Summer 2010

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“It seems to be half of my life that I’ve been here with you, hoping, praying and being very, very grateful …” Gloria Stuart at the 2010 Ralph Morgan Awards. no Screen Actors Guild. Te union with American Federation of Labor jurisdiction over film actors was Actors’ Equity Association. But Equity had failed to convince O n a recent Saturday in June, more than 400 Hollywood Division Screen Actors Guild members joined in a spontaneous rendition of “Happy Birthday” to founding member Gloria Stuart. Stuart herself chimed in with a cheery “Happy birthday to me!” Two weeks later, on July 4, Stuart turned 100, a remarkable feat for someone who has had a remarkable career that has leſt a lasting footprint on this union. Te occasion was the presentation to Stuart of the Ralph Morgan Award, the Hollywood Division’s most prestigious honor. In November of 1933, Stuart was the 873rd person to join the Guild. She was a board member from 1937 to 1941, and has been a life member since 1971. In addition, Stuart is a Screen Actors Guild Award winner (as well as an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee) for Titanic (1997), author of the autobiography I Just Kept Hoping (1999) and a recipient of a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (2000). Her award was historic and unprecedented, marking both the first time and the final time it has been given to a member who served on the board with Ralph Morgan, the Guild’s first president. Today, she is the Guild’s sole surviving board member of the 1930s. In early 1932, when Stuart was signed to a contract by Universal Studios and made her film debut at age 21, there was 20 SCREEN ACTOR - Summer 2010 the major Hollywood producers to sign a contract with them to represent film actors, culminating in an unsuccessful Hollywood strike in 1929. In 1932, contracts for freelance and day players (but not contract players like Stuart) were issued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No union membership was required for any actor in motion pictures, abuses of “non-stars” abounded, working hours increased aſter the arrival of “talkies” and the Academy was the sole organization to which an actor could bring a formal complaint for arbitration. In 1998, Stuart recalled her early film days to Titanic director James Cameron for the SAG Foundation Legacy Program. Her first day on set was on loan-out at Warner Bros.: “… [Te film was] called Street of Women (1932) and it was about the fashion world. I played an ingénue. So I wasn’t nervous. I had made a screen test at Paramount and the camera didn’t bother me. I was so busy being what I was supposed to be. I knew I was a good actress and beautiful and healthy. I was on my way. So I walked onto the set and the director [41-year-old Archie Mayo] was sitting there with his assistant. I said ‘Good morning,’ [and] he said, ‘Hi, Gloria.’ He had a big triple-decker At home with her recently completed artist’s book called Gloria Stuart’s Flight of the Butterfly, a combination of crafts: collage, painting, poetry, silk screening and printing. sandwich, a club sandwich…in his hand. So I couldn’t shake hands with him. I didn’t know what else to say, so I kind of turned away, and he goosed me with one of those [joy] buzzers.” Tere was not always “joy” on set: Long hours, no required breaks and inadequate rest periods were the norm for actors at the time. “Well, talkies had not been in for very long,” Stuart Kevin Parry

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