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At 104 – The oldest actor in Hollywood

Helen Flatley
Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

Very few living people can say that they still enjoy going to work after more than 80 years in the business. Yet Norman Lloyd, a prolific Hollywood star with a career spanning nine decades, may just be the world’s oldest working actor, according to The Sunday Post.

Born in New Jersey in 1914, Lloyd has now reached the grand old age of 104, and has no plans to give up working just yet. His movie breakthrough came in 1942, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur, and he has been working in the industry ever since.

Norman Lloyd, American actor. Photo by Harry Cason CC BY-SA 3.0

Norman Lloyd, American actor. Photo by Harry Cason CC BY-SA 3.0

His latest movie role was in Judd Apatow’s 2015 comedy Trainwreck, where he appeared alongside Amy Schumer and endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans.

Even now, he is slated to appear in a number of upcoming documentaries and says he wants to carry on acting and directing for as long as he possibly can, according to CBS.

Cast photograph of Norman Lloyd in the Federal Theatre Project production of ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play at the Ritz Theatre (February–August 1937)

Cast photograph of Norman Lloyd in the Federal Theatre Project production of ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play at the Ritz Theatre (February–August 1937)

Lloyd grew up in the Great Depression and was deeply affected by the terrible impact of the financial crash on his family and friends.

He turned to acting as a way to earn some money to support his family and found regular employment in the theater during the 1930s, narrowly missing out on an opportunity to appear in Citizen Kane after a stint working for Orson Welles.

The Man Who Knows All (Robert Noack) explains the kilowatt hour to the Consumer (Lloyd) in ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play for the Federal Theater Project (1937)

The Man Who Knows All (Robert Noack) explains the kilowatt hour to the Consumer (Lloyd) in ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play for the Federal Theater Project (1937)

However, according to CBS, his big break came in 1942 when he appeared in Hitchcock’s Saboteur, and was widely recognized for his powerful portrayal of a Nazi spy.

Lloyd’s relationship with Hitchcock would impact his entire career and the two became good friends. Indeed, during the Blacklist era, it was Hitchcock who supported Lloyd by employing him as a producer and associate director in several of his movies, just to ensure that he could continue to make a living.

Photograph of the Broadway production of ‘Everywhere I Roam’, featuring Norman Lloyd, Katherine Emery and Dean Jagger

Photograph of the Broadway production of ‘Everywhere I Roam’, featuring Norman Lloyd, Katherine Emery and Dean Jagger

Lloyd appeared in several other Hitchcock films, in addition to working steadily as both a Hollywood and theater actor for several decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, his career was reinvigorated by appearances on much-loved television shows such as Quincy, Murder She Wrote, and Kojak.

However, it was his portrayal of Dr. Daniel Auschlander in the medical drama St. Elsewhere that introduced him to a new generation of television viewers.

Photograph of Allan Tower (Electric Company Manager) and Norman Lloyd (Consumer) in the Federal Theater Project production of ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play at the Ritz Theatre (February–August 1937)

Photograph of Allan Tower (Electric Company Manager) and Norman Lloyd (Consumer) in the Federal Theater Project production of ‘Power’, a Living Newspaper play at the Ritz Theatre (February–August 1937)

Lloyd was originally contracted for four episodes, but the character resonated with viewers and he went on to appear for the entire run. In 1989 he appeared alongside Robin Williams in the hit film Dead Poets Society, playing the role of the headteacher, Mr. Nolan.

Over the course of this incredible career, Lloyd has worked with some of the great names in Hollywood history, including Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Charlie Chaplin.

However, according to The Sunday Post, he has one or two regrets about choices he made. As a young man he had a considerable talent for tennis, and he has continued to play for his entire life.

Norman Lloyd in ‘Buccaneer’s Girl’ – trailer (cropped screenshot)

Norman Lloyd in ‘Buccaneer’s Girl’ – trailer (cropped screenshot)

He once lamented the fact that he had never managed to become a tennis professional, saying, “With the application and time I have devoted to it, I should have been a reigning World Champion.”

However, he managed to find some high profile tennis partners in Hollywood, regularly sharing the court with Hollywood heavyweights such as Spencer Tracy, Charlie Chaplin, and Joseph Cotten. True to form, he was still playing tennis regularly at the age of 100, when he reluctantly gave up after a fall.

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Incredibly, Lloyd is still working, making him one of the dwindling number of Tinseltown’s “Golden Agers” who are still in the business. Only a handful of actors who were making films before 1959 remain in Hollywood, relics of a long-gone, unparalleled period in movie history. Yet Lloyd has successfully reinvented himself for new audiences and, according to CBS, is probably the oldest working actor in the business.