A little under two months ago we did two of the more popular posts of the year (check them out here and here) on the blog, and I’ve been itching to add another installment to the series, so I figured why not today? The pieces chronicled the Top 100 AFI movies of the Institute’s list of the greatest American films. However, the AFI updated their list in 2007 with 23 new films that were moved into the category of the “best.” Since we haven’t parceled through these 23 movies, I figured now is the time (for the complete updated list click here). Let’s dive in (and as a reminder-for the purposes of this article we’ll limit to speaking roles in the film, though this isn’t an exact science and if you have any corrections, share them in the comments!)
|Buster Keaton and Marion Mack in The General|
18. The General (1927)
Already we have to cheat a bit (silent movie and all), but as this film is from 1927 and as we chronicled before that very few actors from the Silent Era are still alive, it’s safe to say no person who appeared in The General is still with us. The longest-living person in the film appears to be star Marion Mack, who played Annabelle Lee, who died at the age of 87 in 1989. She quit acting in the 1940’s and eventually became a real estate broker before being discovered by a film historian, and then went to screenings of The General to help promote it into the classic it is considered today.
49. Intolerance (1916)
In a cast of thousands, it’s hard to believe that the main actress in the film, Lillian Gish (forever rocking her cradle) would be the longest-lived, but that seems to be the case of actors I could find online. Gish was only 23 when the film was made and lived to be almost 100 years old (dying just a few months shy of her centennial in 1993). She would be Griffith’s greatest muse and receive an Honorary Oscar in 1971 for her contributions to the cinema.
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Not only is every major cast member of the film still alive, but some of them (Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom), came back to their roles to star in the final three installments in the series, The Hobbit movies.
59. Nashville (1975)
While a few cast members of the film have since passed, a number more are still with us, including Lily Tomlin (74), Geraldine Chaplin (69), Ronee Blakley (68), and Keith Carradine (64), who won an Oscar for his work in the film.
61. Sullivan’s Travels (1942)
From what I can find (hints in the comments if you’ve got them), the last living member of this cast with a speaking role may well have been leading actor Joel McCrea, who died in 1990 at the age of 84. Veronica Lake was considerably younger than McCrea, of course, but died tragically in 1973 from hepatitis.
63. Cabaret (1972)
Here we have better luck, with the bulk of the cast of the film, including Liza Minnelli (68), Michael York (72), Joel Grey (82), Fritz Wepper (72), and Marisa Berenson (67) all still with us. Both Minnelli and Grey won Oscars for their work in this film, and oddly enough this movie largely clobbered The Godfather in 1972 with AMPAS, despite the latter taking the Best Picture Oscar.
|George Segal in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?|
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
With a cast of only four actors, that puts a lot of pressure on at least one of them to still be with us. Sadly only one still is. George Segal turned eighty this past year, and though he is more well-known to modern audiences for his work in Just Shoot Me and The Goldbergs, he was once a regular in cinematic roles. This film won him his only Oscar nomination.
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
One of the few films listed here that were released after the initial AFI list, this film of course has a great number of living actors, including leading man Tom Hanks, as well as supporting players Ed Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, and Lost’s own Jeremy Davies.
72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
One of those rare films that has grown in huge adoration through the years (it barely broke even when it was first released), Shawshank’s extremely recent release date ensures that most of the cast is still alive, including leading actors Morgan Freeman (77) and Tim Robbins (55).
75. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Though Rod Steiger died over a decade ago (it doesn’t seem that long-time flies), there are still a few cast members alive from this film including Harry Dean Stanton (88…and wouldn’t you just love for Quentin Tarantino to get him an Oscar nomination?), Lee Grant (87), and Mr. Tibbs himself, Sir Sidney Poitier (87).
|Jane Alexander in All the President's Men|
77. All the President’s Men (1976)
Both Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Woodward (Robert Redford) are still alive, as is Deep Throat himself (Hal Holbrook, who turned 89 this past year). Though Jason Robards, who won an Oscar for his work in this film, has passed, Jane Alexander (who was Oscar-nominated for her work) is also still alive at the age of 74.
81. Spartacus (1960)
Michael Scott’s classic whodunit, the real Spartacus is thankfully still with us at 97, Mr. Kirk Douglas. A few other sparing cast members are also with us, including 79-year-old Joanna Barnes (as Claudia Marius) and 83-year-old John Gavin (Julius Caesar). Gavin would also appear in another monumental classic that year in Psycho (he played Marion Crane’s boyfriend Sam) and would later in his career pull a Shirley Temple, serving as Ambassador to Mexico during the Reagan administration.
82. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
First, can I just vouch that if you haven’t seen this incredible movie that you simply must-it’s sensational! Oddly enough, the longest-living cast members died just a few short months apart and played rivals for one man’s affections in the film. Janet Gaynor (the Wife) died in September of 1984 at the age of 77, just a few months before Margaret Livingston (the Woman from the City) died at the age of 89.
83. Titanic (1997)
One of the newest films on this list, almost every major actor in the film (save Gloria Stuart) is still alive including Leonardo DiCaprio (39), Kate Winslet (38), Billy Zane (48), Kathy Bates (66), and Mrs. James Cameron herself, Suzy Amis (52).
85. A Night at the Opera (1935)
Long after all of the Marx Brothers were pushing up daisies, one of the most notable television personalities of the 1950’s was still with us. Kitty Carlisle died at the age of 96 in 2007, over seventy years after she played Rosa Castaldi.
|Jack Klugman in 12 Angry Men|
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
With the death of Jack Klugman in 2012 (he played Juror #5, who was a big baseball fan in the film but was a pretty small part all things considered), no speaking cast member of this film is still alive. Klugman was most noted for his work as Oscar Madison on the television show The Odd Couple, for which he won two Emmy Awards, though I most fondly think of him as a frequent cast member of The Twilight Zone.
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
You’re right to raise your eyebrow on this film making the Top 100 greatest movies of all time, but I’m not here to judge, just to record and verify. Obviously most of these cast members are still alive including Bruce Willis (59), Haley Joel Osment (26), Toni Collette (41), Olivia Williams (45), and a young Mischa Barton (28). Both Osment and Collette earned their only Oscar nominations to date for this film.
90. Swing Time (1936)
Ginger Rogers ended up being the longest-living cast member of Swing Time, outliving Fred by eight years and passing away in 1995 at the age of 83.
91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
My other eyebrow is raised now, but thankfully most of this film’s talented cast is still with us, including the main trio of Meryl Streep (65), Kevin Kline (66), and Peter MacNicol (60). You already know this, but Meryl Streep won her second Oscar and first for Best Actress for this film.
|Cybill Shepherd in The Last Picture Show|
95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
Cast with a host of young actors at the time, this was bound to have a number of living cast members, and though most are well into their 60’s and beyond, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t indeed a lot of them. Amongst them are Jeff Bridges (64), Cloris Leachman (88), Timothy Bottoms (62), Cybill Shepherd (64-who was a very big deal in the movies in the 1970’s for those who only know her from Family Guy jokes), Ellen Burstyn (81), and Randy Quaid (63). Bridges, Leachman, and Burstyn all received Oscar nominations for their work and Leachman won the trophy.
96. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Thankfully there’s a big cast here, as a few of these cast members have passed away in the last few years. Amongst the living cast members are Spike Lee (57), Danny Aiello (81-who won an Oscar nomination for this role that was originally going to go to Robert de Niro), Giancarlo Esposito (56, and who is wonderful in this film), John Turturro (57), Martin Lawrence (49), and Rosie Perez (also 49). For those of you out there who wonder why Spike Lee is still spoken about in such reverential tones, this is a good place to start finding the answer.
97. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s masterwork is one of those rare classic films that I’ve never seen (it’s toward the top of my Netflix queue for the curious), and has most of its principle cast members still alive including Harrison Ford (72), Rutger Hauer (70), Edward James Olmos (67), and Sean Young (54-does anyone else always think of Drive Me Crazy when they hear about her?).
99. Toy Story (1995)
I heart this movie so much, and anyone who is aware of the sequels knows this cast is almost entirely intact from Tom Hanks (58) and Tim Allen (61) in the lead roles to key supporting players voiced by Don Rickles (88), Wallace Shawn (70), John Ratzenberger (67), Annie Potts (61), and Laurie Metcalf (59).
And there you have it-the living stars of classic AFI films. We’ve chronicled all of the AFI 100 films now, as well as Silent Era stars-let me know what else you think I should investigate.