Ruth Gordon

  1. Agnes Moorhead, Since You Went Away, 1943.   “This is a story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home…” Gordon passed on an offer to be Emily Hawkins from the producer-writer and one of four directors, David O Selznick. Moorehead took over Emily. In her usual role, said most critics – an annoying socialite. She was, in fact, the screen mother of ’em all: from Jimmy Stewart, Dan Dailey, John Wayne, Alec Guinness to Jesse James and Charles Foster Kane.
  2. Ruth White, Midnight Cowboy, 1968.  One Ruth for another… The only American X-rated production to win a Best Picture, Adapted Script and Director Oscars. Plus nominations for the three stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Sylvia Miles.  Gordon said UK director John Schlesinger asked her for the flashback of the titular Jon Voight’s trampy old grandma – but she was working elsewhere.
  3. Ruth White, The Pursuit of Happiness, 1970.Idem only this tim,e kt wqs was r Michael Sarrazin’s grandmother, Mrs Popper.  (He had been up for her grandson in Midnight Cowboy). Badly made, badly played (except by Barbara Hershey) and badly tititled, this proved White’s final film before her death in 1969.
  4. Katherine Helmond, Time Bandits, 1980.     Ruth was suddenly out as The Ogre’s Wife because Gilda Radner – the hottest name in Hollywood, according to the Hollywood-starry-eyed exec producer Dennis O’Brien  –  “does a really good old lady on Saturday  Night Live.”  Fine, said Michel  Palin, but Ruth is a great old lady!  Soap star Helmond was funnier and Gilliam invited her to join another of his  movies, Brazil, 1984. 
  5. Ken Hudson Campbell, Breakfast of Champions, 1999.  Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the Kurt Vonnegut satire for Robert Altman to repeat his 1974 Nashville triumph with. But first, they would succeed wjth Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson. Being as long-winded as the title, that flopped and  Dino took Altman’s Breakfast away. Bob’s cast had included the Peter Falk as Dwayne Hoover, Alice Cooper for his son, Bunny, Sterling Hayden as Kilgore Trout. Oh, and Ruth Gordon as an old man Eliot Rosewater – Altman said gender differences were not so marked in the aged).  They became Bruce Willis, Lukas Haas, Albert Finney and Ken Hudson Campbell in the version made by Alan Rudolph… Altman’s longtime apprentice. He made a dog’s breakfast of it.


 Birth year: 1896Death year: 1985Other name: Casting Calls:  5