World's oldest theatre actor dies at age 97

Updated: Jul 20, 2016, 05:11 PM(IST)

Beligan last performed in April at the National Theatre in Bucharest. In photo: National Theatre, Bucharest. (Source: Photograph:( Others )

Romanian legend Radu Beligan, who held the Guinness record as the world's oldest theatre actor, has died at age 97 in a hospital in the capital Bucharest, medical staff said.

After a prolific career spanning more than 70 years, the star passed away in his sleep today, said the director of the Elias hospital, Dana Safta.

Beligan last performed in April at the National Theatre in Bucharest, where he had played a lead role in Jean Anouilh’s 'Number Number' to sellout audiences since 2004.

Born on December 18, 1918, Beligan made his debut in 1937 in Bucharest in a stage version of 'Crime and Punishment', a classic Russian novel written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

He went on to star in some 100 plays and films and became a well-known TV and radio personality. But he was also criticised in artists' circles for his membership of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party between 1969 and 1989.

After the fall of communism, he was forced to step down as director of the National Theatre in 1990 after protests from his peers. In December 2013, the Guinness World Records awarded Beligan the title of "oldest active theatre professional".

The vote raised some eyebrows in Russia, where actor Vladimir Zeldin celebrated his 101st birthday earlier this year on stage in Moscow.

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