Actress The (1953) – full review!
Perhaps best known today as an Academy Award winning Best Supporting Actress Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby (1968)) wrote an autobiographical play titled Years Ago that she adapted for the screen to make this comedy drama that features the film debut of Anthony Perkins. Directed by George Cukor the story is about Gordon’s desire to become an actress despite her upbringing in a lower middle class home near Boston. Outstanding performances by Spencer Tracy as her former sailor now working class money conscious father Clinton Jones Jean Simmons as Ruth Teresa Wright as Miss Gordon Jones’s sympathetic and understanding mother (that obviously loves Clinton dearly) Annie and Perkins as Ruthie’s slightly older boyfriend Fred Whitmarsh are what make this film which received an Oscar nomination for Walter Plunkett’s B&W Costume Design worthwhile.
Around the time she was to graduate from high school in 1914 Ruth ‘Ruthie’ Gordon Jones (Simmons) revealed her dream to become an actress to her hardened (but ultimately loving) father Clinton (Tracy) and more supportive mother Annie (Wright). Having been around the world on ships by the time he was his daughter’s age Clinton is skeptical that Ruth has what it takes to be successful in a profession that (in those days) required so much traveling especially since he’d never witnessed any abilities in his daughter. He had begun to worry about this to the extent of arranging admission to a trade school for her with Emma Glavey (Mary Wickes); Ian Wolfe plays Mr. Bagley. There’s a precious sequence in which the Jones’s go to an amateur gymnastics exhibition at the local YMCA-like facility; Jackie Coogan appears uncredited as an audience member sitting behind Ruth and Annie that laughs while Clinton participates with younger men while his pants fall down. Later after confessing her dream Ruth is asked to perform a scene for her parents unaware of the fact that she has no demonstrable talent or gift. Instead she comes off as a schoolgirl whose head has been filled with fantasies of a life far away from her own reality.
The movie’s best scene features Clinton revealing to his family how he came to be who he is e.g. his difficult upbringing that lead to his early life at sea etc.. Still after much consternation (including by Fred whose proposal to Ruth is spurned by her; she’s grateful to be asked and says that she’ll cling the memory when she’s an old maid some day) and hardship – a layoff after 20 years because of a dispute with his boss over a $100 bonus that he needed Clinton decides to hock his most prized possession from his seagoing days to fund his daughter’s trip to (and temporary room & board in) New York.