“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.” Gloria Stuart
A productive leading lady in Hollywood during the 1930s, Gloria Stuart has now been revitalized thanks to her Oscar-nominating portrayal of the 101-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater in the phenomenal box office hit Titanic (1997), for which she became the oldest person ever to receive an Academy Award nomination. In her moderately brief but reputable zenith in the 30s, Stuart was known as a favorite of director James Whale, with whom she collaborated in The Old Dark House (1932), The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) and The Invisible Man (1933). Her more recent movie credits include The Love Letter (1999), The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (2001, TV) and Land of Plenty (2004).
Off screen, Stuart was named People Magazine’s one of “50 most beautiful people in the world” and was chosen as one of the 13 WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1932. In 2000, the founding member of the Screen Actors Guild was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She is a breast cancer survivor.
On a more private note, the blonde married sculptor Blair Gordon Newell from 1930 to 1934 and drama critic/screenwriter Arthur Sheekman from 1934 until his death in 1978. Five years later, she began a long relationship with printer Ward Ritchie (born in 1904) and lived together with him until his death in 1996. Ward was the best friend of Stuart’s first husband, Blair Gordon Newell. She first met him in 1930 and became reacquainted in March 1983. She has one daughter and four grandchildren.
Grandmother of 4
Childhood and Family:
In Santa Monica, California, Gloria Frances Stewart, who would later be famous as Gloria Stuart, was born on July 4, 1910 to father Fred Finch. Growing up in California, she attended Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, California, and after graduating graduated in 1927, she enrolled at University of California at San Diego in San Diego.
On June 21, 1930, Gloria tied the knot with sculptor Blair Gordon Newell, but divorced in 1934. Afterwards, she married drama critic and occasional screenwriter Arthur Sheekman (born in 1910) on July 29, 1934 in Mexico and remained with him until his death on January 12, 1978. Gloria has a daughter named Sylvia Sheekman Thompson (born on June 19, 1935, father Arthur Sheekman), who was a cookbook author, and is the grandmother of four.
Land of Plenty
Gloria Stuart started career as a stage actress in college and in other amateur productions, before making the leap into the wide screen with a supporting part in director Archie Mayo’s pleasurable Street of Women (1932), starring Kay Francis. Unfortunately, she got a career delaying because both Universal and Paramount alleged her services. After negotiation, Stuart signed with Universal Studios.
As a fascinating blonde, Stuart immediately landed roles in a variety of films and became a darling of filmmaker James Whale, appearing in his movies The Old Dark House (1932), The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) and The Invisible Man (1933). Disappointed with her career movement, Stuart ended her primary association with Universal Studios in 1934 and moved to Twentieth Century-Fox a year later, with which she worked mostly until 1939. Also in 1935, she starred with Dick Powell and Adolphe Menjou in director Busby Berkeley’s musical Gold Diggers of 1935.
By the end of 1930s, Stuart had starred in more than forty films, including Professional Soldier (1935, opposite Victor McLaglen and Freddie Bartholomew), John Ford’s The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), The Poor Little Rich Girl (1936, opposite Shirley Temple), Life Begins in College (1937, with the zany Ritz Brothers), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) and surprisingly enjoyable The Three Musketeers (1939). However, she had not become a foremost star. The wife of Arthur Sheekman then decided to depart film acting for several years to focus on her family.
Stuart made her way back to filmmaking in 1943 with a supporting part in the comedy/musical Here Comes Elmer (1943). She continued with a costarring role opposite Richard Dix in the mystery/thriller The Whistler (1944), small role in The Mad Lover/Enemy of Women (1944), before announcing her retirement from screen acting in 1946 following a performance in the comedy She Wrote the Book (1946). Pursuing another profession, this time as a painter, Stuart emerged as a successful artist with her work being exhibited throughout the USA and Europe. In 1961, she held a one-woman show in New York.
After a thirty year hiatus from acting, Stuart resurfaced in the 1975 television film The Legend of Lizzie Borden, appearing as a store customer, and regularly appeared on television over the next few years. In 1982, she returned to big screen film acting with a bit part in My Favorite Year.
Stuart’s film career finally gained real impetus in 1997, when the 87-yaer-old actress was cast as Kate Winslet’s lead character in her twilight years in the mega blockbuster Titanic. Her spectacular performance won Stuart gleaming reviews and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Following the award-nominating performance, Stuart found herself somewhat in demand. She was seen in films like The Titanic Chronicles (1999, as Mrs Helen Bishop), The Love Letter (1999, played the grandmother of Kate Capshaw), My Mother, the Spy (2000, TV), Wim Wenders’ The Million Dollar Hotel (2000, as a blasphemous bag lady) and Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (2001, TV), and had episodic roles in such shows as “The Invisible Man” (2001), “Touched by an Angel” (2001),” General Hospital” (2002, 2003) and “Miracles” (2003). Stuart’s more recent movie appearance is in Land of Plenty (2004) for director Wim Wenders.