Who are the oldest living Oscar winners?

The dozen oldest actors, producers and songwriters alive today who’ve celebrated Academy Awards glory - and what they won them for

Tuesday 08 March 2022 19:39 GMT
Joanne Woodward, Mel Brooks and Gene Hackman
Joanne Woodward, Mel Brooks and Gene Hackman (Getty Images)

With Oscars 2022 fast approaching, the time is ripe to take a look back at the oldest living winners of those famed golden statuettes. These are actors, producers and songwriters who deserve to have their trailblazing work celebrated.

Here are the 12 oldest living Academy Awards winners, and what they did to secure their Oscars.

Walter Mirisch – 100

The only living Oscar-winning centenarian, Mirisch picked up his prize in 1968 for his work as the producer of In The Heat of the Night. The drama about a Black police detective from Philadelphia who becomes involved in a murder case in Mississippi was nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards, winning five. Its star, Sidney Poitier, made history in 1964 when he became the first Black man to ever win an Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field - but it was his co-star Rod Steiger who won Best Actor for In The Heat of the Night. The film was far from the only high-point in Mirisch’s long career: he also produced such classics as 1960’s The Magnificent Seven and 1979’s Dracula.

Eva Marie Saint – 97

Saint won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1955 for her role as Edie Doyle in Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront, playing opposite Marlon Brando. The film won a total of eight Oscars, including Best Picture. It also marked Saint’s screen debut, and she went on to enjoy a remarkable career over the next 75 years which included a leading role in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 suspense classic North by Northwest. In 2006 she played Superman’s adoptive mother Martha Kent in Superman Returns, a movie which also featured a computer-generated performance from her former co-star Brando.

Alan Bergman – 96

Bergman and his wife Marilyn, who died in January this year, were a songwriting duo who collected three Oscars in their career, as well as four Emmys and a couple of Grammys. The couple won their first Oscar in 1969 for writing the English lyrics to French composer Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind”, the theme from The Thomas Crown Affair. They won again in 1974 for writing “The Way We Were” with Marvin Hamlisch, a huge hit for Barbra Streisand which soundtracked the film of the same name. Their third win came in 1983 when they again teamed up with Legrand to write the score to Yentl.

Alan and Marilyn Bergman arrive at the ASCAP Film and Television music awards in Beverly Hills, California in 2008 (AP2008)

Lee Grant – 95

Grant received her first Oscar nomination in 1951 for playing a shoplifter in her film debut Detective Story. A year later she was placed on the Hollywood blacklist as a suspected Communist, and was unable to work for over a decade. She returned to the screen in 1963 and enjoyed acclaimed performances in Valley of the Dolls and In The Heat of the Night, both in 1967. She finally won her Oscar in 1976 for her role in Shampoo, alongside Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn.

Mel Brooks – 95

Throughout their history the Academy Awards have been known for overlooking comedies in favour of worthy dramas, but comic genius Brooks bucked that trend when he won Best Original Screenplay in 1969 for The Producers, a riotous satire starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. It was Brooks’ only win (to date!), although he was nominated twice again in 1975 for both the Young Frankenstein screenplay and Best Original Song for the theme to Blazing Saddles.

Marcel Ophuls – 94

Ophuls is a German documentary maker whose family fled the country in 1933, when he was six, after the Nazis rose to power. They lived in hiding in Vichy France for over a year before emigrating to the USA. In 1969 he made The Sorrow and the Pity about the collaboration between the Vichy government and the Nazis. His later film Hotel Terminus is a biography about the life and times of the war criminal Klaus Barbie, covering his childhood, his time in the Gestapo and his eventual deportation from Bolivia to stand trial for crimes against humanity in France. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1988.

Estelle Parsons and Gene Hackman in ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (Sky)

Estelle Parsons – 94

While the historical crime romance Bonnie and Clyde was nominated for nine Oscars in 1967, it won only two - including Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Parsons’ portrayal of Blanche Barrow. She was nominated again the following year for her role in Rachel, Rachel, but today is probably best known to TV audiences for playing Roseanne’s mother Beverly in the sitcom Roseanne.

Burt Bacharach – 93

Legendary composer, songwriter and pianist Bacharach picked up his first two Oscars in 1970, winning Best Original Score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as sharing Best Original Song with lyricist Hal David for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, from the same movie. In 1981 he won again for co-writing “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”, from the Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli film Arthur. Sadly the Academy failed to give him any further recognition for his memorable appearance in 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

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James Ivory – 93

By some margin the most recent winner on this list, Ivory became the oldest Oscar recipient in history when he won Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name in 2018. He collected the prize wearing a hand-painted shirt bearing the likeness of one of the film’s stars, Timothée Chalamet. Ivory had previously been nominated three times for the Best Director award: for 1986’s A Room with a View, 1992’s Howard’s End and 1993’s The Remains of the Day. Merchant Ivory Productions, the film company he co-founded with romantic partner Ismail Merchant, who died in 2005, has won a total of seven Oscars.

Richard M Sherman – 93

After forming a partnership with his sibling Robert in the late Fifties, the Sherman Brothers went on to be credited with creating more film scores than any other songwriting team in history. They were responsible for many beloved Disney soundtracks, and won both their Oscars in 1965: Best Original Score for Mary Poppins and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. They were nominated several more times for songs from 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but arguably their most famous composition was written specifically for a Disney theme park attraction: “It’s a Small World (After All)”.

Gene Hackman – 92

One of the greatest living actors, Hackman has a pair of Oscars - and they arrived over two decades apart: Best Actor for 1971 thriller The French Connection and Best Supporting Actor for 1992 western Unforgiven. He was nominated on three other occasions, for supporting roles in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and 1970’s I Never Sang for My Father and for the leading role in 1988’s Mississippi Burning. Those films represent just a fraction of a staggering career which also includes memorable turns in 1978’s Superman, 1993’s The Firm and 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Since the death of Sidney Poitier in January this year, Hackman has become both the oldest living and earliest surviving winner of the Best Actor Oscar.

Joanne Woodward – 92

In 1957, in just her third film appearance, Woodward stunned audiences by playing a woman with three distinct personalities in mystery drama The Three Faces of Eve. She took home (just one) Best Actress Oscar for her trouble. She went on to be nominated three further times for the same prize, for 1969’s Rachel, Rachel, 1974’s Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams and 1991’s Mr and Mrs Bridge. Woodward’s accolades extend beyond acting: In 1994, she and husband Paul Newman were given the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged for their philanthropic work.

The Oscars will take place on 27 March.

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