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Former seaman Clinton Jones now works at a lowly job. His daughter Ruth wants to become an actress. Clinton gets fired and Ruth rejects the advances of Fred Whitmarsh. Her father gives her his seaman's spyglass to sell as she heads for New York City.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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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