Oscar Speeches: Gordon, Ruth–Rosemary’s Baby

Ruth Gordon’s winning age, seventy-two, was encouraging, suggesting the career opportunities available to supporting players when they reach older age.

Though a late bloomer in film, Gordon was an accomplished stage actress. After a few appearances in silent movies and one substantial role, as Mary Todd Lincoln in “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” (1940), Gordon dedicated herself almost exclusively to the theater.

In 1965, however, Gordon made an impressive comeback, as Natalie Wood’s demented mother in “Inside Daisy Clover,” for which she earned her first supporting nomination.

Three years later, Gordon won the Supporting Actress Oscar for her delicious portrait of a modern Manhattan witch in “Rosemary’s Baby.”

“Well, I can’t tell you how encouraging a thing like that is!” enthused Gordon. “The first money I ever earned was as an extra in 1915, and here it is 1969.”

Gordon’s husband-writer Garson Kanin, with whom she collaborated on many Oscar-nominated screenplays (“Adam’s Rib,” “Pat and Mike,” both directed by George Cukor), responded similarly: “Suddenly, Hollywood discovered Ruth. It’s only taken them fifty years.”

Among the many congratulatory cables Gordon received was one from Mary Pickford, her old colleague and friend, and one of the first Oscar-winners. It simply said: “Dear Ruth, why did you take so long”

Gordon saw in her Oscar not only a tribute to past attainments, but also a prelude to a new career. And it was. For the next fifteen years, up to her death at the age of eightyeight, Gordon worked nonstop, delivering some of her most vivid performances, including a memorable turn in the cult film “Harold and Maude,” and in Clint Eastwood’s “Any Which Way You Can.”

Ruth Gordon’s Oscar Nomination

1965: Inside Daisy Glover
1968: Rosemary’s Baby

In 1965, Gordon lost the Best Supporting Oscar to Shelley Winter in “A Patch of Blue.”