HONORS AND headlines come and go. Some careers fade into oblivion. But there are "The Survivors," whose taste for living continues to compel activity and attention.

Here are three doughty Survivors - an Oscar-winner, a child who once was the nation's terror and the world's top box-office star of 51 years ago, all zestful about what they're doing today.

Gig Young is starring in a play in Canada. Patty McCormack was in Santa Monica, Calif. Colleen Moore was at a planning conference for the California Shakespearean Festival in Visalia. Colleen Moore Laughs a Lot

Sixty years ago Colleen Moore already had made a couple of movies for David Wark Griffith. She did the movie role of Kay that Jane Summerhays now is playing in the Opera House's "Oh, Kay!" and by 1927 she was the No. 1 box office star making $12,500 a week, phenomenal in those days.

She may be slightly heavier but her dark hair still forms her trademark of bangs and boyish bob. She lives in a California desert home built to her own floor plans, recalling "The Colleen Moore Doll House," which raised nearly a million dollars for crippled children through a two-year, Depression-era tour of the nation's department stores.

In the past year she's visited the Amazon, the Nile and the Yangtze. She wears tortoise-shell glasses and laughs a lot.

"I'm not as ancient as people think I must be because in the early movie days all the girls had to be teen-agers. The camera picked up every line on the face. Not until Griffith put gauze over the lens and thereby brought on a revolution in the camera lens was it considered decent to photograph old girls of 22 or 23."

Nor is Colleen Moore her real name. It was made up for her by her newspaper editor-uncle, Chicago's Walter Howey, whom Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur later would memorialize as the terrible-tempered editor in "The Front Page."

"As a schoolgirl in Tampa, Fla., I was determined to be a movie star. My aunt Lib, christened Elizabeth but self-named Lib, from 'Give me liberty or give me death,' was married to Walter Howey. He had helped D. W. Griffith get 'The Birth of a Nation' and 'Intolerance' past the censors, and Griffith felt he owed Uncle Walter a favor, so Uncle Walter, knowing how much his 15-year-old niece wanted to get into the movies, told Griffith he could pay him back by giving me a movie contract.

"Uncle Walter and a newspaper friend, Teddy Beck of the Chicago Tribune, knew that my real name, Kathleen Morrison, wouldn't fit on a marquee, so after a half-dozen beers and a longing to do something for the Irish, they made up the name Colleen Moore.

"Crazy, isn't it? We had great fun in those days and I still keep up with my adored friend Lillian Gish. She knows more about movies, more about life than anyone else living and she's entirely self-educated.

"After two marriages to men who turned out not to be quite my ideals, I was extremely lucky.

"The 'Doll House' two-year tour introduced me to the real America, a world of purely private people I'd never known while achieving my childhood ambition to be a movie star. Above all the trip introduced me, in Chicago, to Homer Hargrave, a widower with two children aged 5 and 12. We married in 1937.

"That gave the family life I had found I craved. He became an original partner in Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane (now Smith). We had over 30 glorious years with children and grandchildren. There's no role to compare with that of wife and mother, hard sometimes, needing imagination and patience and giving. But the rewards are a companionship and a feeling of belonging worth far more than all the fame in the world.

"Homer was amused how I, who had earned so much, knew so little about money. He taught me how stocks and bonds operate, made a game of it. I got to be good at it, very good in fact. I even wrote a book about it a few years ago, 'How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market.' Guess I should have just called it 'How to Make Money in the Stock Market.' I certainly did."

Besides such films as "Ella Cinders" and "Lilac Time," for which she chose the unknown Gary Cooper as her leading man, what film did she most admire? "That was my last one, 'The Power and the Glory' with Spencer Tracy.

"It was a dramatic part and I aged from girhood to 60. I thought I did it well, so did the critics, but the public wanted me to go on being the young kid I had been. Now, who could do that? So, I went out and discovered America and found my family."

At 76, Colleen Moore survives the Golden Age of the Silent Screen at what she calls "El Ranchito," an exquisite desert home designed by Kathleen Morrison McCormack Scott Hargrave, whose feet itch to go places she hasn't been. Patty McCormack's in the Running

At the age of 8, Patty McCormack was the most frightening child in America.Blond and adorable, she was "The Bad Seed" of Maxwell Anderson's drama. It starred Nancy Kelly as a mother on whom it slowly was dawning that her dear little Rhoda was not only a thief but a murderess.

That was 24 years ago. Since then there have been a marriage, two children and a divorce. There also was, a couple of years ago, a dinner table reunion at Sardi's between "Mother" Nancy and "Rhoda" Patty. Insidiously, the two males at the table were outsiders. The other two seemed back in their old roles again, suspicious mother, evasive daughter. A haunting, odd, reliving of things past.

Now McCormack's in the running again and showing all sorts of performing talents dormant for years. She has parts in two Universal pilots. Last week she taped a guest spot for "Love Boat." She's had a running part in "As the World Turns." She's found she can sing and after several night club appearances, she was in the live, long-running "Music Hall" in Santa Monica.

McCormack is just emerging from the shadows of the part that won her fame and from a personal catharsis following her father's death. She discovered he kept all scraps of her childhood career. "It's given me a perspective on his life. I never realized how proud he was, how much he loved me. It's peace."

Patty McCormack is a survivor of childhood stardom. Gig Young Feels Good

After two previous nominations ("Come Fill the Cup" and "Teacher's pet"), Gig Young won his Oscar for "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" That same night his wife served divorce papers on him. Since then, starting with a tooth infection, the whimsical Young had a streak of poor health.

Was this another Curse of the Oscar? Luise Rainer never recovered from hers.

"That's a thought that hasn't occurred to me," chuckles Young, blithe as ever. "I've been too busy."

His most recent film, "Game of Death," made in Hong Kong, has just opened in London. On stage he's completing a sold-out, eight-week run in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, in a play he much admires, "Nobody Loves an Albatross."

"Best of all," says Young, "I've sold my house in California, bought an apartment in New York and the only real problem is how to move the refrigerator I bought from the living room into the kitchen. I've told them to wait till I get back and I'll figure out how to do it without tearing the place, or it, apart."

Gig isn't his name at all. He took it from the character he played in his first movie, "The Gay Sister," which made him an instant star in 1943. There were two more before he went into the Coast Guard but he'd made enough of a name to resume his career at top speed three years later with "Escape Me Never," "The Woman in White" and "The Three Musketeers."

Born Byron Ellsworth Barr, he graduated from Washington's McKinley High School just at the time his father was making one of his periodic moves.

"The family wouldn't have allowed it if I'd told 'em what I had in mind by staying behind in Washington. I signed up for Phil Hayden's theater school determined, at 18, I was going to be an actor.

"Through a fluke, or whatever you call it, I got a scholarship at the Pasadena Playhouse. I had two jobs to support me, never rested, but it was great training and when I landed the part at Warner Bros., I was ready for it.

"As Kirk Douglas has said, an actor's career has its ups and downs, sometimes 10 lean years, 10 fat ones. The major factor is finding the right part in a substantial work. I've had some beauties and I've had some dogs."

There were three earlier Mrs. Youngs, the first a Pasadina Playhouse classmate. "We were too young; it couldn't have lasted." The second was his acting coach, an older woman dying, both knew, of cancer. The third was Elizabeth Montgomery, actor Robert Montgomery's daughter who hit it big with TV's "Bewitched." They divorced. The fourth, a real estate agent, remarried after their divorce but even after that subsequent marriage broke up, she kept, as well as the community property, the Young name.

"I don't know why she does that," says Young, "but all that's over with. What I'm excited about is getting back to the stimulating atmosphere of New york. I've had some grand stage parts there, 'Oh Men! Oh Women!,' "Tearhouse of the August Moon,' 'Under the Yum Yum Tree' and 'Girl in My Soup.' I've done several tours in 'Harvey' and now Ronald Alexander is letting me feel my way in to neglected facets of 'Albatross.' There's a machine in it I've begun talking to. It's begun to rumble back and audiences dig it."

All that is wholly in line with the fey, sparking image he's been carving out in public for 35 years. Clearly, Gig Young is a survivor and is frustrating the Curse of the Oscar.