The Actress (1953)

89-90 mins | Comedy | 25 September 1953

Director:

George Cukor

Writer:

Ruth Gordon

Cinematographer:

Harold Rosson

Editor:

George Boemler

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Years Ago , Fame and Fortune and Father and the Actress . The film was based on actress/writer Ruth Gordon's autobiographical play, Years Ago . Before writing the play, Gordon published reminiscences of her youth in The Atlantic Monthly under the title "Look in Your Glass" (Aug--Oct 1939). As portrayed in the film, Gordon (1896--1985) grew up in Wollaston, MA, and surprised her parents with her desire to be an actress. Gordon made her Broadway debut in 1915, and enjoyed a successful stage career before marrying writer Garson Kanin, with whom she collaborated on the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for A Double Life , Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike (see below). Gordon won an Academy Award for her performance in Rosemary's Baby in 1968, and published three memoirs and a novel.
       According to 1951 HR news items, Debbie Reynolds was originally cast as "Ruth." HR news items also include Russ Saunders' acrobatic troupe and stage actress Mary Young in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location at Inglewood High School in Southern California. The Actress was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Black and White). Anthony Perkins made his motion picture debut in the film. According to a 2 Dec 1953 Var news item, the FBI was called in when the manager of a Columbus, OH movie theater received threatening letters demanding that The Actress ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Years Ago , Fame and Fortune and Father and the Actress . The film was based on actress/writer Ruth Gordon's autobiographical play, Years Ago . Before writing the play, Gordon published reminiscences of her youth in The Atlantic Monthly under the title "Look in Your Glass" (Aug--Oct 1939). As portrayed in the film, Gordon (1896--1985) grew up in Wollaston, MA, and surprised her parents with her desire to be an actress. Gordon made her Broadway debut in 1915, and enjoyed a successful stage career before marrying writer Garson Kanin, with whom she collaborated on the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for A Double Life , Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike (see below). Gordon won an Academy Award for her performance in Rosemary's Baby in 1968, and published three memoirs and a novel.
       According to 1951 HR news items, Debbie Reynolds was originally cast as "Ruth." HR news items also include Russ Saunders' acrobatic troupe and stage actress Mary Young in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location at Inglewood High School in Southern California. The Actress was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Black and White). Anthony Perkins made his motion picture debut in the film. According to a 2 Dec 1953 Var news item, the FBI was called in when the manager of a Columbus, OH movie theater received threatening letters demanding that The Actress no longer be shown. The author of the letters called the film "obscene and disgusting," complaining specifically about the scene in which Spencer Tracy's pants fall down during a gymnastics routine. The outcome of the investigation is not known. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Aug 1953.
---
Daily Variety
4 Aug 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 Aug 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 52
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 53
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 53
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 53
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 53
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 53
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
4 Aug 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Aug 53
p. 1941.
New York Times
13 Oct 53
p. 34.
Variety
5 Aug 53
p. 6.
Variety
2 Dec 1953.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreographer
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Kay Williams
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Years Ago by Ruth Gordon, as produced by Max Gordon (New York, 3 Dec 1946).
SONGS
"My Beautiful Lady," music by Ivan Caryll, lyrics by C. M. S. McLellan.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Fame and Fortune
Father and the Actress
Years Ago
Release Date:
25 September 1953
Production Date:
mid December 1952--mid January 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 August 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2844
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
89-90
Length(in feet):
8,118
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16357
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 1913, seventeen-year-old Ruth Gordon Jones watches breathlessly from the balcony of a Boston theater as stage star Hazel Dawn performs in a lavish musical number. That night, at her family's modest apartment in Wollaston, Ruth listens as her gruff father Clinton, from whom she has kept her own theatrical aspirations a secret, complains to her mother Annie about their financial difficulties. Ruth is thrilled when she receives an autographed photograph of Hazel, and tells her boyfriend, Harvard student Fred Whitmarsh, that she intends to become a successful actress. Meanwhile, Clinton, a former sailor who now works in a factory, informs his wife that he has decided Ruth should attend the Boston Physical Culture Institute and train for a career as a physical education teacher. Ruth later receives a letter from Hazel inviting her for a visit at the theater following the Wednesday matinee, and she feigns illness to get out of school. Several days later, while going to an amateur gymnastics exhibition at the YMCA with her parents, Ruth receives a telegram stating that Hazel has arranged an interview for her with well-known director John Craig. Ruth is distracted throughout the exhibition, although she is mortified by Clinton's comic participation in the event. When the family gets home, Clinton insists on filling out Ruth's application to the School of Physical Culture right away, and with Annie's encouragement, Ruth timidly tells her father that she wants to go on the stage. Clinton admits he has always enjoyed the theater, but remains skeptical about his diminutive daughter's potential. Ruth puts on a hasty performance for her parents and tells them about her upcoming interview ... +


In 1913, seventeen-year-old Ruth Gordon Jones watches breathlessly from the balcony of a Boston theater as stage star Hazel Dawn performs in a lavish musical number. That night, at her family's modest apartment in Wollaston, Ruth listens as her gruff father Clinton, from whom she has kept her own theatrical aspirations a secret, complains to her mother Annie about their financial difficulties. Ruth is thrilled when she receives an autographed photograph of Hazel, and tells her boyfriend, Harvard student Fred Whitmarsh, that she intends to become a successful actress. Meanwhile, Clinton, a former sailor who now works in a factory, informs his wife that he has decided Ruth should attend the Boston Physical Culture Institute and train for a career as a physical education teacher. Ruth later receives a letter from Hazel inviting her for a visit at the theater following the Wednesday matinee, and she feigns illness to get out of school. Several days later, while going to an amateur gymnastics exhibition at the YMCA with her parents, Ruth receives a telegram stating that Hazel has arranged an interview for her with well-known director John Craig. Ruth is distracted throughout the exhibition, although she is mortified by Clinton's comic participation in the event. When the family gets home, Clinton insists on filling out Ruth's application to the School of Physical Culture right away, and with Annie's encouragement, Ruth timidly tells her father that she wants to go on the stage. Clinton admits he has always enjoyed the theater, but remains skeptical about his diminutive daughter's potential. Ruth puts on a hasty performance for her parents and tells them about her upcoming interview with Craig, but Clinton insists that she finish high school before seeking work. The following day, Clinton tells Annie that he is worried about his job security, as one of his co-workers, Dan, may have been forced to retire early. Meanwhile, Fred encounters Ruth outside of Craig's office and proposes to her, but she gently declines his offer. That evening, a crestfallen Ruth returns home and tells her parents that Craig was not impressed with her. Just then, Clinton gets a phone call from Dan, who assures him that he chose to retire. Greatly relieved, Clinton comforts Ruth and promises to give her half of his annual bonus so that she can study acting in New York after graduation. Explaining his determination to help his daughter get a start in life, Clinton speaks for the first time about his own miserable childhood, his mother's suicide and how he ran away from his cruel great-aunts when he was eight years old and became a cabin boy on a whaling vessel. On the day Ruth is to leave for New York, however, Clinton comes home and tells Annie he has quit his job after an argument with his boss. Ruth refuses to be defeated by her circumstances, and Clinton, impressed by her gumption, gives her his valuable telescope and instructs her to sell it in New York. After Clinton tells his grateful daughter that her kind thoughts are all the repayment her parents need, the Jones family walks together to the train station. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.