Monday, December 06, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Dear Ruth (1947)

I've long wanted to see the hard-to-find Paramount film DEAR RUTH, starring William Holden and Joan Caulfield, and was delighted to finally catch up with it thanks to a friend's kindness. DEAR RUTH is a delightful romantic comedy which led to two sequels, DEAR WIFE (1949) and DEAR BRAT (1951).

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).

6 Comments:

Blogger DKoren said...

Ooh! How cool that you got to see this! I haven't yet caught this one.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Though Edward Arnold was riveting at playing corrupt types, I don't think he gets enough credit for also being terrific in comedy. I've not seen this film, but your description of Arnold's role alone makes me want to find it. He was a gem.

4:32 AM  
Blogger panavia999 said...

I love this movie - saw it many many years ago when AMC was old movies all the time. It was my introduction to the lovable side of Edward Arnold. I love that "just drift" line too! He's always been one of my favorite character actors and this is one of his best.
He's also really cute in "John Loves Mary".
This movie was also one of my mother's favorite movies. She would have been the same age as Mona Freeman's character when the movie was released. No one should pass up the opportunity to see this charming movie.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Life in the Big Grey Victorian On The Corner said...

This sounds like one I would really enjoy. I'll have to look for it! Thanks for the heads up!

5:11 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I just watched "Dear Wife" and loved it. Now I'd really like to see this one, to see what came first!

8:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Happy to know you liked DEAR WIFE, which I haven't watched yet. I'm looking forward to it -- even more hearing that you enjoyed it. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

11:14 AM  

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