dontate now

Join Email List

Facebook  Become a Fan on Facebook
twitter  Follow Us on Twitter

329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

Search Collections

Ruth Page No. 05 [March 18, 1985]

Bookmark and Share
Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0547
Run Time
0h 19m 39s
Date Produced
March 18 1985
Q: What is it about Paris, about France, that you like so much? You've spent so much time there.
A: I always liked French people. I don't know why. I suppose it's because I speak French. I suppose that's the only reason.
Q: That's the one legacy of finishing school, you learned to speak French.
A: Yes. Well, I find Paris interesting and the South of France. I've lived there so much. And actually, André doesn't like it very much. He says it's still a beautiful city, but he thinks all the action is here. And that's true. There's nothing going on there very much.
Q: You mean in the whole world of dance, art, just sort of . . . .
A: No. Nothing interesting at the opera, and there's nothing especially interesting in dance in Paris now. Oh, I think there's not very much interesting there. It's such a lovely city, wonderful museums. It's nice to walk around Paris.
Q: When did you take your first trip to France?
A: Oh, I don't even remember. I have no idea. I think I must have gone . . . . Isn't that funny? I don't remember at all . . . . I don't remember. I used to go over to see my brother in Munich. He was there for a long time. I remember going over to Munich to visit my brother.
Q: Which brother, Lafayette?
A: No. Irvine. He worked there for a long time.
Q: Studying medicine or doing . . . .
A: I'm trying to think. He had a job, some kind of job there. He was the head of some medical thing. I don't know what it was. But he lived there a long time.
Q: It sounds like you managed to stay fairly close to him, despite the fact that you haven't been . . . I mean, you left Indianapolis and sort of never returned.
A: Yes. Well, André and I went down to see him. We spent the summer before last at Hyannisport and we saw a lot of him then.
Q: Tell me about your older brother?
A: He died very young.
Q: I know . . . .
A: He was an alcoholic. He went to Princeton, and all they taught him was how to drink.
Q: That's sad. And so he died. He didn't have a profession. I mean, he just died very young.
A: I don't think so. Lafe didn't do anything but drink.
Q: Did you see much of your mother and father after you left Indianapolis? I know you wrote to your mother all the time . . . .
A: Yes.
Q: Did she come and visit, and did your father come and visit?
A: Father? Never. He died long ago. But Mother came up to visit us every summer . . . . Tom was very fond of her. He adored her.
Q: Did he think she was like you?
A: I don't know.
Q: Do you think you're like her?
A: I don't think so. I don't think I'm anything like her. She was much more energetic than I.
Q: Do you think she was sort of dissatisfied in Indianapolis with the way . . . .
A: Yes. She didn't want to go live there at all. She hated it. She got used to it, I suppose.
Q: Well, once she created the Symphony and all the music, there was more for her to do.
A: But Father seemed to like it there, and she had to stay.
Q: Unlike your marriage.
A: What?
Q: Unlike your marriage . . . . You didn't get tied down to particular places. So, anyway, where were we? We were in Japan. Your first trip to Japan. How long were you there, do you remember? Was it short?
A: About three weeks, I think. I don't know . . . about a month, I think. We were there about a month.
Q: And did you organize the whole tour yourself? I know you planned what the programs would be, but you did all the organizing, picked the other dancers . . . ?
A: Well, I picked the dancers. I didn't buy the tickets for the trip. I don't know who did that. Maybe my husband, I don't know.
Q: No. You weren't . . . . Were you married at that point?
A: Maybe I wasn't. Mother and Father went with me.
Q: Oh, they did?
A: Yes. And I thought Tom was there, too. I know that Mother and Father and I came home what they call "via ports," and Tom came home across Siberia.
Q: Oh my.
A: And I don't know whether that was the first time . . . . The second time I went with Harald Kreutzberg, and I think we came home together just ordinarily.
Q: Wait a minute. This is good.
A: Is that correct?
Q: 1925 [sic]. The Japanese trip isn't in here. But 1925 is when you met and married Tom.
A: 1925?
Q: That's what it says here. Is that right?
A: I guess so. Must be.
Q: It says so here, so it must be right.
A: Yes.
Q: Oh, good. All right, we can talk about Tom. We're up to Tom. Okay. So, how did you meet Tom?
A: Well, I had a letter from John Crane who was a beau of mine, and I was in the Music Box Revue. And the Music Box Revue came to Chicago, and we danced at the Blackstone Theatre. And John sent Tom a letter to me, and he didn't present it 'til the last day we were leaving, because he didn't want to know just a dancer. "Boring," he thought, probably. So we had lunch together before the last matinee that we had, and I left the next day . . . . And I remember thinking after that lunch . . . to the kids at the theatre I said, "That's the most interesting man I ever met in my whole life."
Q: Why?
A: I don't know. I just thought he was. And soon after that we were married.
Q: Now wait a minute. So you left. You were on tour with the Music Box Revue.
A: Right.
Q: Which was really a more theatrical kind of . . . . It was sort of like a Broadway show.
A: It was a Broadway show.
Q: It was a Broadway show.
A: Definitely.
Q: Right. Was it Ziegfeld?
A: No. It was Hassard Short.
Q: Yes. Who did . . . . Okay . . . . It was Irving Berlin, that's what it was. Irving Berlin wrote the music, and it was Irving Berlin's second Music Box Revue.
A: That's right.
Q: And you were the star.
A: Yes.
Q: Okay. So . . . how did it happen that you . . . .
A: I just tried out for them. I tried out and they said they would take me right away. And I went off to Europe and stayed all summer, and I said, "Well, I'll decide when I get back." Imagine! This was the best show in New York, because the first one had been a great success. And to get into the second one, everybody was trying. I thought it was easy to get into. Well, it was for me, because they offered me the job right away. And when I came back, I said, "Well, I'll be in it." So that was it.
Q: Did you have hesitations about it? Were you unsure, because, after all, it was a different thing?
A: Well, I wasn't interested in Broadway at all, not at all. But this was a good job, and I needed some money, and it was a job that would keep me busy for a year or more. I was in it a year-and-a-half, I think. And I got what I wanted. I did a sort of Chinese dance, you know, a fancy thing, to Irving Berlin's music, and then they gave me, in the second act, a toe solo. A great big entourage and I came out and did a big solo, and so that was fine. So, I was in it for a long time.
Q: You didn't get bored by it? It was different from doing ballet.
A: Well, I was a doing a straight ballet.
Q: I know, but it's different from being, you know, doing a ballet program.
A: No. I enjoyed it. People spoke to me that had never spoken to me before. I loved it.
Q: Theatre people you got involved with now, and you liked them? So, you just decided you were going to just try out for it because it would be something else and because it would be a good steady job?
A: Yes. I needed the money.
Q: Well, speaking of money, Ruth, it sounds as though you just sort of pursued whatever you wanted to do, and there was always money available.
A: Well, I never got a cent from my family. I tell you, I went with Booth Tarkington's niece [sic: Mary Brandon]. She and I went to New York together, and our families gave us each $100, and they said if we didn't have a job by the time we got through that hundred dollars, we had to come home. So, we went to New York, and believe you me, we accepted every dinner invitation, every lunch. We never paid for a single meal! And by the time we had finished the hundred dollars, we both had jobs!
Q: Okay. What was your job?
A: I can't remember. She married Bob [Robert E.] Sherwood. That was her job!
Q: That was good. The playwright.
A: That wasn't bad! And I can't remember what job I got, but I got a job all right!
Q: A dancing job?
A: Yes.
Q: Then it was right after that you decided you'd better get into the Music Box Revue? Is that what prompted you to try out?
A: Probably. Probably. I was in the Music Box Revue, I think it was 1923-24 . . . .
Q: Right. That would have been before . . . .
A: Yes. Because I came to Chicago in 1924 [sic: 1923]. That's when I met Tom, and we were married in 1925. Maybe it wasn't right away after we met, but it was pretty soon.
Q: Well, let's see. After the Music Box Revue . . . here we have it right . . . was 1921.
A: Twenty-one was it? That surprises me. I thought it was '23 and '4.
Q: Well, assuming this is correct. It says it's '21. We'll recheck these things. It really happened shortly after you came back, it must have happened shortly after you came back from Japan [sic]. After it -- according to this -- it's after you left Otto [sic] Bolm.
A: Adolph Bolm.
Q: Adolph Bolm. Why do I keep on saying his name . . . ?
A: I don't know.
Q: I don't know either. Okay, so in '21, you were here in maybe '22 [sic], and then you met Tom, and then it says here that you came back to Chicago in 1924. You came back to Chicago to become the prima ballerina of the Chicago Allied Arts.
A: Well, that sounds right.
Q: What was that? What was the Chicago Allied Arts?
A: Well, that was something that Bolm started here. So I don't think I went to Japan until after . . . .
Q: Oh, oh, so . . . it must have been later.
A: I don't remember when I went to Japan, but I left Bolm to go.
Q: You went to Japan in '28, and you were right, you were married to Tom.
A: That's right. Yes.
Q: Right. I'm sorry.
A: And I went with Kreutzberg in '34 to Japan. I think that's right.
Q: Absolutely right. It was Kreutzberg in '34 . . . . Okay. So you were here dancing as the prima ballerina of Chicago Allied Arts, which was what, Ruth? At that point it was . . . .
A: A ballet company.
Q: Oh, it was a ballet company! I keep on thinking of Allied Arts as Harry Seltzer and . . . it was a ballet company . . . . What kind of ballet did it do? Classical, or . . . .
A: What kind of ballet did it do? Oh, all of Bolm's ballets. I don't remember what they were . . . Oh, you asked me about money. After that $100 that my family gave me to go to New York, I never took one penny from my family after that. I've made all my own money.
Q: That's marvelous, Ruth.
A: It is.
Q: It must have been very difficult because in those days, how much could you get paid for dancing?
A: Well, I got enough to live on. And . . . there were two theatres, the Rivoli and the Rialto which were moving picture houses, and they gave prologues before the movie. And I could always get a job. Whenever I got hard up, I went and did a week, and you had to dance four times a day on weekdays, and five times on Saturdays and Sundays. Then I'd take a week's job, and then I'd go out and spend that money. And then, whenever I needed any again, I'd go back, or make it some other way. I danced at parties . . . I danced all kinds of places.
Q: And how did you develop places to go? From talking to other dancers, or did you just kind of figure it out for yourself that was what . . . .
A: I used to just get offers. I danced at the Rainbow Room for quite a long while. That was a very good job. That was lots of fun, too. I can't remember the year I was there [1941]. I danced 6 weeks at the Rainbow Room.
Q: In a revue? In a nightclub revue?
A: No. We were the only artists there . . . Bentley Stone and I did it, and it was just a place where people went to dance, and then they would stop and we would do our little program.
Q: Which was just sort of a dance . . . .
A: Yes. I did a thing called the Park Avenue Odalisque. I remember that.
Q: Oh, my.
A: And we did Zephyr and Flora, which was a very, very funny dance. He was marvelous in it. Zephyr and Flora. He was -- oh, I can't describe it. He was so good in it. He was very prissy, doing little tiny steps, but sarcastically. And he was brilliant in that dance, and I was so thrilled just chipping around after him. And we did Tristan and Isolde there.
Q: My goodness. At the Rainbow Room?
A: Yes.
Q: Serious stuff for the Rainbow Room!
A: It was. They loved it. We always did it there. We did four dances. I can't remember what the fourth one was. He did a dance called Punch Drunk. Maybe that was the fourth one. I don't know.
Q: That's sort of a satire on being drunk [sic]. So . . . money was never really a problem. You were always just sort of . . . .
A: Whenever I needed it, I went and got a job. Then I'd spend it, and when I got rid of that, I needed some more money, I'd get another job. But I never asked my family for another cent. I guess that's quite good, don't you?
Q: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think you ought to be very proud of yourself.
A: When I married Tom, I made more money than he did.
Q: Is that right? Now, I always thought that Tom was a rich lawyer.
A: He wasn't rich at all. He didn't make nearly as much money as I did. And he only made money much, much later. He made a lot of money out of a case that nobody else would take -- a case about Texas, something in Texas. The King Ranch. He was always working on that case, and everybody always said, "Oh, you'll never make a cent out of that." Finally, he did. But it took a long, long, long, long time.
Q: Ten years, you said [sic].
A: At least.
Q: So you met Tom when you were dancing in the Music Box Revue . . . . Then later you came back to Chicago, and that must have been when you got to know him, when you were here for the Allied Arts thing.
A: Maybe. I don't know. I have all his letters. I can give you the exact dates, but I haven't got them here. They're coming up . . . Andy's coming up for my birthday. He'll bring the letters with him.
Q: So you got married. Tell me about the wedding. What was it like?
A: We were married in Indianapolis by Bishop Francis, and we were married in my home. That's all I remember about it.
Q: Did your mother and father like him?
A: Oh, yes. They were crazy about him.
Q: They didn't worry that . . . .
A: No. They adored him.
Q: And he liked them?
A: Yes.
Q: How about your brothers?
A: I don't think they were there. I don't remember my brothers. I don't remember at all. So I guess they weren't there. It was a small wedding. Just family.
Q: Did you wear a white dress?
A: Yes.
Q: And what kind of dancing was there? Was there just regular dancing, or did you do . . . even your wedding was a performance? No? It was a regular wedding.
A: No dancing at all. And Tom's mother and father came down for it. Walter Fisher was a wonderful man. Did you ever know him?
Q: No.
A: He was the Secretary of the Interior under Taft. Tom and I lived with him for the first two years we were married. Two or three years. He had a big house at 1313 N. State Street, which isn't there anymore. It's been torn down. But it was a four-story house. They brought up the whole family there. And he paid for everything, so we were very lucky. He had two servants he paid for and paid for all the food. I adored him and he adored us. So it was perfect. Wonderful man.
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)