Lt. William Seacroft (Holden) returns from overseas service as a bombardier, anxious to meet -- and perhaps marry -- his lovely, thoughtful penpal Ruth Wilkins (Caulfield). Little does Bill know that when he was writing DEAR RUTH, he was actually corresponding with Ruth's kid sister Miriam (Mona Freeman). Ruth has no idea who Bill is, and in fact she's engaged to a milquetoast banker, Albert (Billy DeWolfe). When Ruth meets Bill, she doesn't want to disappoint him, so she agrees to go out with him and delays telling him the truth. Naturally, complications ensue!
DEAR RUTH is a bright, funny film which is sharply written and well played by the entire cast. It provides a most enjoyable 95 minutes of entertainment.
Holden and Caulfield are charming as the romantic leads, but the real honors go to the excellent supporting cast. I think this might be the most delightfully funny performance I've seen by Edward Arnold, who plays Ruth and Miriam's father, Judge Wilkins. There's a moment amidst the chaos when he tries to remain calm and advises his wife "Just drift," which was hilarious. Mary Philips as Mrs. Wilkins is an excellent foil for Arnold.
Arnold is also quite funny interacting with his irrepressible daughter Miriam. Mona Freeman is amusing as Miriam, a high-minded miss who can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. Freeman's deadpan style of line delivery in this film is rather unique, and it's quite effective. There's more info about Freeman's career in last year's post on TOGETHER AGAIN (1944).
My one quibble with the film is that Ruth needed to show more interest in Bill and ambivalence about Albert in the latter part of the film. Early on we see Ruth's feelings develop for Bill when she stays up all night reading his letters, but towards the end Ruth demonstrates a little too much resolve to go through with marrying Albert and not enough attraction to Bill. The ending would have flowed a little better if Caulfield and/or the scriptwriter could have helped the audience track the development of Ruth's feelings a bit more over the course of the entire story.
At times the movie feels somewhat like a filmed play, particularly since most of the action takes place at the Wilkins home. For the most part, however, the story's origins on the stage aren't too noticeable -- perhaps in part because the original play was by longtime screenwriter Norman Krasna, whose credits include BACHELOR MOTHER (1939) and PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943).
DEAR RUTH was directed by William D. Russell.
Hopefully this entertaining film will become more widely available in the future, as it deserves to be seen and enjoyed by new audiences.
Update: Here's a review of the sequel DEAR WIFE (1949).