, the elegant actress who found fame late in her seven decade Hollywood career when she earned an Oscar nomination for her role as the elderly Rose in 1997's Titanic
, passed away on Sunday in her West Los Angeles home. She was 100 years old.
Born Gloria Frances Stewart on July 4, 1910 in Santa Monica, California, she grew up in southern California and attended Santa Monica High School and the University of California at Berkeley, where she first became interested in acting. After dropping out of college and marrying Blair Gordon Newell in 1930, she continued to explore acting in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse. Hollywood studios began to take notice of the petite blonde actress, and she soon signed a contract with Universal Studios, but not before changing her surname from "Stewart" to "Stuart" as she believed it would look better on a theater marquee.
Her first appearance at Universal was in 1932's Street of Women
, the same year in which she was named one of WAMPAS Baby Stars (young women the industry believed had the most potential for movie stardom.) She appeared in varied roles assigned to her by the studio, but it was her new friendship with director James Whale
that led to her most memorable roles from this era, in the horror/thrillers The Old Dark House
, Kiss Before the Mirror
and The Invisible Man
. Underutilized at Universal, she moved on to Warner Brothers
, where she would work regularly through the end of the decade, with notable movies including Gold Diggers of 1935
and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
In 1934, she divorced Blair Gordon Newell, and in the same year married screenwriter Arthur Sheekman
, who wrote movies for the Marx Brothers
. It was at dinner one evening with Harpo
and Groucho Marx
that Ms. Stuart learned about a new group that they and other actors were forming - the Screen Actors Guild. She believed actors needed protection from working too many long hours and joined their cause, becoming one of SAG's founding members. In 1935, Gloria and Arthur welcomed a daughter, Sylvia, and in 1939 the family left on a tour around the world, only returning home to California when World War II began. It was during this time in Europe that Ms. Stuart became interested in art, and in the years that her acting career waned she focused instead on creating furniture, decoupage, painting and eventually fine art printing.
Ms. Stuart retired from acting in 1946, and remained so until 1975, when she resumed her career with a role in the TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden
. After the death of her husband Arthur in 1978, she appeared in a variety of roles through the remained of the 1970s and 1980s, including "Murder, She Wrote"
, "The Waltons"
, My Favorite Year
, Mass Appeal
, and Wildcats
It was her role in James Cameron's 1997 epic Titanic
, however, that gained her massive stardom, with her portrayal of the 101-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater remembering the final hours of the Titanic as intertwined with meeting her first love, captured the public's imagination and affection. Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. At the age of 87, the nomination - her first - made her the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000, and detailed her more than 70 years in the film industry in her biography "I Just Kept Hoping". Her work in Titanic
was followed by a steady stream of roles in TV and film, most notably two films with director Wim Wenders
: The Million Dollar Hotel
in 2000, and Land of Plenty