In the 1940's on Broadway, Lawrence played Eliza Doolittle at 47; Cornell played Cleopatra at 54; and Bolger played college student Charley Wykeham at 44. Bolger continued to play the role on Broadway until he was 47. I doubt if audiences complained. Different times, different attitudes, different customs.
Sarah Bernhardt played Camille on Broadway when she was 67. Of course that was back in 1911.