The Actress

The Actress is a 1953 American comedy-drama film based on Ruth Gordon's autobiographical play Years Ago. Gordon herself wrote the screenplay. The film was directed by George Cukor and stars Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright, and Anthony Perkins in his film debut.

The Actress
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Cukor
Produced byLawrence Weingarten
Written byRuth Gordon
StarringSpencer Tracy
Jean Simmons
Teresa Wright
Anthony Perkins
Music byBronisław Kaper
CinematographyHarold Rosson
Edited byGeorge Boemler
Distributed byLoew's Inc.[1]
Release date
  • September 25, 1953 (1953-09-25)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$914,000[2]

The film is basically a series of vignettes involving Ruth, her parents, her best friends, and the college boy romantically pursuing her. Although Gordon did in fact become an accomplished Academy Award-winning actress and a successful writer, the film ends without the audience seeing Gordon achieve her goals.

The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Black-and-White Costume Design. Tracy won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Drama and was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Foreign Actor. Simmons was named Best Actress by the National Board of Review, and Gordon's screenplay was nominated Best Written American Comedy by the Writers Guild of America, despite being far more dramatic than comedic.[3]


In 1913, Wollaston, Massachusetts, teenage student Ruth Gordon Jones (Jean Simmons) dreams of a theatrical career after becoming mesmerized by a performance of The Pink Lady in a Boston theater. Encouraged to pursue her dream by real-life leading lady Hazel Dawn (Kay Williams) in response to a fan letter she sent her, Ruth schemes to drop out of school and move to New York City, unbeknownst to her father, Clinton Jones (Spencer Tracy), a former seaman now working at a menial factory job, who wants her to continue her education and become a physical education instructor instead. As a young man, Clinton's bad family situation forced him to drop out of school and run away to sea, so he is dismayed that his daughter rejects the educational opportunities he would have liked for himself. In addition to overcoming her father's objections, Ruth must also deal with her feelings for Fred Whitmarsh (Anthony Perkins), a handsome Harvard University student who falls in love with her and eventually proposes marriage.

When Ruth gets the chance to audition for a leading producer, she disobeys her father and puts off Fred's serious romantic overtures to keep the appointment. However, her audition proves disastrous and crushes her confidence and enthusiasm. She confesses to her father what she has done, and after getting over his initial anger, he offers to support her during her first few months in New York if she will at least get her high school diploma. Despite his promise, Clinton is not sure where he will get the support money for Ruth, and is anxious about his job security. He counts on his annual bonus to provide the necessary funds, but his employer is slow in paying it.

Her enthusiasm restored, Ruth makes the arrangements to go to New York after graduation. On the day she is scheduled to depart, Clinton suddenly loses his job after confronting his boss about his bonus, leaving him with no money to give to Ruth. When Clinton sees that Ruth is determined to go to New York even without his monetary support, he gives her his most prized possession, his treasured spyglass from his seafaring days, to sell in New York, where his old acquaintance will buy it from her for an even larger sum than the amount Clinton originally promised Ruth. The family heads happily to the railroad station to see Ruth off.



Director George Cukor wanted Debbie Reynolds for the lead; she was greatly disappointed when MGM executive Dore Schary decided not to cast her in the role.[4]


According to MGM records the film made $594,000 in the US and Canada and $320,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss to the studio of $965,000.[2][5]

It recorded admissions in France of 15,493.[6]


  1. The Actress at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. IMDB Awards
  4. Reynolds, Debbie (2013). Unsinkable: A Memoir. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-06-221365-5.
  5. James Curtis, Spencer Tracy: A Biography, Alfred Knopf, 2011 p654
  6. Box office for Anthony Perkins in France at Box Office Story
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