AWFJ Women On Film – Gloria Stuart at 100, Toasted by AMPAS – Diana Saenger reports

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Some of my greatest enjoyment comes from settling into my comfy chair and watching a classic Hollywood film. This past week that pleasure was vastly surpassed when I attended the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences 100th birthday celebration for Gloria Stuart.

Anyone who doesn’t know Stuart made more than 70 feature films in her career including The Invisible Man (1932) with Claude Rains, Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) with Dick Powell and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) with Scott Randolph, surely remembers her as the older woman Rose in Titanic (1997) opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Stuart was nominated for an Academy Award for her Supporting Role in the film.

After an introduction by Academy President Tom Sherak, opening remarks continued from program host Leonard Maltin who filled in many key points of Stuart’s life including her interest in art. She established a great respect in the arts community working with decoupage, bonsai, oil paintings and fine-press art books. Her work is displayed throughout the world, including at the Getty Research Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Looking incredibly lovely, Stuart was next led on stage by her grandson Benjamin Stuart Thompson to a standing ovation. Several clips of her films were shown and every door Maltin opened, Stuart delightfully stepped through offering many details of her career and co-stars with an exuberant personality. And when her frail voice would weaken she would delightfully pantomime answers that brought one round of laughs after another from the sold-out crowd.

The audience was enthralled when she recalled an incident while filming the Titanic. She had been taken to the ship and placed in a stateroom to await her call to be on set. Many things happened – like the cast and crew getting very ill from eating a dinner Stuart did not partake of.

She ended up waiting nearly 48 hours before being summoned and was very irate about it. Stuart explained she let Jim have it, only to apologize later, as he did to her.

Many other notable quests including Carla Laemmle and Pauline Wagner, attended the Centennial Celebration. The beautiful Anne Jeffries is as stunning today as she was in the 1940s when she started her career. Probably best remembered for her role as Marion Kerby in the 1950 TV series Topper, Jeffries was charming, elegant and happy to talk about her career.

Ann Rutherford, looking adorable, was friendly and funny and entertained our table with stories from her 40+ year career about playing everything from Polly in the Andy Hardy series to Careen in Gone With The Wind. Her tales about bargaining with Louie B. Major were very amusing.

It was a truly delightful evening that proved glitz and glamour have no age limit especially among some of Hollywood’s Iconic stars.

Read more about Gloria Stuart.

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Diana Saenger

Diana Saenger, entertainment editor of the East County Gazette, also reviews film and theater for San Diego Suburban newspapers, her Saenger Syndicate sites and and others. A 2008 "Woman of the Year" for CA's 77th District, roving film historian and author of 3 books, she has interviewed more than 400 A-list celebrities and filmmakers.