Gentlemen, act your age!

Madonna (49 years & 9 months) launches her sexy new album Hard Candy with its first single “4 minutes” and blog-world goes crazy. Outrageous ! Acting sexy at nearly 50 ! BEING sexy at 50 ! Whatever next !  Whereas The Rolling Stones – combined ages 254 premiere their new concert movie and the only surprise seems to be that 64 year old Mick Jagger is several inches shorter than his current girlfriend.  No mention that she is twenty-four years his junior.

Double standards? You betchya !  But if we want advice on how to grow old gracefully (or even disgracefully) it’s to the stars of the silver screen that Gentry turns to see how it’s done.

If you thought the teen star was an invention of 80’s Hollywood then back in 1939 thirty-one year old Jimmy Stewart looked like a real Bratpack-er when he confronted Marlene Dietrich. Fifteen years later he was man enough to coolly embrace Hitchcock’s Ice Queen, Grace Kelly. But look closely at an earlier scene in Rear Window, when he takes of his pyjama jacket to be massaged by Thelma Ritter – and you’ll see that Jimmy Stewart never visited a gym. But then he didn’t need to, because Jimmy Stewart was a real war hero.

But the year after Rear Window, when Hitchcock wanted a “Mister Average” to fall under the spell of Eva Marie Saint, he decided Stewart was too old and turned instead to Cary Grant, who was four years older than Stewart. But watch and learn: this is suave.

Or at least it was, until a young Scotsman growled “Bond – James Bond”, and all the ladies swooned.  Whatever former body builder Sean Connery had, and if it could survive that powder blue one piece sun suit it was amazing stuff, then everyone wanted some.  Thirty years later his advice (sans toupee) on how to keep your woman in line doesn’t seem to have tarnished his reputation very much.

Tom Hanks has never seemed to bother much with gym membership. Starting out as a fresh faced innocent in love with a mermaid; he was fifty-one by the time he got to take a post-coital bath with Julia Roberts and by then there was a pound or two of maturity in both body and spirit.

Hanks was twenty-eight when he ‘splashed’ to fame – Harrison Ford was a knocking-on-middle-age thirty-five before he discovered The Force. But It seems that six years with Calista Flockhart (twenty-two years his junior) is keeping him smiling, despite the reputed $85 million settlement he paid to ex-wife Melissa Mathison (fifty-eight this year).  He must have a Crystal Skull??

But my vote for Greatest Survivor goes to Jack Nicholson; who always had a very particular brand of charm. A seventeen year on-off relationship with Angelica Houston finally ended when his fourth child was born to a young woman herself born the same year as his eldest daughter. Still, I bet Ms Houston enjoyed this.

But what of today’s heart-throbs? When Johnny Depp and Leonardo diCaprio found fame together in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Johnny was just thirty and Leonardo nineteen.  For a time DiCaprio seemed trapped in innocence – or adult childhood. In Titanic he was a symbol of the youth and innocence of the young America; in Gangs of New York he was the youthful avenger up against Daniel Day-Lewis’s terrifying Bill the Butcher. But in The Aviator, paradoxically about the billionaire fantasist Howard Hughes, DiCaprio really grew up: as in this scene with Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn.

A major element of Johnny Depp’s elusive mystery and enduring sex appeal lies in the speciality he has made playing of characters not only in touch with, but sometimes chained to, their inner child: Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Ed Wood, J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, and lately Capt’n Jack Sparrow. Which brings us back to ‘that ageing rock band’: here is Depp (44) meeting up with Dad, (alias Keith Richards, 64) – and, a propos the beginning of this article, notice how well Mum looks.

How do they all do it? Is it looks, charm, editing, lighting or a magical, mysterious je ne sais quoi. Sir Michael Caine revealed some of his secrets in a wonderful series for television, “Acting In Film”. And since this is the man who made horn-rimmed glasses sexy it behoves us to pay close attention.

But if all these superstars of seemingly ageless masculinity leave us mere mortals feeling a little low, then let’s give the last word back to the ladies: to Sophie Tucker, as reincarnated by Bette Midler, who might offer us some reassurance, at least to the younger ones among us.

Mr. Peter Delaunay


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