10 Stars Who Would Turn 100 in 2023

1923 — U.S. president Warren G. Harding died in office, a naturalist discovered the first known dinosaur eggs, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan causing incalculable damage and prompting far-reaching changes in Tokyo’s development, and brothers Roy and Walt Disney founded an animation studio.

The original Hollywood sign, which read “Hollywoodland,” appeared on the hills above Los Angeles in 1923. Its purpose was to promote a new housing development, but many locals embraced it as a tribute to the film industry that was then in its silent golden age. The debut of the soon-to-be-iconic sign also unknowingly welcomed these future stars into the world:

January 1

New Years Day would have been the 100th birthday of Valentina Cortese, an Italian actress who moved fluidly between the very different film worlds of Hollywood and her native country. She started appearing in films under Mussolinni’s regime, and then was present for the rebirth of Italian cinema during the country’s acclaimed postwar “neorealism” movement. After appearing in a 1948 adaptation of Les Miserables as both Fantine and her daughter Cosette, Cortese landed a role in the British romance The Glass Mountain and then in the American noir movies Thieves’ Highway and The House on Telegraph Hill. She worked with big-name directors across Europe and America, including Joseph Mankiewicz in The Barefoot Contessa, Francois Truffaut in Day for Night, and Federico Fellini in Juliet of the Spirits, but her most widely-seen role is probably the small part she had in the 1977 TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. Featuring the likes of James Earl Jones, Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, and Ian Holm, the international production still airs annually on television in many countries on Christmas or Easter. (Its director, Franco Zeffirelli, would also have turned 100 this year.) As Herodias, who along with her daughter Salome plots the beheading of John the Baptist, Cortese projects imperiousness, cold calculation, and flashes of panic and pride beneath her aristocratic beauty. Cortese died in 2019.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. Day for Night (1973) – #523
2. Juliet of the Spirits (1965) – #1968
3. Thieves’ Highway (1949) – #2947
4. The Barefoot Contessa (1954) – #3637
5. The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) – #4249

February 28

From the battlefields of World War II to the ballroom dance floors of New York City to some of the wackiest comedies of the late-20th-century was a hell of a journey for Charles Durning, but he made it look easy and won awards all along the way. Perhaps his most emblematic roles are near mirrors of each other: a singing, sidestepping southern governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and a singing, jig-dancing southern governor in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, both of which combine Durning’s physical and vocal talents with his sly-yet-grandstanding demeanor. In other colorful appearances he tried to cook Kermit’s legs in the first Muppet movie, played an SS officer opposite Mel Brooks in To Be or Not to Be, wanted to marry Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and dived out a Wall Street window in The Hudsucker Proxy. He shone in dramatic roles too, and these are well-represented among his top Flickchart credits. Durning was also a decorated stage actor, and Broadway dimmed its lights in his honor when he passed in 2012 at the age of 89.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. The Sting (1973) – #169
2. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – #176
3. The Muppet Movie (1979) – #816
4. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – #829
5. Sisters (1979) – #1167

March 24

The posters for Jaws highlight the shark movie’s trinity of Scheider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss, but just try to imagine the greatest summer blockbuster of all time without greasy, grinning, novelty-suit-wearing Mayor Larry Vaughn. Character actor Murray Hamilton touched cinematic immortality with that role in the back half of a long career that started with musical comedies in the 1940s. He ultimately found a niche playing villains, a typecasting that frustrated him, but there was variety along the way, from a billiards player in The Hustler to Mrs. Robinson’s cuckolded husband in The Graduate to a Catholic priest in The Amityville Horror (no relation to his stint on Amity Island). Still, it’s his quotable turn as Jaws‘ prevaricating small-town mayor that’s kept him on the map, and keeps us panicking on the Fourth of July. Hamilton passed away in 1986.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. Jaws (1975) – #67
2. The Graduate (1967) – #179
3. Seconds (1966) – #648
4. The Amityville Horror (1979) – #2951
5. Brubaker (1980) – #3159

April 29

It’s probably fair to say that a lot of the people whose favorite movie was directed by Irvin Kershner barely recognize his name. If your favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark you likely know it was a Steven Spielberg film, and if your favorite is The Godfather there’s a good chance you’d attribute it to Francis Ford Coppola. But do The Empire Strikes Back fans talk much about its director, Irvin Kershner? George Lucas, who has only a story credit on Empire, tends to gets all the credit and all the blame for Star Wars‘ pre-Disney decades, but spare a thought for the journeyman director whom Lucas picked to lead his franchise’s first sequel. Lucas told Kershner, a lecturer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, “You know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you’re not Hollwood.” Kershner’s handling of the movie indeed proved more than capable, and the smash success of Empire led to more big-budget assignments for the man who came up in the American independent film world. The unofficial James Bond movie Never Say Never Again and the sci-fi sequel RoboCop 2 do not compare with Star Wars in terms of lasting appeal, but they did well enough at the box office in their respective years. Kershner remained active on the academic side of the business, contributing his skills to the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities until his death in 2010.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – #2
2. Never Say Never Again (1983) – #3501
3. RoboCop 2 (1990) – #4840
4. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) – #6228
5. The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976) – #11073

May 7

Being the granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright gave her a leg up in life, but it was her talent and charisma that made directors like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, and Cecil B. DeMille want to work with Anne Baxter. After cutting her teeth on westerns, comedies, noirs, and war films, Baxter soon began a long run of appearances in prestige pictures that inarguably peaked with the title role in All About Eve. A complex character, Baxter’s Eve pivots from ingenue to merciless celebrity to a doomed prisoner of the entertainment complex. Much later, Baxter got to flip the script when she played Margo Channing, the primary victim of Eve’s cunning ascent, in a stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning film. Later still, in a particularly odd example of life imitating art, Baxter took over a TV role intended for Bette Davis, the original Margo. An Oscar and Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee, Baxter died in 1985 at the age of 62.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. All About Eve (1950) – #114
2. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – #428
3. The Ten Commandments (1956) – #1265
4. I Confess (1953) – #1862
5. Five Graves to Cairo (1943) – #2703

May 24

Director Seijun Suzuki was the man for the moment as the Japanese film industry explored new territory in the 1960s. New anti-heroes — notably yakuza gangsters — romped freely on screen even as Japan’s crime rate dropped amid a postwar economic boom. New modes of expression, influenced by cinematic New Wave movements around the world, encouraged experimentation with color, editing, and narrative. Suzuki’s movies are splattered with vivid contrasts, crammed with off-kilter imagery, and follow enigmatic protagonists along dark journeys that at times seem to forget their destinations. The studios eventually reined in or ran out Suzuki and other artistic directors, preferring to chase profits with more standardized movie templates, but the highlights of this era of “cool Japan” eventually found an audience abroad in the form of Quentin Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, and likeminded enthusiasts of pure style. Suzuki kept making films well into his 80s and died in 2017 at the age of 93.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. Tokyo Drifter (1966) – #1772
2. Branded to Kill (1967) – #2058
3. Youth of the Beast (1963) – #4384
4. Gate of Flesh (1964) – #6178
5. Fighting Elegy (1966) – #8533

August 29

Richard Attenborough had the presence, the longevity, and the right kind of roles to become a familiar face to multiple generations of moviegoers. For most people today he’s best known as eccentric billionaire John Hammond, whose naive vision for a “Jurassic Park” continues to underly a franchise that long ago lost the sense of wonder he and the other original stars brought to it. For older viewers Attenborough was a perfect English everyman — not the likeliest leading male in an era of iron-jawed icons like Richard Harris and classicists like Laurence Olivier, but all the more relatable because of it. On top of his duties to the Royal Air Force he was a mainstay in wartime propaganda pictures like Noel Coward and David Lean’s In Which We Serve, and after the war he appeared in grander, star-powered WWII pictures like The Great Escape. Britain’s war experiences also inspired Attenborough’s directorial career, which included the hits Oh! What a Lovely War and A Bridge Too Far. His Oscar-winning movie Gandhi, then, was something of a pivot; though still a 20th-century period piece, it celebrates a man who is most famous for his strict pacifism. Attenborough received a slew of British titles and honors, four BAFTAs, and two Academy Awards. Though he died in 2014 at the age of 90, his younger brother, naturalist and presenter David Attenborough, turns 97 on May 8.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. Jurassic Park (actor; 1993) – #58
2. A Matter of Life and Death (actor; 1946) – #122
3. The Great Escape (actor; 1963) – #182
4. A Bridge Too Far (director; 1977) – #1188
5. Gandhi (director; 1982) – #1294

October 4

Like several of the actors on this list, Heston served a stint in WWII before embarking on his entertainment career. Fairly quickly he caught the attention of Cecil B. DeMille, who cast him in his Oscar-winners The Greatest Show on Earth, a circus story, and The Ten Commandments, a faith story. William Wyler’s Ben-Hur, which takes place during the life of Christ and whose most famous scene takes place at an ancient Roman circus, combined the themes and set a new Oscars record with eleven wins, but Flickcharters prefer Orson Welles’ grungy late noir film Touch of Evil to any of these glossy epics. By now one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, Heston’s career took an interesting turn in the 1960s and 70s as he increasingly appeared in high-concept science fiction like The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes and its first sequel, and Soylent Green, as well as cameo-crowded disaster movies like Airport 1975 and Earthquake. Late in life Heston gained notoriety for his polarizing political activities. He died in 2008 at the age of 84.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. Touch of Evil (1958) – #65
2. Planet of the Apes (1968) – #741
3. Ben-Hur (1959) – #882
4. In the Mouth of Madness (1995) – #1192
5. The Ten Commandments (1956) – #1265

October 5

Glynis Johns is currently the oldest living Academy Award nominee and the oldest living Disney Legend, but that’s not why she’s here. She’s here because of roles that have had as much staying power as she herself, most notably the mother in Mary Poppins (“Votes for women!”) but also the leading lady in the AFI-ranked comedy The Court Jester, a scene-stealing part in multiple Oscars-nominee The Sundowners, a run on the 1960s Batman series, and, on stage, a lead role in Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. “Send in the Clowns,” arguably Sondheim’s most recognizable song thanks to radio-friendly covers by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins, was written for Johns’ delicate yet distinctive voice. She is retired from acting and currently lives in Hollywood.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. The Court Jester (1955) – #815
2. Mary Poppins (1964) – #908
3. The Ref (1994) – #2397
4. While You Were Sleeping (1995) – #3951
5. The Sundowners (1960) – #8701

November 28

Gloria Grahame often made a big impression with very limited screen time. For years she was the record holder for Oscar-winner with the briefest appearance on screen, appearing for barely nine minutes in The Bad and the Beautiful but taking home the Best Supporting Actress statue. (She was surpassed by the current record holder, Beatrice Straight for five minutes in Network, in 1977.) Grahame was a leading lady opposite Glenn Ford in The Big Heat and Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place, now considered two of the finest noirs, but usually she was further down the cast list. She was Violet Bick, fallen woman of Bedford Falls in the dark timeline of It’s a Wonderful Life. She plotted to murder Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear, sang “I Can’t Say No” in Oklahoma!, and rode an elephant in The Greatest Show on Earth. Her romantic life became a subject of tabloid controversy in the 1960s and she nearly stopped working, but her career revived somewhat in the 1970s. In 1981 she was performing in a play in northwestn England when she fell ill with a terminal cancer. Recently the movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, based on a memoir of the same name, dramatized her final weeks, with Annette Benning playing Grahame. Grahame died in 1981 at the age of 57.

Top 5 Flickchart credits:

1. In a Lonely Place (1950) – #109
2. The Big Heat (1953) – #384
3. Crossfire (1947) – #3178
4. Oklahoma! (1955) – #3668
5. Sudden Fear (1952) – #3840

There are several other notable would-be centenarians this year, including Golden Age tap dancer Ann Miller who appeared in Mulholland Dr., Jean Hagen who played a silent film star in Singin’ in the Rain, Rat Pack member Peter Lawford, Showa-era Godzilla director Jun Fukuda, and the aforementioned director Franco Zeffirelli. One who’s still working at the age of 99 is Mike Nussbaum, who is perhaps best known as Gentle Rosenberg in Men in Black but has credits as recent as 2020 and 2021; wish him a happy 100th birthday on December 29.

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