Norman Lloyd, the oldest actor – if the movie encyclopedias are correct – survivor of classic Hollywood, died this Tuesday at his home in Brentwood (Los Angeles), in his bed while he was sleeping, at the age of 106. A friend of Alfred Hitchcock, a renowned theater performer, Lloyd worked during his more than 80-year career on screens with filmmakers of many different generations: from Charles Chaplin and Jean Renoir, to Martin Scorsese and Judd Apatow, who directed him in his last appearance: And suddenly you (2015). He was able to combine and jump without fuss from acting to production and direction, and from film and theater to television: in the US he is remembered for his doctor Daniel Auschlander in the series Hospital (St. Elsewhere). On the big screen, his best work was seen in Sabotage (1942), Remember (1945), Candilejas (1952), Dead poets society (1989) o The Age of Innocence (nineteen ninety five). His longevity and good work made him a popular face. In 2014, when the actor reached his century of life, the Los Angeles City Council named his birthday on November 8, as Norman Lloyd Day.
Born in 1914 in Jersey City as Norman Perlmutter, he began performing on the New York variety circuit at the age of nine. His father was an accountant and manager of a furniture store, but his mother had taken singing lessons – she had a good voice – and dance as a young man, and she projected her passion for the stage on her older son (Lloyd’s little sister Janice , still lives with 98 years). At the age of 16 he began to study law at New York University, which he quickly abandoned: in a world devastated by the Great Depression, Lloyd did not see the point of being another lawyer, and at the age of 17 he entered the Civic Repertory Theater in New York. He went from company to company, from New York to Boston, where he was directed by another rising young artist, Joseph Losey, and from there to Elia Kazan’s The Theater of Action, where he met actress Peggy Craven, with whom he met. married (they were married for 75 years, until her death in 2011). That’s how it ended up in the Big Apple, at Lee Strasberg’s Group Theater, and in that little world On Broadway he met Orson Welles: in 1937 Lloyd became a founding member of the Mercury Music Theater, the theater group of the director of Citizen Kane and John Houseman.
He came to Hollywood from the hand of Welles. Lloyd traveled with other colleagues to the Mercury Music Theater to participate in the adaptation that Welles was going to make for the cinema of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. In pre-production, expenses skyrocketed, production company RKO abandoned the project and Welles asked whoever he could to stay. Lloyd returned to New York, where he had already made his film debut The Streets of New York, of Anthony Mann, and he would regret that return all his life: the actors of Mercury Music Theater who stayed in Hollywood formed the cast of Citizen Kane.
Hollywood called him to play the Nazi spy from Sabotage (1942), by Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he became a friend. Those years, until 1952, were intense in Lloyd’s filmography: he linked two dozen feature films as The southerner (1945), by Jean Renoir, who was then living in exile in the United States; Remember (1945), de Hitchcock; A walk in the sun (1945), de Lewis Milestone; The reign of terror (1949), de Anthony Mann; The hawk and the arrow (1950), by Jacques Tourneur; M (1951), de Joseph Losey, o Candilejas (1952), by Chaplin. Chaplin was a huge tennis fan and played it for a long time alongside Lloyd, who played twice a week until he was 100 years old. A year earlier, at 99, he had stopped driving.
Lloyd was the victim of the witch hunt and Hollywood blacklists, and was saved from ostracism by his friend Hitchcock, when he became director and producer of more than 250 episodes of the different television deliveries of Alfred Hitchcock presenta and of Alfred Hitchcock’s Hour, and in the sixties and seventies he was one of the most sought-after producers and directors of the small screen, for series or telefilms.
From 1982 to 1988 he played a doctor in the series Hospital (St. Elsewhere), where the then unknown Denzel Washington, Ed Begley jr. and David Morse; and in 1989 he returned to the cinema (he had left it in 1980 after Crazy Agent 86) with a juicy role: that of the school principal who does not trust the pedagogical method of the Robin Williams character in Dead poets society. Lloyd then began a second career as an actor in series such as A Crime Has Been Written, Beyond the Limits of Reality, Star Trek: The Next Generation O Modern Family, and in cinema in The Age of Innocence (1993), The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), In his shoes (2005) o And suddenly you (2015).
His powerful voice is the one that narrates numerous episodes of the Hitchcock series. From her, in a chronicle about a meeting with the public to talk about her career during the 2012 Cannes festival, Los Angeles Times published: “If the history of modern cinema has a voice, it is that of Norman Lloyd” (which was accentuated by his proverbial memory, which recorded many anecdotes throughout his life). Thanks to that aristocratic tone, born of his own timbre and the diction classes of his adolescence, Lloyd also developed a wonderful theatrical career.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.