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Gloria Stuart, 1910 - 2010

Updated through 9/28.

"Gloria Stuart, a 1930s Hollywood leading lady who earned an Academy Award nomination for her first significant role in nearly 60 years — as Old Rose, the centenarian survivor of the Titanic in James Cameron's 1997 Oscar-winning film — has died. She was 100." Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times: "As a glamorous blond actress under contract to Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox in the 1930s, Stuart appeared opposite Claude Rains in James Whale's The Invisible Man and with Warner Baxter in John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island.... She also appeared with Eddie Cantor in Roman Scandals, with Dick Powell in Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 and with James Cagney in Here Comes the Navy.... After making 42 feature films between 1932 and 1939, Stuart's latest studio contract, with 20th Century Fox, was not renewed. She appeared in only four films in the 1940s and retired from the screen in 1946. By 1974, 'the blond lovely of the talkies' had become an entry in one of Richard Lamparski's Whatever Happened to books. Writer-director Cameron's $200-million Titanic changed that."

Images: If Charlie Parker... in 2009; happy 100th birthday wishes this July: Arbogast, David Cairns, Robert Cashill and Nathaniel R. See also: Google's Timeline; Wikipedia.

Updates, 9/28: Aljean Harmetz and Robert Berkvist in the New York Times: "Although Screen Play magazine had called Ms Stuart one of the 10 most beautiful women in Hollywood, she was more than a pretty face. She was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, an early antifascist organization. After she left Hollywood, Ms Stuart taught herself to paint. In 1961 she had her first one-woman show, at Hammer Galleries in New York. In 1983 the master printer Ward Ritchie taught her to print, and she started a fresh career as a respected designer of hand-printed artists’ books and broadsides.... When the script of Titanic was sent to her, Ms Stuart told the Chicago Tribune, she thought, 'If I had been given plum roles like this back in the old days, I would have stayed in Hollywood.'"

The Telegraph quotes Kate Winslet, who, of course, played the younger Rose Calvert in Titanic: "I am so saddened to hear of the loss of this remarkable woman. I feel blessed to have met her, known her and to have acted alongside her. Anyone who spent time in her presence will know what an extraordinary shining light she truly was. She will be deeply missed."

The LAT's Susan King, who met Stuart this summer, notes that "she went out in fine style — in a bed she had built decades earlier from two life-size merry-go-round horses."

Glenn Kenny's found a moment in Gold Diggers of 1935 that's "both kind of gross but also, to me, incredibly endearing... These unexpected, uncontrollable, sometimes rude intrusions of the real, or maybe it's really The Real, into certain carefully circumscribed and crafted realms of fantasy form as much of cinema's allure as the production numbers in such a film as this do."

Ronald Bergan in the Guardian: "Stuart stood out as a blonde ingenue in James Whale's comedy-thriller The Old Dark House (1932), in which she wore a tight evening gown and was chased by Boris Karloff as a sinister butler. Stuart recalled how Whale told her: 'When Karloff chases you through the halls, I want you to be like a flame or a dancer.' She was both."

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr alerts us to a Life gallery and then posts this clip:


Ty Burr: "I'm reminded of three things watching this clip: 1) That Hollywood movies could get awfully hot before the censorious Production Code was enforced starting in 1933, 2) that Whale was an unparalleled master of bizarro visual style, and 3) that Stuart was right on the money when her Titanic character said, 'Wasn't I a dish?' That and more, and would that the movies had better figured out what to do with her. RIP, Gloria."

Update, 9/29: Time's Richard Corliss: "Whale, who had directed Frankenstein the year before, put Stuart in The Old Dark House, then cast her as a furtive adulteress in a 1933 nonhorror drama, The Kiss Before the Mirror. The opening scene shows Stuart at her most sublimely sexual: she glides across the patio of a country home for an ecstatic rendezvous with her lover (Walter Pidgeon); she finds him, plays an air on a grand piano, exchanges endearments and surrenders to him in one adulterous kiss — when she is shot and killed, seven minutes into the film. The rest is the guilty consciences and purred recriminations of the survivors, and the viewer is left wishing for a whole movie with the elegant woman who had a last kiss before the mirror."

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