Remembering Ruth Hall

The screen career of Ruth Hall (1910-2003) was brief but significant and of particular interest to classic comedy fans. Born Ruth Gloria Blasco Ibáñez in Jacksonville, Floria, she was the great niece of novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, author of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, basis for the 1921 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino.

Hall’s three dozen film credits are all between 1930 and 1935. She started out as a crowd extra at age 20. Hall’s first film Hell Harbor (1930) starred Lupe Velez and has a Caribbean setting, making her Spanish beauty a relevant asset. She rapidly ascended to good supporting parts. Classic comedy fans will know her from the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business (1931, as the kidnapped daughter of the gangster played by Rockliffe Fellowes), Her Majesty Love (1931) with Marilyn Miller and W.C. Fields, Local Boy Makes Good (1931) with Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor’s The Kid from Spain (1932), A Fool’s Advice (1932) with Frank Fay, The Heart of New York (1932) with Smith and Dale and George Sidney, A Nose for News (1935) with Joe Cook, and The Old Grey Mayor (1935) with Bob Hope. Hall’s elevation to the status of WAMPAS Baby Star proved helpful to her career. She was also in several mysteries and westerns, supporting stars like Joan Blondell, Tom Mix, John Wayne, Charles Starrett, Buster Crabbe, and Ken Maynard. Her penultimate feature was the musical Beloved (1934) starring John Boles and Gloria Stuart.

In 1933 Hall married Lee Garmes, a major Hollywood cinematographer who’d shot Scarface (1932) and won an Oscar for Shanghai Express (1933). She retired two years later to focus on raising her two daughters.

For more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.