The Actress (1953) Poster


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Spencer Tracy shines in Ruth Gordon's affectionate reminiscence of her father
bmacv15 December 2002
Ruth Gordon's play Years Ago, a sentimental reminiscence along the lines of Kathryn Forbes' Mama's Bank Account, looked at her stage-struck adolescence. In 1953, it became a movie, The Actress, directed by George Cukor, with the rarefied and mannered Jean Simmons taking the part of the straight-shooting Gordon. Oddly enough, the main character is not the aspiring actress but her father, played by Spencer Tracy.

In Clinton Jones, Gordon penned a difficult but irresistible character. Settled unarguably into middle age but still fighting it, he chafes at his $37.50-a-week salary (it was 1913) and pores over the grocery list while his wife (Teresa Wright) defends such frivolities as tangerines. A former sea captain, he latches onto any opportune ears like the Ancient Mariner and spins his salty yarns of ports of call on the seven seas. In the dead of a New England winter, he insists on sleeping in a hammock strung on an upstairs porch. The ham in Tracy rises to the challenge, and he manages to make Jones recklessly funny while still a bit frightening (near the end, details of his dreadful boyhood emerge to put his cantankerousness in focus).

As screenwriters, Gordon and her husband Garson Kanin custom-tailored many screen vehicles for Tracy and co-star Katharine Hepburn, where their relationship is said to take the writers' marriage as its model; here Tracy returns the favor by making Gordon's father so unforgettable. Gordon pays a tribute, too, by sketching her character not as she remembered it but as he must have seen her, showing little talent or wit but a penchant for dreaming up castles in Spain. By hiding her own bright light under a bushel, she lets the memory of her father shine.
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Ruth Gordon's Bygone days
bkoganbing27 October 2005
Based on Ruth Gordon's play Years Ago about her childhood, The Actress is a good and uplifting tale about a young girl following her dream. Young Ruth Gordon Jones living in a Boston suburb dreams about going on stage. She doesn't get too much encouragement from her parents, Spencer Tracy and Teresa Wright.

That does not stop our Ruth. She's determined to make it in the theater, but there is a matter of cash.

Spencer Tracy is a former seaman who now works at a lowly factory job and needs every dime to support wife, daughter, and a cat that's not particularly fond of him. This is not one of Tracy's better known roles and that's a pity because it's one of his best performances.

He downplays his daughter's ambitions almost until the very end of the film. I won't reveal any more, but there is an interesting dinner scene which is the key to the film. Very similar to the breakfast scene with Adolphe Menjou and Kate Hepburn in State of the Union where he tells them of his ideas for when and if he becomes president. Only here he tells the family the reasons for why believes as he does.

Although Jean Simmons was well beyond being a senior in high school she's a good enough actress to make it believable. It was certainly a more innocent time.

The Actress is a fine production from MGM and director George Cukor, pity it isn't out on VHS or DVD.
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Charming period comedy of theatre vs. reality
rfkeser28 November 1999
Delightful turn-of-the-century comedy captures the silly, head-in-the-clouds flush of adolescence. Dreaming of the glamour and magic of the theatre, small-town romantic Jean Simmons waltzes around the decidedly earthbound household of her Papa: grizzled, opinionated sea-captain Spencer Tracy, who spends his time resisting the coming of the telephone. Anthony Perkins makes a charming screen debut as her beau in a raccoon coat [although the actor preferred to downplay it]. Director George Cukor lavishes warmth and affectionate detail on Ruth Gordon's fine script as he guides the cast through some of the most satisfying ensemble playing on the screen.
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sweet film about teenage dreams
blanche-24 February 2007
"The Actress" is Jean Simmons playing the great Ruth Gordon herself (real name Ruth Gordon Jones) in this 1953 film also starring Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright, and Anthony Perkins. Simmons is out of her teen years but not by much - she was 24 - and manages to pull off being a 17-year-old who falls in love with theater after seeing Hazel Dawn in "The Pink Lady." Determined to become an actress, she writes to Ms. Dawn and when Hazel answers, Ruth is heady with excitement. This doesn't sit well with her beau (Perkins) or her mother (Wright) - and it wouldn't sit well with her irascible father either, except that he knows nothing about it. Yet.

The Massachusetts family home is lovingly depicted here, complete with a cat that is supposedly a big nuisance to all of them - Clinton Jones (Tracy) complains about him constantly, as he complains about everything, but yet has taught the cat a couple of tricks. You can see he's one of the family and that Clinton isn't as tough as he appears to be. The excellent Wright has what is often the maternal role in a family - that of go-between. And for the time being, she advises Ruth to keep her mouth shut. The funniest scene in the film is Clinton showing off his athletics with his group at the YMCU - he's a riot as his daughter squirms in embarrassment.

This is not a big movie; it's one about a short girl who desperately wants to be on the stage. As I was one of those teens once, I can say that the acting and directing capture this perfectly. Simmons is clearly a girl who can't be dissuaded by any negativity and who sees her goal as the only thing that matters, and it's one of pure bliss. She has no sense of limitation or reality - nor should she at that age. Time gives us that soon enough. It was a brave step in those days to refuse a marriage proposal and want to go off to a city to live on your own. Ruth Gordon did it and made good.

It's clear from the story how much Gordon loved her parents and how proud she was of her beginnings. She is one whose dreams came true, even if she had to wait until the age of 72 to become a movie star. There was plenty of a marvelous stage and writing career before that. "The Actress" shows us where it all began.
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Lovely Old Fashioned Movie
Scoval7127 October 2005
Lovely, beautiful, sentimental and also a funny movie that takes you back to a much, much earlier time in America that will never be again. A story of a young girl who wants to be an actress and her salty father who is really a kind person. We have the appearance of the young Anthony Perkins as well. The movie is very well acted and it is based on the true life story of Ruth Gordon (born Ruth Gordon Jones). It is a movie that the whole family will enjoy--very nostalgic and endearing. I enjoyed it. See it when you can or rent or buy it. Entertaining and delightful and as I said at the beginning: it is a lovely old fashioned movie. They don't make them like this anymore and more's the pity.
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Top-notch performances.....
sdave759613 February 2010
"The Actress" released in 1953 by MGM, is a story apparently based on the life of actress Ruth Gordon. Here, a young Jean Simmons plays Ruth, "the actress." Simmons performance runs the gamut of happiness, sadness, and hopefulness -- in other words, just like many young people are. Simmons is obsessed with being an actress and will do anything for her dream. The story makes us ask ourselves: how many of us would sacrifice the life we know to pursue a dream? Anyway, the story is set in early 20th century New England, with Spencer Tracy playing Simmons father and Teresa Wright playing her mother. Tracy plays a stubborn and somewhat cantankerous role, a man hardened by life, and it just may be one of Tracy's finest performances. Wright plays the supportive mother to Simmons, although in reality Wright was only in her 30's here -- a good actress pushed prematurely into matronly roles. Both Ruth and her mother are afraid to tell Tracy about her acting ambitions, thinking he will hit the roof. Surprisingly, he does not, but he thinks she is not ready to be an actress and wants her to finish her education. One gets the impression that he had his own dreams, cut prematurely by reality -- marriage, children, and a working-class existence. The script is somewhat mundane and drags a bit at times, but the three principle actors are the real reason to watch this film. They do not disappoint. Also look for a young Anthony Perkins playing Simmons awkward boyfriend. This is not a big film, and it has some flaws, but still very much worthwhile.
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Worth watching 'lost & found'
fagerard22215 June 2012
No masterpiece as a feature film, and especially not Cukor's greatest achievement, but a truly enjoyable surprise, since i had never even heard about this title before watching it – by chance – tonight on TCM. What a pleasure for film buffs, though, to have this inner and witty view regarding the"bygone years" of the mythical old lady from "Harold & Maud" and "Rosemary's Ba- by" ! Perhaps Jean 'Ophelia' Simmons was not the very best choice to embody young Ruth Gordon Jones – who knows, after all ? –, but Spencer Tracy is just unforgettable as her grumpy, mostly childish father. Theresa Wright is perfect as usual, as the mother. And Anthony Perkins, here in his actual first appearance on screen, gives us an unpredictable insight of his many talents a couple of years before becoming a prisoner of that Hitchcocks's casting for infamous Norman Bates in "Psycho" that happened to ruin for ever the actor's career, in some way.
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An Undiscovered Treasure
aimless-464 April 2007
Set in 1913 New England, seventeen-year-old Ruth Gordon Jones (Jean Simmons) decides on a stage career at about the same time her father decides to send her to the Boston Physical Culture Institute to become a PE teacher. His inspiration is Emma Glavey (Mary Wickes).

Despite its title, "The Actress" (1953) is really Ruth Gordon's loving tribute to her parents; written at a time when she could look back and really appreciate them. It is based on a stage play she wrote and then adapted to the screen. Although primarily known today (because of a couple of cult films) for her acting, Gordon was an excellent writer of both plays and screenplays.

If you are looking for spectacular sets and exciting action adventure, "The Actress" is not the film for you. But if you are looking for some of the best dialogue out there and what is arguably Spencer Tracy's most amusing performance you should make it a point to track this down.

Gordon obviously got her love of performing from her father Clinton (played by Tracy), a one-time sailor with a gift for gab and a desire to pontificate and be the center of attention. The conflict in the story is not so much over her desire to become an actress, but between the tendency of both father and daughter to be overly dramatic. They tend to get on each other's nerves with the mother Annie (Teresa Wright) caught in the middle. Only the mother picks up on how alike father and daughter actually are, the old acorn never falls far from the tree thing.

Much of what Clinton says is too original not to have been invented by the author. My favorite is a lengthy piece about the family's grocery bills during which Clinton complains that Ruth is too lazy to walk to a nearby farm for three pounds of butter. Annie excuses her daughter's inactivity by citing her bad back. A little later when he notices that Annie has been buying expensive tangerines instead of oranges for Ruth's school lunch, he speculates that carrying the lighter tangerine is easier on her back.

Although Wright is a little young for her role, her uncanny resemblance to Gordon (some believed that she was actually Gordon's daughter) made casting her as Gordon's mother a nice inside joke.

This production is extremely funny and has a lot of charm. They go out on a cool shot of the cat on windowsill eating a plant; with the family visible through the window heading off to the railroad station.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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Spencer Tracy Film I Have Never Seen
whpratt12 March 2008
Thought I had seen all of Spencer Tracy films and this is one I thought he gave an outstanding performance as a man who was a seaman and has settled down with his wife and daughter. Clinton Jones, (Spencer Tracy) settled for a very low income working at a food company in the local town and is always complaining about the cost of things and at the same time has to deal with a family cat which keeps eating the families Boston Ivy. Annie Jones, (Teresa Wright) plays the role as the wife of Clinton and she does a great job as trying to please her husband and at the same time wants to help her daughter, Ruth Gordon Jones, (Jean Simmons) to become an actress which she desperately wants to do in her life no matter what happens. Anthony Perkins, (Fred Whitmarsh) gave a great supporting role in one of his very first films in his long career of stardom. Ruth Gordon, wrote the story and screen play and she also is known for a great role she had in "Rosemary's Baby" '68. There is lots of great comedy and Spencer Tracy was outstanding.
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good one for old film buffs
MartinHafer10 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the more unusual films, in that the famous writer, Ruth Gordon, wrote this story about herself and her early desire to act. Jean Simmons plays her and her long-suffering father is played by Spencer Tracy. This is not what I would call an action or suspenseful film--since it's written by Gordon long after she'd made a mark in Hollywood as a writer and occasional actress (she went on to do many more films and TV shows AFTER this movie). But, it's just a nice slice of life story about parents who are justifiably worried about their little girl growing up and moving all alone to Hollywood. And, despite this trepidation, they love her dearly. So, there are no grand fireworks--just good acting and writing (imagine that).
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