George Burns, 1896-1996
"The happiest people I know are the ones that are still working," said George Burns, who never stopped. As straight man to wife Gracie Allen, he went from vaudeville to movies and from radio to television before her death in 1964, and then continued solo into his late 90s. ("Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65, I still had pimples.") Still, he made time to visit Gracie's grave every week until he died.
Clare Hollingworth, 1911-
As a correspondent for London's Daily Telegraph, Clare Hollingworth got the scoop of a lifetime—she was the first journalist to report the outbreak of World War II. She went on to cover the desert campaign against Rommel and later wars everywhere from Algeria to Vietnam. Upon turning 100, she said, "I must admit, I enjoy being in a war. I don't know why. I'm not brave." Now settled in Hong Kong, Hollingworth will be 105 in October.
Charles Lane, 1905-2007
Being typecast, he said, was "a pain in the ass," but it also brought him countless roles as stern-faced clerks and penny-pinchers like the rent collector (far right) in "It's a Wonderful Life." Yet his friends described Charles Lane—a familiar face on sitcoms like "I Love Lucy" and "Petticoat Junction"—as warm and witty, and TV Land threw a big bash to celebrate his 100th birthday. "If you're interested," Lane said at the time, "I'm still available."
Gloria Stuart, 1910-2010
Native Californian Gloria Stuart appeared in many movies and TV shows before she played the 100-year-old Rose Dawson in 1997's "Titanic." Although that was 13 years before the actress herself turned 100, she became the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar in an acting category. "When I graduated from Santa Monica High in 1927, I was voted the girl most likely to succeed," Stuart recalled. "I didn't realize it would take so long."
Irving Berlin, 1888-1989
The Russian-born great American composer—whose songs have been recorded by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Linda Ronstadt—bristled at the fuss made over him as he neared his centennial. But the longevity of songs like "White Christmas" and "God Bless America" was another matter. As Berlin saw it,"There is an element of truth in every idea that lasts long enough to be called corny."
Grandma Moses, 1860-1961
The famous folk artist turned to painting at age 78, after arthritis took the pleasure out of embroidery, and went on to produce 1,500 primitive-style paintings, selling them at first for $3 to $5 each. In 2006, one of her canvases sold for $1.2 million. But during her lifetime, Grandma Moses maintained her perspective and took success in stride. "If I hadn't started painting," she said, "I would have raised chickens."
“Professor” Irwin Corey, 1914-
"If something is good at the beginning, it gets better at the end," Irwin Corey said at the age of 99. That may not apply to everything, but it does to the ad-libber billed as the World's Foremost Authority, a favorite guest of the Smothers Brothers and Johnny Carson and the man Lenny Bruce called "one of the most brilliant comedians of all time." Corey turned 102 in July.
Dorothy Young, 1907-2011
Although she trained as a dancer, Dorothy Young made her name as Harry Houdini's stage assistant, touring with the legendary illusionist when he took his show on the road in 1925. As a volunteer during World War II, Young wrote specs for shock absorbers for military vehicles, and she later became an accomplished painter, Despite "a lot of detours, a lot of could-be unhappiness," she said at the age of 100, "I am at peace with myself."
Hal Roach, 1892-1992
Hal Roach sold ice cream in Seattle and prospected for gold in Alaska before settling in California in 1912. There he became a Hollywood legend, the man who brought together Laurel and Hardy and created "Our Gang," subsequently known as "The Little Rascals." When Jay Leno interviewed him in 1992, Roach noted that he was "100 and 7 days old." Minutes later, he got up to demonstrate a dance he called "the old man's hula."
Albert Hoffman, 1906-2008
Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman was the first to synthesize and sample LSD, a psychedelic he developed inadvertently while conducting research in 1938. Although he used the drug in psychoanalysis and called it "medicine for the soul," he eventually came to view acid as his "problem child." Just before his 100th birthday, Hoffman said, "I know LSD; I don't need to take it anymore."
Bob Hope, 1903-2003
London-born Bob Hope, who began his eight-decade comedy career in vaudeville, approached aging the same way he approached everything else—with a joke. "You're still chasing women," he said about turning 70, "but only downhill." Even when he reached 100, Hope insisted, "I don't feel old. In fact, I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap." Rimshot!
The 'Queen Mum,' 1900-2002
Americans viewed her as the grande dame of the British royal family, but in her own country she was at once the beloved "Queen Mum" and an enduring symbol of courage. After Nazi Germany began the relentless bombing of London during World War II, the Queen Mother, whose husband was King George VI, was urged to take refuge overseas. Her reply: "The children won't leave without me; I won't leave without the King; and the King will never leave."
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