Gloria Stuart, the actress who appeared in numerous films in the 1930s and 1940s before having a career revival five decades later in director James Cameron’s Titanic, has passed away on September 26, 2010 at her home in West Los Angeles. She was 100.
Stuart won the role of the older, present-day version of Kate Winslet’s character Rose, in Titanic as director Cameron was looking for an actress who had been working back in the golden age of the Hollywood studio system.
Enticed into a contract at Universal Studios in 1939 by the promise of “big plans,” Stuart found her career mired in rather bland b-movie programers. The few times she got to shine were in her three collaborations with director James Whale – The Old Dark House (1932), The Kiss Before The Mirror and The Invisible Man (both 1933). A move over to 20th Century Fox yielded only little better parts, outside of the 1938 Shirley Temple vehicle Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farms. Discouraged, she retired from acting by the 1940s and the instance of her husband, comedy writer Arthur Sheekman.
Stuart came back to acting in the mid-1970s, taking the occasional small television or film role. Her role in Titanic was the biggest of her career resurgence and earned her, at age 87, her only Academy Award nomination. Although she did not win the Oscar, she did receive the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
She always kept a sense of humor about her late career rebirth. In her 1999 memoir, I Just Kept Hoping Stuart wrote, “When I graduated from Santa Monica High in 1927, I was voted the girl most likely to succeed. I didn’t realize it would take so long.”