Oldest person in movies?
Following the recent passing of 1931 Dracula actress Carla Laemmle at age 104, there is one less movie centenarian still around. So, at this time, who is the oldest person in movies?
Manoel de Oliveira
Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira will turn 106 next December 11; he’s surely the oldest person – at least the oldest well-known person – in movies today. De Oliveira’s film credits include the autobiographical docudrama Memories and Confessions / Visita ou Memórias e Confissões (1982), with de Oliveira as himself, and reportedly to be screened publicly only after his death; The Cannibals / Os Canibais (1988); The Convent / O Convento (1995); Porto of My Childhood / Porto da Minha Infância (2001); The Fifth Empire / O Quinto Império – Ontem Como Hoje (2004); and, currently in production, O Velho do Restelo (“The Old Man of Restelo”).
Among the international stars who have been directed by de Oliveira are Catherine Deneuve, Pilar López de Ayala, Bulle Ogier, Michel Piccoli, John Malkovich, Françoise Fabian, Deneuve’s daughter Chiara Mastroianni, and de Oliveira’s grandson Ricardo Trêpa.
Manoel de Oliveira’s best-known fellow movie centenarians, most of whom have been long retired, are the following:
German-born, two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner Luise Rainer turned 104 last January 12; she currently lives in London. Rainer’s back-to-back Oscars were for Robert Z. Leonard’s The Great Ziegfeld (1936), playing actress Anna Held opposite William Powell (as Florenz Ziegfeld) and Myrna Loy (as Billie Burke), and for Sidney Franklin’s The Good Earth (1937), in which Rainer plays a Chinese peasant opposite Paul Muni. Rainer’s other film credits include Richard Thorpe’s The Toy Wife (1938), Julien Duvivier’s The Great Waltz (1938), Robert B. Sinclair’s Dramatic School (1938), and Frank Tuttle’s Hostages (1943).
After a 54-year gap, Luise Rainer returned to the big screen in a supporting role in Károly Makk’s The Gambler (1997), starring Michael Gambon as Fyodor Dostoevsky. (The IMDb lists Rainer as having an unspecified role in Erik Ode’s 1954 German comedy Der erste Kuß / The First Kiss, but it’s unclear whether or not she indeed has a cameo in that movie.)
Luise Rainer is the oldest living person to have won an Academy Award.
Like the recently deceased Carla Laemmle, Mexican-born Lupita Tovar, who turns 104 next July 27, also has a vampire connection: Tovar was featured in George Melford’s Drácula, the Spanish-language version of the Universal classic Dracula, in which Laemmle had a bit part. Tovar landed the role originally played by Helen Chandler in the English-language version; Barry Norton was her leading man (David Manners in the English-language Dracula), and, instead of Bela Lugosi, Carlos Villarías brought to life the (literally) bloodthirsty antihero.
Curiously, Lupita Tovar has another vampire connection: her grandson Chris Weitz directed The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the highly popular 2009 Twilight sequel starring Robert Pattinson as the vampire Edward Cullen, Kristen Stewart as his human paramour Bella Swan, and Taylor Lautner as Pattinson’s rival, the werewolf Jacob Black.
British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe turned 101 last February 10. Slocombe’s extensive list of movie credits include the all-star psychological horror drama Dead of Night (1945) – which features no vampires but in which ventriloquist Michael Redgrave loses his mind after becoming possessed by his dummy; in addition to Alexander Mackendrick’s The Man in the White Suit (1951), starring Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood; Anthony Harvey’s The Lion in Winter (1968), which earned Katharine Hepburn her third Best Actress Oscar; Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby (1974), with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow; Fred Zinnemann’s Julia (1977), with Jane Fonda and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave; and the Steven Spielberg-Harrison Ford blockbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Douglas Slocombe was nominated for three Academy Awards – Travels with My Aunt, 1972; Julia; Raiders of the Lost Ark – and for 10 BAFTA Awards, winning three times: The Servant (1963), The Great Gatsby, and Julia.
The youngest oldest person on this brief list of movie centenarians is American film editor Elmo Williams, who turned 101 last April 30. Among William’s movie credits are three RKO-released musicals directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring British superstar Anna Neagle, Irene (1940), No, No, Nanette (1940), and Sunny (1941), in addition to the Wilcox-Neagle biopic Nurse Edith Cavell (1939); the film noirs Nocturne (1946), starring George Raft, and They Won’t Believe Me (1947), with Robert Young; Fred Zinnemann’s classic Western High Noon (1952), which earned Gary Cooper his second Best Actor Academy Award; and Richard Fleischer’s blockbuster 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason.
Elmo Williams shared with Harry W. Gerstad the 1952 Best Film Editing Academy Award; his second and final Oscar nomination was for 20000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Additionally, William’s handful of credits as a film producer include Fleischer’s costly box office bomb Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), with Jason Robards and Sô Yamamura; James Fargo’s adventure flick Caravans (1979), with Anthony Quinn and Michael Sarrazin; and Dick Richard’s family drama Man, Woman and Child (1983), with Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner. (See also: “Movie stars of the ’30s still alive.”)