Gloria Stuart

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Gloria Stuart
Gloria Stuart Argentinean Magazine AD.jpg
Stuart in 1937
Born Gloria Frances 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
Education Santa Monica High School
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Actress and Artist
Years active 1932-1946
Spouse(s) Blair Gordon Newell
(1930–1934; divorced)
Arthur Sheekman
(1934–1978; his death)
Children Sylvia Vaughn Thompson
born (1935-06-19) June 19, 1935 (age 79)

Gloria Frances Stewart, known by the stage name Gloria Stuart, (July 4, 1910 – September 26, 2010) was an American actress, activist, painter, bonsai artist and fine art printer and printmaker. Stuart had a Hollywood career which spanned (with a long break in the middle) from 1932 until 2004 where she appeared on stage, television and in film, for which she was best-known. She appeared as Claude Rains' sweetheart in The Invisible Man, and as the elderly Rose Dawson Calvert in the Academy Award-winning film Titanic. At the time, she was the oldest person to be nominated in a supporting role for a competitive Oscar, for her role in Titanic, at the age of 87.

Early life and career[edit]

Here with James Cagney from the 1934 film Here Comes the Navy filmed on the USS Arizona.

Stuart was born Gloria Frances Stewart in Santa Monica, California, a third-generation Californian. Her mother, Alice Vaughan Deidrick Stewart, was born in Angels Camp, California. Her father, Frank Stewart, was an attorney representing many Tongs in San Francisco. Gloria's brother, Frank, was born eleven months later. A second brother, Thomas, died in infancy. When Gloria was nine years old, her father, who had been appointed a judge and was about to take the bench, was hit by a car and later died of injuries. Her mother got a job in the Ocean Park, California, Post Office to support her children. Alice Stewart remarried, to Fred J. Finch, a native of Kentucky, who owned a local funeral parlor and held oil leases in Texas. A half-sister, Patsy — Patricia Marie Finch — was born in 1924. Gloria's younger brother Frank took the surname Finch, later becoming a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times.

She later changed the spelling of her surname when she began her career, reportedly because "Stuart" would fit better on a marquee.[1]

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

She attended Santa Monica High School, graduating in 1927, then immediately ran off to Berkeley to attend the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, she majored in drama and philosophy but dropped out in her junior year to marry Blair Gordon Newell, a San Francisco sculptor working under Ralph Stackpole on the facade of the San Francisco Stock Exchange building. The Newells lived a bohemian life in Carmel and were part of a circle of artists including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Robinson Jeffers. She acted at the Theatre of the Golden Bough and worked on the weekly "Carmelite" newspaper. Returning to Los Angeles, she appeared at the Pasadena Playhouse and was immediately signed to a contract by Universal Studios in 1932. She became a favorite of director James Whale, appearing in his The Old Dark House (1932), The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) and The Invisible Man (1933).

Her career with Universal was disappointing. She moved to 20th Century Fox, and by the end of the decade had appeared in more than forty films, including Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She appeared alongside such stars as Lionel Atwill, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Bartholomew, Warner Baxter, James Cagney, Eddie Cantor, Melvyn Douglas, Boris Karloff, Paul Lukas, Raymond Massey, Pat O'Brien, Al Pearce, Dick Powell, Claude Rains, the Ritz Brothers, Shirley Temple and Lee Tracy.

Personal life[edit]

In 1934, Stuart and Newell divorced amicably and she married screenwriter Arthur Sheekman, one of the writers on Roman Scandals. Sheekman was Groucho Marx's best friend and was collaborating (sometimes without credit) on Marx Brothers films. Later, Sheekman ghostwrote several of Marx's books; Marx called him "The Fastest Wit in the West". The Sheekmans' daughter, Sylvia, was born in 1935. Four years later, Stuart convinced her husband they should travel around the world. When they reached France, they tried to volunteer for the French Resistance, but were turned down, so they caught the last American ship sailing to New York.[2]

They decided to stay in New York and work in the theater. In the next few years, Sheekman wrote several plays (two directed by George S. Kaufman) and Stuart got roles in summer stock, including Emily to Thornton Wilder's Stage Manager in Our Town. When Sheekman's third play flopped, they returned to Hollywood, and he was hired by Paramount Pictures. Stuart toured the country entertaining the troops in hospitals and selling war bonds.

In 1943, the Sheekmans moved into Villa 12 at the Garden of Allah in Hollywood, where Gloria quickly established herself as The Garden's unofficial hostess, often preparing extravagant dinner parties after collecting food ration stamps from invitees and shopping creatively at the Farmers Market.[3] In 1946, she opened a small business, Décor, Ltd, where she sold lamps, mirrors, tables, chests, and other objets d'art of the découpage she created.

Sheekman wrote seventeen screenplays during the next sixteen years. In 1954, with their daughter studying at UC Berkeley, Gloria and Arthur Sheekman joined friends who were living abroad, settling in Rapallo on the Italian Riviera. Inspired by the success of the primitive paintings of Grandma Moses, Stuart took up oil painting. Her first one-woman show at the Hammer Galleries in New York all but sold out.[citation needed] After forty-three years of marriage, Arthur Sheekman died on January 12, 1978, just weeks before his 77th birthday.

Stuart was also active in political and social causes. She was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and in 1936 helped form the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and with writer Dorothy Parker the Spanish Children's Relief. She also became a member of the Hollywood Democratic Committee and was on the executive board of the California State Democratic Committee.[4]

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.

Stuart was a friend of the author Christopher Isherwood and his longtime companion, the portraitist Don Bachardy, who made several portraits of Stuart. She discusses her relationship to the pair, and particularly her views on Bachardy's art, in video interviews included among the supplementary outtakes on the DVD release of the documentary film Chris and Don: A Love Story.

Return to acting – 1970s to 2000s[edit]

In 1975, after twenty-nine years away from acting, with her husband, Arthur, in a nursing home, Gloria got an agent and went back to work. In 1978, Arthur died. Over the next few years she appeared in small parts in television. Then in 1982 came an offer for what was to be one of her favorite scenes in all her films: playing a silver-haired dowager taking a solitary turn around a dance floor with Peter O'Toole in My Favorite Year.

During this period, Stuart took up the Japanese art of bonsai, becoming the first Anglo member of the California Bonsai Society. And she began to travel again, going with friends or on her own to Europe, India, Africa, the Balkans. In 1983, Stuart became romantically involved with her old friend, the California printer Ward Ritchie,[5] whom she had known during her college years. Ritchie taught her how to run an antique book press.[5] She bought her own hand press and established "Imprenta Glorias", and began creating artists' books (books hand-made, labor-intensive, usually with a very limited run). Stuart wrote the text, designed the book, set the type, printed the pages, and finished pages with water colors or silk screen or découpage. Books from Imprenta Glorias are in the Metropolitan Museum, Library of Congress, Huntington Library, J. Paul Getty Museum, Morgan Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and numerous private and university collections. No longer able to work with small type and a large heavy press, she gave her press and sets of rare type to Mills College. Stuart and Ritchie maintained their close relationship until his death from cancer in 1996.[5]

Not long after Ritchie's death, Stuart landed the character of 100-year-old Rose, at the heart of James Cameron's Titanic. Stuart was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She remains the oldest person ever to have been nominated for an Oscar. Suzy Amis credited Stuart for bringing her together on the set with her eventual husband, director James Cameron.[6] Stuart also made an appearance in the Hanson music video "River", where she parodied her character in Titanic.[7]

Stuart published her autobiography, I Just Kept Hoping, in 1999, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000. Her last appearance on film was a role in Wim Wenders's Land of Plenty in 2004, and afterward she gave numerous filmed and audio interviews. Stuart continued to work at her artist's books, finishing a miniature about a time when she was in Berkeley, called I Dated Oppenheimer. Even after her retirement from film acting in 2004, she remained never far away from the public eye.

Other work[edit]

Her poem, 'You Are Gone Now', was set to music by Richard Tauber, who first sang it in her presence at a concert in Los Angeles on November 30, 1937.

When Stuart was 99 years old, she was interviewed by writer and actor Mark Gatiss about her role in theThe Old Dark House by James Whale, and about her co-star Boris Karloff, for his 2010 BBC documentary series A History of Horror.[8][9]


Stuart was diagnosed with lung cancer around age 95; however, she lived to see her 100th birthday. Stuart died less than three months later on September 26, 2010.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

On June 19, 2010, Stuart was honored by the Screen Actors Guild for her years of service. She was presented the Ralph Morgan Award by Titanic co-star Frances Fisher and in response Stuart replied, "I'm very, very grateful. I've had a wonderful life of giving and sharing."[10]

On July 4, 2010, Stuart celebrated her 100th birthday at the ACE Gallery in Beverly Hills with a party hosted by the director of Titanic, James Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis, another of her Titanic co-stars. Frances Fisher and Shirley MacLaine were among the guests.[11]

On July 22, 2010, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored her career with a program featuring film clips and a conversation between Stuart and film historian Leonard Maltin.[12]

Stuart later said that she relates with her comeback character of the 100-year-old Rose saying: "I think that's the important thing, if you're full of love, admiration, appreciation of the beautiful things there are in this life, you have it made, really. And I have it made."[13]


Documentary of Stuart's life[edit]

A new documentary is currently in production called "The Secret Life of Old Rose" which explores Stuart's long acting career as well as her career as an artist, fine art printer and printmaker, and bonsai master. The link to the documentary is: The documentary is produced and directed by Benjamin Stuart Thompson, Gloria Stuart's grandson.

Butterfly Summers[edit]

Gloria Stuart's great granddaughter Deborah B. Thompson published a memoir in March 2012 entitled "Butterfly Summers: A Memoir of Gloria Stuart's Apprentice." Through the ebook, Deborah shares her personal experience of working closely with her great grandmother to complete a set of butterfly-shaped artist's books over the course of five years. The New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman writes, "Here is the heart-felt and moving story of the bond between a young woman and her great grandmother -- who happens to be a Hollywood movie star -- but the real connection is forged by a love of art and books and by their love for one another."


Year Title Role Notes
1932 Street of Women Doris Baldwin Uncredited
1932 Back Street Young Woman Uncredited
1932 The All-American Ellen Steffens
1932 The Old Dark House Margaret Waverton
1932 Air Mail Ruth Barnes
1933 Laughter in Hell Lorraine
1933 Sweepings Phoebe
1933 Private Jones Mary Gregg
1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror Mrs. Walter Bernsdorf
1933 The Girl in 419 Mary Dolan
1933 It's Great to Be Alive Dorothy Wilton
1933 Secret of the Blue Room Irene von Helldorf
1933 The Invisible Man Flora Cranley
1933 Roman Scandals Princess Sylvia
1934 Beloved Lucy Tarrant Hausmann
1934 I Like It That Way Anne Rogers
1934 I'll Tell the World Jane Hamilton
1934 The Love Captive Alice Trask
1934 Here Comes the Navy Dorothy Martin
1934 Gift the Gab Barbara Kelton
1935 Maybe It's Love Bobby Halevy
1935 Gold Diggers of 1935 Ann Prentiss
1935 Laddie Pamela Pryor
1935 Professional Soldier Countess Sonia
1936 The Prisoner of Shark Island Mrs. Peggy Mudd
1936 The Crime of Dr. Forbes Ellen Godfrey
1936 Poor Little Rich Girl Margaret Allen
1936 36 Hours to Kill Anne Marvis
1936 The Girl on the Front Page Joan Langford
1936 Wanted: Jane Turner Doris Martin
1937 Girl Overboard Mary Chesbrooke
1937 The Lady Escapes Linda Ryan
1937 Life Begins in College Janet O'Hara
1938 Change of Heart Carol Murdock
1938 Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Gwen Warren
1938 Island in the Sky Julie Hayes
1938 Keep Smiling Carol Walters
1938 Time Out for Murder Margie Ross
1938 The Lady Objects Ann Adams Hayword
1939 The Three Musketeers Queen Anne
1939 Winner Take All Julie Harrison
1939 It Could Happen to You Doris Winslow
1943 Here Comes Elmer Glenda Forbes
1944 The Whistler Alice Walker
1944 Enemy of Women Bertha
1946 She Wrote the Book Phyllis Fowler
1982 My Favorite Year Mrs. Horn
1984 Mass Appeal Mrs. Curry
1986 Wildcats Mrs. Connolly
1997 Titanic Rose DeWitt Bukater
1999 The Love Letter Eleanor
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel Jessica
2004 Land of Plenty Old Lady


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stuart, Gloria; Thompson, Sylvia (1999-09-08). Gloria Stuart: I Just Kept Hoping. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN 0-316-81571-3. 
  2. ^ Stuart, Gloria; Thompson, Sylvia (1999-09-08). Gloria Stuart: I Just Kept Hoping. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN 0-316-81571-3. 
  3. ^ Thompson, Sylvia Sheekman, "Martini Time In The Garden of Allah," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 5, 2000
  4. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (2010-09-27). "Gloria Stuart, 'Titanic' actress, dies at 100". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  5. ^ a b c Harmetz, Aljean; Robert Berkvist (September 27, 2010). "Gloria Stuart, an Actress Rediscovered Late, Dies at 100". New York Times. p. B19. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Lacher, Irene (2010-07-05). "'Titanic' actress Gloria Stuart celebrates her 100th birthday | Ministry of Gossip | Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  7. ^ "Hanson, Weird Al Spoof Titanic in Video". MTV. 1998-06-03. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  8. ^ Clarke, Donald. "Mark Gatiss's History of Horror". Irish Times. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  9. ^ "A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss – Frankenstein Goes To Hollywood Ep 1/3". BBC. 2010-10-11. 
  10. ^ "Titanic's Stuart Honored By Screen Actors Guild". 
  11. ^ "'Titanic' star Gloria Stuart turns 100". USA Today. July 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  12. ^ "Gloria Stuart to celebrate 100th birthday by being honored by the Academy". July 1, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  13. ^ Cidoni, Mike (July 22, 2010). "Academy honoring 100-year-old Gloria Stuart". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 


  • Stuart, Gloria; Thompson, Sylvia (1999-09-08). Gloria Stuart: I Just Kept Hoping. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN 0-316-81571-3. 
  • Kathleen Walkup, 'Fine Printing's Hollywood Connection: Gloria Stuart's Imprenta Glorias', in Parenthesis; 19 (2010 Autumn), p. 30-32

External links[edit]