You may have seen the candy commercial in which two old folks are slammed into the mud during a pickup football game. Betty White and Abe Vigoda are the "old folks," which is supposed to be what happens to young people who don't keep up their sugar rush by eating candy bars. It's a funny ad, but (forgive my rudeness), I couldn't help thinking: "Good night, how old are they? They've looked the same age forever."
Ms. White, for the record, is 88, and Mr. Vigoda just turned 89. When I first saw them on television -- Ms. White as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Mr. Vigoda as Detective Fish on Barney Miller (I didn't catch up with The Godfather until later) -- I was a much younger lad and they looked old and wizened to my eyes. Now that I'm middle-aged myself, they hardly seem to have aged at all. A few more lines and wrinkles, sure, like all of us as we age, but they sound hale and hearty.
Certain actors appear ageless, either because they're blessed by genetics or because they looked all grown-up when they first made an impression. Steve Martin, for example, didn't make his first movie until he was in his 30s (The Jerk); his prematurely white hair made him look even older. Now that he's 64, he looks younger than his age. Meryl Streep was in her late 20s when she made her movie debut, but in a long string of serious roles she often looked older than her age -- more mature, more dignified, more weight on her shoulders. She's turned 60, yet looks younger than ever, thanks in part to taking on some lighter, comedic characters.