The seven actors that make the 1937 the best year ever for actors.

The seven actors that make the 1937 the best year ever for actors.

Ten Oscars.  That’s how many have been won by the group of seven great actors who were born in the year 1937 and will all be turning 80 this year.

I started thinking about this in December when I was re-reading John le Carre’s The Looking Glass War (which was one of the first starring roles for Anthony Hopkins, over 45 years ago) and Westworld was heading towards its season finale (which stars Hopkins in a great role with a great performance to go along with it).  On December 31, Hopkins will turn 80 years old.  But he’s just part of a year of truly great actors.  I really don’t think there’s a comparable year for actors, or possibly even for other artists.

First of all, here are the actors born in 1937 that won’t be part of the focus of this post: former Oscar nominee Dyan Cannon, former child star Margaret O’Brien, multiple Oscar nominee and Nighthawk winner Tom Courteney (who almost got added as an eighth actor for this post), Star Wars legend Billy Dee Williams, British star Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal), former Oscar and Nighthawk winner Sandy Dennis (the only person on this list who has died and won’t hit 80 this year, which is astounding given all who died in 2016), former Oscar nominee and Nighthawk winner Sally Kellerman, former Oscar nominee Ned Beatty and character actor Harris Yulin.  Those are the people who are not among the seven greats that make this the greatest year for actors ever.

So who does make this list?  Well, some of the greatest to ever be on film.  Their film careers date all the way back to the early 60’s and continue until today.  Here they are, by order of when they will turn 80.

January 30:  Vanessa Redgrave

Her Oscar win was the right move but it ended with one of the most controversial Oscar speeches of all-time.  That didn’t stop the Oscars from continuing to nominate her.  She’s earned 6 Oscar nominations (Morgan, Isadora, Mary Queen of Scots, Julia, The Bostonians, Howards End).  She won a Golden Globe for Julia and has earned 8 Globe noms for film and another 5 for television (including a win).  She has earned 6 Nighthawk nominations: Morgan, Mary Queen of Scots, Julia, The Bostonians, Prick Up Your Ears and Howards End, winning Best Supporting Actress for Julia and she also finished in the Top 10 for Isadora, Agatha and Wetherby.

March 30:  Warren Beatty

Though he was a star early on (he was pushed for an Oscar for Splendor in the Grass in 1961 but refused to campaign since the studio wanted him listed as supporting) he had to wait until 1967 before earning his first acting Oscar for Bonnie & Clyde.  After that came three more over the years (Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Bugsy).  That makes him the only one on this list without an acting Oscar.  But he’s also the one who has branched out the most.  He has an Oscar for directing (Reds), has earned another nomination for directing, four for producing and four for writing, for 14 nominations in total, the most on this list.  He won Best Actor – Comedy in 1978 for Heaven Can Wait and has earned six other Globe noms.  He’s won two Nighthawk Awards (for Bonnie & Clyde and Reds) and earned four other nominations (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Bugsy).  He also earned Top 10 finishes for Splendor in the Grass, The Parallax View and Bulworth.

April 22:  Jack Nicholson

The grand-daddy of all male actors among awards.  He is the all-time points leader at the Oscars (by over 100 points), the Globes (by a long way), the NYFC, the NSFC, the BSFC and the NBR.  He’s also near the top at the BAFTAs and is in the Top 10 for Globe-Comedy and even the BFCA, though it didn’t begin until late in his career.  He was the first male with three acting Oscars (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, As Good as It Gets) and in my opinion that misses his best performance (Chinatown).  He has earned 12 Oscar nominations.  He’s earned 17 Globe nominations and has won Best Actor – Drama twice, Best Actor – Comedy twice and Best Supporting Actor.  He’s won three BAFTAs among his seven nominations.  Jack Nicholson is also the all-time leader among males at the Nighthawk Awards.  He has won Best Actor three times (Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and Best Supporting Actor once (Terms of Endearment).  He’s also been nominated for Supporting Actor four times (Easy Rider, Reds, A Few Good Men, The Departed) and Actor five times (The Last Detail, The Shining, Prizzi’s Honor, Ironweed, As Good as It Gets).  That makes 13 nominations.  Add to that another four Top 10 finishes (including a near miss 6th place for About Schmidt) and four more Top 20 finishes and he blows away every other male actor in film history.

June 1:  Morgan Freeman

The last on this list to win an Oscar (and was felt long overdue when he did win in 2004).  He won for Million Dollar Baby and also earned nominations for Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, Shawshank Redemption and Invictus.  As a little kid I knew him as Easy Reader on The Electric Company.  Thanks to his work on March of the Penguins, he’s the man everyone wants to narrate their life.  He’s only actually earned three Nighthawk nominations (all for supporting): Street Smart, Glory, Million Dollar Baby.  But his Top 10 resume includes finishes for Clean and Sober, Driving Miss Daisy, Shawshank Redemption and Invictus, so he’s often just outside my nominations.

August 8:  Dustin Hoffman

He’s seventh all-time in Oscar points among male actors.  He earned two nominations in the 60’s, then two more in the 70’s (winning the second time), then two more in the 80’s (again winning the second time, becoming at the time, only the fifth actor to win Best Actor twice) and then one final one in 1997.  He’s won three Golden Globes among 11 nominations and won another one for television.  He’s earned seven BAFTA nominations and won Best Actor twice.  He earns seven Nighthawk nominations with the only difference between my awards and the Oscars being that he doesn’t win for Kramer vs. Kramer.  He also earns Top 10 finishes for Marathon Man and Straight Time as well as a phenomenal 10 other Top 20 finishes.  He’s also one of the few major actors who brings something worthwhile to an animated character – his Master Shifu in the Kung Fu Panda films is fantastic.

December 21:  Jane Fonda

She may have begun her film career as the cute girl next door, then morphed into the sexiest sex kitten in history, but she turned to serious roles in 1969 and earned her first Oscar nomination.  She would win Best Actress in 1971 and 1978 and has earned seven Oscar nominations total.  She is 5th all-time in Oscar points with 310.  She has also earned 10 Globe nominations, including 3 wins (within 8 years) and her most recent Globe nomination was just last year, so she continues to shine.  She wins two Nighthawks (They Shoot Horses Don’t They, Klute) and earns four more nominations in the span of just five years (Julia, Coming Home, The China Syndrome, On Golden Pond) while also earning Top 10 finishes for Comes a Horseman, The Morning After and Youth.  And that’s all in spite of basically taking 25 years off (she only made 4 films between 1986 and 2011 and they were all terrible).

December 31:  Anthony Hopkins

He was the last to earn an Oscar nomination and his four all came within just seven years, from 1991-1997.  But he won for playing Hannibal Lector, one of the greatest screen villains of all-time.  He’s won two film BAFTAs and another for television.  At the Nighthawks he’s in the Top 10 in points all-time, with 365, winning Supporting Actor for The Lion in Winter and Actor for Silence of the Lambs while earning nominations for Magic, The Good Father, Howards End, The Remains of the Day, Shadowlands, Nixon and Amistad.  He also earns Top 10 finishes for The Elephant Man and The Bounty.  And let’s not forget the amazing work he’s been doing in Westworld – when things turned suddenly during the meal on the veranda I reminded Veronica that this was the man who played Hannibal Lector and we must be prepared for anything.

So there we go.  Seven actors.  Ten Oscar winning performances.  An astounding 45 nominations total.  There just isn’t another year to compare with that, although, having been born in 1974, I have to say, it looks good for an eventual post the year I turn 80, with the four Oscar winning performers (Christian Bale, Penelope Cruz, Hilary Swank, Leonardo DiCaprio), an actress who already has five nominations and might pick up a sixth this year (Amy Adams) and three other Oscar nominees (Michael Shannon, Joaquin Phoenix, Chloe Sevigny) and a now-perpetual Emmy nominee (Sarah Paulson).