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Hollywood OAPs: The Directors Hollywood OAPs: The Directors
by Asa Butcher
2009-08-25 07:56:04
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Following the death of actor Richard Widmark last year I was inspired to write an article about the oldest living film actors and compile a chronological list of every actor, born before 1925, that was still physically alive. I expected my list to grow ever shorter as the Grim Reaper would nonchalantly swing his scythe, but thanks to regular contributions from Joey Hernandez, Omer Denizkur, Omer Kanioz, Lori Muns, Alan, Margaret F, Nicholas, Vande and Dez Hazell the list has actually grown in length.

The last paragraph of that article featured the line 'I haven’t even mentioned the directors that are still with us' and I feel it is time to take a closer look at the oldest living directors, again born before 1925 - apologies to Mel Brooks, Norman Jewison, James Ivory, Richard Donner, Clint Eastwood and Jean-Luc Godard. As I carried out my research I was surprised to discover just how many old famous directors are still with us and how many are still hard at work! It was equally saddening to be reminded just how many are not with us any longer, especially the recent death of John Hughes at the age of 59 and Japanese director Shūe Matsubayashi at the age of 89.

Poignancy aside, you want to know the name of the oldest living director and the name of the oldest active director don't you? Well, they are one and the same, and the name will probably be familiar to our Portuguese readers because I had never heard of this centenarian. Manoel Cândido Pinto de Oliveira, born December 11 1908, has been the oldest active film director since 2001, has almost 50 films to his name and has been awarded two Career Golden Lions, a Golden Palm for his lifetime achievements and countless other honours from the Cannes, Venice and Montréal film festivals.

Manoel de Oliveira beats his nearest rival Roy Ward Baker (b. December 19 1916) by a whopping eight years and eight days, although Baker can lay claim to being the oldest UK director. Baker is perhaps best known for his later TV work on countless series such as "The Avengers", "The Saint" and "Minder", but Hollywood knows him for his 1958 Titanic film A Night to Remember and for directing a number of Hammer horror in the 1970s. You may not know the name Ted Post (b.  March 31 1918), who holds the third spot, but when I tell you he directed 55 episodes of "Gunsmoke", over 20 episodes of "Rawhide" and also Clint Eastwood's 1968 Hang 'Em High and the second Dirty Harry film Magnum Force you will be nodding your head in appreciation.

Lester James Peries (b. April 5 1919) must be the most famous Sri Lankan film director… ever, known primarily for his 1956 debut film Rekava that holds the distinction of being the first Sri Lankan film to be shot outdoors. Michael Anderson (b. January 30 1920) is the oldest Academy Award nominee on the list for his 1956 epic Around the World in Eighty Days, while Lewis Gilbert CBE (b. March 6 1920), who was nominated by the Academy Awards for Alfie, can lay claim to the title Oldest Living James Bond Film Director, but perhaps Manoel de Oliveira may be in line to direct Daniel Craig…

New Wave director Éric Rohmer (b. April 4 1920) is certainly one director that splits people down the middle: Quentin Tarantino claims: "You have to see one of [his movies], and if you kind of like that one, then you should see his other ones, but you need to see one to see if you like it." However, others describe them as "arty and tiresome" and "donnishly talky", but at 89 years-old everybody has respect for the man. Mickey Rooney (b. September 23 1920) is the first actor to appear on the directorial list thanks to his 1951 film My True Story and also co-directing the 1960 film The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.

Spaniard Luis García Berlanga (b. June 12 1921) is another European director with whom I have had little experience, so have to rely upon facts like his 1961 film Placido was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival he won a prize as one the world’s ten most prominent film directors - I really should have heard of him! Staying with the Europeans, we now have Chris Marker (b. July 29 1921), who was born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, but took his surname from the Magic Marker pen which was certainly one of the highlights of his life… apologies… shall we move on?

Miklós Jancsó (b. September 27 1921) is among the most successful Hungarian directors and can count one Cannes Best Director award and five Golden Palm nominations throughout his long career - he is also credited with creating "political musical" genre. Father of director Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner (b. March 20 1922) has had a long career in Hollywood, beginning with directing episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and eventually teaming up with Steve Martin for The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983) and All of Me (1984).

Mihalis Kakogiannis (b. June 11 1922) will forever be known in the UK as the man behind the 1965 film Alexis Zorbas, a.k.a. Zorba the Greek, while Julie Andrews' husband Blake Edwards (b. July 26 1922) will remain associated as the director of the Pink Panther series, despite countless other films, such as 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Arthur Penn (b. September 27 1922) is the oldest living director with three Academy Award nominations to his name, one of which was for 1967's Bonnie and Clyde.

Franco Zeffirelli (b. February 12 1923) may be the fifth Academy Award nominated director on this list, but it is the next name on the list that can finally lay claim to the title Oldest Living Academy Award Winning Director. Born August 29 1923, Lord Richard Attenborough's Best Director win for Gandhi earns him this title and, according to my research, there are no other winners born before 1925, so it seems his crown is safe for now, so long as he stays healthy! It seems as though an Oscar nomination does wonders for the lifespan of a director, as shown by the earlier names and by the two following names of Arthur Hiller (b. November 22 1923) and Sidney Lumet (b. June 25 1924).

In comparison to the original actors list there is an obvious discrepancy: where are the women? The oldest living female director that I could find is Gillian Lynne (b. February 20 1926) and she can also lay claim to the crown of Oldest Living Female British Director. I hope that my research has been thorough and no important names have been missed off the list below, but you know where to contact me if I have overlooked somebody of distinction… asa@ovimagazine.com

* * * * * * * *

List last updated on: January 3rd, 2011

Manoel de Oliveira - 11 December 1908

Richard L. Bare - August 12, 1913

Ted Post - March 31 1918

Lester James Peries - 5 April 1919

Michael Anderson - 30 January 1920

Lewis Gilbert CBE - 6 March 1920

Mickey Rooney - 23 September 23 1920

Miklós Jancsó - September 27 1921

Carl Reiner - March 20 1922

Alain Resnais - 3 June 1922

Jonas Mekas - 24 December 1922

Franco Zeffirelli - 12 February 1923

Mrinal Sen - 14 May 1923

Seijun Suzuki - 24 May 1923

Gene Reynolds - 4 April 1923

Richard Attenborough - 29 August 1923

Arthur Hiller O.C. - 22 November 1923

Stanley Donen - 13 April 1924

Peter Brook - 21 March 1925

Zenzo Matsuyama - 3 April 1925

John Guillermin - 11 November 1925

Claude Lanzmann - 27 November 1925

Károly Makk - 22 December 1925

* * * * * *

Oldest Living Female Directors

Gillian Lynne - 20 February 1926

Lina Wertmüller - 14 August 1926

Lee Grant - 31 October 1927

* * * * * *

Other cinematic professions

Aliza Sommer-Herz - 26 November 1903 (pianist)


     
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Comments(16)
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Asa2010-01-18 09:39:25
RIP Eric Rohmer
20 March 1920 - 11 January 2010


Asa2010-06-18 20:15:08
RIP Ronald Neame
23 April 1911 - 16 June 2010


Asa2010-09-30 08:29:19
RIP Arthur Penn
27 September 1922 - 28 September 2010


Asa2010-10-08 12:54:04
RIP Roy Ward Baker
19 December 1916 - 5 October 2010


Margaret F2010-11-29 18:34:22
RIP Irvin Kershner
29 April 1923 - 29 November 2010


Asa2010-11-29 20:42:44
Beat me to it, Margaret F. Thanks for posting.


Margaret F2010-12-01 00:07:22
RIP Mario Monicelli
15 May 1915 - 29 November 2010
Very sad indeed.


Margaret F2010-12-01 00:17:58
Luis Garcia Berlanga
12 June 1921 - 13 November 2010


Asa2010-12-16 22:32:31
RIP Blake Edwards
July 26 1922 - December 15, 2010


Margaret F2011-02-10 14:38:33
Zenzo Matsuyama born 3 April 1925


Margaret F2011-03-22 14:32:30
RIP Michael Langham, 22 August 1919 - 15 January 2011


Asa2011-04-09 20:22:01
RIP Sidney Lumet
1924-2011


Omer Denizkur2011-08-05 17:40:50
Kurt Maetzig 25 Jan. 1911


Omer Denizkur2011-08-05 17:42:59
Otakar Vavra 18 Feb. 1911


Margaret F2011-08-25 15:45:14
RIP Patrick Jackson, 26 March 1916 - 3 June 2011


Margaret F2011-12-05 16:25:47
RIP Dev Anand, 26 September 1923 - 3 December 2011


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