Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Ruth Roland was born Ruth Rowland on August 26, 1892 in San Francisco, California. She was the eldest daughter born to James, a theatre manager and his singer wife, Lillian. A year later the family was joined by daughter Jessie and the next year daughter Dorothy.
When she was still a child, James and Lillian Roland divorced. Sadly, a few years later, Lillian passed away. Ruth was sent to live with an aunt in Los Angeles where she was eventually enrolled into Hollywood High School.
Ruth began acting on stage when she was three years old. Having parents in the entertainment business seemed to help her a bit when it came to finding success on stage. She was popular with audiences and began performing under the stage name of "Baby Ruth." David Belasco saw her on stage one night and proclaimed her one of the best child actresses he had ever seen.
While performing on stage one night she was spotted by director, Sidney Olcott, who wanted to put her in some of his film shorts at the Kalem Studio. She made her film debut in a 1909 short, The Old Soldier's Story (her debut is sometimes credited to a 1908 version of The Scarlet Letter).
Her popularity on the stage carried over to the screen because she was soon a familiar and wanted face among the movie audiences. At first she was billed simply as one of the "Kalem Girls" but she eventually was credited under her name.
Ruth really found her niche appearing in various comedies and westerns, and most notably, in serials. Her serials included: Ruth - the Girl Detective (1915), The Red Circle (1915), The Neglected Wife (1917), Hands Up! (1918), The Adventures of Ruth (1919), Ruth of the Rockies (1920), The Avenging Arrow (1921), White Eagle (1922), and the Timber Queen (1922).
Another film of note that Ruth had under her belt was 1918's Cupid Angling. This film was one of the first (if not THE first) that was photographed in color. It also featured brief appearances from Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
By 1923, Ruth was tired of making films and decided to take a break from the screen and go back to the stage. While she did appear in films here and there, she concentrated mostly on her stage career. When the talkies came around she of course wanted to try her hand at that new medium. Her voice was fine, but the audiences were looking for newer faces, so her career went into a downfall. She made her last film appearance in 1935's Nine to Nine.
Ruth Roland passed away on September 22, 1937 in Hollywood. She was taken by cancer at age forty seven.
She was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale next to her mother. Her funeral was held at the Wee Kirk O' the Heather Church and her pallbearers included Sid Grauman and director Robert Z. Leonard.
Ruth was married twice. Her first husband was a film producer named Lionel Kent, who she married in 1917 and remained together for only two years. Her second husband was actor Ben Bard. The two were married in 1929 and remained married until her death in 1937. Neither marriage produced children.
If you really look at it, Ruth didn't need to return to the screen acting because she was financially set. Ruth, like a few others in early Hollywood, bought up lots of Los Angeles real estate and was able to rake in the cash that way.
"Unless audiences look on you as an old friend, they won't get half the thrill out of seeing you in danger." ~~ Ruth Roland