I see a number of posts from people in the business…actors, casting directors, drama coaches, et al, who preach that you’re never too old to begin an acting career. Their advice is right on; however, I chuckle because the people they are talking to are those who have worried about starting too late because they are already well into their 20s and 30s, and sometimes in their…horror of horrors…40s!
There was a great character actor who I had the pleasure of meeting on more than one occasion. In the early 1970s, I worked for a major airline at the Hollywood/Burbank Airport in Burbank, California. A passenger who came through a few times was a young fellow whose name was Burt Mustin. When I met Mr. Mustin, he was around 86 years old. You may not recall the name, but if you lived in that era, I guarantee you would remember his face. Mr. Mustin had several guest appearances on shows such as All In The Family, Petticoat Junction, My Three Sons, Bewitched, Gunsmoke, and many more. In all, Mr. Mustin appeared in approximately 150 film and television productions. One would think that at his age and with that many productions on his resumé, his acting career spanned many decades. Good guess, but you would be dead wrong. Burt Mustin’s professional acting career did not begin until age 67.
Burt Mustin’s background is an inspiration to me because there are several similarities in our lives. Both of us had been amateur actors, we worked in radio, and we were musicians, all of which laid the foundation for our later careers. The big difference between us was that I was significantly younger than him when I was first represented by a talent agency. I was a kid of 64.
I am amused when I hear young people bemoan starting a new career so late in life…even at the ripe old age of 35. As for me, I found that not only do I absolutely love the craft of acting, I find that it keeps me energized. While people look longingly at the prospect of finally retiring, I look longingly at keeping my acting career alive for as long as I can. I feel as long as I can handle the long hours on set and be able to memorize my lines, I will keep doing what I enjoy.
So, how old was Burt Mustin when he retired? His last gig was at age 92 in 1976. He passed away in January 1977 just before his 93rd birthday.
I guess at age 79 I still have enough time to add many more credits to my IMDb.