Sunday, September 13, 2015


Today would have been the 120th birthday for one of my favorite character actresses, Ruth McDevitt

If anyone could be said to have cornered the market on a specific type of character in the fictional worlds of movies, TV, and theatre, Ms. McDevitt nailed the dithery old lady. And yet within that narrow category she stretched the boundaries, from feisty to salty to beyond spooky in a few roles. 

Emily Cowles ('Night Stalker'), Jo Nelson ('All In The Family' one of my faves! She was shacking up with Mr. Quigley), Grandma Hanks ('Pistols & Petticoats') plus one shot appearances in shows like 'McCloud', 'Ironside', 'That Girl', 'Here's Lucy' and as a witch in 'Bewitched'. (I've seen a story about how she was treated while filming 'Here's Lucy', but I've seen the same story attributed to Jack Benny so I'm not sure if it's a case of happening twice or not. Geoffrey? You'd be my go-to guy on "Lucian" lore.) 

Another favorite was in the "horror" movie "Homebodies". And then there's a great one-shot with Roddy McDowall in an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', "The Gentleman Caller". They were good enough friends that when she died, Roddy was given her ashes which he buried under one of his rose bushes. (At least so I've been told.) 

Toobworld-wise, there are two points of TV theory: 

1] her Grandma Effie Franks could have been in the family tree of Tom Hanks' televersion ('The Naked Truth', 'Movie Stars', 'Primetime Glick') and 

2] her character's name in an episode of 'Phyllis' was 'Miss McDermott'. So it could be that her televersion was a piano teacher.

She was a grand old dame......

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