The CLASSIC CORONERS are Ashley Jane Carruthers & Rosalie Kicks
“Dissecting films of our favorite dead guys and gals from the bygone era.”
The Old Sport, Rosalie Kicks:
Before Dr. Ashley Jane Carruthers suggested watching The Actress, I had no idea that Ruth Gordon was more than just an actress. Of corpse! I knew her from her Academy Award winning role in Rosemary's Baby and the endearing portrayal of Maude, in Harold and Maude but her career as a screenwriter was news to me. In fact, before she was even recognized for her acting, she was first nominated by the Academy for writing flicks such as: A Double Life, Adam's Rib, and Pat & Mike.
For this month's Classic Coroners, we decided to examine one of the screenplays that Ruth Gordon wrote, The Actress. An autobiographical snapshot in time of Ruth's life as a young determined girl with the dream of being on the stage, the dream of being an actress. During the course of the 90-minute film, the viewer has the opportunity to learn of Ruth's home life and relationship with her father, a man with high expectations for a daughter he barely seems to know. After he loses his job, money becomes tight, but Ruth still perseveres with what she refers to as her destiny, to be an actress. Even when her father wants her to marry the affluent Fred Whitmarsh (played by Anthony Perkins, his screen debut), Ruth resists. Nothing will come between her future of being on the stage.
This movie made me feel so many emotions. I related to her story quite a bit. A passionate girl with a dream. A loving father who you know deep down only wants to see the best for you, but his idea of success isn't what you have in mind. Having people around you question your choices and wonder, why you just can’t be “normal”. I experienced much of the same growing up and found her story to be so encouraging. It spoke to me and told me: just keep going, Kicks, and one day you will make the movie of your dreams.
After viewing this film and learning of Ruth's other dabblings in screenwriting, Ashley Jane and I found ourselves traveling down a rabbit hole via the interwebs in search of anything we could read about Ruth. This led to us both purchasing her autobiography, My Side, which I can’t wait to start reading on my upcoming vacation! After our exploration, we both realized if there was anyone we would want to share a candlelit dinner with it would be Ruth. She is someone that we would polish the silver for, don our favorite periwinkle-blue dress, and graciously host a dinner party for. Ruth seemed like she was such a fascinating, dazzling person, much deserving of a homemade coconut cake.
A Dinner Party for Ruth
Dr. Ashley Jane Carruthers:
I’ll never forget the moment when Ruth waltzed through the front door. When I say waltzed, I *mean* waltzed. Whaddya think, she just walks around like a normie person? No way. She looked at me with the brightest eyes and most youthful grin and said, “Well I brought a bottle of rosé, but the nice young girl at the store told me about ‘frosé’ - what is that, some kinda Philly thing? I dunno, wanna be a doll and toss this in the ice box for me, would ya?”
She was here! Acccctually here, in front of us. I had so so many things I wanted to ask her. What made you fall in love with the theatre? When did you start to write? What’s the deal with Perkins’ fur - did your fella reallyyyy wear a full-length fur coat? Are you actually Maude in real life? What’s your favorite song? Celebrity Roasts - funny or embarrassing? ....I could go on and on.
Instead of saying anything, I stood around like a goon with starry eyes, still holding the bottle she brought. I looked at Kicks while Ruth shuffled over to the record collection. (Yes, she shuffles.) “Lemme see here...”
The Old Sport, Rosalie Kicks:
Of corpse! Ruth picked the perfect mood music for our gathering: Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra (who she referred to as ol' Frankie), and Doris Day. Being that Ashley Jane and I feel we were born in the wrong era, there were no objections from us. We love to hear the glorious sounds made by people who now find their residence in coffins. It's impossible to feel uncomfortable around Ruth. She has this way about her that simply puts you at ease and she is kind of a walking storybook. With her eccentric style, as Ashley Jane mentioned, the questions were endless. Ruth is an inspiration. If there is one thing that will always stick with me, it is that you truly can do anything if you put your mind to it. Ruth never let age get in the way. She put it best when she said, “If I let one thing stop me, it’ll be another and another and another.” She wanted to act, so she did. She wanted to write screenplays, so she did. She wanted to write a novel, so she did. Nothing could get in her way.
After a bit of chit-chat, it was time for the meal. Ruth was so accommodating to my vegetarianism and didn't mind the lack of protein. Fortunately, it pleased her to find that we would be having macaroni and cheese. So much so, she did a little jig as it came out of the oven.
Dr. Ashley Jane Carruthers:
As the night continued, I worked up the nerve to ask her the main question on my mind, “Ruth, how can I be more like you?” She laughed and said, “Oh, whaddya wanna be like me for? Go out and be YOU!” I kind of knew she was going to say this. I told her it was hard to be me. I don’t have the guts. There is still a lot about me I don’t understand. What she said next, I’ll remember forever. “Anything is credible to me, except tryin’ to understand anythin’. That, I think, is incredible. And, I think, if you’re an adult, it’s extremely juvenile to want to understand anythin’. All ya can hope to do is FEEL somethin’.” It was then that I truly *got* it. The words she wrote in The Actress. The life she lived. That could be me too, right? It could be you! I hope it is you! Ruth showed us that it’s never too late. “You wanna write about ol’ dead folks, you do it! You wanna live a life as film, you do it! You wanna drink frosé, you do it!”
That is the biggest lesson I have learned from Ruth. As the second side of the Sinatra record came to an end, I felt like a different person. Strengthened. With a little more courage to follow my dreams.
Ruth is truly a gem!
“I am going to be somebody wonderful that you read about. And nobody can stop me. Not even my family.” – Ruth Gordon, The Actress
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