Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flawed Rubye

I feel kind of bad for Rubye de Remer.

Her story starts commonly enough: she was born Ruby Burkhardt in 1892, and as a young lady joined the ranks of Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic. Wasn't a long jump from there to film, her first being ENLIGHTEN THY DAUGHTER (1917).  Her success on both stage and screen was frequently - and almost singularly - attributed to one thing: her looks.

[image courtesy]

Everyone thought Rubye was gorgeous.  Ziegfeld called her "the most beautiful blonde since Venus".  Artist Paul Heller said she was the "ideal of American beauty".  She even posed for Harrison Fisher after winning (what else?) a beauty contest in 1916.  A typical fan magazine article about her went something like this:

The beauty of Rubye de Remer has steeped in me like tea steeping in a tea-pot.  It haunts its victim. The screen gives only half an intimation...[s]o cherubim have floated about the canvases of some of the Old Masters.
[Gordon Gassaway, "The Lady of the Big House on the Hill". Motion Picture, April 1922]

It seemed Rubye was blessed...

...but she often felt cursed by it.

She wanted to be a serious actress, but no one would take such a "pretty girl" seriously.  The Washington Post let her vent in a 1919 article appropriately titled "Beauty Often a Handicap":

"The actress that has been blessed with a fair measure of good looks," says Miss De Remer, "labors under the handicap imposed by the casting-director who insists that she play only such parts as afford her a chance to look her prettiest...I want people to say of my work 'she is more play strong character parts than she is to be dolled up in silks and satins'...[p]eople pay for seats in a theatre to see acting, not to witness a display of gowns or pulchritude."

Yet even they responded the same way, effectively erasing the whole point of the piece:

Personally we agreed with Miss de Remer's views...but did you ever see this little lady as a member of the "Midnight Frolic"?


I couldn't find anything further about Rubye, other than the same tired old fluff that exhausted her so much:

The secret of remaining young is never to wear an unbecoming hat.
["Some New Ideas About Dress", Photoplay, May 1922]

But there still was a spark in her, and she wasn't above letting it out:

[I]f I lost whatever looks with which the Almighty has seen fit to bless me, I wouldn't have a job very long.
["How I Keep in Condition", Photoplay, September 1921]

Rubye de Remer made a little over 20 films, her last being THE GORGEOUS HUSSY (1936) with Joan Crawford.  She married twice, once in 1912 (divorced 1916) and again, this time to coal/iron magnate Benjamin Throop in 1924 (he died in 1935, though I can't find if their marriage ended before that).  She passed away in 1984, aged 92.

Can anyone out there fill in the holes for me?  I'm still poking around, trying to find something, anything.  I'd feel this way about any actor/actress, but especially Rubye.  She so much wanted to be remembered as more than just a pretty face.

No comments: