On the Brazen Ruth Hussey

I’d seen Ruth Hussey (1911-2005) in quite a few Hollywood classics, but it seems fitting that the one that finally made me curious about her life story was that ghostly, Gothic tale The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland — fitting because today, her birthday, falls on Halloween eve. When I learned that she was from Providence, that sealed the deal. That’s the catch-as-catch-can, highly idiosyncratic way we operate around here!

Hussey attended Pembroke College (the sister institution to Brown) and later got a drama degree from the University of Michigan. She modeled, did a fashion-oriented program on local radio, and acted in summer stock for a few years before landing a role in the road company of Dead End (1937), and that was brought her out to Hollywood. Her films include Marie Antoinette (1938), the all-star Honolulu (1939), Maisie (1939), The Women (1939), Northwest Passage (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Susan and God (1940), Tennessee Johnson (1942, as the wife of the President), and The Uninvited (1944). 1945-1948 was spent mostly on Broadway, where she costarred in the original production of Lindsay and Crouse’s State of the Union, subsequently made into a movie by Frank Capra, with Katharine Hepburn in Hussey’s role. In 1949 Hussey played Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby. The 1951 revival of The Royal Family was her last Broadway turn. She then played Mrs. John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) and co-starred with Dennis O’Keefe in the comedy The Lady Wants Mink (1953). The Facts of Life (1960) with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball was her last cinematic feature.

Hussey worked a lot in television throughout the 1950s and ’60s. It seems very appropriate that one of her last performances was a guest starring turn on The Jimmy Stewart Show, given that one of her best known performances was as Stewart’s photographer gal pal in The Philadelphia Story. She also appeared with Robert Young on Marcus Welby MD (1971), and the TV movie My Darling Daughter’s Anniversary (1973), her last credit.