Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Ruth Gordon

When I saw her on today's birthday list, I thought "this will be easy, Rosemary's Baby and Harold & Maude and we're done." That failed to account for Every Which Way But Loose/Any Which Way You Can, 4 Oscar nominations, and an Emmy. And even that doesn't account for a Tony nomination.

So let's start with 3 of her Oscar nominations, which aren't for her acting. Along with husband Garson Kanin (who was 16 years younger than her, you go girl!), she was nominated for the screenplays for Pat & Mike, Adam's Rib, and A Double Life. If I knew that she wrote, I've sufficiently forgotten that I once knew that about her (but I possibly knew that about her). Since Pat & Mike and Adam's Rib are both classics, I feel like this is a big deal.

She also acted on the stage a little before the writing, a little after (her Tony nomination for The Matchmaker came in the 1950s, after the first Oscar nominations). She even starred in 3 autobiographical plays (...that she wrote herself is redundant, but just wanted that to be clear).

She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Inside Daisy Clover which I've never seen, so that's I'll say about that.

She won an Oscar for Rosemary's Baby, a movie that seems to grow in critical esteem every year. It's long been among Chris Wilson's Top 4 (possibly Top 2 or something). I've written about its cinematography before, and I get how distinct its eerie, almost surreal tone was at the time (although 20 years ago when I first saw it, per Chris Wilson's required viewing list, I'm sure I focused on plot and acting, so I didn't always). Gordon's acceptance speech is considered a classic (here, can't embed).

She has 3 Emmy nominations (including 1 for playing Carlton the Doorman's mother on Rhoda, brilliant casting), and won an Emmy for the "Sugar Mama" episode of Taxi where she tries to engage Judd Hirsch as a gigolo. Judd Hirsch. Not Jeff Conaway, not Tony Danza, not even Danny DeVito (let's assume his height makes him useful for certain acts)... Judd Hirsch. Here's the episode.

I conclude with Harold & Maude, a cult classic turned classic turned back to obscurity, it would seem. Or maybe I'm just not aware of what's playing at midnight movies these days. It made the American Film Institute's list of the Top 10 Romantic Comedies in 2008 (Adam's Rib was #7, by the way). The humor is dark and dry, Cat Stevens's songs beautifully used. I credit my mom with elevating this movie to be considered important (as opposed to, say, The French Connection).

Happy birthday dude. Rest in peace.

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