Gloria Stuart was born on a dining room table on 4th Street in Santa Monica, California on July 4, 1910. Her early roles as a performing artist were in plays she produced in her home as a young girl. She was the star of her senior class play at Santa Monica High School in 1927. Attending the University of California, at Berkeley, she continued to perform on the stage. Stuart married and move to Carmel, where she performed in a production of “The Seagull” which was transferred to the Pasadena Playhouse in 1932. It was there that talent scouts for both Paramount and Universal saw her. In a famous dispute, the heads of the two studios flipped a coin and Universal won. She played lead roles for director James Whale, including (The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)). The hard work at the studio estranged her from her first husband (Stuart helped create the Screen Actors Guild). She played the leading lady in Roman Scandals (1933), on the set of which she met her husband Arthur Sheekman. She was dissatisfied with the roles in which she was cast at Universal and played roles in films for other studios. Ultimately, a few years after having her daughter Sylvia (named after the role she was playing when she met Sheekman), she left the cinema and sought roles on the stage in New York. In the 1940s, she opened an art furniture shop where she created decoupage lamps, tables and trays, many of which sold to stars like Judy Garland and others. Later, Stuart took up oil painting and was very prolific, showing and selling her work in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Her landscapes of The Watts Towers are on permanent collection at The Los Angeles County Museum. She also took up and mastered the art of bonsai and some of her trees are on permanent collection in the Huntington Library Japanese Garden. When her husband fell ill in the 1970s (he died in 1978), she returned to acting doing a range of television series. In 1982, she returned to the screen appearing in a brief dance scene with Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year (1982).
About this time a friend, she knew half a century earlier in Carmel, who was a master printer, re-entered her life and from him, Stuart learned the craft of fine printing. She established a printing press in her home studio called Imprenta Glorias. where she created a body of fine artist’s books. Her greatest book, “Flight of Butterfly Kites” is in permanent collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Gloria Stuart won a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Oscar-nomination for her performance as the Old Rose in Titanic (1997). In July 2010, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences honored Gloria Stuart with a Centennial Celebration. She was the first such honoree to be living for a centennial. At 100 years of age, she had completed her greatest artist’s book with her great-granddaughter working as her apprentice and also her final appearance on film in her grandson’s documentary about her, entitled Secret Life of Old Rose: The Art of Gloria Stuart (2012) when she died at home at the age of 100 on September 26, 2010.
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