Feisty, ebullient character comedienne who, for three decades, enlivened Hollywood films with her drollery and quick-fire repartee. The daughter of a newspaper editor and music critic, Ruth made her stage debut in the chorus of the touring production 'The Quaker Girl' in 1913. Four years later, she had made it to Broadway, playing a telephone operator in 'The Scrap of Paper' at the Criterion Theatre. She then appeared for ten months in the musical farce 'Going Up' (1917-18), which starred Frank Craven and a young Ed Begley. Some of her biggest comic successes were in plays by George M. Cohan, notably 'A Prince There Was' (1918-19) and 'The Meanest Man in the World' (1920-21).
Ruth appeared on screen, first in a small part in Rubber Heels (1927). Not until the Wall Street crash of 1929 was she tempted to pursue a career in Hollywood, rather than on Broadway. For most of her time in the movies, she played acidulous secretaries, wisecracking friends of the heroine, or shrewish wives. She gave excellent support as Mary Brian's domineering mother in Hard to Handle (1933) and was excellent as Edward G. Robinson's wife in the Runyonesque comedy A Slight Case of Murder (1938). There were many other good roles as comedy relief from Hands Across the Table (1935), with Carole Lombard to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936),with Gary Cooper); and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939),with James Stewart.. She was versatile enough to handle dramatic roles, playing a worldly nun in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) and one of the asylum inmates of The Snake Pit (1948).
Except for a handful of TV guest appearances, Ruth essentially retired after her last film, The Way to the Gold (1957), and lived for the remainder of her life at the Wellington Hotel in Manhattan. She was for many years married to Basil de Guichard, an airline executive.
(1917- 1973). Active on Broadway in the following productions:
(1917). Stage Play: The Scrap of Paper. Written by Owen Davis and Arthur Somers Roche. Directed by George F. Marion. Criterion Theatre: 17 Sep 1917- Nov 1917 (closing date unknown/40 performances). Cast: Ruth Donnelly [Broadway debut], Edward Ellis, Margalo Gillmore, David Glassford, Frederick Hand, Harold Hartsell, H. Dudley Hawley, Robert Hilliard, Edwin Holland, J. Fred Holloway, Carroll McComas, John J. Pierson, Vida Reed, Robert Strange, Russ Whytal. Produced by A.H. Woods. Note: Filmed by The Mayflower Photoplay Co. [distributed by Clark-Cornelius Corporation] as Living Lies (1922).
(1917). Stage Play: Going Up. Musical comedy. Book / lyrics by 'Otto Harbach.' Music by Louis A. Hirsch. Based on "The Aviator" by James Montgomery. Musical Director: Gus Salzer. Music orchestrated by Frank Sadler. Directed by Edward Royce and James Montgomery. Liberty Theatre: 25 Dec 1917- 26 Oct 1918 (351 performances). Cast: Charles Andrews, Willard F. Barger, Ed Begley [credited as Edward Begley] (as "Sam Robinson"), Lee Campbell, Jeanette Cook, Frank Craven (as "Robert Street"), Phoebe Crossley, Edith Day, Henry Dempsey, Ruth Donnelly (as "Miss Zonne"), Beatrice Dwight, Allen K. Fagen, Edgar Gates, Harold Grau (as "Ensemble"), Nancy Griffith, Lillian Gurley, Arthur Stuart Hull (as "James Brooks"), Louise Kelley, Joseph Lertora, Paul Lester, Kitty Mahoney, Vivian May, Thomas Maynard, Josephine McNichol, Donald Meek (as "F.H. Douglas"), Helen Miller, Alexander Morrissey, Helen Neary, Catherine O'Neil, Frank Otto (as "Hopkinson Brown"), John Park, Eleanor Pendleton, Grace Peters, Emily Russ, Eunice Sizer, Neida Snow, Marion Sunshine, Francois Vaulry, Maurice Walker, Mary Ward, Virginia Watson, Richard Weeman. Produced by Cohan & Harris.
(1917). Stage Play: One of Us. Written by Jack Lait and Jo Swerling. Bijou Theatre: 9 Sep 1918- Sep 1918 (closing date unknown/24 performances). Cast: Arthur Ashley, William Balfour, Ruth Donnelly. Charles Gotthold, Mrs. Edmund Gurney, Harry Hart, Isabella Jason, Stanley Jessup, Frank Livingston, Bertha Mann, Helene Montrose, Frank Raymond, Murray Stevens, Millard Vincent. Produced by Oliver Morosco.
(1920). Stage Play: The Meanest Man in the World. Comedy. Written by Augustin MacHugh. Based on a skit by Everett Ruskay. Directed by John Meehan. Hudson Theatre: 12 Oct 1920-Apr 1921 (closing date unknown/202 performances). Cast: George M. Cohan (as "Richard Clarke"), Elwood Fleet Bostwick (as "Frederick Leggitt"), Howard Boulden (as "Andy Oatman"), George W. Callahan, Hugh Cameron, Alice Chapin, Marion Coakley, Leo Donnelly (as "Carlton Childs"), Ruth Donnelly (as "Kitty Crockett"), John T. Doyle, Fletcher Harvey (as "Franklyn Fielding"), Leona Hogarth, Norval Keedwell (as "Ned Stephens"), Peter Raymond, Ralph Sipperly (as "Bart Nash"). Note: Filmed by Sol Lesser Productions [distributed by Associated First National Pictures] as The Meanest Man in the World (1923), and by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation as The Meanest Man in the World (1943).
(1923) Stage: Appeared in "The Crooked Square" on Broadway.
(1924) Stage: Appeared in "Cheaper to Marry" on Broadway.
(1922). Stage Play: Madeleine and the Movies. Farce. Written by George M. Cohan. Directed by George M. Cohan. Gaiety Theatre: 6 Mar 1922- May 1922 (closing date unknown/80 performances). Cast: Georgette Cohan (as "Madeleine"), Ruth Donnelly (as "Aggie"), Charles Halton, Frank Hollins, Thomas E. Jackson (as "Andrew"), Martin Malloy, Harry Mestayer, Edward Nannary, Louise Orth, James Rennie, Jean Robertson, Frank Sheridan. Produced by George M. Cohan.
(1923). Stage Play: The Crooked Square. Comedy/drama. Written by Samuel Shipman and Alfred C. Kennedy. Directed by Frederick Stanhope. Hudson Theatre: 10 Sep 1923- Nov 1923 (closing date unknown/88 performances). Cast: Grace Burgess (as "Miss Darby"), Patricia Calvert, Ruth Donnelly (as "Annie Jordan"), Leonore Harris, Wallie Howe [credited as Walter Howe] (as "Smith"), Lida Kane (as "Matron") [Broadway debut], Claude King, Jack La Rue, Agnes Marc, Kenneth McKenna, John Park, Edward Power, Georges Renavent, T. Tamamoto, Rita Tomilly, Dorothy West. Produced by Mrs. Henry B. Harris.
(1924). Stage Play: Cheaper to Marry. Written by Samuel Shipman. 49th Street Theatre: 15 Apr 1924- Jun 1924 (closing date unknown/71 performances). Cast: Horace Braham, Berton Churchill, Alan Dinehart (as "Charles Tyler"), Ruth Donnelly, Florence Eldridge, Claiborne Foster, Olga Lee, Robert Warwick. Produced by Richard Herndon.
(1926). Stage Play: If I Was Rich. Written by William Anthony McGuire. Directed by William Anthony McGuire. Mansfield Theatre: 2 Sep 1926- Nov 1926 (closing date unknown/92 performances). Cast: Joseph Baird (as "Richard McDermott"), G.D. Byron, Charles Dow Clark, Ruth Donnelly (as "Elizabeth McCue"), John T. Doyle, Dorothy Fenron, Howard Hull Gibson (as "Burke"), Joseph Kilgour (as "R. Murray Pembrook"), Joe Laurie, Fred Irving Lewis, Mildred Lillard, May McCabe, Lu McGuire, Mildred McLeod, Al Ochs (as "Henry King"), Vola Price, Isabel Randolph, Raymond Walburn (as "William Dunroy"). Produced by William Anthony McGuire.
(1963). Stage Play: The Riot Act. Written by Will Greene. Incidental Music by George Becker. Directed by Jack Landau [final Broadway credit]. Cort Theatre: 7 Mar 1963- 13 Apr 1963 (44 performances + 1 preview on 6 Mar 1963).
(1971). Stage Play: No, No, Nanette. Musical comedy (revival). Music by Vincent Youmans. Lyrics by Irving Caesar and Otto A. Harbach. Book by Otto A. Harbach and Frank Mandel. Book adapted by Burt Shevelove. Musical Director: Buster Davis. Vocal arrangements by Buster Davis. Music orchestrated by Ralph Burns. Dance arrangements by Luther Henderson. Tap Supervisor: Ted Cappy [final Broadway credit]. Incidental music by Luther Henderson. Revival originally conceived for production by Harry Rigby. Musical Staging by Donald Saddler. Choreographed by Donald Saddler. Production Manager: May Muth. Production Design by Raoul Pene Du Bois. Lighting Design by Jules Fisher. Sound Design by Jack Shearing. Principals' Coiffures by Vidal Sassoon. Production Supervised by Busby Berkeley [final Broadway credit]. Directed by Burt Shevelove. 46th Street Theatre: 19 Jan 1971- 3 Feb 1973 (861 performances + 13 previews). Cast: Helen Gallagher (as "Lucille Early, Billy's Wife"), Jack Gilford (as "Jimmy Smith"), Ruby Keeler (as "Sue Smith, Jimmy's Wife"), Patsy Kelly (as "Pauline, Cook at the Smiths"), Bobby Van (as "Billy Early, a Lawyer"), Susan Watson, Loni Zoe Ackerman, Pat Lysinger, Roger Rathburn, K.C. Townsend, Bob Becker, John Beecher, Joretta Bohannon, Roger Braun, Marcia Brushingham, Kenneth Carr, Jennie Chandler, Kathy Conry, Christine Cox, Kevin Daly, Ed Dixon, Ellen Elias, Mercedes Ellington, Jon Engstrom, Marian Haraldson, Gregg Harlan, Jamie Haskins, Gwen Hillier, Sayra Hummel, Scott Hunter, Dottie Lester, Cheryl Locke, Joanne Lotsko, Mary Ann Niles (as "Nanette's Friend"), Kate O'Brady, Sue Ohman, Jill Owens, Ken Ploss, John Roach, Linda Rose, Ron Schwinn, Sonja Stuart, Monica Tiller, Pat Trott, Phyllis Wallach. Replacement actors: Benny Baker (as "Jimmy Smith"), Cindi Bulak, Ruth Donnelly (as "Pauline, Cook at the Smiths'") [final Broadway role], Barbara Heuman (as "Nanette") [Broadway debut], Joy Hodges (as "Sue Smith"), Mike Mitchell, Frank Newell (as "Nanette's Friend"), Sandra O'Neill, Shelly Rann (as "Nanette's Friend"), Martha Raye (as "Pauline"), James Robinson, Penny Singleton (as "Sue Smith") [replaced Ruby Keeler], Dana Swenson, Anthony S. Teague. Produced by Pyxidium Ltd.
(1930). Stage Play: So Was Napoleon (Sap from Syracuse). Farce. Written by Jack O'Donnell and John Wray. Directed by John Hayden. Sam H. Harris Theatre: 8 Jan 1930- Jan 1930 (closing date unknown/25 performances). Cast: Granville Bates (as "Solomon Hycross"), Spencer Bentley, Paul Byron, Frances Crossey, Frank Dae (as "Adolph"), Ruth Donnelly (as "Dolly Thornton"), Elsa Ersi (as "Countess de Bouchard") [Broadway debut], Louis Frohoff, Albert Gesse (as "Beauvais"), Oliver Holmes, Hugh McConnell, Grant Mills, Mary Murray, Jack Raffael, Sidney Riggs, Czara Romanyi, Marcel Rousseau (as "A Detective"), Lloyd Russell, Joseph Spelvin, Roland Wilson. Produced by Robert V. Newman and Arnold Johnson.