Daily Archives: July 4, 2010

GS

That means she’s a year younger than the character she played in her most famous film

The IMBD notes:

Titanic star Gloria Stuart will celebrate her 100th birthday in style with a film tribute at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The Oscar-nominated actress, who turns 100 on Sunday, July 4, will chat to film expert and friend Leonard Matlin as part of the evening, which will also feature film clips and memories from her long life.
The centennial celebration will take place on July 22. Stuart, who was born in 1910, made her movie debut in 1932’s Street of Women. She went on to star in many of moviemaker James Whale’s pioneering horror movies like The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man.
The actress joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, becoming member 843. She is the sole surviving board member from the 1930s. She’s the oldest performer to have been nominated for an Academy Award – for playing old Rose in Titanic.”

It will doubtless be a fabulous occasion. For in all my years living and writing about Hollywood, Gloria Stuart is without question one of the liveliest and most interesting people I’ve ever met. her career is a decidedly sigular one. Street of Women being a Kay Francis vehicle, was a fiarly standard start for an up and comer. But things really took off with The Old Dark House.

As you can see Whale used her beauty and grace to great advantage in this masterpiece of serious camp. And she more than holds her own in a powerhouse cast that includes Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton and most important of all the supremely menacing Boris Karloff.

Gloria connected with Whale’s sense of humor, and sense of cinema, right away. He put her to great use as Paul Lukas’ faithless wiffe in The Kiss Before The Mirror and Claude Rains’ ill-treated fiancee in The Invisible Man.

Needless to say talents as original as Whale’s in Hollywood were as rare as hen’s teeth. Consequently she was often cast as a very conventional love interest, as in Roman Scandals — a lavish Eddie Cantor musical where she’s stranded with the gorgeous, if slightly stiff, David Manners, while Eddie carries on with The Goldwyn girls.

Clearly she took that song’s advice. She also married the film’s screenwriter Arthur Sheekman, a man whose credits range from Duck Soup to Some Came Running. The marriage was considerable,success, lasing until his death in 1978. The had a daughter, Sylvia. Their grandchildren are David Oxley Thompson ; Benjamin Stuart Thompson ; Dinah Vaughn Thompson ; and Amanda Greenleaf Thompson . And then there are twelve great-grandchildren: Sarah-Leah Thompson; Jacob Thompson; Samuel Thompson; Deborah Thompson; Tzipporah Thompson; Maggie Thompson; Dylan, Weston, Stuart, Jasen, Frannie, and Katie.

In the 30’s Gloria had one more truly teriffic role. In John Ford’s masterful The Prisoner of Shark Island she plays the wife of Dr. Mudd (Warner Baxter), the unlucky physician who fixed the leg of fleeing assassin John Wilkes Booth. Her big scene is the public execution of the co-conspirators in the plot against Abraham Lincoln. It isn’t until the last minute that Mrs. Mudd learns that her husband’s life is to be spared, and Glora gives it her all. (There’s a teriffic Masters of Cinema DVD of the film, that includes a supplement in whicb yours truly appears) Outside of that Gloria looks lovely as Dick Powell sings “The Words Are in My Heart” to her in Gold Diggers of 1935 — a film best remembered for

Clearly Hollywood was stumped for what to do with someone so beautiful and talented. So they cast her opposite Shirley Temple in Poor Little Rich Girl and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
No wonder that after She Wrote the Book, a 1946 comedy that finds Gloria trying to keep her head up against the raucous comic tide of Joan Davis, Jack Oakie, Mischa Auer, she threw in the towel.

But prior to Sheekman’s passing she took it up again via small roles in the Elizabeth Montgomery-starred TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden
and the memorable 1977 TV shocker In the Glitter Palace.. But her real “comeback” was her wordless turn dancing at the Copa with Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year. After that the de rigeur Murder She Wrote, and a turn in the Goldie Hawn comedy Wildcats.

And then —

Since Titanic she’s made several small turns in this or that (twice for Wim Wenders), my favorite being her playing herself in Chris & Don: A Love Story, as it highlighted her career as an artist (she has painted for many years and creates one-of-a-books inher garage-studio) and overall sophisticate of a kind “they don’t make anymore.”

And oh how I wish they did.

Gloria’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm co-star will sing and dance us out, accompanied by the great Bill Robinson.