Cast & Crew
In the rural town of Braddock, North Carolina, newcomer Dr. Saul Manfred is curious to meet Ruby Corey, a spirited beauty who intrigues Saul despite the fact that the class-conscious citizens of Braddock disdain her for having been born on the "wrong side of the tracks." Jim Gentry, the richest man in town, takes Saul to the hunting lodge run by Ruby's father Jud, and there Saul meets influential townsmen Judge Tackman, Clyde Pratt, Neil Fallgren and Cullen McAuliffe. Saul, who has admired Ruby from afar, is shy with her, but is nonetheless jealous of her obvious attraction to Boake Tackman, her high school sweetheart, who has just returned from a long stay in South America. Ruby's mother and religious brother Jewel warn her that Boake, who is from a poor but aristocratic family, will toss her aside as he did before, but Ruby is determined to make him marry her. During dinner, Boake explains his plan to drain his family's salt water swamped land and raise crops, and Jim offers to help him financially. Later, Jim tells Saul that when Ruby and Boake were in high school, Boake tried to take advantage of her and Ruby stabbed him with an oyster knife. Jim and his invalid wife Letitia then took Ruby in for a couple of years to protect her, and Letitia taught Ruby gracious manners and how to run a large house. Ruby had to return to the lodge, however, when Jud needed help, and now Jim wonders if it was unkind to give Ruby a glimpse of a life she can never have. Boake and Ruby's antagonistic, obsessive relationship intensifies the next day, when Ruby slips away from Saul during a duck hunt to meet with Boake. Ruby rebukes Boake for taking her for granted, and is angered later that day by Boake's deferential treatment of Tracy, McAuliffe's daughter. Despite everyone's assumption that Tracy and Boake will marry, Ruby pursues Boake and enjoys a tempestuous affair with him. Boake, who is making a success of his land reclamation business, eventually tells Ruby that he is engaged to the wealthy Tracy, and Ruby angrily rejects his suggestion that they continue seeing each other after the wedding. Soon after, Saul summons Ruby to town to care for Letitia, who is dying. Letitia is comforted by her last fews days with Ruby, and after Letitia dies, Jim proposes to Ruby. Ruby is hesitant, as she wonders if Jim will someday believe that she only married him for his money or to spite Boake, but Jim convinces her of his love, and the couple marry in New York. Despite Jim's prominence in the community, Ruby is snubbed by Braddock's oldest families, which irritates Jim. Then, one night at the country club, Ruby and Boake engage in a slow, romantic dance, and the jealous Jim provokes a fistfight with Boake. Jim and Ruby exchange harsh words, but the next day, while they are sailing, Ruby assures Jim that she does love him. Their reconciliation is short-lived, however, as a sudden wind arises and Jim is swept overboard. Despite Ruby's genuine grief over her husband's death, everyone in Braddock assumes that she murdered Jim. Saul stands by Ruby, but is astonished as, in revenge, she begins to foreclose on the many businesses to which Jim leant money. Soon, virtually all the businesses in Braddock are either shut down or are in debt to Ruby, for which Jewel castigates her. Ruby bitterly replies that she is merely getting back at the people who were cruel to her, and soon after, Boake comes to the Gentry mansion. Ruby offers to forgive his loan from Jim and expresses her desire to rekindle their relationship, but Boake coldly refuses both offers. Infuriated, Ruby not only assumes ownership of Boake's land but stops the reclamation process so that the land is once again covered by salt water. Crushed by his loss, Boake goes with Ruby to the Coreys' hunting lodge, where he forcefully resumes their romance. The next day, while they are duck hunting in the swamp, Ruby is unnerved by Boake's intimidating manner. Boake is softened by Ruby's heartfelt apology, however, and ruefully wonders how things would have differed if they had been social equals. Suddenly, a bullet whizzes by as Jewel, unbalanced by his obsession with Ruby's "sins," tries to murder his sister and her lover. Jewel succeeds in wounding Boake, after which Ruby shoots and kills her brother, then shoves his body into the swamp. Cradling the dying Boake, Ruby sobs, and years later, the embittered Ruby pilots a fishing boat and lives a reclusive life to atone for her past willfulness.
Mrs. Lou Mallison
Jean L. Speak
Under her real name, Phylis Isley, she had started her career in B movies (New Frontier , Dick Tracy's G-Men ) at Republic Pictures during the late 1930s, and just a few years later (under her Hollywood name) she was at Twentieth Century-Fox making The Song of Bernadette, which brought her the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Actress of 1943. Her next picture, the 1944 drama Since You Went Away, was written and produced by David O. Selznick, who wooed her away from her husband, Robert Walker, a costar of Since You Went Away and later the memorable villain of Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 classic Strangers on a Train. Selznick made Jones his protégé, using his clout to land her the role of Bernadette and casting her in subsequent parts that extended her Oscar® nomination streak for three more consecutive years for her supporting role in Since You Went Away and then for her starring performances in the 1945 mystery Love Letters (1945) and the 1946 western Duel in the Sun. Jones was the last of four actresses whose initial success has been attributed to Selznick's influence; the others are Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Fontaine.
No star or producer is infallible, though, and Jones fell into a slump after Duel in the Sun, along with Selznick, who had produced and cowritten the epic western. Pictures such as Portrait of Jennie (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), and Carrie (1952) were received less enthusiastically than Jones's earlier films, and she had every reason to think twice when Ruby Gentry came her way. She badly needed a hit, but this project bore a suspicious resemblance to Duel in the Sun, which had put her in the Oscar® race but had almost sunk Selznick's career by chewing up vast quantities of money and turning only a slender, belated profit. Like the Mexican-American vixen Jones played in the 1946 film, Ruby Gentry is a spirited youngster from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, sent by her poor and troubled family to be raised in a more privileged household. Also like the earlier character, Ruby runs into complications with two men, one much older than herself, the other a hell-raising hunk who's very much on her wavelength.
On top of these similarities, Ruby Gentry was to be directed by King Vidor, who had directed Duel in the Sun or at least gotten screen credit for directing it, even though half a dozen others (including Selznick himself) had supervised parts of it during the drawn-out production process. Jones decided that the box-office potential of Ruby Gentry was too great to ignore, however, and signed on to the project, hoping she wouldn't be criticized for simply repeating herself. The picture scored a major hit with moviegoers, and while it didn't permanently revitalize Jones's career, its popularity smoothed the path to her starring role in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and her fourth Oscar® nomination three years later. Writing about Ruby Gentry long after its release, critic Richard Lippe accurately noted that her unique brand of "sensuality," combining broad physicality with psychological complexity, is central to the film's artistic success.
As things turned out, Ruby Gentry didn't emerge as an identical twin to Duel in the Sun, thanks to a tighter screenplay, leaner production values, and a cast that boasts fewer big stars but a lot of first-rate talent. Karl Malden, one of the most gifted character actors of his day, plays Jim Gentry, the wealthy man who gives teenage Ruby a stable home when her backwoods family finds her too wild to handle. Jim understands the challenges of being an outsider to polite society, since he came from humble origins himself, and when his sickly wife finally dies he proposes to Ruby without delay. But she's been playing cat and mouse with great-looking Boake Tackman, played by great-looking Charlton Heston, since the beginning of the movie, and it's unlikely they'll forget each other even if she marries Jim and Boake marries the society girl his family wants him to wed. Then surprising events cause radical changes in Ruby's situation, including her relationship to Boake, leading to the swampy climax in which Ruby's nutty brother, a puritanical religious fanatic played by James Anderson, makes a decisive difference. The finale is bittersweet and haunting.
As both director and coproducer of the film, Vidor was able to bring in Silvia Richards's screenplay at a concentrated running time of 82 minutes (the road-show version of Duel in the Sun was more than an hour longer) and to take full advantage of Russell Harlan's black-and-white camera skills, which convey an underlying grittiness at least as well as the western's Technicolor photography did. The film's depiction of Southern life is closer to a rough sketch than a detailed portrait its location shooting was done in California, some of it at Vidor's ranch so it's ironic that Joan Fontaine apparently turned down the picture because she felt insecure about her Southern accent, whereas Jones worked on hers for weeks, according to Fox publicity, traveling to North Carolina with the filmmakers when they went there to photograph background shots. An asset of Ruby Gentry that's familiar even to people who haven't seen the picture is Heinz Roemheld's music, built on the moody melody that became a huge hit (with the addition of Mitchell Parish's lyrics) for Ray Charles as the simply titled "Ruby."
A review in The New York Times, signed A.W., said Ruby Gentry purveys "pure, old-fashioned passion, corny and uncut, and she doesn't care who knows it." Getting at the film's deeper significance, though, the critic praised Vidor for using the Southern-set story to reveal a "prevalent caste system whose mellifluous accents cannot hide its implacable differences." Vidor made an admirable number of socially conscious films, from The Crowd (1928) and Our Daily Bread (1934) to Stella Dallas (1937) and War and Peace (1956), and Ruby Gentry belongs on the list as well. For all its corn and passion, it shows genuine concern about important issues like small-mindedness, injustice, and the ignorance that allows those ills to flourish. It's a movie to think about as well as to enjoy.
Director: King Vidor
Producers: Joseph Bernhard, King Vidor
Screenplay: Silvia Richards
Cinematographer: Russell Harlan
Film Editing: Terry Morse
Art Direction: Dan Hall
Music: Heinz Roemheld
With: Jennifer Jones (Ruby Gentry), Charlton Heston (Boake Tackman), Karl Malden (Jim Gentry), Tom Tully (Jud Corey), Bernard Phillips (Dr. Saul Manfred), James Anderson (Jewel Corey), Josephine Hutchinson (Letitia Gentry), Phyllis Avery (Tracy McAuliffe), Herbert Heyes (Judge Tackman), Myra Marsh (Ma Corey), Charles Cane (Cullen McAuliffe), Sam Flint (Neil Fallgren), Frank Wilcox (Clyde Pratt).br> BW-82m.
by David Sterritt
Jennifer Jones is Ruby Gentry
Synopsis: Even though she lived in the house of big businessman Jim Gentry (Karl Malden) as a teenager, Ruby Corey (Jennifer Jones) was born on the wrong side of the tracks. She's excluded from the social whirl in her Southern town, even though she catches every man's eye. Well-born Boake Tackman (Charlton Heston) returns from South America to drain a swamp and make his fortune, and he and Ruby rekindle their fiery romance. But when Boake instead weds a more socially acceptable debutante, Ruby goes wild, vowing revenge upon her lover and the whole hypocritical town as well.
Jennifer Jones gave an uncharacteristically modulated performance in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Gone to Earth, a terrific movie about a rough country girl who becomes a hellion.
Jones had great gifts as an actress but her roles in many of her American films post- Duel in the Sun are gross caricatures. Ruby Corey wears tight jeans and teases men mercilessly, especially Heston's big hunk Boake. She greets him by half-scratching his face off.
All the men who come to the hunting lodge lust after Ruby, even the local doctor who serves as the film's narrator (Barney Phillips). The plot raises several unsavory angles, but doesn't investigate them. Boake uses Ruby as a pre-nup sex toy before settling down with a more socially acceptable bride. After his ailing wife finally dies, wealthy businessman Jim Gentry makes a play for Ruby, and marries her. As she's been living in his house as sort of a surrogate daughter, it all seems a little on the sick side.
Jim Gentry takes Ruby to New York where she's transformed overnight from a freckled hick in blue jeans into a Park Avenue type complete with Paris fashions. More tragedy strikes, and before you can say Knot's Landing or Dallas Ruby is exacting revenge on the local community, shuttering factories and foreclosing on mortgages. That includes Boake Tackman's farming project, which she destroys by letting the sea reclaim the swamp he so carefully drained. Hell hath no fury and Ruby wants the entire town to suffer for the shabby way she was treated.
All of these developments are represented through montages of unemployed workers, inter-cut with Ruby pacing the floors in her mansion, savoring her revenge. The forced theatrics are not quite as exaggerated as Pearl Chavez' antics in Duel in the Sun, but they're also not as entertaining. The story has kept a bible-spouting brother (James Anderson) on the back burner for eighty minutes, and trots him out for a tragic finale in an unconvincing swamp set. The laughable coda has an emotionally neutered Ruby eventually becoming a fishing boat captain, as if the locals would accept her after wrecking their economy and throwing them all out of work.
Critics point to grand themes in King Vidor's movies, although this show would appear to have been warped more by the outside influence of David O. Selznick, Jones' lover, producer and manager. The resoundingly misogynistic story points to a lusty female as the source of all evil. Ruby destroys the men in her life and tries to do the same to civilization - how many critical references have I read equating the ocean with Ruby's female rage, inundating the good works of man as represented by Boake's farm reclaimed from the swamp? It's all thuddingly obvious.
Fans of champion scenery chewing will find plenty of delight amid Heston's strutting and Jennifer Jones' over-emphatic presence. Most of the rest of the cast simmers in as much sexual envy that could reach a screen in 1952. The biggest shock is to hear the timeless song Ruby over the titles and orchestrated as the film's theme. All that's missing is Ray Charles' voice. The tune's gentle but plaintive melody doesn't have much in common with our feelings toward the tempestuous title character.
MGM's DVD of Ruby Gentry is part of their ABC library deal. The B&W film is in fine shape and the soundtrack is equally well preserved. There are no extras. The cover illustration makes it look as though Jennifer Jones is trying to tear the hair from Charlton Heston's chest. That, or Heston has really dainty little hands!
To order Ruby Gentry, click here. Explore more Jennifer Jones titles here. Explore more Karl Malden titles here.
by Glenn Erickson
Jennifer Jones is Ruby Gentry
Turn off the pumps.- Ruby Gentry
King Vidor's director credit appears in the form of a signature. Voice-over narration by Bernard Phillips, as "Dr. Saul Manfred," is heard intermittently throughout the film. According to a June 17, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, Jane Darwell was originally set to play "Ma Corey" but had to withdraw from the production due to conflicting commitments. According to a modern source, Joan Fontaine was originally considered for the leading role. Athough Hollywood Reporter production charts and a July 3, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item include Howard Negley, Earl Lee, Arthur Lovejoy and Hazel Keener in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
Hollywood Reporter news items and studio publicity reported that the picture was partially shot on location in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, San Marino, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Vidor's ranch in Willow Creek, CA. Background footage was shot in North Carolina, where, according to studio publicity, Jennifer Jones spent several weeks prior to production to perfect her Southern accent. Numerous modern sources have pointed out the similarities between Ruby Gentry and Duel in the Sun, the 1947 Vanguard Films production that was directed by Vidor and starred Jones and Charlton Heston as antagonistic lovers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). "Ruby," the theme from Ruby Gentry, became a popular instrumental hit, to which lyricist Mitchell Parish later added words. The song then became one of Ray Charles' most popular standards.