The longest careers in TV history

TV Land’s announcement that it will pick up “Hot in Cleveland” means Betty White will start her eighth(!) decade on TV.
See the list here.There has been regular TV broadcasts in this country for 71 years, and Betty White has been around for 61 of those!
Can anyone match or come close to this longevity on TV? Or for that matter, stage, screen, or radio?

Well since you ask about radio, there’s Cher.

That’s five (count 'em, five) different decades.

Mike Wallace, though as a news reporter and gameshow host rather then a actor. He was in radio news in the 40’s, and on TV by the early 50’s and is still an irregular contributor on 60 Minutes.

Mickey Rooney’s first film was 1927 and his latest was 2008

Dick Clark has been on television since the early 50s, although both IMDB and Wikipedia are vague on exactly when he started. He has been a broadcaster since 1952, and became full-time host of Bob Horn’s Bandstand in 1956 (He was a part-time host some time prior to that; it became American Bandstand in '57). He’s gotta be a contender.

Don Pardo started his career in 1938 , joined NBC in 1944 and announces Saturday Night Live since the beginning (except for one year).

Michael Landon started on Bonanza in 1959 and had hit shows (Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven) right up till his death in 1991.

Bill Bixby literally worked until his death in 1993. He was directing Blossom because he looked to sick to appear on camera. Bixby started in 1963 with My Favorite Martian, then Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and Incredible Hulk.

You missed The Magician. Okay, it was not the commercial juggernaut that The Incredible Hulk was, but how do you not love a show with a protagonist so rich that he flies his sports car around the country in the hold of his private jet?

The actor and singer Johannes Heesters was born in the Netherlands in 1903; his first engagement at a theatre was in 1921, his first minor role in film followed three years later in Cirque Hollandais.

He added a career in musical comedy in 1930 and has worked steadily on stage, in film and on TV since then.

His latest role in theatre was in 2009, at the age of 105(!), when he played in Jedermann the part of … “God”. He can also still be seen on TV from time to time.

I think, he wins.

Not as long a career as those guys, but William Roache has been a major character in Coronation St (a prime time UK soap) continuously since 1960.

Cliff Richard?

he has had a number one single in the UK in six consecutive decades, from the 1950s through to the 2000s

(clipped a bit about discounting digital sales.)

I was gonna go with this one too. 50 years as the same character is it even acting for him anymore?

I think that there would be a dozen or so British artists who could match that or come close. Just from the list I’m familiar with we have Ronnie Barker (started in radio in early 50s, final appearance in 2005), Ronnie Corbett (started in radio sometime in the 40s, still making appearances today), Roger Moore (started in late 40s, still working), Sean Connery (started in film in the early 50s, still working).

On the US front we could add Kirk Douglas, who started doing radio work in the mid-40s an is still appearing on screen today.

White probably holds the record for TV, since it took off later in the UK than in the US, but I doubt if she’s the winner in terms of popular entertainers generally.

Charles Wheeler started in the 1950s and went on to appear as a reposrter for the BBC til his death in June 2008

Eric Sykes started in 1947, continues in TV and Radio to this day.
Recent TV acting role listed in imdb as 2010.

John Mills was active from 1932 to the year of his death 2005

Norman Painting played Phil Archer on BBC radio soap The Archers for 59 years, from the first shows in 1950 to his death last October. The Archers itself is the world’s longest running soap opera in any format.

There is a simple clear answer for the longest career on US TV:

Don Hastings. His first TV credit (as a regular actor) was in Captain Video in 1947, and he’s still appearing on TV today, as part of his 47 years (and counting) as Dr. Bob Hughes on As the World Turns. He has never spent more than six months without a TV acting gig in that period.

Jim Henson has him beat by a couple of years; Henson started performing as a puppeteer on “Sam & Friends” in 1955 and was on TV in one form or another until his sudden and all-too-soon death in 1990.

I think I may have the winner - at least eventually.

William Shatner’s first TV appearance was as Ranger Bob on Howdy Doody in 1954 (the same year Betty White first appeared), and he’s been on TV ever since. He’s been a lead actor in a TV series in every decade since then.

And given that he seems to be in fine health and only 79 years old, he’s got 9 years on Betty White. Assuming he lands some kind of TV gig in that time, he could take the prize.

I was going to start a separate thread on this but he probably is not that well known to generate much interest but Bruce Williams who has been on the radio without pause for 35 years is ending his show this Friday. An old school broadcaster who gave financial advice and helped people with a variety of problems.

Lillian Gish’s first film was *An Unseen Enemy, *in 1912. Her last film was *The Whales of August, *in 1987.