In THE SCARLET EMPRESS, her best-known movie, Ruthelma Stevens is understandably blown off the screen by Fraulein Dietrich, but when I saw her in her two movies with Adolphe Menjou as DA/sleuth Thatcher Colt, I was impressed by her quality of seriousness and intelligence. But, for whatever reasons, Ruthelma never made it as a star — her turn as Sam Jaffe’s mistress in SCARLET EMP was virtually her last credited role.

Sternberg obviously remembered her though, because he used her again for a bit in JET PILOT, which seems to be her last film of all. Among the movies she graced in her later years, wearing her years graciously but quite openly, is Val Lewton’s last movie as producer, which happens to be the subject of this week’s edition of The Forgotten: in APACHE DRUMS, Ruthelma plays dance hall proprietor (read: madame) Betty Careless.

Fiona’s reaction on reading the sign outside the dance hall: “I want to be Betty Careless!”

Here’s more on Ruthelma (that NAME!) from an avid fan.

Buy a Ruthelma classic:  The Scarlet Empress (The Criterion Collection) (See all Dramatic Classics)

10 Responses to “Ruthelma”

  1. And so you SHALL, Fiona …

    Of course you realise this leaves “The Honourable Betty Cream” going begging.

  2. Sits a horse well, damnit!

    The second Thatcher Colt mystery, The Circus Queen Murder, is directed by Shadowplay favourite Roy William Neill and is pretty nifty. The first is just endearingly silly. But both have Ruthelma.

  3. It’s often amazing the way some people’s careers went south in the studio era. I can’t believe MGM declined to renew Ray McDonald’s contract after Good News

  4. Maybe these people made enemies? It certainly doesn’t seem like a lack of talent, individuality or charisma.

  5. And yet they stuck with June Allyson. The genius of the system could be awfully stupid…

    (I don’t actually MIND June Allyson, she’s just not a favourite.)

  6. You haven’t seen Good News enough.

  7. Looks like a fun weekend!

    Good News is so charming in itself, it adds charm to its cast. Peter Lawford only achieved that level of appeal otherwise in Cluny Brown, where again the overflow of charm from the rest of the film soaks into him.

  8. I like him in Easter Parade too. Not to mention Advise and Consent (where he was pretty much playing himself.)

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