Continuing in a series of age-obsessed posts, here, I go out of my way to blow your mind. This was written in 2018!!! ...
THEN AND ... WOW!
Alice Pearce, the first Mrs. Kravitz, was just 46 when Bewitched debuted on September 17, 1964. She died at 48 and was replaced by Sandra Gould, who was just 50 in her debut on the show in 1966. White-haired David White, Larry Tate, was 48.
Erin and Diane Murphy, who played Tabatha, are 55 as of April 2020.
Mae West was 76 when Myra Breckinridge debuted on June, 24, 1970. Her co-star, Raquel Welch is 79 as of April 2020.
Ruth Gordon turned 72 when Rosemary’s Baby came out in 1968— and Mia Farrow is 75 as of April 2020.
Jack Albertson was 64 when Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory debuted on June 30, 1971. Peter Ostrum — Charlie — turns 63 in November 2020.
Alec Guinness was 63 when Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977. As of April 2020, Mark Hamill is 68, and Harrison Ford is 77, 14 years older than the wizened Obi-Wan.
When the comedy semi-classic Foul Play was released on July 14, 1978, quintessential old-guy character actor Burgess Meredith was 70.
Meredith's co-stars in the film, Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase, are — as of April 2020 — 74 and 75.
Emmanuel Lewis is, as of April 2020, 49. Susan Clark was 43 and Alex Karras was 48 when the series Webster premiered on September 16, 1983.
Conrad Bain was 55 when Diff’rent Strokes debuted on November 3, 1978. The only surviving child actor from the show, Todd Bridges, is turning 55 on May 27, 2020.
The late Ian Abercrombie aka Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld was just 60 when he debuted the character of the hard-to-please, eccentric old tycoon. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose Elaine Benes was Mr. Pitt's happless young protégée with a debatable amount of grace, is 59 as of April 2020.
Hollywood legend Joan Crawford died at 73. Her whistleblowing daughter Christina Crawford, author of Mommie Dearest, turned 80 in June 2019. (So she wins at ... life?)
Finally for this section, screen legend Marlene Dietrich was probably alive when you were younger, right? Well, her daughter turned 95 in December 2019.
IN PRAISE OF OLDER WOMEN*
Speaking of Marlene Dietrich, she was only in her early fifties when, in the early ‘50s, she became what was considered an age-defying cabaret performer. Her long stage career ended on September 29, 1975, due to a fall — she was 73.
Cher was on tour in 2019 at age 73.
Vivian Vance, presented as Lucille Ball's frumpy sidekick Ethel Mertz in 1952, was just 42 years old (and paired with a hubby played by 64-year-old William Frawley). Vance's beauty was played down for the role, but still — she was only 42 to Lucy's 40.
Another way to look at it — Ethel was the same age as Keri Russell's Elizabeth Jennings on the last season of The Americans.
The dearly departed Charlotte Rae was just 52 when she introduced Mrs. Garrett on Diff'rent Strokes in 1978, in spite of reading older. (Mary Jo Catlett, who was introduced as housekeeper Pearl in 1982, was even younger — a mere 44.) I mean, Cindy Crawford, Bai Ling and Téa Leoni are now past Mrs. Garrett's age.
Continuing with domestics, Hermione Baddeley was only 57 as one of the seemingly wizened maids in Mary Poppins (1964).
Which brings me to the gobsmacking fact that the white-haired cook in Mary Poppins, Reta Shaw, was only 51 at the time the classic was filmed.
By 1984, one's early fifties had become less frumpy — for some. Superstar Elizabeth Taylor who had battled the bulge and gone in for some Ash Wednesday-level body modification IRL, popped up — age 52 — on the series Hotel. Much was made of her agelessness, even though today many TV actresses are in their prime at 52.
Viola Davis of How to Get Away with Murder is 54 as of April 2020, and hardly seems ready to be playing aged-out divas reaching for that brass ring.
Tina Turner was just 44 when “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” came out May 1, 1984, in the U..S., marking a “late-in-life” comeback.
Katherine Helmond was 55 when Who’s the Boss? debuted on September 20, 1984. Casting the oversexed grandmother today? How about Elisabeth Shue, Helen Hunt or Lisa Kudrow — all of whom are now past 55.
Angela Lansbury was 58 when elderly-widow-tastic Murder, She Wrote debuted on September 30, 1984. Casting it today? How about Julianne Moore, Daryl Hannah, Tilda Swinton, Jennifer Grey or Jane Lynch, all of whom hit 60 in 2020?
Andy Griffith was 59 when his old-guy legal drama Matlock launched in 1986. Casting it today, you might consider sexagenarians Kyle MacLachlan, Bronson Pinchot, Jason Alexander or Rupert Everett.
Ellen Corby was 61 when she began playing the grandmother on The Waltons in 1972. Today? How about Fran Drescher or Frances McDormand? Melanie Griffith? They’re all 62 or 63.
The woman who gave us Endora, Agnes Moorehead, was 63 when Bewitched debuted in 1964. That means she was a bit older than Laurie Metcalf is today.
When The Golden Girls launched on September 14, 1985, the premise was clear — it was a comedy about old ladies. The "old ladies" were Betty White, who was 63; Bea Arthur, 63; Estelle Getty, 63; and Rue McClanahan, who was only 51 years of age.
Wanna cast actresses the same-ish ages in April 2020? Try Reba McEntire (65), Debra Winger (64), Geena Davis (64) and Pamela Anderson (52). I'd watch that.
Putting The Golden Girls into a poppier perspective: Gloria Estefan is 62, Madonna is 61, Janet Jackson is 53 and Kylie Minogue is 51 — each in the general vicinity of the lanai, and each equally unimaginable on it.
If Sex and the City were to get its long-awaited reboot — and if Kim Cattrall were somehow lured back — they would be Golden Girls-ready! Cattrall is 63, about the same age as the oldest of the GG cast, while Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis are 55, and governor-not-elect Cynthia Nixon is 54 ... meaning all four of them are years older than the youngest Golden Girls cast member was in 1985.
Jessica Tandy was 80 when she made Driving Miss Daisy (1989) — and that feels right, right? But does it feel right that Diana Rigg or famous MIA castaway Dawn Wells (of Gilligan’s Island fame) are already Tandy's age today? Even more of a mind-blower, had she lived, Natalie Wood would be in line for the job ... but Jane Fonda is already several years too old for an exact match. Donna Mills — DONNA MILLS — played the role recently, and it wasn't a stretch ... she is 79 as of April 2020.
When Dynasty premiered in 1981, Linda Evans — previously best known for The Big Valley (1965-1969) — was touted as a modern miracle for "still" being so lovely and youthful. She was all of 39 years old.
When Joan Collins was brought aboard on Dynasty to liven things up, her agelessness was an even bigger cause-celebre, and she clocked in at 48 years old. She posed nude for Playboy in 1983 to celebrate turning 50, at the time an almost-unheard-of thing to do at that age. (Okay, Vikki LaMotta had been 51 when she did it in 1981, but she was not nearly as famous as Collins.) That issue was a major pop cultural turning point in the perception of "50." Today, would it really be so hard to imagine Kylie Minogue or Naomi Watts taking off all their clothes and looking fab?
In 2018, Jane Seymour set a record when she stripped for Playboy — at 67. Mamie Van Doren — who still poses nude for fun at age 89 — appeared nude at age 75 in the April 2006 issue of Playboy, but was not shot by the magazine directly so does not get to challenge Seymour's record.
*Bonus: In the steamy 1978 film I'm referencing with this section title, In Praise of Older Women, young Tom Berenger was just 10 years younger than "older woman" Karen Black — he was 29 and she was 39. Wow. Daring.