With the success of Titanic, Gloria Stuart’s ship has finally come in. At 87, she is the oldest actress ever to have received an Oscar nomination—and it still took two hours for a makeup artist to transform her into 101-year-old Rose Calvert. “I don’t have as deep wrinkles as most people my age or as big sags, because I’ve kept my weight down,” says the 5’5″ great-grandmother of 11, whose God-given looks were enhanced only by an eyelid lift 15 years ago. “My skin,” she says, “is pretty firm.”
So is her résumé. Born and raised in Santa Monica, Stuart made her film debut in 1932’s Street of Women. In the mid-40s, disgusted with the “girl reporter, girl detective, girl overboard” roles she was getting, she left Hollywood for New York City with her second husband, the late screenwriter Arthur Sheekman (who cowrote Duck Soup and Monkey Business with the Marx Brothers and with whom she had a daughter). There she concentrated on painting. Returning to L.A. in 1974, she acted occasionally and began printing limited-edition art books. “Gloria encompasses everything about what it is to be a well-lived woman,” says Titanic costar Suzy Amis, who played her granddaughter. “She’s genuine, sassy, wise, funny and supportive.”
But a bit flummoxed by today’s beauty rigors. “I don’t even remember knowing about personal trainers,” says Stuart, a devotee of Vaseline and Saturday-night poker games who recalls gentler times with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. “We played tennis on Sundays and went to Palm Springs and lay in the sun and swam.” Now that’s a golden age.