays she was given a seven-year contract with the film studio Warner Bros. This led to The Adventures of Robin Hood and the world-famous Gone with the Wind.
Considering how old a film Gone with the Wind is, it might be surprising to some that de Havilland is still alive. But she is, and the star is even still making headlines. In 2017 the actress – who now held the title of “Dame” – sued FX Networks over the portrayal of her in the show Feud: Bette and Joan.
5. Clint Eastwood
Famous actor Clint Eastwood turned 90 in May 2020. He’d found fame back in the ‘60s as the star of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. After that, he became the face of the Western genre in general.
Eastwood remained in Hollywood all his life – eventually directing movies as well as appearing in them. While still 89, he appeared on a 2019 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show and told the host, “I sometimes think, when I was a little kid and I used to hangout with my grandfather who was in his 90s, and I thought, ‘Jesus, who the hell would want to live this long.’” But he laughed while saying it.
4. Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier was arguably first black American movie star and became the second black person to win an Oscar. He refused to take roles that were demeaning to African-Americans and instead played people such as reverends and doctors. To this day, Poitier is considered a trailblazer, and, at the time of writing, he’s still around at the age of 93.
Poitier had quite an extraordinary life outside of acting, too. The star was the ambassador to Japan from The Bahamas for ten years starting from 1997. Furthermore, he’s released memoirs, novels and has also directed movies. But Poitier is still remembered most for his acting, and in 2001 he gained an honorary Oscar in celebration of his work.
3. Angela Lansbury
British actress Angela Lansbury gained an Academy Award nomination after just her first movie: 1944’s Gaslight. And the accolades kept stacking up as she appeared in more movies. Some of her best-known works include The Manchurian Candidate, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Blue Hawaii alongside Elvis Presley.
At the time of writing, Lansbury is 93 years old and still happily acting. In 2018 she appeared in the movie Mary Poppins Returns as the Balloon Lady. The following year she spoke to KABC about her long career. Lansbury said, “Don’t ever be ready to ‘retire.’ Perhaps one should retire. I don’t know. But I’ve never had the chance!”
2. Betty White
Actress Betty White grew up in Los Angeles – right where all the Hollywood action is. By 1949 she had a job on television, and this led on to even bigger things. Three years later she began starring in – and helped create – the TV show Life with Elizabeth. And White became a massive star of the smaller screen.
Now, Betty White is best known as one of The Golden Girls. In her later years she hosted the shows Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and Betty White’s Smartest Animals in America. She also provided the voice of “Bitey White” in 2019’s Toy Story 4.
1. Dick Van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke sang and danced his way through some truly iconic children’s films during his younger years. He played both Bert the chimney sweep and Dawes Senior the bank manager in Disney’s Mary Poppins and Caractacus Potts in the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show – a series which won multiple awards.
In 2018 Van Dyke made a cameo experience in Mary Poppins Returns, and he shocked even the filmmakers. After all, the star could still sing and dance at the age of 91. Star Emily Blunt told USA Today in 2019, “He just hoofed away on that desk like there was no tomorrow. Rob [Marshall, the director] was so touched, he couldn’t even say cut. He was crying.”