Ruth Gordon, American film, stage, and television actress, as well as a screenwriter and playwright
Ruth Gordon Jones (October 30, 1896 – August 28, 1985), known as Ruth Gordon, was an American film, stage, and television actress, as well as a screenwriter and playwright.
- Gordon began her career performing on Broadway at age nineteen.
- Known for her nasal voice and distinctive personality, she gained international recognition and critical acclaim for film roles that continued into her seventies and eighties.
- Her later work included performances in Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Harold and Maude (1971), and the Clint Eastwood films Every Which Way but Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980).
In addition to her acting career, Gordon wrote numerous plays, film scripts, and books, most notably co-writing the screenplay for the 1949 film Adam’s Rib.
- Gordon won an Academy Award, an Emmy, and two Golden Globe awards for her acting, as well as receiving three Academy Award nominations for her writing.
- She was signed to a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film contract for a brief period in the early 1930s but did not make a movie for the company until her supporting role in Greta Garbo’s final film, Two-Faced Woman (1941).
- Gordon had better luck at other studios in Hollywood, appearing in supporting roles in a string of films, including Abe Lincoln in Illinois (as Mary Todd Lincoln), Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (as Mrs. Ehrlich) and Action in the North Atlantic, in the early 1940s. Gordon’s Broadway acting appearances in the 1940s included Iris in Paul Vincent Carroll’s The Strings, My Lord, Are False and Natasha in Katharine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic’s revival of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, as well as leading roles in her own plays, Over Twenty-One and The Leading Lady.
Gordon married her second husband, writer Garson Kanin, who was 16 years her junior, in 1942.
- The couple collaborated on the screenplays for the Katharine Hepburn – Spencer Tracy films Adam’s Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952). Both films were directed by George Cukor.
- They were close friends of Hepburn and Tracy, and incorporated elements of their real personalities in the films.
- Gordon and Kanin received Academy Awards nominations for both of those screenplays, as well as for that of a prior film, A Double Life (1947), which was also directed by Cukor.
On August 28, 1985, Ruth Gordon died at her summer home in Edgartown, Massachusetts, following a stroke at age 88.
- Her husband of 43 years, Garson Kanin, was at her side and said that even her last day of life was typically full, with walks, talks, errands, and a morning of work on a new play.
- She had made her last public appearance only two weeks before, at a benefit showing of the film Harold and Maude, and had recently finished acting in four films.
- “She had a great gift for living the moment,” said Glenn Close, who co-starred in Maxie, one of Gordon’s last films, “… and it kept her ageless.”
In November 1984, a small theater in Westboro, Massachusetts and an outdoor amphitheater in Quincy, Massachusetts were named in her honor.
Words of Wisdom
Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.