Hollywood’s longest-serving actor Norman Lloyd turns 106


Norman Lloyd will celebrate his 106th birthday on November 8, which is just one more achievement for a man whose nearly 100-year career is filled with amazing milestones. Lloyd worked as an actor, director and / or producer in theater, in the early days of radio, film and television. He wasn’t a household name, but he was always well known and respected in the industry – not only for his work, but also for the people he worked with. This list includes Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Elia Kazan, Jean Renoir, Robin Williams, Martin Scorsese, Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz, Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer.As his contemporary Karl Malden summed it up in 2007, “He is the story of our industry.”

Lloyd was born Norman Perlmutter on November 8, 1914 in Jersey City, NJ He took singing and dancing lessons and was a paid professional by the age of 9. He performed with the New School for Social Research and the Harvard Dramatic Club and made his Broadway debut in 1935 at age 20.

He also did a lot of social theater in the 1930s, including a stint at the Federal Theater Project, which is part of FDR’s Works Projects Administration. Other members of the Federal Theater Project included Orson Welles and John Houseman; these two left to form the Mercury Theater, and Lloyd became a founding member.

He appeared in Welles’ 1937 flagship production on Mercury of “Julius Caesar,” an update for fascist Europe. Lloyd’s social conscience also spread behind the scenes: Variety cited him as a key negotiator in raising the wages of the “super” (ie, extras) in Shakespeare’s production.

In October 1939, Variety reported Lloyd’s arrival in Los Angeles for the Mercury Theater production of “Heart of Darkness,” which was to be Welles’ first film for RKO. The project fell apart due to budget issues, but Welles and some cast remained in Hollywood, while Lloyd returned to New York. He came to regret this decision, as the Hollywood team’s next project was “Citizen Kane”.

“Saboteur”: from left to right, Norman Lloyd, director Alfred Hitchcock, on set, 1942
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Lloyd’s first film came in the 1942 “Saboteur,” a Hitchcock thriller in which newcomer Lloyd received the third bill. April 29, 1942, Variety “Norman Lloyd from the Broadway scene but new to Hollywood, is really plausible as the ferret-like culprit who set the fatal plane factor on fire. ”

Lloyd’s activism and his showbiz associations made him vulnerable in the 1940s. In 1945, Variety stated that Lloyd was a “standout” in the film “A Letter to Evie”, directed by Jules Dassin and starring Marsha Hunt. Two years later, he and Houseman presented the English-language world premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles, starring Charles Laughton and directed by Brecht and Joseph Losey.

Soon after, Washington stepped up its HUAC hearings to investigate accusations of communism in Hollywood. Lloyd’s recent colleagues – including Dassin, Hunt and Losey, as well as theater colleagues from the 1930s including Elia Kazan, Morris Carnovsky and Martin Ritt – have been targeted, while Brecht has been asked to testify. At this point, Lloyd began working in the theater or behind the cameras.


He was frequently at the La Jolla Theater, performing works as varied as Christopher Fry “The Lady’s Not for Burning”, “Dial M for Murder” by Frederick Knott, “I Am a Camera” by John van Druten, “The Seven Year Itch “By George Axelrod” And “The Winslow Boy” by Terence Rattigan (with Vincent Price).

He also performed on stage in Shaw’s “Don Juan in Hell” (1953), with Variety saying he took the acting honors “and has a lot of authority” like the devil.

His friend Hitchcock hired him as associate producer on the new series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, from 1955. Lloyd also acted and / or directed occasional episodes. He said later Variety that he was happy to go behind the cameras because “it’s more regular work”.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon players attempt to connect unlikely people through their Bacon association. Lloyd would provide a much shorter clearance, as it only takes two or three degrees to connect it to anyone.

While filming “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” for example, he directed two classic episodes: “Man From the South,” based on a story by Roald Dahl and starring Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre; and “The Contest for Aaron Gold,” based on a story by Philip Roth and starring Sydney Pollack.

With the anthology series he has also worked with directors like Robert Altman and Ida Lupino, writers such as Ray Bradbury, Richard Levinson and William Link, and Stirling Silliphant, as well as actors such as Charles Bronson, Jayne Mansfield, James Mason, Walter Matthau, Roger Moore, Robert Redford, Jessica Tandy, Dick Van Dyke and Fay Wray.

Variety wrote about ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ in 1963, saying,’ Norman Lloyd’s happy word is that the shows will be even more gruesome now that the networks have loosened the ties of ‘acceptance’. Want a sample? In one, Ann Sothern is eaten by rats. Here’s a sweeter one: In a town in Mexico where tombs are rented, a monthly payment is by default, so they dug up the corpse and moved it to the catacomb. “But of course,” says Lloyd, executive producer of Hitchcockamania, “there will be the usual series of knives and poisonings. There is only one thing that the network requires, that retribution must be declared so that the villain does not leave Scot for free. ”

Lloyd also continued to act. The closest he came to a signing role was that of Dr. Auschlander in “St. Elsewhere ”(1982-1988).

In the 21st century, his name appeared regularly in Variety, including her feasting audiences at Telluride Film Fest 2007 (aged 92), and in the 2015 review of “Trainwreck” directed by Judd Apatow. Matthew Sussman examined his long career in the 2007 documentary “Who Is Norman Lloyd?”

The answer to that question is: as Malden pointed out, it is the story of showbiz.


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