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Old, Young: A Hollywood Tradition

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pairing up aging leading men with much younger actresses is an age-old story in Hollywood where it seems guys are almost never that far past their prime that they can’t catch a leading lady.

History, in fact, is repeating itself with “A Perfect Murder.” Though there is nearly a 30-year difference between Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in the murder thriller, there was nearly as wide a discrepancy between the stars of the 1954 original “Dial M for Murder”: Ray Milland was 49 and Grace Kelly was just 25.

Or take 1939’s beloved “Gone With the Wind,” which is set for re-release next Friday. At 46, leading man Leslie Howard was 20 years older than Vivien Leigh and 23 years older than Olivia De Havilland.

That trend has accelerated in the ‘90s because of two factors: First, the life span of leading men is longer these days. Humphrey Bogart was just 57 when he died of cancer. Clark Gable was felled by a heart attack at age 59. Gary Cooper was just 60 when he died of cancer. Errol Flynn had a heart attack at 50.

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Second, today’s 50- and 60-plus leading men also just look younger due to exercise and healthier living (and, who knows, perhaps a visit or two to the plastic surgeon).

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A Hollywood History Lesson

A look at some famous leading men from Hollywood’s golden age and their younger leading ladies.

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Actor; Year of Birth: Humphrey Bogart; Dec. 1899

Movie (Year): To Have and to Have Not (1944)

Movie (Year): Sabrina (1954)

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Actor; Year of Birth: Fred Astaire; May 1899

Movie (Year): Daddy Long Legs (1955)

Movie (Year): Funny Face (1957)

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Actor; Year of Birth: James Cagney; July 1899

Movie (Year): Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Movie (Year): Love Me or Leave Me (1955)

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Actor; Year of Birth: Gary Cooper; May 1901

Movie (Year): The Fountainhead (1949)

Movie (Year): High Noon (1952)

Movie (Year): Love in the Afternoon (1957)

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Actor; Year of Birth: Clark Gable; Feb. 1901

Movie (Year): Mogambo (1953)

Movie (Year): It Started in Naples (1960)

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Movie (Year): The Misfits (1961)

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Actor; Year of Birth: Bing Crosby; May 1904

Movie (Year): White Christmas (1954)

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Movie (Year): The Country Girl (1954)

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Actor; Year of Birth: Cary Grant; Jan. 1904

Movie (Year): To Catch a Thief (1955)

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Movie (Year): The Pride and the Passion (1957)

Movie (Year): Charade (1963)

Movie (Year): Father Goose (1964)

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Actress; Year of Birth: Lauren Bacall; Sept. 1924

Difference in Years: 24

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Actress; Year of Birth: Audrey Hepburn; May 1929

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Difference in Years: 29

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Actress; Year of Birth: Leslie Caron; July 1931

Difference in Years: 32

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Actress; Year of Birth: Audrey Hepburn; May 1929

Difference in Years: 30

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Actress; Year of Birth: Joan Leslie; Jan. 1925

Difference in Years: 25

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Actress; Year of Birth: Doris Day; April 1924

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Difference in Years: 24

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Actress; Year of Birth: Patricia Neal; Jan. 1926

Difference in Years: 25

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Actress; Year of Birth: Grace Kelly; Nov. 1928

Difference in Years: 27

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Actress; Year of Birth: Audrey Hepburn; May 1929

Difference in Years: 28

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Actress; Year of Birth: Grace Kelly; Nov. 1928

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Difference in Years: 27

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Actress; Year of Birth: Sophia Loren; Sept. 1934

Difference in Years: 33

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Actress; Year of Birth: Marilyn Monroe; June 1926

Difference in Years: 25

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Actress; Year of Birth: Rosemary Clooney; May 1928

Difference in Years: 24

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Actress; Year of Birth: Grace Kelly; Nov. 1928

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Difference in Years: 24

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Actress; Year of Birth: Grace Kelly; Nov. 1928

Difference in Years: 24

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Actress; Year of Birth: Sophia Loren; Sept. 1934

Difference in Years: 30

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Actress; Year of Birth: Audrey Hepburn; May 1929

Difference in Years: 25

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Actress; Year of Birth: Leslie Caron; July 1931

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Difference in Years: 27


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