Los Angeles (September 27, 2010) — Screen Actors Guild deeply mourns the passing of founding member Gloria Stuart, whose contributions to her union, the film industry and world of fine art were a legacy second only to the humanity by which she lived.
Stuart, who won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Old Rose in Titanic, a performance which also garnered Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, turned 100 on July 4 of this year.
She died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles.
“Not everyone receives the recognition they fully deserve in their lifetime, but the Guild was among those fortunate to know what we had before she was gone,” said Screen Actors Guild National President Ken Howard. “Gloria was an exceptional personality in every aspect, a delightful human being, and we take this loss as hard as we would that of any close family member, which she was. In every way, she exemplified the professional artist. She was a lover of life and a fighter.”
“She was an active member when the Guild negotiated our very first contract with producers, she loyally served on our National Board during some of the Guild’s most formative years, and she was a star, including in of one of the biggest films of all time,” said Screen Actors Guild National Executive Director David White. “She was beloved by us all and is a lesson in perseverance.”
Stuart was among the first actors to join the Guild in 1933, becoming member No. 873, and subsequently served for several years on the National Board. She was the sole surviving board member from the 1930s.
In addition to her Titanic honors, Stuart was the recipient of numerous career-spanning accolades prior to her death, including special acknowledgments coming from the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors (by resolution and special honor) and the Hollywood Division Board of Directors (with the Ralph Morgan Award).
The National Board had this to say in its resolution: “In recognition of Gloria Stuart’s extraordinary contributions to the founding and early governance of Screen Actors Guild; in honor of her lifelong commitment to the union through continuous membership for more than 70 years; in tribute to her joyous spirit and artist’s soul; and in gratitude for her service to the Guild and to actors, the National Board of Directors of Screen Actors Guild directs that Guild staff immediately commission and deliver a special honor to Ms. Stuart.”
The honor was bestowed August 11, with Guild members and staff delivering that gift: a framed proclamation letter from President Howard and a green malachite “biseki” (meaning “beautiful stone”) from Zaire, with a diaza base carved by artist Cliff Johnson.
In June, the SAG Hollywood Division honored Stuart with its highest honor, the Ralph Morgan Award, marking the first and final time this honor would be bestowed upon a member who served on the board with Ralph Morgan, the Guild’s first president.
In July, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saluted Stuart with a Centennial Celebration, marking the first time one of its members was honored and still living at 100 years of age.
She was on hand to accept both awards in person.
Stuart is best known for her performances in The Invisible Man, Poor Little Rich Girl, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Titanic.
She began her service as a board member in 1937. She was appointed as one of six to work out a coordinating program with the Junior Council (representing background talent) and was re-elected to a three-year term on the board.
Stuart was issued a Screen Actors Guild Life Membership in 1976. Her honorary card even made the cover of the Guild’s 75th anniversary Screen Actor magazine in Winter 2008.
She was also known for her career as a fine artist, which replaced acting during a span in which she was inactive in the film industry, although still a proud Screen Actors Guild cardholder.
Click here to view a story on Gloria Stuart from the Summer 2010 issue of Screen Actor.