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Ruth Chatterton

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Ruth Chatterton

Years active

Actress, novelist

Film actress

Ruth Chatterton wwwannsheridancomimages4RuthChattertonjpg

December 24, 1892 (
New York City, New York, U.S.

November 24, 1961, Norwalk, Connecticut, United States

Barry Thomson (m. 1942–1960), George Brent (m. 1932–1934), Ralph Forbes (m. 1924–1932)

Lillian Reed Chatterton, Walter Smith

Dodsworth, Female, Frisco Jenny, Madame X, Sarah and Son

Similar People
George Brent, Ralph Forbes, William A Wellman, Dorothy Arzner, Lionel Barry

Cause of death
Cerebral hemorrhage

Resting place

Ruth chatterton a pre code favorite

Ruth Chatterton (December 24, 1892 – November 24, 1961) was an American stage, film and television actress. In the late 1930s, Chatterton retired from film acting but continued her career on the stage. She later became a successful novelist and early aviator. Chatterton briefly returned to screen acting in the 1950s before her death of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1961.


Ruth Chatterton Ruth ChattertonAnnex

Movie legends ruth chatterton reprise

Early life

Ruth Chatterton Quick Pix Independent Film News and Media Page 3

Chatterton was born 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 still quite young. Chatterton attended Mrs. Hagen's School in Pelham, New York.

Ruth Chatterton Ruth Chatterton 1893 1961 Find A Grave Memorial

In 1908, Chatterton and her friends were attending a play in Washington, D.C. Chatterton later criticized the acting of the lead actress to her friends who challenged her to become a stage actress herself or "shut up". Chatterton accepted the challenge and, a few days later, joined the chorus of the stage show. She soon dropped out of school to further pursue a stage career. Aged 16, Chatterton joined the Friend Stock Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she remained for six months.


Ruth Chatterton RUTH CHATTERTON SAFE AT HOME 11 East 14th Street

In 1911, Chatterton made her Broadway stage debut in The Great Name. Her greatest success onstage came in 1914 when she starred in the play Daddy Long Legs, adapted from the novel by Jean Webster.

Chatterton married her first husband, actor Ralph Forbes on December 19, 1924 in Manhattan. They moved to Los Angeles. With the help of Emil Jannings, she was cast in her first film role in Sins of the Fathers in 1928. That same year, she was signed to a contract by Paramount Pictures. Chatterton's first film for Paramount was also her first sound film, The Doctor's Secret, released in 1929. Chatterton was able to make the transition from silents to sound because of her stage experience.

Later in 1929, Chatterton was loaned to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where she starred in Madame X. The film was a critical and box office success, and effectively launched Chatterton's career. For her work in the film, Chatterton received her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. The following year, she starred in Sarah and Son, portraying 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 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Later that year, Chatterton was voted the second female star of the year, behind only Norma Shearer, in a poll conducted by the West Coast film exhibitors.

In 1933, Chatterton starred in the successful Pre-Code comedy-drama Female. When she left Paramount Pictures, her initial home studio, for Warner Brothers, along with Kay Francis and William Powell, it was noted that the brothers Warner needed an infusion of "class". She co-starred in the film Dodsworth (1936), for Samuel Goldwyn, which is widely regarded as her finest film; giving what many considered an Oscar-worthy performance, although she was not nominated. Due to her age and the studios' focus on younger, more bankable stars, she moved to England and continued to star in films there. Chatterton's final film was A Royal Divorce (1938).

Later years

By 1938, Chatterton had tired of motion picture acting and retired from films. She moved back to the Eastern United States where she lived with her third husband, Barry Thomson. She continued acting in Broadway productions and appeared in the London production of The Constant Wife, for which she received good reviews. Chatterton also raised French poodles and began a successful writing career. Her first novel, Homeward Bourne, was published in 1950 and became a best seller. Chatterton would go on to write two more novels.

Chatterton came out of retirement in the 1950s, and appeared on U.S. television in several plays, including a TV adaptation of Dodsworth on CBS's Prudential Playhouse, alongside Mary Astor and Walter Huston. Her last television 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.


Chatterton was one of the few woman aviators at the time, and was good friends with Amelia Earhart. She flew solo across the U.S. several times, and served as sponsor of the Sportsman Pilot Mixed Air Derby and the annual Ruth Chatterton Air Derby during the 1930s; she also opened the National Air Races in Los Angeles in 1936. She taught British film and stage actor Brian Aherne to fly, an experience he described at length in his 1969 autobiography, A Proper Job.


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 her The Rich Are Always with Us and The Crash co-star Irish-born actor George Brent, 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. She was taken to Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut where she died on November 24. She was cremated and is interred in a niche in the Lugar Mausoleum (Section 11, Lot 303) at Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle, New York.


For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Ruth Chatterton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6263 Hollywood Blvd. She is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Additional Information

  • Ruth Chatterton Papers, 1893-1961, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College.
  • Filmography

    Hamlet (TV Movie) as
    Queen Gertrude
    Kraft Theatre (TV Series)
    - The Paper Moon (1952)
    Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (TV Series) as
    Alison Stanhope
    - Alison's House (1952) - Alison Stanhope
    Celanese Theatre (TV Series) as
    Kit Marlowe
    - Old Acquaintance (1951) - Kit Marlowe
    The Prudential Family Playhouse (TV Series) as
    Fran Dodsworth
    - Dodsworth (1950) - Fran Dodsworth
    The Philco Television Playhouse (TV Series)
    - Suspect (1948)
    A Royal Divorce as
    Josephine de Beauharnais
    The Rat as
    Zelia de Chaumont
    Dodsworth as
    Fran Dodsworth
    Girls' Dormitory as
    Professor Anna Mathe
    Lady of Secrets as
    Celia Whittaker
    Journal of a Crime as
    Francoise Moliet
    Female as
    Alison Drake
    Lilly Turner as
    Lilly 'Queenie' Turner Dixon
    Frisco Jenny as
    The Crash as
    Linda Gault
    The Rich Are Always with Us as
    Caroline Grannard
    Tomorrow and Tomorrow as
    Eve Redman
    Once a Lady as
    Anna Keremazoff
    The Magnificent Lie as
    Unfaithful as
    Lady Fay Kilkerry
    The Right to Love as
    Brooks Evans / Naomi Kellogg
    Anybody's Woman as
    Pansy Gray
    The Lady of Scandal as
    Elsie Hilary
    Paramount on Parade as
    Floozie (The Montmartre Girl)
    Sarah and Son as
    Sarah Storm
    The Laughing Lady as
    Marjorie Lee
    Charming Sinners as
    Kathryn Miles
    Madame X as
    The Dummy as
    Agnes Meredith
    The Doctor's Secret as
    Lillian Garson
    Sins of the Fathers as
    Greta Blanke
    Playhouse 90 (TV Series) (from the novel by - 1 episode)
    - Homeward Borne (1957) - (from the novel by)
    Dodsworth (performer: "The Moon of Manakoora")
    The Lady of Scandal (performer: "Say It With a Smile", "Smiles" (1917) - uncredited)
    Paramount on Parade (performer: "My Marine")
    The 23rd Annual Academy Awards as
    Self - Presenter: Writing Awards
    20th Century Fox Promotional Film (Documentary short) as
    Self (uncredited)
    Hollywood on Parade No. A-13 (Short) as
    Mutual Weekly, No. 16 (Short) as
    Archive Footage
    Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (TV Movie documentary) as
    Alison Drake
    Complicated Women (TV Movie documentary) as
    Self (uncredited)
    Hollywood and the Stars (TV Series documentary) as
    - The Wild and Wonderful Thirties (1964) - Self (uncredited)
    The House That Shadows Built (Documentary) as


    Ruth Chatterton Wikipedia

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