Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little Something About Ruth

A Little Something About Ruth

The Portrait Heads of Ruth Ford by Pavel Tchelitchev (Vogue Magazine cover, March 15th, 1936)

Ruth Ford was born on this day—July 7th,1911—in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and today in her memory I would like to share something about her that quite a few people might not know. The last play Ruth was in on the Broadway was in 1980, at the Martin Beck Theatre at 302 West 45th Street. It was a short-lived production of Harold and Maude, a stage adaptation of the 1971 movie of same name, and in it Ruth played Harold’s mother, Mrs. Chasen. Apparently the play bombed, but it would have been hard to surpass a movie as popular as that one was (and still is) and even if it did bomb, the role Ruth had in that stage production makes an interesting curio from her life full of interesting achievements. 

West 45th Street is still full of theatres, including the old theatre where Ruth played Harold’s mother, the Martin Beck Theater. However, in 2003 it was re-named to honor the famous theatrical illustrator Al Hirschfeld. Martin Beck had been a Vaudeville promoter, and I know that Ruth and her brother Charles Henri Ford both loved vaudeville as children and saw as many shows as they could. Charles’s childhood diaries are filled with descriptions of the vaudeville shows they attended. 

As for Al Hirschfeld, Ruth was one of his many subjects. She was sketched by him for the 1938 run of the play The Shoemaker’s Holiday, in which she starred opposite Vincent Price. And she was again his subject in 1959 when she starred in Requiem for a Nun opposite her husband Zachary Scott. 

Ruth is part of a great theatrical history in New York, and West 45th Street will always be a street where Ruth walked, on her way to the theatre. By sharing this bit of Ruth's theatrical trivia I am doing my own small part to keep her little flame lighted. 

Wherever you are Ruth, you are still part of New York and very much not forgotten.

Happy Birthday.

July 7, 1911 – August 12, 2009


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