About two weeks ago, on September 26, 2010, Gloria Stuart died. She was 100 years old. To those of you who are thinking ‘Who?’ – she played Old Rose in the 1997 film Titanic. Now, if you have not seen this film, one might wonder where you have been. After its debut it enjoyed an unusually long theater run and now is shown at least once a month, sometimes back to back, on TNT. Word has it now that James Cameron is converting Titanic to 3-D for release in April 2012, the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.
Today I was talking to a couple of friends who boasted that they had not seen Titanic, indeed had made a conscious and concerted effort to not see it, since they already knew how it ended. So, to those and any others in that category, I will say that the story of the ship’s first and last voyage was played through the eyes of Old Rose, a 101 year old survivor of the tragedy. A mega flashback told of the ill-fated romance between Young Rose (Kate Winslet) and a young man of lower station (Leonardo DiCaprio).
When Gloria came out of semi-retirement to play Old Rose, she was 87 years old, but looked so good she had to endure hours in the make-up chair in order to appear as 101, as the script called for. For her work in Titanic, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, the only nomination of her life, making her the oldest nominee ever. She lost to Kim Basinger (for L.A. Confidential), but was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 2000.
Gloria Stuart began her career in movies in the 1930’s starring in many of the lightweight dramedies that the studios were making as fast as they could. Her most noted early credits include Claude Rains’ love interest in the original version of The Invisible Man and the obligatory beautiful young girl in the Shirley Temple movie Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Randolph Scott played the hero.
During her long career, Gloria Stuart appeared on stage, in film and on television. In 2001, at the age of 91, she was featured in episodes of Murder She Wrote and Touched by an Angel, with a recurring roll in the soap opera General Hospital. Her last film credit was in 2004 in Land of Plenty, where she played ‘an old lady.’
Acting was but a part of the excitement that enriched Gloria Stuart’s time on earth. Go to Wikepedia or ontheredcarpet.com or simply Google her name to read about the artists’ books she wrote and published that can be found in museums and private collections. Or her trip to France when Europe was on the brink of World War II.
Rest in Peace, Gloria Stuart. Yours was a long and beautiful life.