Movie Critique – The Actress
Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: Well-written plot based on real-life incidents of Ruth Gordon, accentuated nicely with Tracy and Wight's performances, makes it an everyday American middle class film. Sadly it didn’t garner that much interest in the audience then, as much as it has captured my attention now.
The Actress is a 1953 American comedy-drama movie based on Ruth Gordon's autobiographical play, Years Ago. She also wrote the screenplay for the film which has a star cast of Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright and Anthony Perkins.
The only film I have ever seen in which Anthony Perkins acted was the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thriller, Psycho, that made him famous as Norman Bates forever. I have never seen any of his other films or TV shows he was part of. Perhaps because I get shivers anytime I just hear his character, Bates', name. However, TCM aired this debut film of Perkins a couple days ago. It intrigued me to see how his origin in the film world started. I could not pass up the opportunity to watch it.
The film shows critical milestones from Ruth's life involving her parents, her best friends, and the college boy pursuing her romantically. The film takes the viewers to the point where Gordon got her first shot in film world that set her in path of a successful career. Although nominated for Best Costume Black-and-White, the film won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Drama for Spencer Tracy.
The film is set in 1913 in Wollaston, MA starting with a teenage Ruth Gordon Jones (portrayed by Jean Simmons) who has a dream to pursue her career in theater. Much to her father, Clinton Jones' (portrayed by Spencer Tracy) frustration and to her romantic interest, Fred Whitmarsh's (portrayed by Anthony Perkins) dismay, Ruth makes her own arrangements to head off to New York to pursue acting. The rest of the movie follows how her family, friends and love interest eventually fall in line with her dream and help her in starting it.
The film actually generated a loss for MGM Productions despite having all elements of a comedy and drama in it. It wasn’t received well with audience at all and found it obscene. Perhaps there was so much bickering between the Jones' family about groceries; arguing about four tangerines; a tug of war whether a telephone should be installed in the home or not; and many other mundane activities that go out in a typical American middle class family that bored everyone.
There have been several films build on such a similar scenario. Yet this film failed to make mark despite having Spencer Tracy and Teresa Wright (portraying the role of mother, Annie Jones) in the lead cast. The dry humor by Tracy while revealing life's lessons from his personal experiences is not lost on us though.
Constant perplex of Annie Jones and repeated bickering by Clinton Jones does seem a bit drag. Though I have to hand it to Tracy for doing some really tough gymnastic routines, even if his pants were falling down all through the routine.
Jean Simmons gave a perfect impression of a young teenager who has aspirations to become famous in the glitzy world; her embarrassment about her parents and their antics; and every other typical teenage ups and downs. Although Jean's role Ruth is hypocritical in some of the scenes.
While Anthony Perkins is in his own awkward way comes off as a sweet boy who does everything in his power to win Jean in the film. He was cute with strong vibes of becoming a chocolate boy face for the silver screen, if only Norman Bates hadnt happened perhaps.
The opening credits are different from the norm, showing over the cover of a photo album. Film also begins with various photos from the album, eventually going to the performance of The Pink Lady. The opening of the film is in fact a scene from that performance.
I am not sure why the public didn’t like the film. For me it seemed a well written plot, a fond remembrance of Ruth's father that Tracy portrays the role, with a strong-spine on her back shown by Wright for Annie; and above all Simmons giving a memorable performance of a teenage Ruth fascinated about being an actress.
The support of the family and friends Ruth receives to pursue her career even if her father comes off as brashy and uptight, is very endearing to watch. Her love interest, Whitmarsh is equally adorable and charming.
Well-written plot based on real-life incidents of Ruth Gordon, accentuated nicely with Tracy and Wight's performances, makes it an everyday American middle class film. Sadly it didn’t garner that much interest in the audience then, as much as it has captured my attention.
1) Movie Trivia:
a. Ruth Gordon watches a performance of The Pink Lady in Boston theater which spurs her interest in theater.
b. Mary Wickes portrayed as Emma Glavey in this film. She does an amazing Scandinavian Indian Club Drill in the movie. I saw her years later in Columbo's episode titled "Suitable for Framing" in 1971 as the Landlady; in the 1985 episode titled "Weep, Weep For Me" as Mrs. Alva Crane in Murder, She Wrote TV Show; and as Sister Mary Lazarus in the 1992 film Sister Act and 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. She was also a celebrity guest on Match Game, the 70s game show on TV.
c. Jean Simmons herself sings the song "My Beautiful Lady" from The Pink Lady show twice - once during a dance party she goes with Perkins; and soon after with her friends Dawn Bender (portrayed the role of Katherine Follett) and Norma Jean Nilsson (portraying the role of Anna Witham). The same song is sung by Kay Williams in the opening scene of the film that has a performance of The Pink Lady. Music composed by Ivan Caryll and Lyrics penned by C. M. S. McLellan.
d. I remember Jean Simmons in one of the episodes from Murder, She Wrote TV show, titled "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall" where she played the role of Eudora McVeigh.