You know how when you see an early Robert De Niro or Paul Newman movie, you get astonished at how young they once were? Conversely, you know how, with some other actors, you can see their work from the '60s, the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, and even today and they look like they were always perpetually fifty or sixty years old? This is a tribute to some of those performers, who in an industry so obsessed with youth were quite happy with their "mature" faces, voices, and personalities.
- Angela Lansbury. I'm amazed that this actress just turned 81. Murder She Wrote kicked off in 1984, before Lansbury even turned sixty, and yet she seems like she was at least ten years older than that. Weirder still, you can see her as a teenager in movies such as Gaslight and National Velvet (both in 1944) and even there she somehow looks old. And of course she famously played Laurence Harvey's evil mother in The Manchurian Candidate, though she was only three years older than her onscreen "son".
- George C. Scott. He of the gravelly voice and even more gravelly demeanor - notoriously turning down his Oscar for Patton because he claimed the Oscars were not honest appreciations of an actor's work - was even younger than Lansbury (who has since outlived him; Scott died in 1999), but I can't believe that the man who played General Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove was only my age now - 36 - when that film was shot.
- Walter Matthau. Like many successful male character actors, Matthau didn't hit the screen until he was in his thirties. So I can't vouch for whether he had a face like a basset hound back in high school. But those jowls were well in place by the time he got his first big screen role, in A Face in the Crowd, shot when he was - like Scott - just 36.
- Glenn Close. Eternally fortysomething Close became a star in the early '80s, also while in her mid-thirties. A quarter century has passed, and she looks no different now.
- Morgan Freeman. The Electric Company kept Mr. Freeman employed throughout much of the '70s. Street Smart made him a star in 1987. Admittedly, he was already fifty at that point. But he looked like he was seventy in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy, and has remained close to that age ever since (his actual 70th birthday is in 2007).
- Bea Arthur. The 83-year-old Arthur finally appears very old these days. But she managed to stay at a solid fifty-five for over two decades, which is pretty impressive. (After all, Estelle Getty played her mother on The Golden Girls, though Getty is two months younger!)
- Jack Klugman. His major big-screen breakthrough was in 1957's 12 Angry Men. He was 35 when that classic came out. He looked fifty, and held onto that age for the next thirty years before fading from the scene.
- Lily Tomlin. Becoming a star at the comparatively young (for this list) age of thirty on Laugh-In, Tomlin appeared to be in her forties and still does today, over three decades later.
- Don Knotts. The late Knotts, who died earlier this year, had that high forehead, quivering tenor and wiry frame of his early in his long career, which gained heat thanks to The Andy Griffith Show, when he was... 36. Hmm. Perhaps at my age, I should start looking into a career as a character actor?