Monday, August 14, 2023

Book Review: Ruth Roman: A Career Portrait

Over the last decade or more I've come to appreciate the work of actress Ruth Roman in films including STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951), and THE FAR COUNTRY (1954).

Last year I noted a new book on the actress in my weekly news roundup, and I'm glad to say that I've now had the opportunity to read an e-copy of RUTH ROMAN: A CAREER PORTRAIT. It was written by Derek Schulthorpe and published by McFarland.

Schulthorpe has written several other books on favorite actors which I have purchased for my shelves, including volumes on Claire Trevor, Edmond O'Brien, and Brian Donlevy. I found his latest biography as interesting and informative as those titles, documenting the life of an actress who achieved a certain level of career success yet perhaps can't be said to have reached the highest levels of stardom.

Sculthorpe documents Roman's rise from a very poor childhood; in her earliest years she was raised in a carnival owned by her parents, then after her father's early death she grew up in Boston. After a failed early marriage she was still in her teens when she first went to New York looking for work on Broadway, and in fact she first met her future TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY costar Steve Cochran at that time. (Cochran and Roman are seen in the accompanying photo.)

After turning 20 Roman decided to try her luck in Hollywood, toiling for several years in bit parts and enduring many casting disappointments before receiving the lead role in BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER (1948) after which her career finally took off.  She appeared in many good or even great films over the years, including the titles mentioned at the top of this review.

Roman's personal life also didn't lack for drama; she had three failed marriages before the last one finally "took." In 1956 she and her young son survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria.

Schulthorpe was able to provide an impressive amount of detail on Roman's early years and beyond; the book is packed with information on Roman's work, along with a great deal of information on roles she didn't get. The author skillfully weaves quotes from the actress herself into the narrative.

I learned a great deal about Roman's life; as much as the book is a portrait of her success, it's also a somewhat brutal recounting of just how hard the movie acting life could be, with endless casting "near misses."

My only real criticism of the book is that an editor needed to break up some lengthy run-on paragraphs for ease of reading. Otherwise, I think anyone interested in the actress and her career will find the book of value.

RUTH ROMAN: A CAREER PORTRAIT is 218 pages, including a filmography, notes, and index; it includes 49 photos, including some provided by Roman's third husband.

Please visit the publisher,, for additional information.

Thanks to McFarland for providing an e-copy of this book for review.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'll have to check out this author! Thanks for your review.

8:21 AM  

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