It’s certainly been a sad week for classic film fans. In the past few days, we’ve lost a centenarian, an outstanding director, and one brilliant actor.
Gloria Stuart, star of Gold Diggers of 1935, Dies at 100
Even though Gloria Stuart spent most of her career relegated to B-movies, she certainly had a life story worthy of being an A-list movie. When she first came to Hollywood in the early 1930s, she was lured out by Universal Studios, who claimed they had big plans for her. She made a few notable movies with Universal like The Invisible Man (1933), but their big plans for her largely fell flat. After Universal, she sort of bounced around for a while and made a few big movies like Poor Little Rich Girl and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm with Shirley Temple and starred in Gold Diggers of 1935 directed by Busby Berkeley. Eventually she gave up working in movies and went back to performing on the stage before giving up acting all together in her mid-40’s to become a painter. She returned to acting in the 1970s and appeared in My Favorite Year with Peter O’Toole in 1982. Her career was given a real boost in 1997 when she played older Rose in Titanic, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and made her the oldest Oscar nominee of all time (she was 87 years old at the time). She was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000 and wrote her autobiography, “I Just Kept Hoping”, in 1999. She quipped, “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.”
Gloria just turned 100 on July 4, 2010, making 2010 a year that saw two Oscar nominees turn 100 (the other being Luise Rainer). Shortly before her birthday, she was honored by The Screen Actors Guild to celebrate her career. She died in her sleep on September 26, 2010. I have mixed feeling about her being primarily remembered for Titanic, but ultimately I’m glad it revived interest in her career.
Arthur Penn (1922-2010)
There is no medium Arthur Penn couldn’t direct. He could direct film, he could direct live theater, and he could direct television. After seeing Citizen Kane, Arthur Penn was inspired to give up running his father’s watch repair business and turn his attention to directing. He started out directing on television, but in 1958 made his feature film debut with The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman. In his second film, The Miracle Worker, he directed Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in Oscar winning performances. Two of his most iconic movies, Mickey One and Bonnie and Clyde, featured Warren Beatty and a distinct French New Wave influence. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the definitive 1960s films and, along with movies like Easy Rider and The Graduate, helped usher in a new era in film making.
In honor of Arthur, TCM has changed their October 2nd schedule to include Mickey One at 6:15 PM before Bonnie and Clyde at 8:00 PM.
Tony Curtis (1925-2010)
Of the three recent deaths, Tony Curtis is the saddest one for me. He was such a remarkable performer and I love so many of his movies like Some Like it Hot, Sweet Smell of Success, The Great Race, and Sex and the Single Girl. Some Like it Hot is one of my absolute favorite movies. I saw Some Like it Hot for the first time when I was a kid and it’s one of the movies I credit with turning me onto classic films in the first place.
I can’t imagine there’s a classic movie fan out there who seriously doesn’t know who Tony Curtis is. When you’re talking about a star whose body of work includes things like Spartacus, Some Like it Hot, Sweet Smell of Success, The Defiant Ones, The Great Race, Trapeze, Operation Petticoat, it just feels like the movies do all the talking for you. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do:
TCM has changed their schedule for October 10th to honor Tony Curtis with a full day of his movies. To get the updated schedule, check the “What’s on TCM: October 2010” post.