Friday, July 1, 2016

A Look at the Oldest Oscar Winners That Are Still With Us

Olivia De Havilland in Gone With the Wind
Today marks a very special occasion. It's actress Olivia De Havilland's 100th birthday. Unlike her peers who in recent years we've celebrated centennials (Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman), she has the distinct honor of being the oldest living Oscar winner, having won twice for The Heiress and more imporant as Melanie in the box office sensation Gone With the Wind. While she leaves behind an impressive career, one of her most recent achievements is being the oldest Oscar winner to still be alive. So, who else is getting up there in age? The following is the 10 actors and actresses who come close, but no cigar.

Sidney Poitier

Age: 89
Wins: 2
-Best Actor (Lilies of the Field)
-Honorary Oscar
Nominations: 1
-Best Actor (The Defiant Ones)

It's hard to undermine the value that Sidney Poitier has had on the black American actor trajectory. While he didn't get nominated for his most iconic work In the Heat of the Night, he has a resume that shows how the black man has been treated throughout 20th century American history and has helped to elevate their status to something far more confident and assured. He may be called Mr. Tibbs in most books, but his career has spanned many decades and continues to influence performers looking for strong roles that are often racially or politically charged and refuse to be forgotten.

Gene Hackman

Age: 86
Wins: 2
-Best Actor (The French Connection)
-Best Supporting Actor (Unforgiven)
-Best Supporting Actor (Bonnie and Clyde)
-Best Supporting Actor (I Never Sang For My Father)
-Best Actor (Mississippi Burning)

Gene Hackman has had an impressive career of playing unruly types. While having a supporting role in Bonnie and Clyde, his most memorable role will likely be as Popeye Doyle: a corrupt cop who goes on a wild car chase in The French Connection. The film won Best Picture and set the actor down a path of playing aggressive men. While he has retired, he managed to nab another Oscar win for Unforgiven: which remains the last traditional western to have won Best Picture. Even if he's not acting anymore, his legacy is solidified with performances way too impressive to ever forget.

Joanne Woodward

Age: 86
Wins: 1
-Best Actress (The Three Faces of Eve)
Nominations: 3
-Best Actress (Rachel, Rachel)
-Best Actress (Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams)
-Best Actress (Mr. and Mrs. Bridge)

Among the oldest winners on this list, she is the one who has remained the most active recently. providing voice work in 2013's Lucky Them. While her latter day resume isn't nearly as impressive she has produced a significant amount of work that earned her four Oscar nominations, one of which was a win. She has appeared in a variety of memorable and iconic films such as Philadelphia, and has even provided voice work for director Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence. She was also married to Paul Newman, who considered her an immense talent whose career took off simultaneously to his. Her productivity shows no signs of slowing and her impact not any closer to fading.

Robert Duvall

Age: 85
Wins: 1
-Best Actor (Tender Mercies)
Nominations: 6
-Best Supporting Actor (The Godfather)
-Best Supporting Actor (Apocalypse Now)
-Best Actor (The Great Santini)
-Best Actor (The Apostle)
-Best Supporting Actor (A Civil Action)
-Best Supporting Actor (The Judge)

If there's one actor on this list who attributes himself to classics, it's Robert Duvall. With an impressive seven Oscar nominations, one of which was a win, he has worked with a handful of great directors - most notably with Francis Ford Coppola on The Godfather, which is often considered one of the greatest films ever made. His work continues to remain prolific and his ability to blend into supporting roles with ease has made him such a useful actor in cinema's rich and expansive history. The fact that he was cast in To Kill a Mockingbird early in his career for being an "unknown" goes to show what good charisma can do. His name may not be as recognizable as some of his costars, but he's always there and you've likely seen his work without realizing it.

Ellen Burstyn

Age: 84
Wins: 1
-Best Actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)
Nominations: 6
-Best Supporting Actress (The Last Picture Show)
-Best Actress (The Exorcist)
-Best Actress (Same Time, Next Year)
-Best Actress (Resurrection)
-Best Supporting Actress (Requiem for a Dream)

She is another seasoned vet who seems to show no signs of slowing. In recent years, she has taken to supporting roles in TV series such as Louie and House of Cards. However, she has had quite an impressive career over the many decades, having earned an Oscar win for Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. However, she has played her cards right and has been working various types of auteurs over the years; including Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, and Darren Aronofsky. If nothing else, her body of work features an impressive amount of classics in various genres and styles that emphasize her impressive range and talents. 

Shirley MacLaine

Age: 82
Wins: 1
-Best Actress (Terms of Endearment)
Nominations: 5
-Best Actress (Some Came Running)
-Best Actress (The Apartment)
-Best Actress (Irma La Douce)
-Best Documentary (The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir)
-Best Actress (The Turning Point)

In recent years, she remains one of the more eccentric and peculiar Oscar winners on this list. She believes in reincarnation and has gotten more press for her unorthodox beliefs. However, her work more than speaks for itself now as well as back then. Having come to prominence during the 1950's and 60's, she played a variety of compelling and eccentric women who weren't the traditional form of pretty. She was nominated for six Oscars, including one win and two for Best Picture-winning titles. She has work pretty much booked through next year, and it's impossible to think of her slowing. She may not be in masterpieces like Being There or The Children's Hour, but her work is definitely going to raise an eyebrow or two thanks to some delightfully questionable selections.

Louise Fletcher

Age: 81
Wins: 1
-Best Actress (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

While she may have the least amount of Oscar wins on this list, she definitely made her one performance count. Participating in a clean sweep of the "Big 5" categories, Louise Fletcher's performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of impressive stature. She plays sternly off of Jack Nicholson at his very best and creates one of cinema's greatest villains without so much as a raised voice. She has continued to work, including a guest appearance on the series Shameless, and has taken a more low key path to her career. Still, her one nomination is possibly one of the best performances in history, and it's hard to see anyone, no matter how many they rack up, beat her impact.

Sophia Loren

Age: 81
Wins: 2
-Best Actress (Two Women)
-Honorary Oscar
Nominations: 1
-Best Actress (Marriage Italian Style)

Among the performers on this list, she is one of the few to have won solely for her work in foreign language films. She got her start in Italian cinema and slowly made the transition to English language films. Even then, she continues to juggle between both styles of film making and has produced an impressive body of work in the process. While her work has become sparing in recent years, she has managed to pick interesting projects such as the musical Nine. Even then, she will always be remembered for her elegance and ability to play strong and interesting women on screen. 

Maggie Smith

Age: 81
Wins: 2
-Best Actress (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
-Best Supporting Actress (California Suite)
Nominations: 4
-Best Supporting Actress (Othello)
-Best Actress (Travels With My Aunt)
-Best Supporting Actress (Room With a View)
-Best Supporting Actress (Gosford Park)

Fun fact: Maggie Smith's performance in California Suite marks the only time in The Academy's history in which someone won an Oscar for playing an Oscar loser (in this case Diana Barrie). While she has had a long and impressive career, Maggie Smith will likely be best remembered for her work in latter day family films like Hook and as witch Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise. Whatever the case may be, she is one of the few on this list to transcend generations and appeal to those interested in classic cinema as well as modern blockbuster entertainment. Considering that she also had a significant role in Downton Abbey, she shows no signs of slowing and is aging gracefully.

Julie Andrews

Age: 80
Wins: 1
-Best Actress (Mary Poppins)
Nominations: 2
-Best Actress (The Sound of Music)
-Best Actress (Victor Victoria)

It seems doubtful that there's anyone on this list who has a strong chance of being adored by kids than Julie Andrews. It helps that she rose to fame with her breakout film Mary Poppins, which remains a standard bearer for Disney musicals. She has only continued to balance her lively family entertainment with complex dramas that showed her range. Even as she has aged, she has played up her humble and sweet personality through films like The Princess Diaries and Shrek 2. Speaking as she is planning on bringing an educational series with puppets to TV very soon, it doesn't seem like she has lost her edge at all. In fact, she may end up being one of the sweetest performers on this list by a long mile.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, although Ellen Burstyn was nominated Best Actress for Requiem For A Dream.