Monday, September 27, 2010

Gloria Stuart, R.I.P.

From USAToday --

Gloria Stuart, who became the oldest woman to be nominated for an Academy Award after the blockbuster Titanic relaunched her career, has died at 100.

Her grandson, Benjamin Stuart Thompson, says Stuart died in her sleep Sunday night at her Los Angeles home.

Gloria Frances Stewart was born July 4, 1910, in Santa Monica, Calif., and got into acting while attending the University of California-Berkeley.

Stuart was discovered at the Pasadena Playhouse and signed to a contract by Universal Studios.

It is said she changed the spelling of her last name because it looked better on the marquee.

Stuart was selected as one of the 13 Baby Stars of 1932 by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers and soon caught the eye of horror director James Whale, for whom she starred in The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, The Kiss Before the Mirror and Secrets of the Blue Room. She made nine movies in 1933 alone, including The Invisible Man opposite Claude Rains.

Though her career at Universal foundered, Stuart moved to 20th Century Fox, where she starred opposite the likes of Shirley Temple in Rebecca of SunnybrookFarm and Don Ameche in The Three Musketeers.

Stuart retired from acting in 1946 to concentrate on a career as an artist and decorator.

In 1998, Stuart's second time around as an actress far eclipsed her years as a contract star.

She was cast in Titanic as 101-year-old Rose Dawson Calvert after director James Cameron heard her commentary on the laser disc of The Old Dark House.

Stuart auditioned for the part but was unhappy with her reading. "I wanted this part desperately," she told Cinemania. "I wrote him a letter: 'Dear Mr. Cameron, I reread the script several times, and I think I should have given you a feistier reading, because young Rose is a very feisty kind of woman. And I don't think that my reading showed that.' That was Friday afternoon, and Tuesday morning, (casting director) Mali Finn called to say, 'Gloria, how would you like to be Old Rose?' Well, I screamed and hollered, jumped up and down, cried, called everybody." She joked later to The New York Times that she was cast because, at 87, she was one of few actresses in her age group who was "still viable, not alcoholic, rheumatic or falling down."

Stuart was nominated for a supporting-actress Oscar and also scored Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. At age 87, Stuart became the oldest nominee ever for a competitive, non-honorary Oscar. She lost to Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential, even as Titanic swept many of the awards that year, including best picture and director.

In Titanic's wake, Stuart found herself in demand, appearing in guest shots on such TV series as Touched By an Angel and General Hospital. In 1999, she published a memoir, I Just Kept Hoping, and the next year, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the strength of that clip, I just popped the Old Dark House into my Netflix queue. Stuart is charming, and that old lady is wonderfully awful.