The Actress (1953)
Before gaining fame late in her career for playing eccentric old biddy’s in such films as Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Harold and Maude (1971) and Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Ruth Gordon was an accomplished writer, contributing screenplays for two of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn’s best pairings. However according to this film based on her autobiographical play, Ruth’s desire was always to be an actress.
High up in the nose-bleed section, Ruth Gordon Jones is transfixed by Hazel Dawn’s performance in the stage play, 'The Pink Lady'. Inspired at once to emulate her idol, he shares her aspirations with her mother and friends, but dares not let her father know her secret. A former seaman whose nostalgic memories don’t extend to his childhood, Clinton Jones has grave concerns of his daughter’s ability to survive on her own, let alone embark on such a risky career move.
This is a slight story, well-told, that is let down by a lacklustre ending. Yet despite the film’s title, its origins and the fact that it was helmed by renowned women’s director George Cukor, this biopic works best as a showcase for Spencer Tracy. Rightly considered to be the actor’s actor, Tracy made the art of screen acting seem effortlessly natural, as opposed to Jean Simmons whose portrayal of a giddy teenager can be distancing at times.
Indeed, in a screenplay replete with sea-faring references, it’s fitting that his portrayal anchors the film.
No obvious factual discrepancies as the screenplay was written by Ruth Gordon, who based it on her own autobiographical play. Nevertheless, Gordon was critical of the casting of Jean Simmons, believing her too pretty to effectively portray her.
No scene recreations in this biopic, as the story takes place before Ruth Gordon’s screen career.