When we look back at to the popular television shows, it’s always fascinating, where the stars of these classics end. Sadly, the hulk of stars that appeared in iconic television shows from the mid-20th century are no longer with us. Trailblazing actors and actresses such as Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Cloris Leachman, and Leonard Nimoy left their marks on society. Unfortunately, they all pass away.
But even death is something that we can all expect to experience at some point in our timelines, no one wants to be the last one standing from their respective social circles. Being the last living star of a TV show must be a lonely position to be in. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be the last surviving member of something like your graduating class? Mortality must take on a whole new meaning for people in these positions.
Picture yourself as the last living cast member of classic TV shows. Their lives are in the public eye, but they sit back and watch everyone to work failing to various ills. Granted, everything’s about perspective. Maybe these celebs consider themselves to be lucky. After all, someone’s got to be the last of their breed and continue carrying that torch.
So, instead of looking at these stars with pity, let’s do our best to celebrate their enduring legacies. Join us as we take a look at a few classic TV show stars that are the last surviving members of their respective casts.
Phyllis Coates – The Adventures of Superman
Born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell on January 15, 1927. Coates is known for her role as reporter Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman television series.
Coates grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas. After graduating from high school, she moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. As Gypsie Stell, Coates discovers by comedian, Ken Murray in 1943 while she’s dining at the Hollywood and Vine Restaurant. It was from Murray that Coates learned how to act and refined her comic timing.
She went on to make appearances as a dancer and comedian in Murray’s risque variety show Blackouts. She would later perform as a showgirl with Erol Carroll’s Theatre. In 1946, Coates toured with a USO production of Anything Goes.
Coates had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1944 and signed another with Warner Brothers in 1948. With Warner, she would appear in several short-subject comedies featuring the popular character Joe McDoakes. In the 1950s, she appears in films 1956s Girls in Prison, 1958s Blood Arrow, and 1959s The Incredible World.
In 1952, she guest-starred on the Western program How Death Valley Got It’s Name. The following year, she appeared on another western, The Lone Ranger. Those two appearances really got her noticed in the television world, leading her to land roles in shows such as Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and Frontier.
Coates re the role of Lois Lane in the first season of The Adventures of Superman in 1951. Noel Neill replaced her after her turn as the character when Coates found herself too busy with other projects to remain on the series. After Neill’s death on July 3, 2016, Coates became the last surviving member of the series cast.
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Tina Louise – Gilligan’s Island
Even though Bob Denver was the beloved yet bumbling star of the series in a classic TV Show, Gilligan’s Island’s supporting cast was full of talented actors and actresses. Tina Louise’s Ginger Grant was a fan-favorite cast member of the iconic sitcom – and she always brought her A-Game to the set.
While the audience loved seeing what kind of extravagant costumes Louise would be wearing each week, she reportedly had a lot of reservations about the role. Over the years, it’s been reported that there was quite a bit of tension between her and her co-stars as well.
Louise evidently wasn’t thrilled about the slapstick nature of the show and had pictured herself as the star of the series instead of merely being a member of an ensemble cast.
After Giligan’s Island came to an end after it’s three-season run in 1967, Louise went on to pursue more dramatic roles hoping to break free from the confines of comedy. But despite her best efforts, she found herself typecast and struggled to find roles that suited her. When Gilligan’s Island returned in the form series of reunion movies, she refused to reprise her role.
But, in 2019, Louise told Closer that she didn’t completely hate her role as Ginger even though it typecast her as it did. She praised the show and called it a ‘great escape’. She further expressed that she was happy to have been a part of something that was so special for American television.
Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann Summers, passed away in 2020 after contracting COVID-19, while Bob Denver passed away from throat cancer in 2005. Alan Hale Jr, the actor who played the Skipper, likewise died in 1990.
Max Baer Jr. – The Beverly Hillbillies
Half a century ago, the final episode of The Beverly Hillbillies aired on CBS. Over the last fifty years, every cast member of the series has passed away except for Max, who played the character, Jethro. After the death of actress Donna Douglas, who portrayed Elly May, in 2015, Baer became it’s last surviving cast member.
Jethro was the cousin of the series lead, Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen. While he’s remembered as not being the most intelligent character on the show, Jethro was still very lovable and earned our respect for always being on the lookout for odd jobs.
While Jethro wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed by any means, in real life, Max is a very different person than the character he played on TV. Throughout his acting career, he tried on many different types of roles. He could shine both in comedies or in dramas and tried his best to present himself as a respectable Jack-of-all-trades actor.
After The Beverly Hillbillies was canceled in 1971 during the so-called rural purge, Baer went on to appear in a number of television shows in guest roles. But despite his best efforts to rebrand himself, he too, like Tina Louise, found himself typecast.
So, in an attempt at trying something new, he decided to step behind the camera instead for a bit. And in 1974, he wrote, produced, and directed the dramatic film Macon County Line. In that movie, he also played the character, Deputy Reed Morgan. The film was a huge success, and at the time, it was the highest-grossing movie per dollar invested.
Baer went on to direct the drama The Wild McCullochs in 1975, in which he played the character, Culver Robinson.
In 1981, he declined to reprise his role as Jethro in the TV film Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. In 1993, however, he did appear in the TV special The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Since then, Baer has made several attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to launch Beverly Hillbillies-themed casinos. His last failed attempt at building a gambling establishment bearing his iconic character’s name was in 2012.
Barbara Eden – I Dream Of Jeanie
The classic TV shows series I Dream of Jeanie debuted in 1965. Eden played the scantily-clad genie who was found in a bottle by an Astronaut named Captain Tony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman. The series proved to be quite popular and ran until 1970. Along with Eden and Hagman, the series featured performances by Bill Daily as Major Roger Healey and Hayden Rorke as Colonel Alfred E. Bellows.
Bill Daily passed away in 2018 of natural causes at 91. Rorke died of multiple myeloma in 1987 at the age of 76, and Larry Hagman lost his battle with cancer in 2012.
That left Eden as the last remaining cast member of I Dream Of Jeanie, who is still alive today. Eden is now in her 90s and is still going strong. These days, she spends her time touring and making appearances at conventions. She also co-authored a children’s book a few years ago titled Barbara and the Djinn.
Joyce Randolph – The Honeymooners
As a cast member of one of television’s earliest sitcoms and a classic tv shows. It’s incredible that Joyce Randolph is still with us. The Honeymooners came to an end more than six decades ago, but the series is still looked back on as one of the finest to ever grace the airwaves.
Jackie Gleason’s iconic sitcom featured the talents of four main stars. Sadly, all of who have passed away, with the exception of Randolph, who played Ed Norton’s wife, Trixie.
Randolph was born in 1924, and she was already in her 30s when the Honeymooners debuted in 1955. At 97, Randolph has long since retired, but she will always be best known for her signature role as Trixie.
After the sitcom went off the air in 1956, just one year after premiering, Randolph went on to make several more appearances on The Jackie Gleason Show. But she would never find another major role. She believes this was probably because of her fame from The Honeymooners. It would have been hard to convince audiences that she was anyone but Trixie.
Instead of continuing a career in TV and film, Randolph acted in musicals and appeared in commercials. However, in 2000, she did make an appearance in the film Everything’s A Joke.
While it must be a bit strange to be the last surviving cast member of a show, you have to give it to the actors we just discussed. They’ve all been alive for so long and have witnessed so many different eras of Hollywood. So, for as long as they are still with us, we should do our best to cherish them. They alone hold memories of a bygone era that no one else has.
Can you think of any other actors that are the last living cast members of a show or film? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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