R.I.P. Connie Sawyer, One of the Last Vaudeville Veterans

Just got word that Connie Sawyer (Rose Cohen, 1912-2018) passed on January 21 at the age of 105. She was America’s oldest working actress, as well as the oldest member of both the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The daughter of Jewish Romanian immigrants, Sawyer was born in Pueblo, Colorado and moved to Oakland, California as a child. When only 8 years old (1920) she began singing and dancing in amateur competitions. In 1931, she moved to New York and began performing in nightclubs and vaudeville. She later became an opening act for Sophie Tucker. Her first Broadway show was the short-lived revue Hilarities (1948) featuring Morey Amsterdam, Connie Stevens, and Al Kelly. This led to bookings on tv variety shows like Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater. A part in the original Broadway production of Arnold Schulman’s A Hole in the Head (1957) led to her getting cast in the 1959 film version as well.

At this stage, though she had already been in show business for almost 30 years, she was about to embark on over 50 more years as a bit player in movies and on television. Highlights include Ada (1961), True Grit (1969), Evil Roy Slade (1972), Oh, God! (1977), Foul Play (1978), Fast Break (1979), …And Justice for All (1979), When Harry Met Sally (1989), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Dumb and Dumber (1994), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), and Pineapple Express (2008).  And roles in scores and scores of tv shows over the same time period. Her last credits were in 2014, when she was 102.

A photo of more recent vintage