Actor-producer-director Norman Lloyd, who has worked with everyone from Orson Welles to Alfred Hitchcock to Martin Scorsese to, most recently, Judd Apatow, has turned 106.
Born Norman Perlmutter on November 8, 1914, Lloyd came to Hollywood with Welles; played tennis with Charlie Chaplin; passed on Citizen Kane; made films and TV with Hitchcock; starred on St. Elsewhere; and most recently appeared in an Amy Schumer comedy, Trainwreck. His career survived the Great Depression, the anti-communist blacklist, and everything since.
A 1942 Hollywood Magazine article noted that Lloyd became a stage actor at 7, and came to Hollywood in 1939 as one of Welles’ Mercury players. But Hollywood didn’t immediately open its doors. He first broke through onscreen in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1942 Saboteur (pictured), when the magazine said he had a “mighty promising” career.
By then he had met his wife, Peggy (born Margaret Hirsdansky) when they co-starred in the play Crime, directed by Elia Kazan. They married in 1936 and worked together in the Federal Theater Project, run by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that oversaw public projects designed to lift the country out of the Great Depression. Their marriage lasted 75 years until her death in 2011, at age 98.
When Welles and John Houseman left the Federal Theatre Project to form the Mercury Theatre, Lloyd became one of the lead members. He followed Welles to Hollywood to appear in an adaptation of Heart of Darkness, but it never happened.
“Wary of being disappointed twice, Mr. Lloyd declined to participate in Welles’s next project, Citizen Kane,” the New York Times noted in 2007, in a review of Who Is Norman Lloyd?, a documentary about his life by Matthew Sussman.
Lloyd broke through in Hitchcock’s Saboteur. Hollywood Magazine praised him as the “sharp-featured, red-haired man who played the saboteur,” writing: “Let the glamour boys get the kisses. He’s satisfied with the hisses.”
He ended up getting both.
Lloyd was added to the blacklist for refusing to name possible communists, and in that time Houseman allowed the Lloyds to “stay at one of his homes virtually rent free,” the Times said.
In the 1950s, Hitchcock hired him for his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where he began three decades of producing and directing. He also played Dr. Daniel Auschlander on St. Elsewhere, as well as appearing on Wiseguy, The Practice, and Murder, She Wrote, among other shows. And he memorably appeared in Dead Poets Society and Age of Innocence.
He speaks in the stately, formal manner of a trained 1930s actor, telling stories with understatement and well-place dramatic pauses. His storytelling talent was on display in 2012, when he spoke at a 60th anniversary screening of Chaplin’s Limelight about their four-times-a-week tennis games.
“Charle and I met because we shared an addiction,” he said, letting the audience’s curiosity build before he announced: “Tennis!”
He continued: “After the tennis we would go up to the sunporch where he used to write and he loved to have a Scotch old-fashioned. And I would participate in that. So, you see, it was a great friendship. It was the last scene of the picture.”
Lloyd’s gifts as a storyteller remained strong last year, when dozens of family and friends gathered for this 105th birthday celebration.
“Thank you everyone for coming,” he said at the time. “I am more deeply moved than my shallow confidence shows. … People ask me, how does it feel to be 105? And I say, I don’t know, it’s the first time.”
But he predicted: “I expect we’ll go on for several more years.”
Happy 106th birthday, Norman Lloyd!