In these times of botox, cellulite reduction and silicon implants, growing old with dignity is almost impossible, and even more so in places like Hollywood, shrines to youth and beauty. Despite this, a chosen few march on, playing octogenarians with integrity, talent and determination. These are the true old timers of cinema.
A few months ago, at the presentation of his latest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger at the Cannes Festival, Woody Allen remarked: ?There's no advantage in getting older. You don't get wiser; you don't get more kindly... It?s a bad business, getting older, and I would advise you not to do it.? If only it were that easy.
In the world of cinema, many have tried to follow Allen?s advice, without much success. Others, surrendering to the inevitable, have decided to make the most of their older selves and give performances which, on occasion, have surpassed those of their youth.
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
And talking of patriarchs, we mustn't forget the great José Isbert, our own Spanish grandfather par excellence (save, of course, Paco Martínez Soria), the unforgettable grandfather of fifteen in La Gran Familia (The Big Family) (1962). Every Christmas we listen to him shouting, looking for Chencho among the stalls in the Plaza Mayor.
On Golden Pond (1981)
Terms of Endearment
Shirley MacLaine failed to win an Oscar for her lift operator in The Apartment, her prostitutes in Some Came Running and Irma La Douce, and even her retired dancer in The Turning Point. However, the marvellous role of Aurora in the famous tear jerker Terms of Endearment finally gave her a well-deserved award. Here MacLaine plays a mature woman, a grandmother, who falls in love with an astronaut, played by Jack Nicholson. Curiously, neither of these parts which they performed so beautifully were originally written for them.
A Grandpa on a mission
Fernando Fernán-Gómez plays a senior citizen on a quest in El Abuelo (The Grandfather) by José Luis Garci (1996), the third film adaptation of Benito Pérez Galdós? famous novel about an aristocratic grandfather desperate to find out which of his two supposed grandsons is the legitimate one. It's Fernán Gómez in an unforgettable performance.
Love has no age
As shown by Norma Aleandro and Héctor Alterio in El Hijo de la Novia (Son of the Bride) (2001), an Argentinian film in which Ricardo Darín tries to make his mother?s dream come true, even though she is now suffering from Alzheimer's: Norma wants a church wedding, and normally gets what she wants.
Son of the Bride (2001)
Dirty Harry turns grumpy old man
In 2008, with Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood took his final bow and retired from film acting. He did so playing the role of Kowalski, an embittered Korean War veteran, surly and racist, who ends up making friends with his oriental neighbours. The legendary sixties cowboy and seventies cop offers us one of his best performances just before his eightieth birthday. Fortunately, he hasn't retired from directing yet.
Gran Torino (2008)
And as the last on the list of famous old folks of the Seventh Art, just come out in cinemas, is the South Korean film Poetry, directed by South Korea's former Minister for Culture Lee Chang-Dong (2010), in which an old woman living with her teenage grandson discovers a passion for poetry.