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Ruth Page Guatemala Room No. 15 [March 29, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0511
Run Time
0h 20m 0s
Date Produced
March 29 1985
NOTE: This interview was conducted as an informal conversation. Consequently, instead of the usual Q (Interviewer) and A (Interviewee) format, questions and statements are identified by the initials of the participants: R (Ruth Page); J (Jerold Solovy): T (Thea Flaum).
[Interview begins at 01:27.]
T: I don't think there is anything phony about Ruth.
J: Is that true, Ruth? What do you think?
R: I don't know what "phony" means.
J: "Phony" means pretense. Everybody has some pretense.
R: I don't.
J: Everybody does. Even I have things to hide. You don't get to see me . . . .
R: That's for sure. This is the first time I've ever had a talk with him.
T: We should bring cameras more often.
R: Yes, you should bring cameras so we can talk. There are lots of things I'd like to talk to him about.
J: Don't you think? Don't you hide something? We all hide something, don't we Ruth -- emotions, feelings, thoughts?
R: Oh, I suppose so. I don't know.
J: That's why Ruth likes to write. She writes a lot of thoughts. She's very open, I think, in her letters, to her mother, to her husband. They were very good letters she wrote to her husband about when he went philandering. Do you remember that?
R: Did I?
J: Yes. Well, you wrote this terrific letter on the 20th Century Ltd., going to New York City, and the first paragraph was how you missed him, how you wished he was here. And then the second paragraph said you thought it would be nice if he would pay attention to working and not fornicating with a certain person who you named in the letter. So I thought the transition between this adoring wife and sort of the cajoling wife -- between paragraphs -- was quite dramatic. The impact upon me -- I about fell out of my chair as I read this. And you're right about her poems. I think they are very deeply emotional, particularly those love poems.
T: The love poems are wonderful.
R: Those aren't any good.
J: No. I disagree with you.
T: I disagree with you, too. I think they show great depth of emotion. When was the last time you looked at them? [They bring out the book.]
R: I don't know, are they in that book? They aren't very good.
T: Jerry is a good reader. Read Number 4.
J: Number 4: "Come to me as you would come to some cool spring in summer. Dip your hands into the snowy clusters of my hidden thoughts." Now that's pretty good. "And take from me the strength to stare at the great stars of night, To tread the bare earth by day in silence and alone. Come to me as you would come to some red fire in winter." Now, Ruth I think this is pretty strong stuff. "Dip your hands into the burning recesses of my throbbing brain, And take from me the power to face the black abyss of midnight. Describe the bleak sky by noon in sorrow and in death." Gee, that's awfully deep. "Come to me in winter and in springtime, in sadness and in joy. Dip your hands into the deep still fountain of my love." Now Ruth, that's pretty strong medicine.
R: Don't read anymore, please don't!
J: That's pretty strong medicine.
R: I should say! I certainly think so! Yes.
J: So, I think it's easier in many ways to write down one's emotions and thoughts than it is to say them -- maybe. And Ruth is a prolific writer. She also has what's lost in the new world -- and that is the grace of the thank-you note, which is a thing of the past. If you send Ruth a present or take her to dinner, you get a very nice thank-you note.
R: Well, you send me such beautiful presents! I never had such presents as he gives me. Nobody ever sent me presents like you.
J: That's because I get a thank-you note. I don't get thank-you notes from anyone else. They're very classic thank-you notes. "Oh, your present was so beautiful," or, "We enjoyed being with you. It was a wonderful evening, and the play was terrific, and your company was really fun. We have to get together again some time soon."
R: The only reason why I get to see him at all is because his wife likes my husband. She adores him.
J: That's true.
R: His wife is marvelous, so I get to see Jerry only because, when my husband is here, his wife wants to see my husband. Now that's the truth.
J: Now, they talk to each other, and Ruth and I talk because they are not interested in talking to us.
R: No, they don't want to talk to us.
J: They like talking "intellectually" to one another.
T: We were talking about the letter to Tom. Actually, Ruth wrote three letters from that train to Tom.
R: Where did you read them?
J: They were part of your collection.
T: I read it in Page by Page or in John Martin's book.
R: They are?
J: They are in John Martin's book.
T: They're in John Martin's book, not Page by Page. It seems to me that you and Tom had a very wise relationship. I read something once that hasn't been published: Ruth once wrote that you spend one third of your life in bed, and it would be boring to spend it all with the same person.
R: Did I say that? That's awfully interesting.
J: Is that true, Ruth? What do you think of that philosophy? That's a very modern philosophy.
R: Well I think that maybe people are too . . . .
J: Monogamous?
R: Yes. Don't you think so, sometimes, maybe?
J: That's a leading question. I would plead the Fifth Amendment. I don't think you could possibly give a winning answer to that. If I said yes, I'd be boring. If I said no, my wife would sue me for divorce. How could I win on that.
T: Philosophically, what do you think?
J: Well, philosophically, I think it's a very interesting philosophical question. Moralistically, one should be faithful, right? But on a practical level . . . .
R: I don't know. Maybe yes, maybe no. Well people are much more promiscuous nowadays, don't you think?
J: But you agree with that? That's a pejorative term. It's a value judgment. Don't you think it's wrong?
R: No. I think you should do how you feel. You shouldn't always say, "This is wrong; this is right." You have to do what you feel like doing, don't you think? That's important.
J: Did you tell Thea about your romance with Mr. Noguchi and how your mother squelched that?
T: Yes, we did talk about that.
R: I thought my mother showed very good sense, don't you?
J: I thought that was a very practical solution.
R: Mother was a very remarkable woman, I think. Her letters to me, my letters to her are awfully interesting. I wrote to her every day, you know, and of course, nobody writes letters anymore. That's the trouble. But I wrote my letters to my mother when I was in New York in school, and I told her everything, absolutely everything. So she knew me very well.
J: Was she a permissive mother? Supportive mother? You're the only daughter, right?
R: What do you mean?
J: Did she let you do what you wanted to do?
R: Yes, exactly. She never tried to influence me at all. She was glad that I wanted to be a dancer. I think my mother would have liked to have been a dancer, and of course, in those days she couldn't be. And so I think she was glad, very glad, when I wanted to dance. But she didn't push me to it at all, ever. That all came from me.
J: How did you have the self-confidence to be in that world at such a young age? You were traveling around, you started when you were about 16. You had to go to Europe, and you had to go to South America. How did you have the sophistication, the maturity, to handle that? That'll be very difficult.
R: Well, I just always wanted to dance since I can ever remember. I always wanted to dance.
J: But you were thrown into this very adult world. Didn't you feel ill-at-ease, insecure?
R: No. I had great confidence in myself. I thought I was good. I was probably terrible.
J: Did your mother give you that self-confidence? Where did you get that?
R: Well, I don't know. But I used to like to have an audience, you see, and so when Mother and Father had interesting people, to dinner I always said, "Can I dance for them after dinner?" And Mother would say, "Yes, if you don't dance too long." And so I always got to dance for all these interesting people, and I loved it. And I think they gave me confidence. Maybe I was cute, I don't know. I probably was awful.
     I have a little niece now who comes here and dances for me, and she never stops. I said, "That's exactly like I was." There are some kids who like to show-off and some that don't. Some are bashful. I wasn't a bit.
J: What about your father. You never told me whether your father liked you to dance or to be a performer?
R: I don't know. My father liked poetry, and he liked to read. He was a very literary person. He was always writing papers for the Gentlemen's Literary Club. I always remember my mother saying, "Be quiet, your father's writing a paper for the Gentlemen's Literary Club." And so I don't know much about my father, because I wasn't close to him like I was to my mother. And he had a lot of interesting friends. I liked his friends, and they always came and visited us. And so I met a lot of interesting people from my father in Indianapolis when I was a kid.
J: You always told me you always read at dinner . . . .
T: No, it was at breakfast where she had to recite poetry.
R: Yes, because he didn't like us to come downstairs and talk about nothing. He said, "Either be quiet or do something." So we each learned a poem, my two brothers also. So we had poetry every morning for breakfast, which was a rather odd idea, don't you think?
J: I think it's intellectually stimulating. It's certainly the right environment. That's better than having the television going or the radio going.
R: Well, you see, we didn't have televisions and radios when I was a kid.
J: That was a plus, don't you think?
R: Yes, I do. I guess so. I never turn it on in the morning to this day. I read for breakfast, so I don't turn the television on until night. Sometimes they have wonderful things. Anna Karenina, did you see that?
T: I did. I loved it.
R: Wasn't that great?
T: Ageless love story.
J: But Ruth still is a letter writer. She still writes prolifically. You write every day, mostly longhand. She has beautiful handwriting.
T: Oh, I know her handwriting.
J: Don't you?
R: Well, I have a lot of correspondence. And my secretary, she can't take dictation, and she can't write a good letter. So I have to do it myself.
J: So you write it out longhand, and that takes a lot of time every day.
R: Well, I can't typewrite.
J: It takes a lot of patience.
R: I guess so.
J: How old were you when your father died?
R: I haven't any idea.
T: Your father died when you were in your twenties, Ruth, and your mother when you were in your forties.
J: Was Tom close to your mother?
R: Tom adored her, absolutely adored her, and he wanted her to come up when my father died. He wanted her to come up to Chicago and live with us. But she had sense enough not to do it. She said, "I'll come up and visit with you, but I'm never going to live with you." So she lived by herself, and she'd come up and visit us. He liked her very much.
J: Did Tom know about your affair with Noguchi?
R: Sure.
J: What did he say about that? What did he think about that?
R: I don't know what he thought about it. He was very nice about it.
J: He was? He didn't yell at you, hit you, or threaten to divorce you?
R: No, he understood it perfectly. So it was all right.
J: There was no jealousy? You told Noguchi, "C'est tout, that's it, finished!" Now, when you see Mr. Noguchi today, is there any romantic flair, any notions?
R: I never see him.
T: She saw him not long ago somewhere in Europe.
J: You also saw him here recently. When you did see him, were any romantic embers rekindled?
R: Oh, he's had two Japanese wives since then. He's had so many. He had affairs with everybody.
J: You're joking! How disgusting. So, no romance is left for Mr. Noguchi? If he came in today and said, "Ruth, leave André and run off with me," you'd still stay with André?
R: I'd stay with André. I certainly would.
J: André's certainly very dependable.
R: Well, I'm not so sure about that, but anyway, I like him.
J: He's dependable in his way.
R: Maybe.
T: He's always picking up and going off, André, isn't he? He just picks up and goes off.
J: Well, that's our arrangement.
T: Our arrangement?
R: He was the one that insisted on me marrying André. I never would have married André if it hadn't been for Solovy.
J: I negotiated this whole thing. Yes, I thought this was good for Ruth.
R: I don't know why.
J: Some solidity, permanence in her life. Someone with whom she could do things -- go to New York, because she likes to go to New York. She always wants to go to the theatre; she always wants to go to the ballet. Now here's a guy who's dumb enough to go to the ballet seven days a week, sometimes twice a day.
R: He complains about that, but he'll do it. He says he doesn't want to see nothing but dancers all the time.
J: He likes to go to the plays and the theatre; he loves movies; he loves to read. So now here's Ruth, a highly intellectual person. She has someone with whom she can now communicate on any subject. If you ask André on any subject whatsoever . . . . So I thought this was a good marriage. Perfect. Intellectual.
R: I think you were right. I think it was a good idea.
J: And they are very simpatico. He's very easy to live with. Except for one little contretemps we had, he's very easygoing.
T: What did you say, Ruth, when Jerry suggested this to you? It was really your idea, Jerry?
J: Yes. It keeps her out of mischief. She might run off with some miscreant. And André, you see, is a person who is very reliable because, although he likes his fur coat -- he likes to buy some new clothes, basically material things are a matter of indifference to him. I mean he likes to look nice, but that isn't where life is for him. So he was also "safe."
R: He likes to paint. That's what he likes to do. I'm a good wife, because I give him time to paint and don't let anybody bother him. And then when he's finished painting, we do things. But he really has to paint a picture every day.
J: I get a little chuckle out of it because Ruth is a very dutiful wife. I mean she's very considerate, very obedient. And she always says, "Well, I have to be a good wife, so if he wants to do this, I have to do it."
T: Really?
R: Yes. He's got me so analyzed. I didn't know you knew me so well.
J: Oh, yes. I know you fairly well. So she's a good wife, and I think it was a good arrangement.
R: I think I was a good wife to Tom, too.
J: But, of course, this is a much different relationship. Tom's was romance, and this is a . . . I don't know what . . . a companionship. Although she greatly admires M. Delfau . . . . But he won't speak French to her. So he's not completely perfect. He's like most husbands -- he has deficiencies.
T: Why won't he speak French to you?
R: He wants to learn English. He speaks perfect English.
J: But he won't speak French to us. Only to Dolores will he speak French.
R: He speaks French to Dolores. Oh, he speaks French to me when I'm in France. When I was in Paris, he spoke French to me all the time. Oh, I don't care whether he talks French to me or not. I can read French. I like French. I love the French people, and I love the French language. And I like everything about France.
J: Yes, Ruth's very continental, because she speaks French, reads French, writes French.
R: I gave a lecture in French the other day. My slide lecture. I gave it in French before the Alliance Française. I was scared to death, but I did it in French. It wasn't hard.
J: See, Ruth likes to deprecate herself. She says she's not intellectual. She's a highly intellectual person.
T: I know that. And highly efficient about getting done the things you want to get done. I read the schedule that you had around the time that Tom was sick, and the schedule that you were keeping was murderous. You were flying back and forth between New York for rehearsals . . . .
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