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August 2, 1905|
Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
September 12, 1992 (aged 87)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
Ruth Nelson (August 2, 1905 – September 12, 1992) was an American stage and film actress. She is known for her roles in such films as Wilson, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Humoresque, 3 Women, The Late Show and Awakenings. She was the wife of John Cromwell, whom she acted alongside on multiple occasions.
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Nelson was the daughter of vaudeville actress Eva Mudge. She attended Immaculate Heart Convent School in Los Angeles and went on to study at the American Laboratory Theatre in New York City during the early 1920s. Nelson made her New York City stage debut as a member of the theatre collective Group Theatre throughout its run from 1931 to 1941, receiving praise for the role of the chief striker's wife in Clifford Odets' play Waiting for Lefty.
After Group Theatre ended in 1941, Nelson relocated to Hollywood. Throughout the 1940s, she made a number of movies for 20th Century Fox and other Hollywood studios. One of these was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), directed by fellow Group Theatre member Elia Kazan. She also appeared in Kazan's film The Sea of Grass in 1947.
As her career began to take off, she was compelled to put things on hold when her husband, the director John Cromwell, a leading Roosevelt Democrat in the film industry, was falsely accused of Communism by actor Adolphe Menjou in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee hearings on Hollywood in 1951 and his career went on to be blacklisted. While offered a New York stage role as a wife in what turned out to be Death of a Salesman, Nelson turned down most acting offers at this time to stay in Los Angeles and support Cromwell.
Nelson had not made a Hollywood film for nearly 30 years before appearing with her husband in 1977's 3 Women, directed by Robert Altman, and The Late Show, a film Robert Benton wrote and directed that Altman produced. She and Cromwell played husband and wife as the aged patriarchal grandparents in the ensemble cast of Altman's black comedy the following year, A Wedding.
Nelson was married twice. She wed actor William Challee in 1931. The marriage later dissolved and Nelson married actor/director John Cromwell in 1946. The marriage lasted 33 years, until Cromwell's death in 1979 from a pulmonary embolism.
She was the stepmother of actor James Cromwell.
|1943||The North Star||Nadya Simonov|
|1944||None Shall Escape||Alice Grimm|
|1944||The Eve of St. Mark||Nell West|
|1944||The Keys of the Kingdom||Lisbeth Chisholm|
|1945||A Tree Grows in Brooklyn||Miss McDonough|
|1945||The Girl of the Limberlost||Kate Comstock|
|1946||Shock||Mrs. Margaret Cross||Voice, Uncredited|
|1946||Sentimental Journey||Mrs. McMasters|
|1946||Till the End of Time||Amy Harper|
|1947||The Sea of Grass||Selina Hall, Sam Hall's Wife|
|1947||Mother Wore Tights||Miss Ridgeway|
|1948||Arch of Triumph||Madame Fessier|
|1977||The Late Show||Mrs. Schmidt|
|1977||3 Women||Mrs. Rose|
|1978||A Wedding||Aunt Beatrice Sloan Cory|
|1979||Visions||Amelia||"Ladies in Waiting"|
|1980||Ryan's Hope||Mrs. Merck||"1.1322"|
|1980||A Christmas Without Snow||Inez||TV film|
|1981||Hart to Hart||Ida Cox||"Blue Chip Murder"|
|1981||Skokie||Grandma Jannsen||TV film|
|1983||The Haunting Passion||Judith Granville||TV film|
|1991||Lethal Innocence||Bernice||TV film, (final film role)|