One of the great things about watching old TV shows is to see future stars at the start of their careers, like these shots from “The Naked City”:
The four future stars pictured are all, happily, still with us and three of them, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, and Dustin Hoffman, are all still active, while the fourth, Gene Hackman, is retired. (Hackman is seen with “Naked City” star Paul Burke, who died in 2009.)
When I watched a lineup of old western shows on Encore Western Channel early in 2015, I was pleased to note that the stars of “Cheyenne” (Clint Walker), “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (Hugh O’Brian), “Laramie” (Robert Fuller) and “Wagon Train” (Robert Horton), all octogenarian or nonagenarian, were all still alive at that point. Since then, both Robert Horton and Hugh O’Brian have passed away, as did many other TV stars in 2016, including Patty Duke, her TV father William Schallert, and TV boyfriend Eddie Applegate; Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane on the last four seasons of the 1950s “Superman” TV show; Alan Young, who played Wilbur, the owner of “Mr. Ed”; Abe Vigoda (“Barney Miller”), George Kennedy (“The Blue Knight”), Peter Brown (“Laredo”), Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”), Robert Vaughn (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), Don Marshall (“Land of the Giants”), Van Williams (“The Green Hornet”), Abel Fernandez (“The Untouchables”) and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
In watching so many TV shows from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, I’m compelled to look up actors spotted in these shows on IMDB to confirm whether they’re still alive or not and I find a large number who are, including Nita Talbot (b. 1930), seen here in the 1974 pilot of “The Rockford Files,” a show I’d never watched before recently picking up a box set of Season One:
So I thought to make a list of those TV actors from that period aged 80 and over who are still with us, both active in film and TV today and inactive, so that readers won’t respond to future deaths as they did to, say, the news of Abe Vigoda’s passing with, “I thought he’d already died.” (Understandable given all the false alarms about Vigoda over the years.)
This list will include those born in 1936 or earlier.
First off, there are those who remain in the public eye, in one form or another, many of whom are still quite active in show business, including: Dick Van Dyke (born 1925), Angela Lansbury (b. 1925), Clint Eastwood (b. 1930), William Shatner (b. 1931), Rita Moreno (b. 1931), Carol Burnett (b. 1933), Shirley Jones (b. 1934), and Mary Tyler Moore (b. 1934), in addition to the aforementioned Robert Duvall (b. 1931), Robert Redford (b. 1936), Gene Hackman (b. 1930), and Dustin Hoffman (who turns 80 on August 8 of this year).
Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore in “The Dick Van Dyke Show”:
Angela Lansbury in her long-running show, “Murder, She Wrote”:
Clint Eastwood in his series, “Rawhide,” with Linda Cristal (b. 1934), who’s also still with us, but retired from acting:
William Shatner as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek”:
Rita Moreno, seen here in an episode of “The Golden Girls” with Rue McClanahan (1934-2010):
Carol Burnett on “The Carol Burnett Show”:
Shirley Jones, star of “The Partridge Family”:
Others in this age bracket who are still high-profile and still quite active include: Cicely Tyson (b. 1924), Harry Dean Stanton (b. 1926), Robert Wagner (b. 1930), James Earl Jones (b. 1931), Robert Morse (b. 1931), Barbara Eden (b. 1931), Joan Collins (b. 1933), Richard Chamberlain (b. 1934), Diahann Carroll (b. 1935), Alan Alda (b. 1936), Bruce Dern (b. 1936), Dean Stockwell (b. 1936), and Louis Gossett Jr. (b. 1936), to name a few.
Cicely Tyson, a regular on “East Side/West Side” (1963-64):
Harry Dean Stanton, who made his first TV appearance in 1954 and continues to pop up in guest shots, is seen here in “The Untouchables”:
Robert Wagner, star of “It Takes a Thief” (pictured) and “Hart to Hart”:
James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll, seen here in CLAUDINE:
Robert Morse, star of “That’s Life” (1969) and more recently a regular on “Mad Men,” is seen here in “The Naked City”:
Barbara Eden, star of “I Dream of Jeannie”:
Joan Collins, star of “Dynasty” and seen here in the Star Trek episode, “The City at the Edge of Forever”:
Richard Chamberlain, star of “Dr. Kildare,” seen here in an early guest shot on the Audie Murphy western show, “Whispering Smith”:
Alan Alda, of “M*A*S*H” fame, seen here in “Route 66” alongside veteran star Chester Morris:
Bruce Dern, seen here in “The Fugitive”:
Dean Stockwell, seen here on the left in each of these two shots from “The Twilight Zone”:
Louis Gossett Jr., seen here with Richard Pryor in an episode of “The Partridge Family”:
Then there are the workaday TV stars and character actors who we used to see on TV all the time, some of whom had their own TV series and some of whom spent decades doing guest spots, some of whom are still active (David McCallum, Tom Skerritt, Barbara Bain) and many of whom are retired and no longer in the public eye (Robert Conrad, George Maharis, Vera Miles). So let us celebrate, for once, the careers of the still-living. Of course, I run the inevitable risk of seeing any of their obituaries a day or week or month or two after I post this, but I figured if I put in a long list it would diminish the jinx effect. (Early in 2015, when I suggested a 50th anniversary reunion of the original “Star Trek” cast on this blog, I was hit with the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death only hours after I posted it.) This is a selected list and not a complete one.
I’ll start with the nonagenarians and work my way down in descending order to the younger ones, stopping with those who are now 80.
Barbara Hale (b. 1922), my favorite legal secretary (“Perry Mason”):
Larry Storch (b. 1923), star of the western comedy, “F Troop,” seen here with his co-star, Forrest Tucker (1919-1986) :
Rose Marie (b. 1923), co-star of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”:
Richard Erdman (b. 1925), a longtime character actor (STALAG 17) with Hollywood credits going back to 1944 and, more recently, a regular on “Community,” is seen here in “The Twilight Zone”:
June Lockhart (b. 1925), my favorite TV mom (“Lassie”), seen here in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”:
Mike Connors (b. 1925), star of “Mannix”:
Connors’ “Mannix” co-star, Joseph Campanella (b. 1924), seen here in “Police Story”:
Morgan Woodward (b. 1925), seen here in “Star Trek”:
Lee Grant (b. 1925), seen here in “Ironside”:
Richard Anderson, born on August 8, 1926, two days after my mother, is best known for “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” and is seen here in “Ironside”:
John Ericson (b. 1926), Anne Francis’s co-star in “Honey West,” seen here in “Police Story”:
Barbara Rush turned 90 on Jan. 4 and is seen here in “Police Story”:
Phyllis Coates, the first Lois Lane on “The Adventures of Superman,” turns 90 on January 15 of this year:
Lisa Lu, who turns 90 on January 19 of this year, and whom I’ve written about several times on this blog, seen here in “Coronado 9”:
And let us not forget the unstoppable, indefatigable Betty White (b. 1922):
Those in the upper end of their 80s include the following;
Peter Mark Richman (b. 1927), guest star on dozens of series, seen here in “Police Story”:
David Hedison (b. 1927), star of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”:
Clint Walker (b. 1927), star of “Cheyenne”:
Roger Moore (b. 1927), star of “Maverick” and “The Saint” long before he took on the role of James Bond, seen here as Beauregarde Maverick:
Stuart Whitman (b. 1928), star of “Cimarron Strip,” seen here in “Police Story”:
Martin Landau (b. 1928), star of “Mission: Impossible” and still quite active:
George Maharis (b. 1928), star of “Route 66”:
Earl Holliman (b. 1928), a regular on “Police Woman,” seen here in “The Twilight Zone”:
Henry Silva (b. 1928), seen here in “The Untouchables”:
Adam West (b. 1928), star of “Batman,” seen here as Bruce Wayne and still quite active:
Marion Ross (b. 1928), Mrs. Cunningham on “Happy Days,” seen here in “Hawaii Five-0,” another one who is still active:
Clu Gulager (b. 1928), a onetime regular on “The Virginian” and still active, seen here in “Police Story”:
James Hong (b. 1929), a frequent TV guest star and still quite active, seen here in “Hawaii Five-0”:
Don Murray (b. 1929), onetime leading man (A HATFUL OF RAIN), stage actor and frequent TV guest star, seen here in “Police Story”:
Vera Miles (b. 1929), a frequent TV guest star, seen here in “The Twilight Zone”:
Ty Hardin (b. 1930), star of “Bronco”:
Those in their mid-80s:
Barbara Bain (b. 1931), star of “Mission: Impossible” and still active, seen here with M:I co-star Peter Lupus (b. 1932):
Angie Dickinson (b. 1931), seen here in “Police Story”:
Nichelle Nichols (b. 1932), “Star Trek”’s Uhura and still quite active, seen here with Chekov, played by Walter Koenig (b. 1936), also quite active:
William Smith (b. 1933) co-star of “Laredo” and still active, seen here in the pilot of “The Rockford Files”:
Nicholas Georgiade (b. 1933) seen here (seated, center) as one of “The Untouchables” and also one of the last surviving cast members of IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD:
Alex Cord (b. 1933), seen here in “Police Story”:
Robert Fuller (b. 1933) star of “Laramie”:
Julie Newmar (b. 1933), star of “My Living Doll” and one of the actresses who played Catwoman on “Batman,” continues to do the voice of Catwoman for animated versions of “Batman.” She is seen here with Albert Salmi in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
Tom Skerritt (b. 1933) star of “Picket Fences” and still quite active, seen here with George Takei in “Death Valley Days”:
David McCallum (b. 1933), currently a regular on “NCIS” and seen here with co-star Robert Vaughn (who died last year) in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”:
Ken Berry (b. 1933), star of “F Troop,” seen here on the right, with Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Melody Patterson (1949-2015):
Tim Conway (b. 1933), a co-star of “The Carol Burnett Show” and still quite active, seen here on the right in “McHale’s Navy,” with Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012) and Joe Flynn (1924-1974), :
James Drury (b. 1934), star of “The Virginian”:
John Saxon (b. 1935), seen here in “Ironside”:
Robert Conrad (b. 1935), star of “The Wild Wild West,” “The D.A.” and “Black Sheep Squadron,” but seen here at left in his first starring role, “Hawaiian Eye,” with Anthony Eisley (1925-2003) and Connie Stevens (b. 1938):
Leslie Parrish (b. 1935), seen here with Marie Windsor (1919-2000) in “Perry Mason”:
Monte Markham (b. 1935), star of “The Second Hundred Years,” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” and “The New Perry Mason,” as well as being a regular on several other series, including “Baywatch.” He is still quite active and is seen here in his very first TV appearance—as a doofus guard in a Soviet bloc country in an early episode of “Mission: Impossible”:
Ron Harper (b. 1936), star of “Wendy and Me” and “Garrison’s Gorillas,” pictured, and a regular on many other shows:
Andrew Prine (b. 1936), still active, seen here in “The Fugitive”:
James Darren (b. 1936), co-star of “Time Tunnel” and “T.J. Hooker” and seen here in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”:
Tony Lo Bianco (b. 1936), still active and seen here in “Police Story”:
George Takei (b. 1937) turns 80 on April 20. He was, of course, Sulu on “Star Trek” and was also seen this week on the aforementioned episode of “Death Valley Days” with Tom Skerritt:
I’d also like to point out that in the course of watching old TV episodes, I find numerous actors of interest whom I hadn’t heard of before. One such performer is Peggy McCay (b. 1930), who pops up in a first season episode of “The Fugitive” called “The Garden House” (directed by Ida Lupino), playing a sheltered, vulnerable heiress who comes under the protective gaze of the title character, Richard Kimble (David Janssen), working as a handyman under an assumed name while on the run. McCay gives a performance of impressive emotional range and comes off as very believable, prompting me to look her up on IMDB and find an array of credits that began in 1949 and continues to this day with a recurring role as Caroline Brady in “Days of Our Lives,” a soap opera on which she’s appeared since 1983. She’s been in a few films and TV shows I’ve seen, but never registered with me before the “Fugitive” episode.
This week, I watched an episode of “Death Valley Days” on the Encore Western Channel, in which Francine York plays Lillie Langtry, the 19th century actress adored from afar by Judge Roy Bean, who went so far as to rename his town after her. In putting the finishing touches on this piece, I thought of her and wondered if she would qualify, so I looked her up on IMDB only to learn that she died six days ago, on January 6, 2017 at the age of 80. She was still active and has some upcoming credits, including a new “Star Trek” series. Here’s a shot of her as Langtry:
There are many who I’ve left out simply because I didn’t have images of them in my collection or because I clean forgot about them. There must be quite a few of those. If there’s anyone who comes to mind that you think should be mentioned, please leave a comment.
Also, I’m debating whether to alter this piece as time goes on and people listed show up on the obituary pages one by one, or leave it as a record of the date on which I posted. I’m tending toward the latter, simply to preserve a time this far into the 21st century when so many of the mainstays of TV in my youth were all still with us.
January 25: We lost Mary Tyler Moore.
January 26: We lost Mike Connors and Barbara Hale.