Friday, July 7, 2017

In Memory of Ruth Ford on Her Birthday

In Memory of Ruth Ford on Her Birthday

Ruth Ford in her apartment at the Dakota 1972, NYC. Photo by Barbara Waterson
Ruth Ford, a great actress, a fashion model, a writer, an artistic muse, and a salonnière was born on this day, July 7th, in 1911, in Brookhaven Mississippi. And like her brother Charles Henri, Ruth lived a charmed life in every way. Thanks to Charles, who kept diaries starting at a very young age, I can tell you that on this day in 1924, she and Charles went to the movies on her 13th birthday. They saw a lot of movies and live theatre shows, and on this particular day they saw Scaramouche, starring Ramon Novarro ( at a movie house in San Antonio, Texas. I don’t know what Ruth or Charles thought of the movie, because Charles didn’t say, nor did he mention that it was Ruth’s birthday. All he wrote for July 7th, 1924 was: “Sister and I saw ‘Scaramouche’ at the theatre here today. I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for her. I sure would be lonesome.” A couple of weeks later, on July 25th Charles went to see Anna Christie, starring Blanche Sweet, who he called his favorite. He thought she was wonderful in the movie, but wrote that Ruth didn’t think much of it. You don’t hear many people talk about Blanche Sweet anymore, probably because six years later Greta Garbo played the same role in Anna Christie and after that all other versions might as well never have been made. Garbo later befriended Ruth, and became a favorite guest at Ruth’s legendary salons at the Dakota. All kinds of important connections were made in Ruth’s living room during those famous gatherings, and she could not have been a better hostess.

Ruth and Charles both lived a life surrounded by fascinating and often famous people, but I think that without each other they both would have indeed been very lonesome, as Charles mentioned in his diary on this day in 1924. Throughout most of their lives they wrote to each other almost daily, even when they were on the opposite sides of the earth. They saved every letter they received from each other. A lifetime of letters full of details of their days, and diaries that Charles wrote his whole life. would be enough to fill rooms. Every important event and achievement in each of their lives Ruth and Charles ran by each other, as well as a lot of mundane things.  Even during the periods when they both lived in the Dakota, they often wrote to each other. There are little notes that I’m still finding in boxes of papers, telling each other about leftovers to find in the refrigerator “that must be eaten today” or book reviews clipped out of the Times with notes attached asking, “Have you seen this?” 

Mart Crowley & Ruth Ford with Harold Stevenson. Feb 21, 1973 at dinner party Ruth Ford gave for Mart Crowley at  La  Goulue Restaurant, NYC. 
I know that Ruth must have missed all of those letters and notes from Charles in her later years after Charles passed away. It seemed to me like a long time without him, all those days when I went to the Dakota to take care her. The salons were long gone, but Ruth’s rooms still held a rich feeling of all the famous people who spent so much time with; William Faulkner, Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, too many to count. I don’t recall Ruth ever talking about whether she believed in any kind of afterlife, but if there is a way to meet our loved ones in that next place, I’m sure that Ruth and Charles will find a way to do it, and I’m sure that they’re seeing all those other people too. It’s not hard to imagine Salvador Dali, dialing Ruth’s number on his lobster phone, to invite her to some magical happening.

I want to wish Ruth the best 106th birthday, wherever she’s celebrating it. You’ll never be forgotten, Ruth. Happy birthday to you.
Ruth Ford in Dakota Apartment, NYC. 7/1/1965. Photo by The New York Times.
-Indra Tamang

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