Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jessie Ralph

Jessie Ralph was born during the American Civil War and died during World War II. She appeared on Broadway in many of George M. Cohan’s shows, and came to Hollywood as an elderly woman. During the 1930s, when her most famous work was done, she was in her 70s.

Ms. Ralph plays the feisty Mrs. Burley in “San Francisco,” and W. C. Fields unbearable mother-in-law in “The Bank Dick” (1940), Greta Garbo’s maid in “Camille” (1936), and Aunt Katherine in “After the Thin Man” (1936). She was adept at comedy and drama, and was one of those charismatic actors who seem to draw all the attention when the camera was on her. She appeared in some 52 movies in a just seven-year span between 1933 and 1940, when she retired. I keep wondering if there’s some secret to longevity in these character actors. Maybe it’s just to keep working.

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4 comments:

J.C. Loophole said...

Ms. Ralph appeared with William Powell and Myrna Loy in several of their films like Evelyn Prentice and Double Wedding. In fact her performance as the upright, snooty Aunt Katherine is such a contrast to the Irish washer women in Evelyn Prentice it's easy to see just how talented she was. I was just lamenting the other day to another Blogger how Hollywood's fixation on youth (and irresponsible youth at that) and always looking for the hottest thing first, robs the audience of performances by some very talented actors. It would be nice to have more films that cast more older, mature actors who can demonstrate their talents, experience and skill to the delight of an audience.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I agree completely with you, J.C. We've lost a great deal by not having that stable of more mature actors that were once a foundation of the film industry. What parts that are created for older actors seem always to make them seem represented as anachronistic dinosaurs or freakish parodies of what old folks should be. This blog emphasizes the character actors more than the stars because I personally find them more interesting. When I sit down to watch an old movie, I love to play "spot the character actor" and identify as many as I can, even in walk-on parts. Do you?

Laura said...

I just saw her in DOUBLE WEDDING myself...I was disappointed in the movie, but I really enjoyed her.

"Spot the character actor" is always fun...I was so pleased when Donald Meek came on screen in DOUBLE WEDDING and my 9-year-old son exclaimed that it was the funny judge from STATE FAIR. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

It's true, sometimes you can enjoy a movie for the particular actors in it, even if the film itself isn't that great. There are some character actors that always save a movie for me.

Good on your son! Turn that boy into an old movie buff. Just a couple more and we can take over the world.