Ruth Gordon Edit Profile
Her movie career was intermittent, as if there were often more compelling things on her mind. She spent rather more time acting on and writing for the stage. In the thirties, she was a very striking stage actress, drawn into a bizarre affair with producer Jed Harris, by whom she had a child. Two of her plays have been filmed: Over 21 (45, Charles Vidor) and The Actress (53, George Cukor). Legend has it that she had a bit part in Camille (15, Albert Capellini), and only returned to the screen in 1940, a sharp-faced middle-aged woman: Abe Lincoln in Illinois (40, John Cromwell); Dr Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (40, William Dieterle); Two-Faced Woman (41, Cukor); Edge of Darkness (42, Lewis Milestone); and Action in the North Atlantic (42, Lloyd Bacon).
With her second husband they became a very successful comedy writing team, notably for Cukor, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn: A Double Life (48); Adam's Rib (49), among the most urbane studies of belligerent marriage; The Marrying Kind (52); and Pat and Mike (53).
Whereupon, she disappeared from films for another dozen years and returned for a grand gallery of elderly nymphs: Inside Daisy Clover (66, Robert Mulligan); Lord Love a Duck (66, George Axelrod); a supporting actress Oscar for Rosemary's Baby; What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (69, Lee II. Katzin); Where’s Poppa? (70, Carl Reiner); The Big Bus (76, James Frawley); Every Which Way But Loose (78, James Fargo); Boardwalk (79, Stephen Verona); Any Which Way You Can (80, Buddy Van Horn); My Bodyguard (80, Tony Rill); Don’t Go to Sleep (82, Richard Lang); Jimmy the Kid (83, Gan Nelson); Mugsy's Girl (85, Kevin Brodie); and Maxie (85, Paul Aaron).
She was famous in the business for being . . . very difficult and rather horrible. If you feel tempted to regard her as a sweet old lady, or a sprightly “character,” then beware the sudden swoop of witch or mystic. She is neither cozv nor sentimental; she has the authority of a woman who knows she has grown perversely sexy and commanding with age. The “secret” to Ruth Gordon is that her macabre confidante in Rosemanfs Baby (68, Roman Polanski) and the fairy godmother hippie in Harold and Maude (71, Hal Ashby) are made of the same rare metal, and are just as serenely willful. Indeed, If the actress could not have taught Polanski to be more matter-of-fact and Ashby more out-rageous, with advantage to both films. If Maude screwed, there would be no doubt about her being as awesome as the Manhattan harpy. It is an error to find Ruth Gordon quaint or eccentric. She is the Queen of Hearts, Eleetra, and Lilith all crammed into one small frame.
Married Gregory Kelly, 1918.; married Garson Kanin, December 4, 1942.