Gloria Stuart

Gloria Stuart

Studio Publicity Photo, 1932.
Born Gloria Stewart
(1910-07-04)July 4, 1910
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Died September 26, 2010(2010-09-26) (aged 100)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Respiratory failure resulting from lung cancer
Other names Gloria Frances Stuart
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Actress, artist, fine printer
Years active 1927–2004
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Blair Gordon Newell (m. 1930; div. 1934)
Arthur Sheekman (m. 1934; his death 1978)
Children 1

Gloria Frances Stuart[2] (born Gloria Stewart, July 4, 1910 – September 26, 2010) was an American film and stage actress, visual artist, and activist. A native of Southern California, she began her acting in high school in the 1920s and on the stage in the 1930s and 1940s, performing in little theater and summer stock in Los Angeles and New York City. She signed a contract with Universal Pictures in 1932, and acted in numerous films for the studio, including The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Three Musketeers (1939).

In 1945, after a tenure as a contract player for Twentieth Century Fox, Stuart abandoned her acting career and shifted to a career as an artist, working as a fine printer and making paintings, serigraphy, Bonsai, and découpage for the next five decades. She returned to acting in the late 1970s, appearing in several bit parts, including in Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year (1982) and Wildcats (1986).

Stuart made a prominent return to cinema when she was cast as the 101-year-old elder Rose Dawson Calvert in James Cameron's Titanic (1997). Stuart's performance earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Receiving her nomination at age eighty-seven, she is the oldest person nominated for an Academy Award for acting.[3] Her last film performance was in Wim Wenders' Land of Plenty (2004) before her death in 2010 at the age of 100.

In addition to her acting and art career, Stuart was also an environmental activist and one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild.

Early life

Stuart was born Gloria Stewart [4] at 11:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July, 1910 on the family's kitchen table in Santa Monica, California.[5][upper-alpha 1] Stuart's father, Frank Stewart, born in Washington state[7] was an attorney representing The Six Companies, Chinese tongs in San Francisco. Stuart's brother, Frank Jr.,[8] was born eleven months later. In two years, their brother Thomas was born, but he died of spinal meningitis at three.[5]

When Stuart was 9 years old, her father died of infection from an injury sustained when an automobile grazed his leg. She was also expelled from grade school after kicking her teacher ("to be honest, she deserved it" she recalled).[9] Hard-pressed to support two small children, her mother soon accepted the proposal of local businessman Fred J. Finch.[upper-alpha 2][10] Stuart went through school as Gloria Fae Finch.[11] She had not been given a middle name by her parents (not unusual in that era) and so adopted one, which was sometimes Frances, the feminine of Frank, her father's name.

Stuart as a high school senior, 1927.

Stuart attended Santa Monica High School where she was active in theater, and performed the lead role in her senior class play, The Swan.[11] She loved writing as much as acting, and spent her last two summers in high school taking short story and poetry writing classes[12] and working as a cub reporter for the Santa Monica Outlook.[13] After high school, Stuart enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, majoring in philosophy and drama. In college, she appeared in plays, worked on the Daily Californian,[14] contributed to the campus literary journal, Occident, and posed as an artist's model. It was at Berkeley that she began signing her name Gloria Stuart.[upper-alpha 3]

At the end of her junior year, in June 1930, Stuart married Blair Gordon Newell,[15] a young sculptor who apprenticed with Ralph Stackpole on the facade of the San Francisco Stock Exchange building.[16] The Newells moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea where there was a stimulating community of artists such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Robinson Jeffers and Lincoln Steffens and his wife Ella Winter.

Stuart performed in productions at the Theatre of the Golden Bough and worked as a staff member on The Carmelite newspaper. She made hand-sewn aprons, patchwork pillows and tea linens, and created bouquets of dried flowers for a tea shop, in which she also worked as a waitress.[17] Newell laid brick, chopped and stacked wood, taught sculpture and woodworking, and managed a miniature golf course. They lived in a shack in the middle of a wood yard as night watchmen.[18]

Acting career

Introduction to Hollywood: 1932–1934

Gloria Stuart, fourth from left, top row, with the rest of the 1932 WAMPAS Baby Stars.

Stuart's performance in the theatre in Carmel brought her to the attention of Gilmor Brown's private theater, The Playbox, in Pasadena. She was invited there to appear as Masha in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.[19] Opening night, casting directors from Paramount and Universal were in the audience. Both came backstage to arrange a screen test, both studios claimed her. Finally the studios flipped a coin and Universal won the toss.[14] Stuart considered herself a serious actress in theater but she and Newell "were stony broke, living hand to mouth" so she decided to sign the contract with Universal, which paid a bit more than Paramount.[20]

Stuart does not mention it in her book, but the Internet Movie Database includes her with thirty other players in a slapstick comedy, The Cohens and Kellys in Hollywood, A Behind-the-Scenes Farce.[21] Produced by Universal in the spring of 1932, this is likely Gloria Stuart's first appearance before the camera. Stuart actually began her movie career by playing an ingénue confronting her father's mistress in Street of Women, a Pre-Code fallen-women film. Stuart's second turn, again playing the ingénue, was in a football-hero movie, The All-American.

In early December, 1932, the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers announced that Gloria Stuart was one of fifteen new movie actresses "Most Likely to Succeed"—she was a WAMPAS Baby Star. Ginger Rogers, Mary Carlisle, Eleanor Holm were among the others.[22]

Stuart on the cover of Universal Weekly, November 1932.

Stuart's career advanced when English director James Whale chose her for the glamour role as a sentimental wife who winds up stranded among strangers at a spooky mansion in his ensemble cast (Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore and Raymond Massey) for The Old Dark House (1932).[23] The film was critically praised, and The New York Times called Stuart's performance "clever and charming,"[24] with the movie later becoming a cult classic. Stuart's experience filming The Old Dark House also became integral to the formation of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933:

"James [Whale] joined all the English actors,” Stuart recalled. “So on one side of the set they had their ‘elevensies’ and `foursies,’ and Melvyn [Douglas] and I would be sitting together, not invited. One day, Melvyn said to me, `Are you interested in forming a union together?’ I said, ‘What’s a union?’ He said, ‘Like in New York – Actor’s Equity. The actors get together and work for better working conditions.’ I said, ‘Oh wonderful,’ because I was getting up at five every morning; in makeup at seven, in hair at eight, wardrobe at quarter of nine, and then sometimes if production wanted you to, you worked until four or five the next morning. There was no overtime. They fed us when they felt like it, when it was convenient for production. It was really very, very hard work."[25]

After filming completed, Stuart began canvassing, and was one of the union's first founding members.

Stuart was given her first co-starring role by director John Ford in her next film, Air Mail, playing opposite Pat O'Brien and Ralph Bellamy. Of her performance in the movie, the New York Times Mordaunt Hall wrote, "Gloria Stuart, who does so well in The Old Dark House, a picture now at the Rialto, makes the most of the part of the girl..."[26] That two Gloria Stuart movies were in theaters simultaneously became the rule rather than the exception in her early career. In 1932, her first year, Stuart had four films released, then nine in 1933, six in 1934. In 1935, Stuart was having a baby, so only four movies were released. Six movies followed in 1936. After Air Mail, Mordaunt Hall's notices for Gloria Stuart came down to a few words. Laughter in Hell: "Gloria Stuart appears as Lorraine...";[27] Sweepings: "...played by the comely Gloria Stuart...";[28] Private Jones: "Gloria Stuart is charming..."[29]

James Whale called Stuart back for just one scene in The Kiss Before the Mirror, but the critic Hall wrote, "There are those who may think that it is too bad to introduce as one of the players the dainty Gloria Stuart and have her killed off in the first episode of the narrative. Perhaps it is, but a pretty girl was needed for the part and Mr. Whale obviously did not wish to weaken his production by casting an incompetent actress or an unattractive one for this minor role."[30]

After good notices in The Girl in 419, (Mordaunt Hall mentions "...the pleasing acting of the attractive Gloria Stuart),[31] and Secret of the Blue Room ("Miss Stuart gives a pleasing performance."),[32] James Whale cast Stuart opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933). Rains was a celebrated import from the London stage and this was his first Hollywood film. (Mordaunt Hall's review of Stuart's work was a temperate, "Miss Stuart also does well by her role."[33]) The Invisible Man also became a cult favorite.

20th Century Fox; marriage: 1935–1939

Here with James Cagney from the 1934 film Here Comes the Navy.

In 1934, Universal loaned-out Stuart to Warner Brothers for Here Comes the Navy. Stuart co-starred with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, the first of nine films featuring this male team. Frank S. Nugent wrote in the New York Times, "Supporting Mr. Cagney--and doing very creditable jobs, too--are Pat O'Brien, Gloria Stuart..."[34][35] In 1935, Stuart was cast as Dick Powell's love interest in Busby Berkeley's, Gold Diggers of 1935. It was a musical; Stuart did not dance or sing, and the New York Times critic commented: "Nor has Gloria Stuart anything of vast import to contribute in the position usually occupied by Ruby Keeler."[36]

In that same year, Stuart left Universal and joined Twentieth Century-Fox. Her first assignment from the studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck, was in Professional Soldier supporting the child star Freddie Bartholomew and Academy Award winner Victor McLaglen (the year before, McLaglen won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in John Ford's The Informer). Frank S. Nugent noted: "There is a minor romance along the way between Gloria Stuart, the king's noble governess, and Michael Whalen, the professional soldier's part-time assistant, but no one should take it seriously."[37] In 1936, John Ford chose Stuart to co-star with Warner Baxter in The Prisoner of Shark Island. Playing the wife of the doctor who treated Lincoln's assassin, Stuart felt privileged to work again with Ford,[38] although the New York Times Frank S. Nugent wrote of Stuart's "...helpful performance..."[39] In Poor Little Rich Girl, Stuart again was asked to support a child star: this time, Shirley Temple. Frank S. Nugent: "Listing [Temple's] supporting players hastily, then, before we forget them entirely, we might mention Miss Faye [and] Gloria Stuart…as having been permitted a scene or two while Miss Temple was out freshening her costume."[40]

Stuart with Rudy Vallée, 1935.

For the rest of 1936 and through 1937, Zanuck placed Stuart in movies such as The Girl on the Front Page—Frank S. Nugent's note: "Call it mediocre and extend your sympathies to the cast…"[41] Reviewing Girl Overboard, Nugent begins, "In the definitive words of the currently popular threnode featured by a frog-voiced radio singer, Universal's 'Girl Overboard'…is 'nuthin' but a nuthin',' and a Class B nuthin' at that."[42] In spite of the films' lukewarm reviews, Stuart had amassed a loyal following of fans by this time in her career, one of whom had her portrait tattooed across his chest. Stuart met with the fan and was photographed with him for a Life magazine profile in the fall of 1937.[43]

Stuart later appeared in The Lady Escapes, Life Begins in College and Change of Heart, which did not merit space in the New York Times movie pages. In 1938, Zanuck again insisted Stuart support Shirley Temple in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938). In their review of the film, Variety wrote: "Shirley Temple proves she's a great little artist in this one. The rest of it is synthetic and disappointing... More fitting title would be Rebecca of Radio City."[44][45] In 1938, for the fourth time, Stuart was a supporting player to a child star: Jane Withers in Keep Smiling. Stuart but not her performance is noted in the New York Times review.[46]

In Time Out for Murder, Stuart's reviewer said she was "…a pretty bill collector".[47] Then in 1939, the last year in this phase of Stuart's career, in The Three Musketeers, Stuart's billing came after Don Ameche, The Ritz Brothers and Binnie Barnes and again Stuart's work was not reviewed. In Winner Take All, the Times critic wrote, "…the only thing worth seeing in the picture is Tony Martin trying to play a prizefighter. This is positively killing."[48] It Could Happen to You, "a quasi-comedy"[49] co-starring Stuart Erwin, finished the eight years. Again Stuart is not mentioned.

What did give the actress space in the movie pages the previous November was the story: "Gloria Stuart Quits Fox...Gloria Stuart has terminated her contract with Fox..."[50] In fact, Darryl Zanuck did not renew Stuart's contract.[51]

Stuart's sculptor husband at the time, Gordon Newell, was unhappy with Hollywood life. He and Stuart separated amicably and divorced.[52] In 1933 on the set of her film Roman Scandals, a comedy starring Eddie Cantor, Stuart met Arthur Sheekman, one of the movie's writers.[53] They were "instantly attracted to each other".[53] Stuart and Sheekman married in August, 1934[54] and their daughter, Sylvia named after Princess Sylvia, Stuart’s character in Roman Scandals was born the following June.[55]

Departure from Hollywood: 1940–1943

Stuart in a publicity still ca. 1937.

Early in 1939, Stuart and then-husband Sheekman spent four months traveling in Asia, Egypt and Italy, then landed in France just as France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany.[56][57] They appealed to the American consul, asking to stay, Sheekman as a war correspondent, Stuart as a hospital volunteer. The consul refused help, and told them they had to return to the United States. They caught the SS President Adams, the last American passenger ship to cross the Atlantic, [58] and arrived in New York City in September.

In New York, Stuart sought to return to stage acting on Broadway.[59] "I wanted to be a theater actress," she said, "but I thought it would be easier to get to New York and the theater if I had a name than if I just walked the streets as a little girl from California. When I went back to New York with somewhat of a name, they didn't want movie actresses."[59] Stuart was, however, welcomed into summer stock theater on the east coast, and performed in Man and Superman, The Animal Kingdom, The Night of January 16th, Accent on Youth, Route 101, Mr. and Mrs. North, The Pursuit of Happiness, Here Today, Sailor Beware and was Emily to Thornton Wilder’s Stage Manager—under Wilder’s own direction—in Our Town.[60] But for two years, as many readings, lunches and cocktail parties as she attended, no director, producer or writer (not even Sheekman) gave Stuart a role on Broadway. [61]

To help with the war effort in the 1940s,[62] Stuart took singing and dancing lessons, then the USO teamed her with actress Hillary Brooke.[63] The two blonde actresses toured the country, visited hospitals, danced with servicemen in canteens, sold war bonds. Stuart "wanted terribly to volunteer for service overseas with the USO, but Arthur wouldn't hear of it."[64]

Stuart asked her former agents to get her work. Her first movie in four years, Here Comes Elmer, was a comedy with music starring Roy Rogers’ wife, Dale Evans. In The Whistler—an early directing credit of the horror specialist, William Castle—Stuart co-starred with Richard Dix. In Enemy of Women, Stuart was seventh in billing.[64] Two years later, Stuart took one more role: she wore a redhead's wig in a comedy starring Joan Davis and Jack Oakie. Stuart does not mention She Wrote the Book in her autobiography.[65]

Return to Hollywood; bit parts: 1975–1996

In 1975, after nearly thirty years out of the business, Stuart decided to return to acting. She got an agent who obtained her bit parts, mostly in television— including guest appearances on series such as The Waltons and Murder, She Wrote.[66] Her friend director Nancy Malone gave her a leading role in Merlene of the Movies, a quirky film for television, and other friends gave her parts in their shows. In 1982 came My Favorite Year. Although Stuart's scene lasted moments and she had no lines, she was dancing with Peter O'Toole. She wrote, "It was a great privilege to work with him."[62] [67] After that, Stuart was in Jack Lemmon's Mass Appeal and Goldie Hawn's Wildcats, then more bits and pieces in television.[68] A vintage publicity photo of her was also used for the image of 'Peg', the sister of butler Alfred Pennyworth, in the 1997 film Batman & Robin.

Stuart's husband Arthur Sheekman died in January, 1978.[69] Five years later, Ward Ritchie, a close friend of Stuart’s first husband, Gordon Newell, sent Stuart one of his books. Ritchie had become a celebrated printer, book designer and printing historian.[70] With his commercial Ward Ritchie Press and private Laguna Verde Imprenta press, Ritchie produced distinguished books on the arts, poetry, cookery and the American West. Stuart invited him to dinner and they fell in love. Ritchie was seventy-eight and Stuart seventy-two.[71]

When Stuart first followed Ritchie into his studio and watched him pull a printed page from his 1839 English iron Albion hand press, she wanted to do it, too.[72] After studying typesetting at the Women’s Workshop in Los Angeles, Stuart bought her own hand press, a Vandercook SP15[73] and established her own private press, Imprenta Glorias.

Stuart’s next discovery was the Artist’s book.[74] She designed the books, wrote the text (often poetry), set the type—carefully selecting the style of type to match the subject—printed the pages, then decorated the pages with water colors, silk screen, découpage or all three. She created large artist’s books and books in miniature. Several of her books took her years.[75]

Through Ritchie, Stuart was introduced to prestigious librarians and bibliophiles from San Francisco to Paris.[76] Imprenta Glorias books can be found in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Huntington Library, J. Paul Getty Museum, the Library of Congress, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, the New York Public Library, the Occidental College Library, the Princeton University library, the UCLA Clark Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as private collections.[77] Stuart and Ritchie were together for thirteen years until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1996.[78]

Titanic: 1996–1998

In May 1996, Stuart received a message about a film role: "A female voice said she was calling from Lightstorm Entertainment...about a movie to be shot on location, maybe Poland...about the Titanic, directed by James Cameron..." [79] The next afternoon, Cameron’s casting director, Mali Finn, came to Stuart’s house "…with her assistant, Emily Schweber, who was carrying a video camera... Mali and I talked while Emily filmed us."[80] The next morning, Finn brought over James Cameron and his video camera. Stuart wrote, "I was not the least bit nervous. I knew I would read Old Rose with the sympathy and tenderness that Cameron had intended…"[81] Five days after Stuart's eighty-sixth birthday, Finn phoned again and asked, “Gloria, how would you like to be Old Rose?”[82]

Most of Stuart’s filming was completed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, over about three weeks in early summer. [83] But the complex movie, events connected with it and the consequences of Stuart’s new status in Hollywood filled the next year. Stuart filmed and made recordings for several documentaries, did more looping and dubbing for Cameron, received offers of scripts. Stuart wrote, "On April 7, 1997, the publicity blitz for Titanic kicked off… From that point on, the deluge of publicity never stopped."[84]

On December 17, 1997, Stuart was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.[85] She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[86]

On March 8, 1998, the Screen Actors Guild awarded Stuart their Founders Award.[87] Then for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Stuart tied with Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential).[88] For both awards, Stuart received a standing ovation from her peers. [89]

The following May, People magazine included Stuart on their list of "The 50 most beautiful people in the World in 1998." [90] Also in May, Stuart was guest of honor at the Great Steamboat Race between the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen and then was Grand Marshal of the 1998 Kentucky Derby Festival’s Pegasus Parade.[91]

Next, Stuart signed a contract with Little, Brown and Company to write her autobiography, I Just Kept Hoping. Stuart made her debut at The Hollywood Bowl on July 19, 1998 reading the poem, Standing Stone, Paul McCartney’s oratorio for orchestra and chorus.[92]

Final roles, accolades: 1999–2010

Stuart was asked by the producer and star, Kate Capshaw, to join her cast of The Love Letter (1998),[3] which she filmed in Rockport, Maine. In October 1999, Stuart’s native Santa Monica issued a Commendation signed by the mayor recognizing Gloria Stuart "…for many contributions world-wide and her inspirational message to always keep hoping. Dated this 16th day of October, 1999. Pam O’Connor, Mayor."[93] In September 2000, Stuart unveiled her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of a Pig 'n Whistle café that had opened its doors in 1927 when Stuart was still in high school.[94] She also made guest appearances on several television series, including the 2000 science fiction series The Invisible Man; Touched by an Angel, and General Hospital.

Even though once again reduced to minor roles, Stuart's last two movies were for director Wim Wenders. In 1999 Stuart worked on The Million Dollar Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. In 2004, she appeared in Wenders' Land of Plenty, her final film.

On June 19, 2010, Stuart was honored by the Screen Actors Guild for her years of service. At a luncheon, she was presented the Ralph Morgan Award by Titanic co-star Frances Fisher.[95] On July 22, 2010, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Stuart’s career with a program featuring film clips and conversations between Stuart and film historian Leonard Maltin, portrait artist Don Bachardy and David S. Zeidberg, the Avery Director of the Huntington Library.[96] One thousand people filled the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.[97]

From the time Stuart was announced in the Titanic cast, she appeared before the camera for interviews on subjects as diverse as Groucho Marx, Shirley Temple, James Whale, horror movies and friends Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy [98]

Art career

An example of découpage by Gloria Stuart.

After abandoning her acting career in 1945, Stuart went to New York with husband Sheekman—Paramount sent him to see the new play Dream Girl wanting him to adapt it for to screen. A friend took Stuart to the studio of a découpage artist. Drawn to the art form, Stuart thought it could replace acting in her life.[99] With Sheekman's encouragement, she opened a shop on Los Angeles's decorators’ row, named it Décor, Ltd.[100] Stuart created découpaged lamps, mirrors, tables, chests and other one of a kind objets d'art. Over the next four years, her work gained attention and her pieces were carried by Lord & Taylor in New York, Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Bullock’s in Pasadena and Gump’s in San Francisco. But in time, labor involved in "the fine fine cutting, applying sixteen coats of lacquer" to every piece[101] and other costs proved prohibitive and Stuart closed her shop.

After living in rented spaces for ten years, Stuart and husband Sheekman bought an old craftsman-style house, where she redesigned the interior, supervised the remodeling, designed all the furniture and had it custom made. In the garden, she planned the landscaping, included a green house for orchids and lath house for grafting fruit trees, spent hours on her knees cultivating and planting. In Stuart’s words, “I became a whirling dervish of creative renovation.”[102]

Painting, serigraphy

One of Stuart's Watts Towers, January 1972.

Early in 1954, visiting Paris, Stuart first saw the Impressionist paintings at the Jeu de Paume museum. As when she first saw découpage, Stuart wanted to do it, too.[103] The Sheekmans were on their way to Italy. At the time, American artists living abroad for at least eighteen months paid no taxes on income earned during the residency.[104] Sheekman was now very successful. In the eight years since returning from New York, he had been on fourteen movies, mostly writing the screenplays. He wanted to try another play.[105] For the next eighteen months, Stuart painted and Sheekman worked on his play.[106]

Sheekman's comedy about a sorrowful comic, The Joker, had Tommy Noonan for its star and was booked into The Playhouse Theater in New York to open April 5, 1957. April 1, it was announced the play was terminating a pre-Broadway tour of three-and-one-half weeks in Washington DC and was "taken off for repairs."[107] Repairs were never made.

Then after seven years of working at her easel every day, Stuart was ready to show her paintings. In September, 1961, Victor Hammer gave Stuart a debut one-woman show at his Hammer Galleries in New York.[108] Nearly all of her forty canvases sold.[108] In the following years, Stuart exhibited her primitive-style paintings in many shows, including at the Bianchini Gallery in New York, the Simon Patrich Galleries and The Egg and the Eye in Los Angeles, the Galerie du Jonelle in Palm Springs and the Staircase Gallery in Beverly Hills. Stuart’s paintings are in numerous private collections and the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of New Mexico (Santa Fe), the Desert Museum of Palm Springs and the Belhaven Museum (Jackson, Mississippi).[109]

Stuart had been painting for nearly thirty years when, as she noted in her book, “…the challenges to me of painting as a primitive had been wearing a little thin, and I had become fascinated by the complex art form of serigraphy—silk screening." Stuart studied with serigrapher Evelyn Johnson then created vivid serigraphs that are also in private collections.[110]

Bonsai artwork

Bonsai called "French Black Oak Forest" was created by Gloria Stuart in 1982 after returning from France where she gathered the acorns in the royal forest at Fontainebleau.

In the late 1960s, Stuart embraced another art form, the art of bonsai. She took classes from Frank Nagata, colleague of John Naka, a bonsai master in Los Angeles,[111] joined Nagata’s bonsai club, Baiko-En, and became one of the first Anglo members of the California Bonsai Society. Eventually Stuart's collection numbered over one hundred miniature trees.[112] Some of her trees are in the bonsai collection of the Botanical Gardens of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Later life and death

Stuart, who was a smoker in her early adult years but quit later in life, was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 94. Until that point, she had enjoyed remarkably good health for her advanced age aside from taking cortisone shots for knee pain.[113] Stuart underwent radiation treatment, but in time the cancer returned and Stuart underwent a shorter course of radiation. The malignancy continued to spread, but slowly due to Stuart's age. She lived six years after her initial diagnosis.[114]

On the day of Stuart’s 100th birthday, James and Suzy Cameron hosted Stuart’s family and friends at the ACE Gallery in Beverly Hills. There Stuart saw many of her paintings and serigraphs, artist’s books, samples of her découpage and trees from her bonsai collection exhibited in the gallery.[115] Stuart’s Baiko-En bonsai club gave her a gala birthday party at the Huntington Library.

Stuart died on the afternoon of September 26, 2010 of respiratory failure and lung cancer. Her body was cremated.[upper-alpha 4]

Personal life

Stuart married twice: first, to Blair Gordon Newell, from 1930-1934; and then to Arthur Sheekman, from 1934 until his death in 1978 of a heart attack. Stuart gave birth to one daughter with Sheekman, Sylvia Vaughn Thompson, in 1935.[3] Stuart was partners with artist Ward Ritchie from 1983 until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1996.[78]

Stuart was a lifelong Democrat.[116] In 1938 as a member of the Hollywood Democratic Committee, Stuart was on the Executive Board of the California State Democratic Committee[117]

Stuart was a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in her 70s. She received a lumpectomy followed by radiation.[118] Stuart’s breast cancer did not return.


While a student at the University of California, Berkeley at age seventeen, Stuart wanted to join the Young Communist League. She wrote, "I was told it was for the poor and the oppressed. That appealed to me. But membership wasn't open to anyone under eighteen, so I couldn't join."[119] In Carmel, she notes that her friendship with muckraker Lincoln Steffens gave her "...much deeper insight into the abuses of laborers and blue-collar workers and made me ready to work for liberal causes when I got to Hollywood a few years later."[119]

In 1933 after completing The Old Dark House, Stuart was one of the first stars to work toward an actors’ union[120] and was one of thirty-nine new Class A members of the Screen Actors Guild,[121][122] of which she was a founding member.[123][124] In June, 1936, she helped Paul Muni, Franchot Tone, Ernst Lubitsch, and Oscar Hammerstein II form the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League.[117] That same year she and writer Dorothy Parker helped create the League to Support the Spanish Civil War Orphans.[117]

Stuart was also an avid environmentalist. "I belong to every organization that has to do with saving the environment," said Stuart. "I'm fed up with venal and avaricious forestry people, mining people, oil people, gas people. I think the abuse of the environment is sinful."[125]


At the time of her death, she had four grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.[3]

Stuart's grandson, Benjamin Stuart Thompson, is working on a documentary, The Secret Life of Old Rose. The film explores Stuart's long acting career as well as her career as an artist, fine printer and bonsai enthusiast.

Gloria Stuart's great-granddaughter, Deborah B. Thompson, produced an e-book, Butterfly Summers: A Memoir of Gloria Stuart's Apprentice.[126] Thompson was one of several artists who, over a period of years, assisted Stuart on her masterwork, Gloria Stuart’s Flight of Butterfly Kites. Thompson's observations of Stuart's creative processand how to print on Stuarts hand pressmake it a unique chronicle. Gloria Stuart's paintings are represented by the Papillon Gallery in Los Angeles and I Dated Oppenheimer, her last miniature artist's book, is represented by Lorson's Books and Prints. Pieces of Gloria Stuart's découpage turn up in antique shops occasionally. Studio photographs signed by Gloria Stuart still circulate on the Internet.

For her contributions to the film industry, Stuart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard.[127]


Year Title Role Notes
1932 Street of Women Doris 'Dodo' Baldwin
The All American Ellen Steffens
The Old Dark House Margaret Waverton
Air Mail Ruth Barnes
1933 Laughter in Hell Lorraine
Sweepings Phoebe
Private Jones Mary Gregg
The Kiss Before the Mirror Lucy Bernsdorf
The Girl in 419 Mary Dolan
It's Great to Be Alive Dorothy Wilton
Secret of the Blue Room Irene von Helldorf
The Invisible Man Flora Cranley
Roman Scandals Princess Sylvia
1934 Beloved Lucy Tarrant Hausmann
I Like It That Way Anne Rogers/Dolly Lavern
I'll Tell the World Jane Hamilton
The Love Captive Alice Trask
Here Comes the Navy Dorothy
Gift of Gab Barbara Kelton
1935 Maybe It's Love Bobby Halevy
Gold Diggers of 1935 Ann Prentiss
Laddie Pamela Pryor
Professional Soldier Countess Sonia
1936 The Prisoner of Shark Island Mrs. Peggy Mudd
The Crime of Dr. Forbes Ellen Godfrey
Poor Little Rich Girl Margaret Allen
36 Hours to Kill Anne Marvis
The Girl on the Front Page Joan Langford
Wanted! Jane Turner Doris Martin
1937 Girl Overboard Mary Chesbrooke
The Lady Escapes Linda Ryan
Life Begins in College Janet O'Hara
1938 Change of Heart Carol Murdock
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Gwen Warren
Island in the Sky Julie Hayes
Keep Smiling Carol Walters
Time Out for Murder Margie Ross
The Lady Objects Ann Adams Hayward
1939 The Three Musketeers Queen Anne
Winner Take All Julie Harrison
It Could Happen to You Doris Winslow
1943 Here Comes Elmer Glenda Forbes
1944 The Whistler Alice Walker
Enemy of Women Bertha
1946 She Wrote the Book Phyllis Fowler
1975 The Legend of Lizzie Borden Store customer Television film
Adventures of the Queen Female passenger Television film
1976 Flood! Mrs. Parker Television film
1977 In the Glitter Palace Mrs. Bowman Television film
1978 Battered Television film
1979 The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel Rose Hooper Television film
The Best Place to Be Television film
The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan Roberta Television film
1980 Fun and Games Terri Television film
1981 The Violation of Sarah McDavid Mrs. Fowler Television film
Merlene of the Movies Evangeline Eaton Television film
1982 My Favorite Year Mrs. Horn
1984 Mass Appeal Mrs. Curry
1985 There Were Times, Dear Television film
1986 Wildcats Mrs. Connoly
1988 Shootdown Gertrude Television film
1989 She Knows Too Much Kiki Watwood Television film
1997 Titanic Rose Dawson Calvert Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (tied with Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential)
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated—Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress (2nd place)
Nominated—Awards Circuit Community Award for Best Supporting Actress
1999 The Love Letter Eleanor
The Titanic Chronicles Helen Bishop Voice role
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel Jessica
My Mother, the Spy Grandma Television film
2001 Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man Eliza Hoops Television film
2004 Land of Plenty Old lady


Year Series Role Notes
1975 The Waltons Saleswoman 1 episode
1980 Enos Lilly 1 episode
1983 Manimal Bag Lady 1 episode
1987 Murder, She Wrote Edna Jarvis 1 episode
2001 The Invisible Man Madeline Fawkes 1 episode
Touched by an Angel Grams 1 episode
2002-2003 General Hospital Catherine 2 episodes
2003 Miracles Rosanna Wye 1 episode


  1. She was a third-generation Californian. Stuart's grandmother, Alice Vaughan, was born in Angels Camp, gold country, and her mother, Alice Diedrick, was born in Selma in the San Joaquin Valley, daughter of a blacksmith.[6]
  2. Half-sister Patricia Marie Finch was born in 1924.
  3. She recognized that the symmetry of the six letters of (Gloria) Stuart would look better on a marquee than the seven letters of Stewart.[14]
  4. "Gloria Stuart, a glamorous blond actress during Hollywood’s golden age who was largely forgotten until she made a memorable comeback in her 80s in the 1997 epic Titanic, died on Sunday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 100."[3]
  1. Mank 2005, p. 133.
  2. "Gloria Frances Stuart, actress. Shaking hands with an admirer, who has painted her name and her portrait on his breast. 1938". Getty Images. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Harmetz, Arthur; Berkvist, Robert (September 27, 2010). "Gloria Stuart, an Actress Rediscovered Late, Dies at 100". New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  4., 1920 United States Federal Census, City of Santa Monica, precinct 14, sheet No. 12B, line 52. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  5. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 6.
  6. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 203.
  7. 1910 United States Federal Census, City of Ocean Park, precinct 8, sheet No. 12A, line 20. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  8., 1920 United States Federal Census, City of Santa Monica, precinct 14, sheet No. 12B, line 53. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  9. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 11.
  10. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 11-12.
  11. 1 2 The Nautilus (June 1927). Santa Monica High School Yearbook, p. 45.
  12. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 13.
  13. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 20.
  14. 1 2 3 Pepe, Barbara. "Gloria Stuart". Hello. February 21, 1998, p. 8
  15. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 23.
  16. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 18.
  17. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 36.
  18. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 31-37.
  19. Stuart, Gloria. "'The Play's the Thing' As Produced in Pasadena" The Carmelite. November 12, 1931. In her autobiography, Stuart refers to it as 'The Band Box'.
  20. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 40.
  21. "The Cohens and Kellys in Hollywood (1932)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  22. Tennant, Madge. "Fifteen Screen Debs Are Elected 1932 Baby Stars By WAMPAS" Movie Classic.
  23. Mank 2005, p. 132.
  24. Hall, Mordaunt (1932-10-28). "Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton and Raymond Massey in a Film of Priestley's "The Old Dark House."". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-04.
  25. Biodrowski, Steven (September 28, 2010). "Upstaged By The Invisible Man: Gloria Stuart Interview". Cinefantastique. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  26. Hall, Mordaunt. "Pat O'Brien as a Boastful Pilot in a Story of the Hazards of the Modern 'Pony Express.'" New York Times, November 7, 1932.
  27. Hall, Mordaunt. "Laughter in Hell (1932) A Chain-Gang Melodrama". New York Times, January 2, 1933.
  28. Hall, Mordaunt. "Sweepings (1933) Lionel Barrymore and Gregory Ratoff in a Film Version of a Novel by Lester Cohen". New York Times, March 24, 1933.
  29. Hall, Mordaunt. "Private Jones (1933) A Bucking Private." New York Times, March 25, 1933.
  30. Hall, Mordaunt. "The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) Frank Morgan, Nancy Carroll and Paul Lukas in a Pictorial Adaptation of a Hungarian Play." New York Times, May 21, 1933.
  31. Hall, Mordaunt. "The Girl in 419 In an Emergency Hospital." New York Times, May 22, 1933.
  32. Hall, Mordaunt. "Lionel Atwill and Gloria Stuart Appear in a Story of Mysterious Murders in an Old Castle." New York Times, September 13, 1933.
  33. Hall, Mordaunt. "The Invisible Man (1933) Claude Rains Makes His Film Debut in a Version of H.G. Wells's Novel, 'The Invisible Man.'" New York Times, November 26, 1933.
  34. Nugent, Frank S. "Here Comes the Navy (1934) Mr. Cagney Afloat." New York Times, July 21, 1934.
  35. Here Comes the HeavyOriginal trailer. Accessed September 14, 2014.
  36. Sennwald, Andre. "Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)'Gold Diggers of 1935,' the New Warner Musical Film at the Strand – 'Times Square Lady.' New York Times, March 15, 1935.
  37. Nugent, Frank S. "Professional Soldier (1936) Victor McLaglen as the 'Professional Soldier,' at the Center". New York Times, January 30, 1936.
  38. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 89.
  39. Nugent, Frank S. "The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)". New York Times, February 13, 1936.
  40. Nugent, Frank S. "Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) Miss Temple's Latest, 'The Poor Little Rich Girl,' Moves Into the Radio City Music Hall." New York Times, June 26, 1936.
  41. Nugent, Frank S. The Girl on the Front Page (1936) Notes in Passing on 'The Girl on the Front Page,' at the Roxy. New York Times, November 7, 1936.
  42. Nugent, Frank S."Girl Overboard 1937." New York Times, March 1, 1937.
  43. "Gloria Stuart and Ray Pearl". Life. People. September 6, 1937. p. 66.
  44. Staff. "Review: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Variety, December 31, 1937.
  45. "Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm—Original trailer" (Film). Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  46. B.R.C. "Jane Withers, Gloria Stuart and Henry Wilcox Are In 'Keep Smiling' at The Globe." New York Times, August 10, 1938.
  47. Nugent, Frank S. "The Palace Takes 'Time Out for Murder' at the Palace". New York Times, October 7, 1938.
  48. Crowther, Bosley. "Winner Take All at the Palace". New York Times, March 31, 1939.
  49. Nugent, Frank S. "At the Palace." New York Times, June 9, 1939.
  50. Special to the New York Times. "Screen News Here and in Hollywood..." New York Times, November 11, 1938.
  51. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 90.
  52. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 47-48.
  53. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 61.
  54. "Star Weds Writer". Belvedere Daily Republican, Belvedere, Illinois, July 30, 1934.
  55. "Gloria Stuart A Mother". The Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois), June 20, 1935.
  56. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 92.
  57. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 116.
  58. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 116-117.
  59. 1 2 Corliss, Richard (September 29, 2010). "Gloria Stuart, '30s Film Star with a Titanic Comeback". Time. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  60. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 129.
  61. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 130-137.
  62. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 162.
  63. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 158-159.
  64. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 143.
  65. "She Wrote the Book (1946)". IMDB. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  66. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 209.
  67. Clip from the trailer: accessed September 10, 2014.
  68. "Gloria Stuart (1910–2010)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  69. "Arthur Sheekman, A Screenwriter and Adapter, at 76." New York Times, January 14, 1978.
  70. MacLeod, Steve. "New Exhibit — Ward Ritchie and Laguna Verde Imprenta". Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  71. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 219-220.
  72. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 226.
  73. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 228.
  74. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 230.
  75. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 231.
  76. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 244.
  77. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 233.
  78. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 239.
  79. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 249.
  80. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 250.
  81. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 251.
  82. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 254.
  83. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 268.
  84. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 278.
  85. "Gloria Stuart. 1 Nomination". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  86. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 297.
  87. Archerd, Army. "Showbiz stalwart Stuart gets SAG honor". Variety, December 14, 1997.
  88. "The 4th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - 1998". Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  89. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 302.
  90. “Gloria Stuart.” People, May 11, 1998.
  91. "Gloria Stuart". People. 49 (17): 49. May 4, 1998.
  92. Program: “The L.A. Philharmonic presents Hollywood Bowl 1998. July 14-July 19.
  93. City of Santa Monica Commendation
  94. Archerd, Army. "For Fisher, gay friends are 'Normal"." Variety, September 19, 2000.
  95. WENN (June 21, 2010). "Stuart Honored By Screen Actors Guild". Retrieved November 12, 2014..
  96. Program: “An Academy Centennial Celebration with Gloria Stuart. July 22, 2010.”
  97. Variety Staff. "Upcoming events for the week of July 6. Variety, July 6, 2010.
  98. "Chris & Don. A Love Story–2007". Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  99. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 168.
  100. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 169.
  101. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 170.
  102. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 171-172.
  103. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 174.
  104. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 175.
  105. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 177.
  106. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 178.
  107. Zolotow, Sam. 'Joker Opening Canceled on Tour'. New York Times, April 1, 1957.
  108. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 182.
  109. Dastin, Elizabeth. "Gloria Stuart: From Silver Screen to Canvas." Thesis proposal, CUNY Graduate Center, 2013.
  110. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 227.
  111. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 191.
  112. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 191-192.
  113. Gloria Stuart’s 2004 day book, September 24, 2004.
  114. Steinberg, Julie. "Gloria Stuart, 'Titanic' Star, Dies at 100". The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2010.
  115. Lacher, Irene (July 5, 2010). "Titanic actress Gloria Stuart celebrates her 100th birthday" Ministry of Gossip". Los Angeles Times.
  116. McLellan, Dennis (September 27, 2010). "Gloria Stuart dies at 100; 'Titanic' actress". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  117. 1 2 3 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 46.
  118. Stuart & Thompson 1999, pp. 246-247.
  119. 1 2 Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 38.
  120. Stuart & Thompson 1999, p. 45.
  122. McNary, Dave. "Thesp Gloria Stuart is Lauded by SAG". Variety, June 19, 2010.
  123. "SAG Mourns Loss of Founding Member Gloria Stuart". SAG-AFTRA. September 27, 2010. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  124. "Celebrating Gloria" (PDF). Screen Actor (Summer 2010): 20–21.
  125. Gardner & Bellows 2007, p. 154.
  126. Thompson, Deborah B. (March 9, 2012). Butterfly Summers: A Memoir of Gloria Stuart's Apprentice (eBook). Cork: BookBaby Publication. p. 150. ISBN 9781620953570.
  127. Trounson, Rebecca (July 7, 2010). "Gloria Stuart". The Los Angeles Times. Hollywood Star Walk. Retrieved July 6, 2016.


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