The Book of Ruth
This isn’t a movie recommendation for everyone -- however, for those to whom it sounds interesting it’s highly enjoyable with great pedigree, and doesn’t get shown often.
The movie in question is a charming 1953 film, The Actress. It’s written by Ruth Gordon, which in turn is based on her semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in a conservative, straight-laced New England home at the turn-of-the-century and wanting to become an actress against everyone – at home and in town -- saying she’s foolish. It stars Jean Simmons (who was my dad’s favorite actress…) and Spencer Tracy as her father, and directed by George Cukor. And features Teresa Wright and Anthony Perkins. As I said, it’s got great pedigree.
And though it doesn’t air often, Turner Classic Movies will show this tomorrow, very early morning in Los Angeles, Tuesday, January 31 – at 4 AM Pacific Coast time (7 AM in the East). So, if it intrigues you, set the DVR. I don't suspect most of you will be up to watch, especially out here.
For those who don’t know Ruth Gordon, she was a spitfire actress who is probably best known for starring in Harold and Maude, and also won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1969 for Rosemary’s Baby. She had three other Oscar nominations – though only one for acting, in Inside Daisy Clover. She also has two nominations for writing: she co-wrote the classic comedies, Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike, with her husband, the writer-director Garson Kanin. (She got an Emmy nomination, as well, as a guest star on the series Rhoda, playing the mother of the unseen Carlton the Doorman.) Though personally, I particularly think of her fondly for playing an Agatha Christie-type novelist who’s the pixie-ish murderer on a very good episode of Columbo, getting revenge on the young man she is certain killed her niece. Her stage, screen and TV career – which began in silent movies – is much too long to add more than that, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning that she played Mary Todd Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, opposite Raymond Massie.
So, as a reminder, here she is in a scene with Peter Falk from Columbo, “Try and Catch Me” –
Anyway, back to The Actress, it’s very enjoyable. One of the fascinating things (which shows Jean Simmons’ great skill) is that Simmons is one of the great screen beauties, but playing a character who everyone ridicules for trying to be an actress because “You’re so funny looking” – and yet you buy her performance. (No, you don’t buy that she’s funny looking, that’s impossible, but you believe that everyone thinks she is, and that, as a gawky teenage girl, she accepts that and thinks so, too, but doesn’t care because it’s her dream to be an actress)
How semi-autobiographical is it? The character’s name is “Ruth.”
Though it’s not a classic film, if it's the type of movie that interests you, it's worth checking out because it's a very good one (6.4 stars on iMDB), and little-known that doesn’t get shown often -- with great pedigree of those involved.
Here's the trailer. It doesn’t do the movie justice, but gets across its sensibility –
And to close things off, it’s only appropriate to have Ruth Gordon’s Oscar acceptance speech – with it’s now-famous first line –
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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