She has been such a major part of my life for so long, it is hard for me to remember a time when she was not being my muse. A quote from Ruth Gordon- “Never Face The Facts” has been my motto for much of my life. He point was, if she had owned up to the fact that she was 5’1’’, not really pretty & that her drama teachers said she had no talent… well, she would never have become Ruth Gordon. I treasure & have read & re-read her 3 volumes of memoirs- Myself Among Others, My Side: The Autobiography Of Ruth Gordon, & Ruth Gordon- An Open Book. I know it started with Inside Daisy Clover, a film that had a real impact on me at an early age. My adoration for her was cemented with her Oscar winning performance in Rosemary’s Baby & Harold & Maude was the most important movie of my youth. I had a friend who was in Harold & Maude as an actor & another friend who was the set decorator on the film. I had heard all these stories about it during the filming, but I was unprepared for how much I would fall in love with this little movie that went on to be a cult favorite.
The daughter of a former ship captain, Ruth Gordon knew what she wanted to do with her life after witnessing a performance by stage actress Hazel Dawn in Boston. Over the initial objections of her father, Gordon decided upon a stage career, studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She made her debut in Peter Pan with Maude Adams: "Ruth Gordon was ever so gay as Nibs," wrote influential critic Alexander Woollcott, who became a valued & powerful friend to Gordon, & did what he could to encourage her & promote her career. With such stage hits as Seventeen, Serena Blandish, & Ethan Frome, Gordon was one of Broadway's biggest stars of the 1920s & 30s; privately, however, her life was put into shambles by the premature death of her first husband, actor Gregory Kelly. She was the toast of the West End in London during her successful run in The Country Wife. She created the role of Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker (1956), a role written for her, & the basis of the musical- Hello, Dolly!. She remarried in 1942 to the brilliant playwright Garson Kanin, 16 years younger than her. It was a union that lasted more than 4 decades.
Combining stage work with appearances in such films as Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) , Gordon began to collaborate with Kanin on writing projects, with such delightful results as the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn comedies Adam's Rib (1949) & Pat and Mike (1952), as well as the Judy Holliday vehicle- The Marrying Kind (1952). Gordon returned to the cameras for Inside Daisy Clover in 1966, before taking on role of an elderly neighbor in Rosemary's Baby (1968). When receiving an Oscar for her performance, the 72 year old Gordon brought down the house by saying, "You have no idea how encouraging a thing like this can be." Gordon was unforgettable in 2 films from my high school years: Where's Poppa? (1970), in which she played the obscenely senile mother of George Segal, & of course, Harold & Maude (1972), as the freewheeling soul mate of a death obsessed teen, played Bud Cort, who remained her lifelong friend. The story of her early life was made into a film- The Actress, directed by George Cukor, with a screenplay by Ruth Gordon. She was portrayed by Jean Simmons & Spencer Tracy played her father. She was born 113 years ago today.
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
“The great have no friends. They merely know a lot of people”.
"The kiss. There are all sorts of kisses, from the sticky confection to the kiss of death. Of them all, the kiss of an actress is the most unnerving. How can we tell if she means it or if she's just practicing?"
"The best impromptu speeches are the ones written well in advance."
"To be somebody you must last."
"Never give up; and never, under any circumstances, no matter what - never face the facts."
"If you believe, then you hang on. If you believe, it means you've got imagination, you don't need stuff thrown out on a blueprint, & never face the facts-what can stop you? If I don't make it today, I'll come in tomorrow."
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