Oscar Actors: Chatterton, Ruth–Social Background, Career, Awards

Research in Progress (Oct 3, 2021)
Ruth Chatterton Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: upper middle; father architect

Nationality: US; New York City

Family: Parents separated when she was young

Education: dropped out of school to pursue stage career, regional Milwakee, aged 16

Training:

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut: 1911, age 19; big success in 1919; aged 27

Film Debut: Sins of the Fathers in 1928; aged 36

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms: 2 noms, Madam X, Sarah and Son, 1929 and 1930; aged 38 and 39

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image:

Last Film: A Royal Divorce, 1938; aged 46

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1928-1938, 10 years

Comeback: theater, novelist

Marriage: one actor; 3 husbands

Politics: NA

Death: 1968; aged 61

Ruth Chatterton was born on December 24, 1892 in New York City on Christmas Eve 1892 to Walter, an architect, and Lillian (née Reed) Chatterton.

She was of English and French extraction. Her parents separated while she was young. Chatterton attended Mrs. Hagen’s School in Pelham, New York.

In 1908, Chatterton and her friends attended a play in Washington, D.C., after which she criticized the lead actress; her friends challenged her to become stage actress herself or “shut up.”

A few days later, she joined the chorus of the stage show, and soon dropped out of school to pursue a stage career.  Aged 16, Chatterton joined the Friend Stock Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she remained for six months.

In 1911, age 19, Chatterton made her Broadway stage debut in “The Great Name.”

Her greatest success onstage came in 1914, when she starred in “Daddy Long Legs,” adapted from the novel by Jean Webster.

Chatterton married her first husband, actor Ralph Forbes in 1924 in Manhattan. They moved to Los Angeles, and with the help of Emil Jannings, she was cast in her first film, Sins of the Fathers in 1928.

That same year, she was signed to a contract by Paramount Pictures, where she made her first sound film, The Doctor’s Secret, in 1929.

Later in 1929, Chatterton was loaned to MGM, where she starred in Madame X. The film was a critical and box-office success, for which Chatterton received her first Best Actress Oscar nomination.

In 1930, she starred in Sarah and Son, as an impoverished housewife who rises to fame and fortune as an opera singer. The film was another critical and financial success, and Chatterton received a second Best Actress nomination.

Later that year, Chatterton was voted the second female star, behind Norma Shearer, in a poll conducted by the West Coast film exhibitors.

In 1933, Chatterton starred in the successful Pre-Code comedy-drama Female.

She left Paramount for Warner Bros., along with Kay Francis and William Powell.

She co-starred in the film Dodsworth (1936), for Samuel Goldwyn, her finest film, giving an Oscar-worthy performance, although she was not nominated.

Due to her age and the studios’ focus on younger, bankable stars, she was forced to move to England and continued to star in films there.

Chatterton’s final film was A Royal Divorce (1938), after which she retired from the big screen and moved back East, where she lived with her third husband, Barry Thomson.

Stage Comeback

In 1940, she returned to the Broadway stage to star in John Van Druten’s Leave Her to Heaven. She continued acting in Broadway productions and appeared in the London production of The Constant Wife.

Novelist

Chatterton raised French poodles and began a successful writing career. Her first novel, “Homeward Borne,” was published in 1950 and became a best seller.

She went on to write three more novels: The Betrayers (1953), The Pride of the Peacock (1954), and The Southern Wild (1958).

Chatterton came out of retirement in the 1950s, and appeared on TV in several plays, including an adaptation of “Dodsworth” on Prudential Playhouse, alongside Mary Astor and Walter Huston.

Her last TV appearance was as Gertrude in a 1953 adaptation of Hamlet, with Maurice Evans in the title role, on the anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame.

She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 24, 1961, age 68.

Chatterton was married three times and had no children. In 1924, she married British actor Ralph Forbes, who starred opposite her that same year in The Magnolia Lady, a musical version of the A.E. Thomas and Alice Duer Miller hit Come Out of the Kitchen. Their divorce was finalized on August 12, 1932. The following day, August 13, Chatterton married George Brent, her The Rich Are Always with Us and The Crash co-star, in Harrison, New York. The couple separated in March 1934 and were divorced in October 1934.

Chatterton married actor Barry Thomson in 1942. They remained married until his death in 1960.

After the death of her third husband in 1960, Chatterton lived alone in the home they shared in Redding, Connecticut. On November 21, 1961, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while friends were visiting her home.[22] She was taken to Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut, where she died on November 24, aged 68.

Honors
For her contribution to the motion-picture industry, Ruth Chatterton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6263 Hollywood Blvd.

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes

1928 Sins of the Fathers Greta Blanke

1929 The Doctor’s Secret Lillian Garson

1929 The Dummy Agnes Meredith

1929 Madame X Jacqueline Alternative title: Absinthe
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actress
1929 Charming Sinners Kathryn Miles
1929 The Laughing Lady Marjorie Lee
1930 Sarah and Son Sarah Storm Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actress
1930 Paramount on Parade Floozie (The Montmartre Girl)
1930 The Lady of Scandal Elsie
1930 Anybody’s Woman Pansy Gray
1930 The Right to Love Brooks Evans / Naomi Kellogg
1931 Unfaithful Lady Fay Kilkerry
1931 The Magnificent Lie Poll
1931 Once a Lady Anna Keremazoff
1932 Tomorrow and Tomorrow Eve Redman
1932 The Rich Are Always with Us Caroline Grannard
1932 The Crash Linda Gault
1932 Frisco Jenny Frisco Jenny Sandoval
1933 Lilly Turner Lilly “Queenie” Turner Dixon
1933 Female Alison Drake
1934 Journal of a Crime Francoise Moliet
1936 Lady of Secrets Celia Whittaker
1936 Girls’ Dormitory Professor Anna Mathe
1936 Dodsworth Fran Dodsworth
1937 The Rat Zelia de Chaumont
1938 A Royal Divorce Josephine de Beauharnais

Television

1948 The Philco Television Playhouse Episode: “Suspect”
1950 Prudential Family Playhouse Fran Dodsworth Episode: “Dodsworth”
1951 Celanese Theatre Kit Marlowe Episode: “Old Acquaintance”
1952 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Alison Stanhope Episode: “Alison’s House”
1952 Kraft Television Theatre Episode: “Paper Moon”
1953 Hamlet Gertrude Television film, (final film role)

Works
Homeward Borne: A Novel (1950)
The Betrayers (1953)
The Pride of the Peacock (1954)
The Southern Wild (1958)
Lady’s Man (1961)

 

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