Best known, and Oscar nominated, for her supporting role as "Old Rose" in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, Stuart began her career under contract with Universal and, later, Twentieth Century Fox in the 1930s. She retired from acting in the 1940s after she grew weary of being forced to play the same roles over and over, "girl reporter, girl detective, girl overboard," she said in an interview in the Chicago Tribune when Titanic was released.
Born Gloria Frances Stewart on July 4, 1910, in Santa Monica, California, Stuart's acting career went in fits and starts, most prolifically from 1932 to 1939 followed by a five-year break before she made three more films, Here Comes Elmer (1944), The Whistler (1945) and She Wrote the Book (1946). Although she'd still occasionally work on stage and in television, it would be 50 years before she went back to the big screen.
Stuart always blamed her faltering career on a single misstep she made early on. In 1932, she appeared in The Seagull at the Pasadena Playhouse. Both Paramount and Universal had scouts in the audience who made her a contract offer. She took the highest one, from Universal, not realizing the real cache was with Paramount. Instead of starting her career opposite rising Paramount stars like Gary Cooper, she made movies with relative unknowns and became one herself.
Her most memorable films were two she made for the director James Whale, The Old Dark House (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933), and another directed by John Ford, The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). But her appearance in Titanic, one that brought her out of retirement and introduced her to a new generation of fans, was the biggest feather in her cap.
On the Titanic Oscar night in 1998, Gloria Stuart said, "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."
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