Ruth Stott Interview

August Miller and Adrienne Effron
2002-2003

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Participants
RS
Ruth Stott, interviewee (female)
AE
Adrienne Effron, interviewer (female)
AM
August Miller, interviewer (female)

Lost Theaters of Somerville: Ruth Stott Interview

This object is in collection:
Lost Theatres of Somerville Papers
Subjects
Theaters
Somerville (Mass.)
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/15857
ID: tufts:MS124.001.001.00008
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights
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RS
Well I was born in Malden, Mass and I lived most of my life in Medford, went to schools in Medford and uh, married in Medford and uh, then my husband and I his business, he was transferred to Michigan and lived a few years in Michigan. And then we came back and to the Cape and as I say we've been here now about well, coming up to forty years.
AM
Wow.
RS
We built here. First we bought the cottage next door that was a cottage and this lot was here and we bought it and built on it. That's about the story of my life.
AE
Excellent, excellent. Now do you come from a large family or a small family?
RS
No, there were three of us.
AE
May I ask what was your family background and what kind of involvement. did they - not while in Medford - did they live in Medford their whole life?
RS
My father was a Southerner.
AE
He's from the South.
RS
Yeah, and born and bred in Florida. And my mother studied voice. And her teacher lived in Florida. And so she came to Florida for studying for the winter with her, met my father and in three weeks she married.
AE
Wow! So now I know where you got your performance interest.
RS
Oh yes. My momma was on BFT circuit for years.
AM
And what did your father do?
RS
My father was a printer.
AM
Ok.
RS
Boston Globe.
AM
Wow.
AE
Oh, wow. Now, what about your siblings? Do you, are you the eldest, or...?
RS
Yes...everybody's gone now.
AE
Mmmm. Did you have a brother and a sister?
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
Was there a big age difference between the three of you, or where you close together?
RS
No, well my brother was seven years younger, my sister was ten years younger.
AE
Oh wow, ok.
AM
Did they, were they theatric, did they do anything theatre based?
RS
Mmm-mmm.
AE
I would love to hear more about your mom and her, your memories of her with the Beat circuit.
RS
[inaudible] There's this, here's mom and dad.
AE
Oh, that's fantastic. She's a beautiful woman.
RS
Oh, she was a beautiful... [pause]
[AM & AE chat quietly and inaudibly to another for one minute]
RS
I don't know if I told you I've had a real house cleaning. You know there comes a time in your life you've got to get rid of everything.
AE
Mmm.
AM
Definitely.
RS
That's all I can find right now...
AE
Oh great.
RS
She really was, you, and I bet you would be interested in this.
AE
Ohh! That's fabulous.
RS
That is my Lambi Pie. And I'm a ventriloquist.
AE
Wow.
AE
That is fascinating. We have...
RS
It's made by Shari Louis.
AE
Wow!
AM
Wow!
AE
I have so many questions for you this is amazing. This is fabulous. Oh that is tremendous. Wow look at that.
AM
Thank you so much.
AE
Wow I don't even know where to begin. I just want to know everything.
RS
Honestly, I didn't know you wanted to know anything like this at all. And why?
AE
Well I guess maybe it's probably a good time to tell you the why of what we're doing and what our projects are about. August and I are students at as you know it, Tufts and we're taking a class with a professor in the anthropology department and we're looking at history of the old Somerville theatres and at one point at its hay day there were fourteen today there's only one. And we're doing a reconstruction of the times the culture the people and in the process we are doing a lot of oral history where we're talking to individuals that either were spectators, or behind the scenes maybe ticket sales maybe the managers or like yourself performers. And their memories of that experience. And uh..
RS
Now you must of run into the name Arthur Holman.
AE
Yes, I think so.
RS
He was the, he was our director at the time.
AE
Was that someone that we [inaudible]
AE
I believe that was...
AM
Yeah.
AE
...someone who he mentioned...
AM
Yeah.
RS
And I was trying to think, this would have been...
AE
I have to write down as I go other wise I'm going to forget these little...
RS
Thirty, four, five, six, seven, eight around through there.
AM
Ok.
RS
And uh, I had made up my mind, I want to be an actress. So I been to several performances at the Somerville theatre and had a program, and knew that Arthur Holman was the director and I can't believe I had that much nerve because I'm a very timid person really and I took myself over there one day, got all dolled up you know and asked to see him, boldly walked in and he's a very gracious man and talked to me and he said, "Do you know anything about makeup? Well we have to go into that with you," and I said, "No," I said, "my mothers on BFT circuit." "Oh," he said, "I see where you got the bug". Well, anyway, I've been trying to remember you know the old joke, what was your first line. "Lord the carriage waits without, without what?" [AM and AE laugh] Anyway, I think it was something like that and I was given about a line like that and I was dressed up as a French maid, I believe very scant, not too scant in those days, no no.
AM
Right, of course.
RS
Then oh, the first night that was interesting. The opening night of that performance. I can't think of the name of it. It was not Vestal Virgin, "virgin" was in it though.
AM
Ok.
RS
I can't remember but anyway, we were to open. I was told to get there at five and so after I got there, there seemed to be a lot of commotion. And they had somebody had reported to Equity that there was going to be a non-Equity performer in that performance, and weren't allowed. So they said you can't open. So Mr. Holman got on the phone and told them the circumstances. I don't know what he ever told them, may have told them I was an orphan on the streets or something like that I don't know what. But anyway they accepted it and let it go on and as long as I got a provisional membership in Equity. And from then on everything was fine. But when we did Death, "Death takes a Holiday," um [inaudible] the usual run. Have you ever heard of ah, ah...Walter Grisay?
AE
Yes...
RS
You have?
AE
I have a PhD in drama.
RS
Ah!
AE
I don't know why I know the names that I do but yeah.
RS
Well he came and we would have guest leading men, and I can remember the names of some. I don't know if they'll mean anything to you. Delsy Cooper was our leading lady, Virginia Richmond, Viola Cane, Frank Thomas, then we had, um, I was just going to say it, Francis X. Bushman. Well now there was a man. [AE and AM laugh] He had, he just had to get oiled to perform. He could do it. I mean, he'd fall down once like that. [AM laughs] But he had to have the sustenance you know. He was really, I remember he was married to Beverly Bayne, she came on to perform but she came on with a [cup]. Although, he really didn't need her he could pick his own [cup]. But uh, I remember that as a little anecdote, but they were so gracious to me because I well, I [inaudible]
AE
What made you go to the Somerville...players?
RS
I had been to Somerville performances. It was near home. And I don't know but they were awfully nice to me and I got into bigger parts. And then, because I was going with a steady boy at that time and after a couple of years, I got married and in those days, well at least he anyway, "My wife is not going to work, you want people to think that I can't support my wife." Wives didn't work then unless you had to. So, I would ask, you know, many times if I could go on to New York or something like that. But he would never allow it.
AE
He would never allow it. But before you were married and going with him did you ever think of going into Boston to some of the prestigious theatres?
RS
I didn't have that much nerve.
AE
No, but your mom...
RS
I know, I know it. She was on the road most of the time. We had a nanny that took care of us. And uh, so we did, we did see a - oh and she was in [Chitackwa,] now you do know the word [Chitackwa]? Do you know what [Chitackwa] is?
AE
I don't know what it is. But I've heard of it.
RS
Well star performers toured a regular circuit and of performances throughout the country. And that what mama did, a lot of [Chitackwa].
AM
Did you, did you ever go on the road with her or ah...?
RS
No, no. I was not. She was a, had a beautiful voice. And uh, well now I'll tell you what things were like then. I can remember, that at the breakfast table, I'll never forget this at the breakfast table one morning she was home, doing work around Boston. By the way she appeared in the Metropolitan. You won't believe this. She could not walk on stage on the beat of the music, you had to walk on Sundays, on an off beat. Believe that or not. Can you image we lived through a time like that. Well at breakfast morning she said, said to my father who's name is Jess, she said, " Jess I, I had a wonderful offer last night", He said, "Yes?" And she said, "It's to go out to Hollywood," and she said, "you're not much on movies but," she said "do you know King Vida?" Well of course that name is very popular, he was a great directora and she said he was in the audience last night and she said, they're looking for a singer, or a couple to make a series of movies and its just to be teamed with a man by the name of Nelson Eddy.
AE
I know that name...
RS
And uh, oh yes you must know him. Rosemary, and those wonderful performances. And she said, "He wants me to come out and test. What do you think?" He said, "What do I think? You're not going anywhere." He said those things to her. Well, I can remember we're all sitting at the table. Of course she cried, she put on quite an act. But nothing moved my father.
AE
Did she regret not going?
AE
Did she regret not going?
RS
Oh regret! She was ready to leave you know. It always came down to whether you won't have the children. But life is different, she adored her children and she never could go. She could have been Janet MacDonald.
AE
Oh...
RS
But that's who they got instead. They looked a lot alike.
AE
Wow what a story. Hmmm. Did she stop performing at some point? When did she retire?
RS
She played the Palace in New York. And I'm trying to think out...no, I think that something with my sister,[inaudible] Yes while she was in Florida, this was when she was very much older, they were having a big reunion of the Palace performers, and they dug out her name - oh at that, this, this picture I had of her; she was only like 19 when she performed at the Palace, and they were inviting, they wanted to get all the old performers together for a great reunion which they did have and uh, but she wasn't well enough to go. Mom was very [caring of the cape] at our church.
AE
You know what I find interesting. Is uh, I remember doing some research how at one point actresses wouldn't be allowed in the Church. This is going back pre-Shakespearian, well yeah pre-, well post-Shakespearian I'm thinking about Garreck in the age of David Garreck and before that. If you were a performer particularly as a woman, you might not be allowed.
RS
I can believe, I can believe...
AE
You come back and find Moliere and all that, Moliere would be...
RS
Puritanical Boston.
AE
...England and France and, and the time this is going back, you know, probably 1500's to 1700's, if you were a performer you weren't allowed in a relationship with the church and if you choose the stage...there was no place for you in the church. And you need to swear off...
RS
Yes.
AE
...the stage in order to be accepted by the church and it's just really interesting how far it has come so that women like yourself had a background in the stage could then be ordained in your church, it's just an interesting...what um, what I would love to hear a little bit more about is, how did your mom feel about you wanting to pursue the stage and maybe how you had a steady boyfriend, and what that meant for you in terms of your career, having had that kind of life style.
RS
She didn't push me into it in anyway anytime I ever, you know mentioned it, it was, "Oh, you'll probably grow up as an actor."
AE
What did she think of it as a life style?
RS
Oh she loved it, she loved it.
AM
How long were you, were you with the Somerville players?
RS
Won't have been more then a couple of years.
AM
Ok.
RS
Then I married. [pause]
AE
Um, did your husband want you to leave it or did you get to a point in your life when you couldn't do both anymore? You said your, your doing um, you did it for a few years only.
RS
That's all.
AE
That's all.
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
What was your, what was the reason you stopped performing with them?
RS
He wouldn't let me.
AE
He wouldn't let you.
RS
I was to stay home.
AE
How did you feel about that?
RS
No, I didn't like it.
AE
But those were the choices.
RS
Those were the choices that I had, and I loved him.
AE
Those men. [AE and AM laugh]
RS
Oh they, you know, they didn't want anyone to think that they couldn't support their wives. Nobody can believe that today. You better work today.
AE
Oh you have to.
RS
You have to.
AE
Mmm this is delicious, thank you. Did you miss it after you left?
RS
Of course, oh yes I very much regretted it. But you look back in your life and your work. This is you know, the road less traveled, and you say there, there was a change and I took this road. Yeah I very much regretted it but there was a plan and that must have been my plan, oh I was very happy don't misunderstand me I really was.
AE
I understand.
RS
And we lived in Michigan for a few years and then came back and [inaudible] work was here.
AM
This is probably jumping ahead a little bit but, but how did the road lead to Shari Lewis and Ventriloquism.
AE
Oh yeah, I want to hear about that.
RS
Oh well that's much later, much later.
AE
Good question.
RS
I don't know how I really got into, well, I was interested in Shari anyway. And she's a grand person, really was. And she had her Lamb chop...
AM
Of course.
RS
And I made my, um...
AM
Lambikins, Did you say?
RS
Lambi-pie.
AM
Lambi-pie.
RS
And um, Benji. Benji, and I'm trying to think of some of my other characters. I loved it, I really loved doing it. I had a lot of fun. That I would, that I only did not professionally, the only reason I was able to get her to teach me was that I guaranteed her I wouldn't.
AM
Hmmm.
RS
And I just worked in hospitals for children that were very, very ill. Mass General and Children's Hospital.
AE
Would your husband have allowed you...?
RS
Oh, that was quite a different thing.
AE
Oh that was it, well I mean. Would if you, had you not promised to do it non-professionally would your husband have not allowed you to go out and perform professionally anyways.
RS
I don't know it never came up.
AE
It didn't come up. How old were you when you did that?
RS
I've done some since I've been down here. Libraries, Christmas children coming to libraries, Christmas. And um, I really, I really got a big kick out of that, I loved it.
AE
What year was that?
RS
Oh, um...I, I don't think I've done any in the last 15...
AE
Ok.
AE
Well is this photo maybe from the 1960's?
RS
Yeah that's me. Um...
AE
Like the coat maybe looks like it could be 60's.
RS
Well, um, more like 70's.
AE
It was 70's, 1970's. Why do you think Shari Lewis didn't want you to do it professionally. Was she afraid of competition?
RS
Well...I got really quite, quite good at it.
AE
How did you find her?
RS
Well my mother knew a man by the name of Frank Lane who worked with her on various shows and he put me into touch with her.
AE
Excellent...
RS
And uh, she was a very unusual woman...very close to the chest. Don't, don't step on any of my territory at all.
AE
Yeah, yeah. Interesting, that's not what I would except from her because her characters are so generous and forgiving.
RS
Oh I know, they are. But...
RS
Well, she would come to Boston quite often. You know it was a, it was a spazmodic thing that I would see her and she'd give me exercises and so forth to work on my own and then correct what I did and so forth. But I just did it for schools and, but mostly hosptials. And Mass General I worked on the burn unit and the only way I could go in, was they made me a...plastic, see-through thing, to put over me, because of course there are dangers with germs of any kind and burnt, children burnt.
AE
My grandmother worked at the Mass General, I don't remember [inaudible]
RS
Oh, they loved it. Of course that's a, that's a wonderful audience...
AE
Yeah...
RS
...makes you feel so good. And you know you'd work with them. Lambi-pie would take the medicine and all, when I, uh, when they suggested I said, "No liquids." I said, "We'll take pills" [AE and AM laugh] But we made believe anyway that Lambi pie would do it [imitating voice] "If Lambi-pie won't take that I will," you know, that sort of thing.
AE
Cute, cute. I bet Lambi-pie was a big hit with your grandchild, your grandson. Did your grandson get to see Lambi-pie?
RS
No.
AE
No?
RS
I don't think he ever did.
AE
Aww.
RS
[quietly] I don't think he ever did. Well I've got the reason. I stopped it mainly was I got too old for it. Not believable [inaudible] I just had a birthday...
AE
Happy Birthday, When was your birthday?
RS
It was in November. I was 90 years old.
AE
Congratulations, Happy Birthday.
AM
Happy Birthday.
AE
I wanted to hear a little bit more if you would about your reasoning and why you wanted to become a actress. I wanted to maybe see if you remember the day that that hit you or what, what, what made you see, what made you think that, what was it a spec-, a specific performance, or what turned you in that direction?
RS
Oh I don't know, from the time I was a little child...I could get anything I wanted by...I found that out very young. I could twist my father around my finger. So I guess it came from that. My princess, and I worked it for all I could. [AE and AM laugh]
AE
I know I did the same thing.
RS
Of course...
AE
I was the little actress in our house...
RS
Yes, I'm sure of the that.
AE
It worked very well.
RS
Yes it does. Well it starts from that, you know...
AE
Mmm-hmm.
AM
Did you, you went to see plays at the Somerville Theatre. Did you, did you ever see any of the variety shows there or the films?
RS
That must of come later.
AM
Well it was a vaudeville house very, it's first year of operation it was a Vaudeville house and they, they would so show Vaudeville as well as some motion pictures, primarily serials.
RS
Oh, oh.
AM
Ok, were, were they showing films there at all when you were an actor. Ok.
RS
It was just [inaudible]
AE
Wow.
RS
And I don't remember how long they continued. Not, not too long that I remember. I don't know where they went.
AM
Yeah, I don't remember exactly either. I think some time in the late 30's they, they switched sort of back to theatre. I mean a motion picture theatre. But I don't know exactly.
RS
They were a good company. They really were awfully good. And as I say they were so kind. I was just a kid.
AE
Were you one of the youngest?
RS
Oh yes, oh sure. Delsey Cooper I think was probably, not much more then 30 and the rest were older.
AM
Mmm-hmm.
[tape stops]
AE
...where there plays that you said some of you perform, any [inaudible] or Chekov? You said you mentioned the different playwrights that, work that they had done in the Somerville players.
RS
Mostly new playwrights...
AE
Hmm.
RS
Mostly, yeah like this...something [inaudible] oh no for heaven's sake. I don't remember anything that had any sex in it. Mercy no, it wasn't that kind of clientele.
AE
What was the audience like actually at the theater?
RS
Um, they were, you know, they were very loyal, and um, I wish I could remember what it was but I [inaudible]. Goodnight. Oh and two dollars for goodness sake was a talk.
AE
That sounds about right because movies at that time were probably 10 cents, 20 cents, 25 cents. And movies were a lot cheaper...
RS
Well, I remember the Met. After we were married we'd go into the um, Met and if you went in, you know, under six o'clock it's, I r-, I remember distinctly 85 cents.
AE
Was the Met a movie house?
RS
Oh yeah.
AE
Oh Ok.
RS
Band organ.
AE
An organ, ok. Whe-, that was during the time of the silent films, was that pre-talkie, or was that an organ even when they had a talking...?
RS
I can remember the, I can remember definitely the first talking. Al Jolson. Mmm-hmm, I can remember that.
AE
Can I just go back because I'm confused. Is the, is the Met in Boston?
RS
Oh yeah, on Tremont street.
AE
Ok that's it.
RS
Opposite the Shubert.
AE
Ok got it. I just wanted to make sure I knew which one that one was.
RS
Oh yes, oh that was, well that was big time for we young people who were, you know, just recently married. They did over the, well it was a palace...
AE
Yes.
RS
Just perfectly gorgeous, we'd never seen anything like it. And...they'd done the down stairs in all black and white marble. And it was dancing afterward. Oh yes. Mmm-hmm. Oh yeah, you got a, you got a whole nights entertainment. It was great. 85 cents before 6 o-clock. And be sure we got there for that too. I'll tell you. Yeah, there was a bar, not for liquor, soft drinks and sandwiches and things like that.
AE
Kind of like a concession stand?
RS
Mmm-hmm. And, oh it was beautiful, you know marble floor for dancing, it was, you really felt that you had a night on the town, for 85 cents.
AE
That's a good deal.
RS
Yes it was.
AE
I can't get a pack of gum for 85 cents [everyone laughs]. So tell me when did you start going to the Met, do you remember what year that was, when you went there?
RS
Oh it would have been, married in '35.
AE
Ok. So '36, '37, pre-40's.
RS
Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.
AE
What were the theaters like that were closer to your home as opposed to the Met? Because you describe the Met as a palace, and that's actually...
RS
And Keith uh, Keith memorial on Tremont street. The Paramount on Washington and then the um...illegitimate houses of course, the Shubert, Colonial, Wilbur.
AE
Mmm-hmm. Did you go to any places that were closer to home that were more like the local, neighborhood, smaller, not quite as fancy, maybe kind of small.
RS
Well the Medford theater, Medford, of course was, was just a movie theater. That was all.
AE
What was that in comparison if you were going to describe the environment or the ambieance of the Medford theater as opposed to the Met?
RS
Well it was like all local theaters were just, oh they, I remember way back they had an organist and, yeah, oh I can remember the silent things. Perils of Pauline...
AE
Yes...[AM laughs]
RS
Yes, oh I was taken very young to movie theaters...because I remember that Perils of Pauline.
AE
Why do you remember that one you think?
RS
Because it was the first I ever saw.
AE
It was?
RS
Oh Yeah.
AE
What did you think of it?
RS
Oh my Lord, this was um, oh what'd you think about television the first time you ever saw it?
AE
I didn't, it was just something that was always there.
RS
I can remember the...
AE
I can, I can tell you about my first movie I was pretty impressed, television not so much, my first movie in a movie theater that I'll remember, my first ballet. My first performance live theater, those, TV was...
RS
No, no it didn't rate, that's all...
AE
Yeah, it didn't rate.
RS
...along with...
AE
I mean I'm sure if I was in the generation and I was one of the firsts then it would be different, but some of the other things have more of a resounding impact for me. So Perils of Pauline was the first one you saw. What, if you were to think about...
RS
The great train robbery...
AM
Oh yeah.
RS
Yes, I did see that.
AE
Did you, what did you think of the actress? Did you think she was good, what did you think of her?
RS
Well, I was very young...
AE
You don't remember, maybe not remember that...
RS
I was probably five or something like that. That would have been in Malden at the Orpheum theater.
AE
Ok. Who took you, your parents?
RS
Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm. And then, oh oh, they were great on, taking me all the way growing up to, uh...and that sort of. course got me was The Shurbert, The Colonial, The Wilbur, The Plymouth, The St. James. All legitimate performances. "Kiss me Kate" and those great things, oh yes. So they fostered all of that.
AE
Do you remember any of the actress of the time that you admired...? Being an actress yourself, which ones did you like...on stage or on the screen?
RS
Hmmm. Oh, oh the Lunts of course, I remember the Lunts, and...everything that ever came to Boston I went. And then, years later after I was married, Lewi, Lewi and I always had tickets to opening night at all of the legitimate houses.
AE
Wow.
AM
That's great.
AE
I'm so jealous... oh that must have been really amazing.
RS
It really was, I loved it. And that, as I always said, "I miss that." Because Cape Cod is real provincial living.
AE
Mmm-hmmm.
RS
Well it is. Oh we had big plans when I said, "We're, we're going to have to give up our opening nights aren't we?" And he said, "Oh, we'll go up and we'll...," I said, " We'll come back too late at night" And he said, "Oh, we'll stay overnight." Well that was big plans, things went quite differently after awhile. Prohibitive prices. You know what I look forward to every year, 'cause we were Playhouse, Dennis Playhouse subscribers for years and years. And uh, I finally...I got very disappointed in the big stars didn't come on any more and we would get down here...television, the serials things on television - soap operas, that's what I wanted to say, and they were very disappointing, and somebody said why don't you try the Monomoy Theatre. You've heard of it?
AE
Yes.
RS
Well I love, they do a beautiful job. The Ohio University, University players, and they are great. And I've given up the Dennis Playhouse for that. So I get season tickets to that every single year, and they have done wonderful work. It's a darling little house.
AE
I've never been. I tried to get an internship there but I ended up in Maine.
RS
Oh.
AE
Yeah I had sent my resume to them and a number of others throughout New England trying to get some internship work. This is years ago. But yeah, I remember wanting to go there. Or Wellfleet, wellfleet does...
RS
Yes, Wellfleet, uh huh. Well this Monomoy is really, they do a fan - oh whoever is there set designer is really fabulous, really, what they make out of nothing is fantastic. I have the highest praise for them.
AM
Have you, in addition to being a, a ticket holder, have you sort of gotten involved behind the sciences with any of the theaters?
RS
I didn't.
AM
No.
RS
I never have, no.
AE
So it sounds like in your earliest years, spectator, went to the movies, you went to the theater. Turned actress, then you went back to the theater you went to opening nights, and that's really continued on you've always stayed strong with the live theater.
RS
Oh yes.
AE
What about movies are you, do you still watch movies?
RS
Oh yes, oh sure. I'm very fond of movies.
AE
When you were younger and the movies were like at the one in Malden or Medford like the, the neighborhood playhouses or the neighborhood movie theaters, how often would you have gone?
RS
Oh jeeze! At every single chance I could.
AE
Oh really, so you were a big fan.
RS
Oh yes, I've always been a big fan.
AE
Great. Do remember any of the movies that came in that you really liked? Besides, I remember, I know you said that Peril of Pauline when you were younger, you remember that one, it was one of the firsts but, are there any that stand out, I mean there were hundreds of movies that came in. That was a decade, those, those were years of more movies then...
RS
Well, you know I love Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Carole Lombard.
AE
Yep, yep.
RS
That e-, era through there I, I loved them. And, and today...oh, it's a whole new group.
AE
What did you like about those actresses? They're all wonderful. What, what did you like?
RS
They were great.
AE
Do any memories stand about parts they played or what they did on stage, ah excuse me on the screen that you were impressed by or how they looked, any scenes that stand, stand out as you think about those movies and what they did?
RS
I just loved every thing they did, I thought they, it's a whole new school today.
AE
Were you ever influenced by how, how they walked or dressed or the style of their hair? Was that ever something that you noticed or were influenced by those celebrities?
RS
No, not particularly.
AE
No, Because I know alot of research that I've done women during that era in particular were very interested in how women, how actresses like Joan Crawford and that whole crew, how they would read about, and to try to find out what makeup they used...
RS
Oh well sure...
AE
...what eye cream...
RS
Oh yes...
AE
...and blush, and their clothing, they would very intentionally try to find out how these women lived and what they used and would, would want to dress and do their hair and makeup the same way.
RS
[inaudible] do today.
AE
Yeah, I don't think it's changed, I mean, I know I, I try to look like Jennifer Aniston, but it doesn't work. [laughter] I want another Brad Pitt, it just doesn't work. I mean I have to wear the same jeans that Jennifer Aniston wears. [laughter] But seriously, I remember thinking that this was quite interesting because I think it started with the decade of actresses like a Joan Crawford. That had such a power with....
RS
Oh s-...
AE
...with the audience. And if you remembered any of friends or colleagues being influenced acting differently or maybe buying things whether it was the soap that you washed your dishes with or the face powder you used to go out with. And maybe what the stars did and how they dressed and was influenced...
RS
Oh yeah we copied everything, oh yes.
AE
Did you ever wear your hair like one of them?
RS
Oh of course, I had a different style all the time.
AE
What about your clothing, did you ever wear your clothes like them, did you ever try to yeah...
RS
Of course.
AE
Yeah?
RS
Oh surely, we've all done that...
AE
Yeah, that's true.
RS
I remember I went into mourning when Rudolph Valentino died.
AE
You weren't the only one...
RS
Oh my word, I never got over it. [AE and AM laugh]
AE
I'm sorry, last weekend we talked to another woman who practically burst into tears as she was telling us about it too...about Rudolph....
RS
I burst into laughing when I think back, oh my gosh.
AE
Did you read a lot about him and see all of his, did you see all of his films?
RS
Every one, oh yes.
AE
Which one was your favorite Rudolph Valentino film?
RS
Son of the Sheik, I guess his last one, Son of the Sheik, Son of the Sheik...yes...
AE
Do you think he was as good an actor as he was good looking?
RS
No, of course he wasn't.
[tape cuts out]
AE
Do you think he was as good an actor as he was good looking?
RS
No, of course he wasn't that, that good [inaudible]. My cat was better. But no I was, [whispers] I was in love with him, oh, I can remember shutting myself in my room.
AE
How long did you shut yourself in for?
RS
Well until my mother [laughter] call for her to get - tell you we'll have no more of this foolishness.
AE
Did you ever collect anything of his?
RS
No, no.
AE
No, no picture, no postcards?
RS
Well if I did they certainly are all gone now.
AE
Oh, I just meant if you remember collecting. I mean, I know some of my favorite stars I used to keep pictures that I would cut out of magazines and their articles.
RS
Oh yes, of course...
AE
Did you ever do anything like that?
RS
Photoplay, oh of course...
AE
Did you read Photoplay?
RS
I did of course.
AE
What was your favorite section?
RS
Gee, I don't remember.
AE
Well they did a lot of interviews with the stars.
RS
Oh yes.
AE
Which was great. They did that question and answer section too where you could write in and find out things, you could ask the answer man. Did you ever write in?
RS
No, nope.
AE
I wish you had copies of Photoplay, I've seen a couple in the past. They're really, they look really great.
RS
Oh they were great, yes.
AE
Did you read it every month?
RS
Oh yes.
AE
Where there other magazines that you read, there were a couple of them that came out...
RS
Redbook.
AE
Redbook.
RS
Mmm-hmm...and Cosmopolitian. Of course now it's People. Everytime I go to the beauty parlor of course that's the only thing I want to look at is People.
AE
You should look at InStyle magazine they sometimes do some nice ones with the stars.
RS
Oh.
AE
You get to see their homes.
RS
Oh.
AE
Quite nice. That's my favorite section of it. You know getting to leaf through five pages of the star's home. Of course they have the interview with the celebrity but then you get to see their room, their living room, their space. And I don't know there's something very dreamy about that. Isn't there?
RS
Oh yes, oh surely.
AE
I'm a little bit of a movie fan addict myself.
RS
Oh, I always will be.
AE
Did you have a subscription to those magazines or did you just buy them every month at the newstand?
RS
I would buy them every month.
AE
Did you ever collect anything? Were you ever in one of the fan clubs?
RS
No.
AE
No.
RS
Not that, I never went that far.
AE
Of all of your friends, what was um, if your friends were going to...if you were going to have a chat with your friends what would you guys talk about with regards to the movies and celebrities of the day? What would you guys often chat about...or would you talk about?
RS
No.
AE
No, so this was a private, your thing as opposed to, did your friends have a similar interest?
RS
No, not really.
AM
Would they go to the movies with you, or did you primarily, I mean, did you primarily go to the movies alone or did you go with a group of friends or with...?
RS
I never needed anyone to go to, movies with me. I would just sit there and enjoy it by myself.
AM
Right, right. And you, I mean you mentioned, you mentioned the actors and actresses who you were, you were fans of and you would, and you would probably go see all of their films, music.
RS
I want to particularly catch "The Hours." I just love Meryl Streep. I mean she's just great. And uh, I'm not up on this new group really. I mean they're young.
AE
But you used to, would you say be up on the ones during your day?
RS
Oh yes, oh yes. I knew everything about them. Oh yes...
AE
Did you ever want to be them?
RS
No, I don't think I ever...
AE
No, I always wanted to be one of them [laughs] I just wanted to know if I was the only one [laughs].
RS
No, I'm sure not. I'm sure you aren't.
AE
I think that's interesting that you like to just maybe go by yourself.
RS
Yes, I don't um, in fact a friend of mine said the other day, "I'm seeing so-and-so or whatever it was" And uh, oh...what is this new one, the priest?
AE
I'm not so up this month, on this, on this years offerings...
RS
The Pianist!
AE
Oh The Pianist. I want to see that...
RS
Well, I did go. A friend called and said, "I'm very anxious, my daughter's told about me The Pianist, want to go with me?" and I said, "Sure". We both had no idea. I thought it was going to be more music and concerts and things like that. Cause I, today, my interests are more symphony and I subscribe to the symphony and things like that, and it was harrowing, it's very harrowing. I found that there were several people around me that I noticed left, couldn't take it any more, couldn't take it. The concentration camps were dreadful. Though really you didn't get except the very end where he had a concert. It's a masterpiece as far as the movie is concerned, it really is. But I would never say to anyone, oh you must go, but let me tell you be prepared, because it's um, it just seemed after awhile as if I couldn't take another scene. It was awful.
AE
What kinds of movies do you like now?
RS
Well anything with Meryl Streep because I think she is fantastic.
AE
She really is.
RS
Far beyond any glamour business what so ever. She is not a glamour queen at all. I like character, more development of character, that type of thing I really liked.
AE
What about back then when the movies in your youth, in your teens, your young adulthood. What kind of movies did you like back then?
RS
Development of character, I liked very much.
AE
I know there was a lot, you had mentioned, there's the serials were very popular. Cowboy films were very popular.
RS
That I never cared for.
AE
I had a feeling that might not be your cup or tea.
RS
No it wasn't my cup of tea.
AE
But they, they were popular, trying to think there's a lots of different types of films that, that had their day.
RS
Yeah.
AE
...the same time. So character and, and plot development...
RS
And plot development, yes, that's the type of thing I like.
AE
What kind of movie either from then or now would you say best demonstrates the kind of character and plot development that you found most exciting and interesting.
RS
I can't think of, you know, to give you an example of what I like. I really haven't gone to very many movies this year believe me I haven't.
AE
It was a tough question.
AM
It was a tough question.
RS
We just had in church last week, Murder in the Cathedral.
AE
Ooohh.
RS
Absolutely fantastic!
AE
It is a great one.
RS
We've got a young seminary student. Are you familiar with the Community of Jesus in Orleans? Have you heard of it? Oh they're doing some fantastic things, it's quite a community now, this seminarian is put on this Murder in the Cathedral. I've never seen a finer job done, anywhere with any subject as he did on this, really it was fantastic, it was great. I'm sorry I sent off the program to a friend who winters in Florida or I'd show it to you. We had two performances at Church because it's, it's to be done in church.
AE
Right.
RS
Because it's the murder of Thomas Beckett.
AE
Yes.
RS
And uh, Henry B..?
AE
B, no...
RS
Bay.
AE
Bay.
RS
Bay. And um, well now things like that, I like.
AE
I see, that's a good example.
RS
Substance.
AE
Mmm-hmm. Mmmm. None of this surface, glamour, slick action adventure.
RS
I think I have gotten a little beyond that now in my later years, yes I think so.
AE
Well it sounds even in your early years as you described what you liked, that was, and how you didn't like the cowboy's...films.
RS
And uh, just open the paper today and look at the movie page I think it is the most disgusting, disillusioning thing I have ever seen. Sex for sex sake...
AE
Yeah.
RS
Afraid not.
AE
Or nudity just for the sake of it...
RS
And nudity...
AE
And the same thing with fowl language.
RS
And fowl language, yeah, I'm, I've really been turned off, I think that's why I haven't been to many movies this past year. I am turned off.
AE
When would you say that your movie attendence stopped then? When did you notice that you just lost, lost interest at the movies changed? I mean obviously the entertainment industry has gone through a number of shifts over the last fifty years. Could you say maybe pin point roughly when that changed for you?
RS
Oh in this last year.
AE
In the last year really, so up until 2002, 2001?
RS
Yeah. Mmm-hmm.
AE
Interesting.
RS
When I, when I opened the paper this morning I said to myself, "look at that!" Dirt, filth seems to be glamorized. I don't know. Surely there's more to life then that.
AE
Give me a good romance anytime.
RS
Anytime.
AE
With out all that.
RS
Yeah, mmm...you know use a little imagination.
AE
Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm, absolutely. If you were to say stage plays or musicals, which one would be your favorite?
RS
Oh I love both, but I'm dying to see "Chicago."
AE
Me too! Have you ever seen it on stage?
RS
No.
AE
I, ok, I saw it once about twelve years ago, or fifteen years ago, um in a trip performance and I can't wait to see it again, but I wanna see the movie.
RS
Oh yes.
AE
I don't know if I...
[tape cuts out]
RS
...a beautiful job.
AE
Yup.
RS
Now see that's the kind of thing I like, like...
AE
Excellent, excellent. Good.
AM
Can I this is, I'm sorry to go all the way back to the Somerville Theater again...
RS
Yeah, yes.
AM
...but I, the repertory company, you, you had, you had sorta guest performers and guest stars who would come in.
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AM
But, I, I know that, and again I'm a little more familiar with sorta the first couple of years of the Somerville Stock Company, but, but they traditionally had, there was, there was sort of one gentleman who would always play the leading man.
RS
Oh yes...
AM
Another, and, and, and was that the same when, when you were there?
RS
Yes.
AM
And, and you said that you sort of moved, moved up in ranks I guess would be a way to put it...
RS
Yes, yes.
AM
From, from, the, the one line French Maids...
RS
Instead of "the carriage waits without," yes, I got oh, a few more lines, yes.
AM
So, so what, what was sort of your, what, what you role were you...
RS
Friend, you know, the friend of the leading lady.
AM
Ok.
AE
Ok.
RS
...that sort of the thing, the confidant, yeah, yes, that sort of thing.
AE
Who played the leading lady most?
RS
Delsey Cooper.
AE
Delsey did. What about, is this Roliana? I wrote Rolian-, uh Viola?
RS
Oh, yes. Viola Cain.
AE
Viola Cain, what kind of parts did she play?
RS
And Virginia Richmond.
AE
Right.
RS
Um...
AE
Were they leading ladies or were they supporting...
RS
The character actress would be Viola Cain, and Frank Thomas was um, character actor.
AE
Ok.
AM
And, when I spoke to you on the phone, you said that you performed under the name Marvis Cordel?
RS
Yes, yes.
AM
Where, where did you...
RS
Well, in, now there was another thing, like, all the movie stars, mostly all changed their names.
AM
Right.
RS
Mine, my maiden name was Ruth Zim, Z-I-M. My grandfather was state senator of, of Florida for thirty-odd years. Um, what was I going to say...senior moment.
AE
You were talking about your maiden name and...
RS
Oh, I took, I took a family name.
AE
Oh...
RS
The Cordells
AM
Ok.
RS
...of um, Mississippi. And M-A-R-V-I-S, first name.
AE
Where'd that one come from, the first name? Just made it up? Kind of elegant.
RS
I thought so.
AM
What, What.
RS
See Ruth Zim to me, nothing.
AE
Marvis. Marvelous!
AM
Marvis Cordell.
RS
Marvis Cordell.
AE
Marvelous.
RS
Everybody did that, now, now, oh, I'll tell you who you, oh! Heaven said yes. Joan Crawford, uh, she was playing in...momma knew her quite well, and she used to come out to the house when we lived in Somerville.
AE
Wow!
RS
Yeah, yeah. I've forgotten all about that.
AE
Oh my...
RS
I had no idea I was going to get into all this, none! Lucille LeSueur.
AE
Yeah?
RS
That was her name, Lucille LeSueur. See, that's how people changed their name, everybody who wasn't an actress, that I can think of offhand, that you knew by their...
AM
Right.
RS
...legal name.
AM
Sure.
RS
Um...I was trying, I used to be able oh I used to know all of this, this [inaudible]. But, yes, she came out, oh and another pal of Momma's was Jack Okey. Remember him?
AE
I don't know that name.
RS
Oh yes, Jack Okey. Life is just A Bowl Of Cherries.
AE
Oh that guy?
RS
Yeah.
AE
Ok, I, yeah I know that.
RS
Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries.
AM
What uh, what, what, what name did your mom use to become at beat circuit, or did...
RS
The long funny part of it is, Ruth But Zim.
AM
Ok.
RS
And yes, yes, well, I, I wasn't as impressed, that's probably why I didn't bring it to mind, Joan Crawford, it was, I was kind of young, and, oh I can remember they'd come out after the show, 'course bedtimes meant nothing to me, I'd sneak out, hide under the sofa, [AM & AE laugh] watch all this, how wonderful is that? My father worked nights, that's why we'd have a lot of fun. [all laugh] I'm making him out to be an ogre and he wasn't, so, all through school, the kids would say get your father to chaperone, respond, "OK." he was a dear but, yes Momma would bring these people out, I just have a picture of Joan Crawford showing how high she could kick. [laughs] That's all I can remember really about her, was the highest kicker I ever saw in my life! [all laugh] Oh I was impressed, see those kind of things would impress me, a child.
AE
Did you make the connection later on in life when you see her on film, that, I knew her, or, my mom knew her.
RS
You know I hadn't thought of it in years. I haven't thought of it in years.
AE
I was just wondering if maybe...
RS
'Cause these, these people that Momma knew, were, they did impress me a great deal, they were fun people, and that's all I remember about them.
AE
Were they fun like crazy-fun?
RS
Yeah, crazy-fun.
AE
Do you remember any other crazy-fun stories?
RS
Oh, I can remember the kicking, that's...
AE
That's a great one.
RS
...now see, that impressed me. That would enforce a child more than any brainpower [all laugh] like that.
AE
Was she, do you remember if she was beautiful in person? Was she was as awe-inspiring in terms of her appearance?
RS
I tell you it was an awful lot of makeup there.
AE
Ahh.
RS
Awful lot of makeup. Click. Click. You know back then, because of the lights, an awful lot was [illuminated].
AE
Was she as graceful? I mean, if she could k-, kick that high, would think to be very graceful, have a lot of poise.
RS
Oh yeah...didn't know why I always wanted to meet, was Mae West.
AE
Oh yeah.
AM
Oh yeah.
RS
I thought she was the greatest. Ah, lord.
AE
What did you think of Betty Davis?
RS
Oh yes. But you know, you see things today, at the time, she was the greatest actress that ever lived. You see her things today, oh brother, talk about overacting, it was pathetic.
AE
Well, the acting styles have changed quite a bit...
RS
Oh an awful lot.
AE
between then and now. Even if you look at movies from the like, '60s.
RS
Gonna be a [funk tonight], you know.
AE
There are a lot more um...
RS
Oh people are more natural, today...
AE
Like today, yeah, with the advent of television, there's a little bit more of an intimacy, and not really pushing...
RS
That's it.
AE
That kind of style of acting you do quite, what we see today in movies and film and TV is very, like natural.
RS
Oh yes.
AE
Like...
RS
I used to think she was just the greatest actress. And I've seen some old movies in the last two or three years, and I was aghast to see what I thought was so wonderful. She was, [sigh] we just wouldn't put up with that today, oh no.
AE
I mean that's I think the beauty of someone like Meryl Streep is that they make, they disappear into their character, and their character is as natural as the air.
RS
Oh yes, oh. She truly is great, she truly is.
AE
Hmm, what real actors do you like today? Are there any you like?
RS
Oh, of course I always adored Cary Grant.
AE
Mmm.
RS
But, you see, Brad Pitt, and these new one...
AE
He's really not that great.
RS
Really not.
AE
He's not, he's very pretty. What about someone like Marlon Brando, do you like...
RS
Oh yes, very good. But there again, it's a different style.
AE
It is a different style. Do you ever watch any of Bing Crosby's...?
RS
Oh yes, wasn't he, wasn't he something?
AM
Did you, did, in Somerville did you enjoy celebrity as being part of the Somerville Players, I mean did people recognize you on, on the street, or was there sort of, was there sort of a mystique...
RS
No, my picture was in the lobby, you know and that's all, but...no, I don't, I wouldn't say I turned heads anywhere, you know hardly.
AE
What do people think of when they learn that you're an actress, what do friends and family think of that?
RS
Oh I can remember before opening night, a friend of mom, they had a party for me...
AE
So it was a big deal.
RS
Oh it was about time, oh yes. [AE & AM laugh].
AE
Did you ever give out your autograph?
RS
Oh dear lord no.
AE
No? Oh, darn!
RS
No no no, never.
AE
Well, I'm going to get your autograph today anyway.
RS
Oh dear, oh my...well I had no idea where you come into all this, and like a fool I've gone along with the whole thing.
AE
Well, what would you rather talk about? [laughs]
RS
Heavens, I haven't gone into this for a long long time.
AE
I hope it's not too hard.
RS
Oh, of course not.
AE
It seems like it's like, really. We're so glad to hear these stories. They're really are great. I don't I'll forget for a long time the Joan Crawford kick. Or you locking yourself in your room, crying about Rudolph Valentino.
AM
Or just being able to see this photograph.
AE
This is, this is amazing.
AM
Did I mean when, when you were, you were younger, did you have an interest in ventriloquism?
RS
No, no.
AE
Did you, well, I was just going to say if um, at the theater, but that was before, that wasn't during your time, the vaudeville act, because ventriloquism was pretty popular as a vaudeville.
RS
Mmm, yes.
AM
Charlie Mcarthy and...
RS
Yeah, mmm-hmm.
AE
Did you ever see any vaudeville ventriloquist acts?
RS
Oh yes.
AE
Oh you have?
RS
Oh sure. I looked back on them, I have to laugh at Edgar Burden, you know how Charlie would always say, you lips are moving Edgar.
AM
Yeah, he wasn't, he wasn't a very good ventriloquist.
RS
He really wasn't no, no he wasn't, but...
AM
He was a very good radio ventriloquist.
RS
Yes, yes, [everyone laughs], but he had a wonderful character there.
AM
Oh he did.
RS
And I saw Studio Bravo last week, Candis Bergen, she is a lovely looking human.
AE
Beautiful woman.
RS
Oh, really lovely. And, I don't know if she had a hard time growing up, she had to compete against this dummy. Evidently, it was not easy, because that was her father's love. Oh, he liked her, but...
AE
Yeah, but its not the same...
RS
Oh no, Charlie was everything to Edgar. Well, see, my uh, my Lambi-Pie means a great deal to me, she's, it's a character, that's real lips...
AM
Oh, that's fantastic.
AE
I'm so glad we got to hear about that too. So when August had contacted you, what did you think we would talk more about today, is there something you wanted to share with us with regard to...movie going experiences?
RS
Oh, here it is. [pause]
AE
Oh you saw that. Ok.
RS
I cop-, see, I copied down here, telephone number, now that's another thing that surprised me, I'm not brave enough usually to do anything like that. No...
AE
I think of you as a brave woman really, why wouldn't you be brave?
RS
I don't know!
AE
Why wouldn't you be brave enough to do stuff like that?
RS
I get that copy down and then I think, they don't wanna hear from me.
AE
Oh yes, we were glad that you had called back.
AM
We were, we were all very excited.
RS
And I had a little dinner party before the show last night, and one of my very dearest friends, I'm, oh I should tell you, I'm big on priests. [everyone laughs] Isn't that the [inaudible] to my friends, Oh, Ruth's big on priests, well it just so happens, that, I do have, a, my dearest friends, are, see in our church, of course they marry. And it's not, not like the...it's not like the Catholic church, except we are very much like it, you go to one, you think the same words, but, this very dear friend and his wife, two of our, our priests at church, he was here last night, he and his wife, he gives me every year for his birthday, he and his wife, a subscription, tickets to the Barnstable comedy play, and, so we had a little, few people, and I was telling him about your coming today, and he was very interest in hearing about, and he said, What will you talk about? and I said, I don't know what they want to talk about, whatever they want to I'll talk about. [laughter]
RS
...and he said, How come I never heard you tell that you were over there at all? he says, When, when was this? he says, You've never mentioned me anything about it, oh, I say, it's history, long gone. I haven't even thought about it in years, and so when he let me off, he and his wife let me off last night, we got home at ten, and, he said, I've gotten in the house, and shut the door, and he was banging at the door, he said, I forgot to say, I'll be very interested to hear about tomorrow, [laughter], and oh, that's how it came about. He said, how, how are they coming, what do you mean they're coming? How do they know about you? I said, I showed him this nice, he says You'd written your number down! Ruth, you aren't usually as bold as that, whatever made you do that? I said, I don't know, it just appealed to me. I just couldn't let this go by without having the stock company being given credit.
AE
I'm so glad you did.
RS
Now, so that's why I got so brave in calling you.
AE
Good for you.
AM
Yes, thank you very much.
AE
I'm so glad you did.
RS
And I run off at the mouth...
AE
Oh no...
AM
Not at all.
AE
...you've been wonderful...
RS
God knows, is everything I've been talking about on there? Oh my Lord.
AE
You didn't say anything bad.
RS
Oh not bad...
AE
It was all good.
RS
Anybody would say, for heavens sake, once she got wound up, you couldn't shut her up. [laughs]
AE
Oh no, you should've heard some of the other tapes I've had, that was more true, I never got to say a word. [laughs] I didn't even have to ask a question with one interview, for three hours...
RS
Oh, for heaven's sake.
AE
No, you've been wonderful, and actually if you were saying about making sure the Somerville Theater, the stock company got some, got their due, due diligence and press, I was wondering if you kept in touch with some of the members from the company.
RS
Never, never. In fact, I had to really dredge up those names.
AE
You did a wonderful job.
RS
...but one web to another you know, and finally I got quite a few filled in.
AE
You did a great job. Did you ever read on about what, what...
RS
No, never heard of, never heard of them again.
AE
Aww. So for all you know, they, they could be down the street or no longer with us.
RS
Well, that's what Arthur said last night, he said, why Ruth, he's, he's quiet for awhile and then he said, do you realize that you are probably the only living member?
AE
That's what we were wondering, if maybe you might be the last one.
RS
I think so, I really do. He went on to say, [inaudible], he went on to say I'll bet you to say, they'll be surprised. [laughter]
AE
Fabulous.
RS
Yeah, maybe so.
AE
Yeah, I was wondering if you'd ever stay in touch with them, or heard anything after that from, from individuals that you worked with...
RS
Well, as I say, they were really very much older, Delsey was the youngest and I'd say she certainly was...thirty [inaudible].
AE
I wonder if they ever brought on anyone else...
RS
Cause think of it, my age, anybody, thirty...
AE
Oh, that's ancient.
RS
...was an old woman for goodness sake.
AE
Oh, an old fogey, old fogey.
RS
Oh yes! So they were all, and the man as I said, Frank Thomas was, could be sixty.
AE
Mmm. They're, little bit older yeah.
RS
So they wouldn't really have been very interested in keeping in touch with me or me with them.
AE
Right, right. I was just wondering sometimes, as you move on, if you ever read up if they had a review...
RS
No one never heard, read anything about them in the papers, or anything like that. But, you know you just add that up, that was what, seventy years ago. No I don't believe in [inaudible].
AE
I wonder if they ever brought on anyone to replace you when you left, after you left the company theatre.
RS
I don't know.
AE
Found a woman to take your place as the friend, confidant.
RS
See, I went into a different phase, young marrieds.
AE
Yup. Yeah, I wonder if they ever did.
AM
Even as you were sort of ascending up, were there other, were there other newer members of the company who came in after you?
RS
Mmm-hmm. [pause] Well, I agree with Jack the Ripper, Jack Okey, Life is a Bowl of Cherries isn't it?
AE
Absolutely. Well this has been tremendous, and an extra special treat to have some of this bread, it's wonderful, did you make this?
RS
Yes, I love cooking.
AE
I love it.
RS
Good.
AE
I do, I might wanna write you for the recipe.
RS
Oh, gladly will do it.
AE
I was dining with August and I told him that, baking, I'm not, I don't cook an awful lot, but when I do cook is, usually baked goods, breads, cookies, things like that, sweets.
RS
You're not married?
AE
I am married actually.
RS
Are you two...?
AE
No, we're friends.
RS
I see. Ah, you are married?
AE
Yes, I am married.
RS
Oh.
AE
Yup, I am, I've been married, be five years this Fall.
RS
No! For heaven's sake, and you went back to school?
AE
I did, I went back to school when I was um, 29, and I spent a number of year working, and I decided to go back and get my masters' degree, and then I decided to go back and get my doctorate.
RS
Oh how wonderful.
AE
So, I still have a couple more years worth of course work to do, and hopefully we'll finish up in about for or five years.
RS
Now what will you eventually...
AE
Well, I'm an actress and a director, and I'm also a teacher, and I want to eventually teach at a college or university level.
RS
Oh, great.
AE
So when I, I, I'm a drama teacher, I teach acting, directing, stage history, theatre history, literature, so, cover pretty much all areas.
RS
And what about you?
AM
And I'm a, I'm an undergraduate still, but I've kinda taken a lot of time off in between coursework, so and I'm, I'm scheduled to graduate in a couple weeks.
RS
Is that so?
AM
Yeah, and, I'm a, I'm a, a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Tufts, and at the School of Museum of Fine Arts, I'm a, I'm a bookmaker.
RS
Oh yes. Well I went to the, I went to the Museum School.
AM
Did you?
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
Wow.
RS
Years ago.
AM
Wow, for what...
RS
Those paintings are mine.
AE
They are?
AM
I was going to ask you about these paintings. Did you graduate from there?
RS
No. This is my Haitian prostitute. [vocal]
AE
Which one is your favorite piece? Her? [vocal]
RS
My mother wanted it, and people would, people would go to the house and th-, I, when I lived in Reading, it hung over my sofa, and so many people would say, I don't, I wanna sit on the sofa so I don't have to look at that creature. [laughter]
AM
When uh, when were you at the museum school?
RS
Oh...in the, right af-, oh shortly after I was married, before we went out to Michigan.
AM
Ok.
AE
Wow. What a small world.
RS
I enjoy painting, I really do.
AM
Do you still paint?
RS
Well, you know, I haven't done, I really haven't, I guess that was the last what I did on my summer vacation. I haven't done anything beyond that, after my husband died.
AE
When did you lose your husband?
RS
Ten years ago. Well I guess I did, I did that.
AE
The one above the lamp?
RS
Yes.
AE
I like that one.
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
It's really fun, reminds me of Beacon Hill in Boston.
RS
Well as a matter of fact that's it.
AE
Oh is it?
RS
Well it's my interpretation of Beacon Hill.
RS
Well it's my interpretation of Beacon Hill.
AE
Perfect. Well it works. That's the first thing I thought of when I saw it.
RS
Well, an awful lot of the arts, lot of actors and actresses, paint. Red Skelton, wonderful, wonderful painter. I'll tell you who's really, really good...Tony Bennett!
AE
Really?
RS
Oh, very, very fine painter.
AM
Yeah, I've seen some of his work, it's very good.
RS
Yeah they, I don't know why, but it does kind of go together.
AE
What about like, our friend here, August, he paints for [inaudible], and he, and I'm finding out he's performed...
AM
And I, I haven't lately but I used to, I used to perform a lot.
AE
And hopefully he's gonna design some sets for me this summer.
RS
Oh, now where are you going this summer?
AE
I am part of the new theatre company that just started in Salem, Massachusetts called Salem Theatre Company...
RS
Oh.
AE
And I direct for them, and I [inaudible] for them.
RS
Oh, great.
AE
Yeah so, trying to get a small, professional but non-profit theater going in, in Salem, Massachusetts.
RS
Because I like Salem.
AE
Thank you, that's where I live.
RS
Is that so?
AE
Yeah.
RS
[inaudible] Rockport now [inaudible]
AE
I love Marblehead.
RS
I do too.
AE
One of my favorite places in the world.
RS
Now I never for the south of Boston, it was always north of Boston that I was always [visiting].
AE
That's very pretty
[tape cuts out]
AE
So that's what I'll be doing this summer, is directing there.
RS
Oh right.
AE
Try to get that going.
RS
[inaudible] interesting people, and I'm terribly glad to have met you.
AE
Oh thank you and we're terribly glad to have met you. It's been a really great afternoon and I...
RS
It has been and I...
AE
I really appreciate you having us over today.
RS
Oh, I loved it, just loved it.
AM
Thank you so much.
RS
Arthur'll call me tonight and I'll tell him all about it.
AE
Well then I'm going to have to make you a copy of a tape. So that you can play it for him.
RS
Oh my lord. He'll say, "Ru, you did run off at the mouth."
AE
Well actually if you would like I could, get your address and, and make a copy of the tape if you'd like it.
RS
I'd lo-, lu-, I'd lov-...
AE
Great, do that. Yeah, I have plenty of tapes I can put, just send me...
RS
As well as I know, he just sat there, he said, "Ha, I never heard any of this."
AE
Oh he'll get a big kick out of it.
RS
He certainly will!
AE
[inaudible] say hi! Hi this is Adrienne Effron with...
AM
August Miller.
AE
And we're here today...
RS
And your last name?
AE
Effron?
RS
Effron.
AE
That's my married name.
RS
Nora.
AE
Yes, no relation, unfortunately. Same last name, she spells it differently. My husband family sp-...
RS
I knew that rung a bell.
AE
My husband's family spells it E-F-F-R-O-N.
RS
Yes.
AE
And I really wish that we were related to Nora, because, you know, I'd be out in Hollywood, directing films.
RS
Yes.
AE
That's what I would be doing if I had a choice right now, but you know...
RS
Yeah, she is really great.
AE
...we're not worried.
RS
She's great.
AE
Yeah, I like her films.
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
I enjoy...
RS
Oh yes.
AE
Enjoy the ones...
RS
Well, there's not many woman doing directing.
AE
No, there's not.
RS
Never has been. Ida Lupino seemed to have been about the first that started, as a woman. Remember Ida Lupino?
AE
No, I don't. I don't know that one. I've actually always found it really troubling that whether it's on the stage or on the screen, there's been very few woman directors, but very few roles that were, of consequence for woman, and that's always been very troubling for me, as a performer, and as an academic.
RS
Oh yes.
AE
So...
RS
I expect to hear a lot from you.
AE
Thank you. We'll try.
RS
Just think, I can say, I know them when.
AE
Oh, should I do a kick just as high?
AM
Yeah, we should see if we can kick higher than Joan Crawford.
AE
No I, I, I'd like to be able to say that I could do that.
RS
Oh heck, doesn't take much ability.
AE
I don't know, I may not be nearly as graceful. I might fall on my butt. Or pull a muscle. Well, I know that, there's a form that I'd love to have you sign, it's just a, a permission slip form so to speak that, um, basically says that, that we tape recorded you, so we didn't do anything against your, your wishes, and it's just basically, this interview process, this oral history, we'll share a copy of it with our professor, and he's gonna be curator for the exhibit that your read about...
RS
Yes.
AE
He's in charge of the exhibit...
RS
Yes.
AE
And, yes...
AM
Yes.
AE
Dr. Gus that's right. And he is going to be writing a book, a non-profit book about the Somerville Theaters.
RS
Ooh.
AE
In the um, in the next year, he's going to be working on it, he's gotten some grant money and that's but, all this research that we've been doing is helping him with his book.
RS
I see.
AE
...and the exhibit. So, if he likes certain sections, I know that he might quote certain sections, in his work, or he might talk about how, for instance, some of his students interviewed, what may be, or who may be the last survivor of the Somerville Stock Company.
RS
You may use my name.
AM
Ok.
AE
Great, and I know for instance in my work, I'm writing, I'm doing some research and writing a paper about women in, on the stage, and as, film, and then audience. The experience of women watching audience, as audience, women performing, and the cel-, women's relationship with celebrity, so that's the kinda research I'm doing with my work right now.
[tape cuts for a second]
AE
This will be great, we'll get a copy of the address here, that way we can send a copy of the tape.
AM
Great. And would be alright, can I take a photograph of you?
RS
Sure.
AM
Alright, ok.
AE
Great.
AM
Thank you very much. And actually if I could, I'd love to take maybe a couple photographs of your paintings.
RS
Do.
AM
And, and, of your...
AE
Oh, your back, can we take pictures of your back?
RS
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
AE
Great.
RS
...and five-oh-eight, thirty-nine, five-eight, three-five, and the address...
AE
Do you want me to [inaudible] on this?
AM
Oh no, thank you though.
AE
Think it's the eleventh, or is it the twelfth?
AM
it's the twelfth.
AE
It's August, I mean, August. April 12th, Freudian slip there, August 12th. Great, thank you so much. Ok. Those are wonderful pictures. I wonder should we maybe have, Ruth hold one of her pictures?
AM
Oh yeah. That would be fantastic. Yeah, we...
AE
What about...would that be fun?
AM
Yeah, yeah, if you'd like to hold some that would be great.
RS
Ok.
AM
Thank you very much.
RS
Mmm-hmm. How, where should I hold it, like this?
AM
Yeah, that's good, if you wanna maybe tilt it a tiny bit more towards me. Great, thank you. I'll take a couple of 'em, just...great.
AE
What if, yeah. What if you came around this side and it got, with the light behind you, that might be a good thought.
AM
Wait, where I am going?
AE
What if you, we shift, you can be a model August, if you...shift a little bit, to a nice, nice angle with the light coming on...
AM
Yeah.
RS
You don't want this anymore? No?
AM
No, that's great...great, thank you very much.
AE
Did you take a picture of that one?
AM
Oh yeah, the Beacon Hill one.
AE
I love that one. I like them all but, the Beacon Hill one just really, I love Beacon Hill, I went to Emerson College for my Masters Degree...
RS
Oh yes.
AE
...and my, the building where I had all my classes was right in Beacon Hill. I was one of the, the next street over is Charles Street, so I was right there.
RS
Mmm, Mmm, Mmm.
AE
Just a nice place to be...
RS
Oh yes.
AE
You know for classes.
RS
My daughter's a grad-, was a graduate of Mass General.
AE
Oh, ok. Excellent.
AM
Can I take another photograph of this thing?
RS
Oh, sure. [pause]
AE
August, did you get this one?
AM
Oh no.
RS
Would you like to meet Lambi pie?
AE
We would love to meet Lambi pie.
AM
Yeah, may we? Like, Lambie Pie...I wouldn't have asked, I wouldn't have asked about Lannie Pie...
RS
...in the closet.
AE
I thought Lambie pie was on vacation.
RS
Victor, aren't you gonna come up and meet everybody? Honey? Come on, darling. Sit on my....come on sweetheart [inaudible], I'm taking to my cat right here.
AE
We thought it was some sort of animal. Did you get this one too?
[AM & AE whisper back and forth to one another for a minute, inaudible]
RS
What's wrong, be a good girl...
AE
Oh, it's Lambi! Ok, you can [put her back]. I wanna see if I can tape Lannie having a conversation with us.
AM
Actually, I have a...
RS
I'm not going attempt any talking.
AE
No talking?
RS
No.
AE
Ok.
RS
Because it, I'm rusty, and, I wouldn't want to disappoint you.
AE
Oh, I wouldn't be disappointed with anything you did. Just the fact that you have him, and his opera class, it's fabulous.
AM
Yeah, thank you for brining him.
AE
Oh for pictures he's great...did you make 'em?
RS
I made him, mmm-hmm.
AE
How did it take you to make him?
RS
I don't know. Don't know...he's very real to me.
AE
Mouses and puppets have that effect on me too. They take on their own personality.
RS
That's it [inaudible]
AE
And it's consistent.
RS
Mmm-hmm.
AE
It always is what it is...[inaudible]. I can see why the kids wanna give him the medicine. [laughter]
RS
Um, it, it really, I don't know, I just feel it was the most worthwhile work I ever did. It made a lot of difference. It was a lot of children that I worked, go for, the worst mistake I ever made was I, I wasn't, was, first, when I first started to do it, and I had an appointment to go back within a few days, and I have a little, my little circle of kids, and I said, "Where's so-and-so?"
AE
Aw. That must have been the hardest to ask...
RS
You ask when [we're in front kids].
AE
Yeah...that must be the hard part of your work there, talk to the kids, or the folks from week to week, I mean, if they went there the next time.
RS
I think, [inaudible], my daughter, I think she inspired me to do this, more than anything else, she loved children.
AE
Was she young?
RS
43.
AE
Oh, that was young, did she, was it sudden?
RS
Yes it was a, UNCBA patient, I forget what that stands for now, and, she became [inaudible]
AE
That's sad. It must have been really hard for you and your husband.
RS
It was. But she's better off now.
AE
Yeah, and she inspired you to do something that's very important. [pause]
RS
I don't mind that, whole thing...
AE
Except the cat, the cat just never made its official debut appearance today. Alas. I had a feeling you might have had a cat because I noticed there was the cat, [inaudible] in your doorway.
RS
Oh yeah.
AM
And I saw the cat [inaudible] by the alley.
AE
Oh, I didn't see that.
RS
My weakness, stuffed animals. Well I work, I volunteer for work with um, Will Council of Treasures that I work with every week. And their thrift shop, and I do pricing for them. I really enjoy it a lot.
AE
That's great. You know [the female] actually had a decent view on our way back.
AM
[inaudible]
RS
Oh look, the sun is out!
AE
[inaudible], wonderful.
RS
It's going to be, it's going to reach seventy tomorrow.
AE
Wonderful.
RS
My God.
AE
I am so ready...
RS
Another coat of snow!
AE
I'm so ready for that. I've had a long, lost winter.
RS
You won't believe it when I tell you, that on this deck, look at this [inaudible]
AE
Oh, I believe it.
AM
Wow.
RS
Yes uh...
AE
Great view. I like this sunpicture here, it looks like, [inaudible], it's very nice. I'm going to bring this in the kitchen for you, do you have any specific place I can bring it for you?
RS
Oh thank you. Well in all your interviews you never had a ventriloquist?
AM
No.
AE
No, you are, you take the cake, you really do. I think this is my favorite one.
AM
Oh definitely.
RS
Oh come on now you don't...
AE
Really.
RS
...have to say that.
AE
Nah-, no.
RS
Be sure and take this too.
AM
Oh yes, thank you very much for that.
[the last minute is AE, RS, and AM talking distantly in the next room, until the tape cuts out]