Thursday, November 25, 2010

On the 27th day of Christmas, Babbitt's Books gave to me . . .

. . . I Just Kept Hoping, signed and authored by the inimitable Gloria Stuart.

When I picked this book off the floor yesterday to put it back into its rightful category, I admit that I didn't quite know who Gloria Stuart was. This actress enjoyed her Hollywood heydays some five decades before I was born, and I'm not as well-versed as I would like to be in classic films. In my defense, James Cameron didn't know who she was, either, when he cast her in a certain 1997 film.

Yup. Titanic.

Then in her mid-eighties, Stuart apparently had to undergo more than two hours in the make-up chair each day in order to look aged enough for her role as the approximately 100-year-old Rose. That's what I call a tough lady!

Stuart's film credentials from the Golden Age of Hollywood include The Invisible Man, Busby Berkeley's over-the-top Gold Diggers of 1935, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She acted alongside the likes of Boris Karloff, Lionel Barrymore, Claude Rains, and Shirley Temple. 

A number of fascinating projects absorbed her after her Hollywood career waned. She entertained troops during World War II, operated a small business called D├ęcor Ltd., wrote seventeen screenplays, dabbled in oil painting, survived breast cancer, and practiced the Japanese art of bonsai. Perhaps most interesting to readers of this blog, she fell in love with a printer named Ward Ritchie a few years after her husband (famed Marx Brothers scriptwriter, Arthur Sheekman) died of Alzheimer's disease in 1978. Ritchie ran the Ward Ritchie Press. Stuart asked him to teach her how to use an antique hand press, then went ahead and bought her own, soon adding printer and book artist to her already impressive list of accomplishments. Her press was called Imprenta Glorias and with it she created fine artists' books, most of which are now in museums or private collections. When the heavy press with its small type became too cumbrous for her to handle anymore, she gave it--and her collection of rare type--to Mills College

From there, she accepted a modest role in what would go on to become the highest-grossing film of all time. Her acting in Titanic earned her an Academy Award nomination. Speaking of milestones, she's still the oldest actress to have been nominated for that award. On July 4th of this year, she celebrated her 100th birthday at a party hosted by James Cameron and his wife. Two months ago to this day, on September 26th, she passed away in her sleep from respiratory failure. It just so happens that she did so at the very age of the Titanic character whom she so lovingly portrayed. 

So is there a Hollywood buff on your list this year? A loved one who loves Titanic? A strong lady who'd like to be inspired by the life of another strong lady? Then this book is for you.

Title: I Just Kept Hoping
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Year: 1999
Features: Signed By Author, First Printing, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good
Price: $15

You might also like these related books:

Author: Lawrence Clark Powell
Title: Island of Books
Publisher: Ward Ritchie Press
Year: 1951
Condition: Very Good
Price: $20

Title: Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic, The Ocean's Greatest Disaster
Publisher: L.H. Walter
Year: 1912
Features: Memorial Edition
Condition: Good
Price: $35

Author: Maurice Chevalier
Title: I Remember It Well
Publisher: Macmillan
Year: 1970
Features: Signed by Author
Condition: Very Good-
Price: $15

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