Friday, August 1, 2014

Ruth Gordon: No matter what -- never face the facts

A young Ruth Gordon
As some of you may know, I have an imaginary mastermind group of great women who inspire me.  When I'm facing a difficult situation, I sit down and meditate, surrounded by my roundtable of kick-ass women, and imagine how they would advise me.

Eleanor Roosevelt is at my roundtable.  And so is Ruth Gordon.

So who was Ruth Gordon, and why should you care?

Those of us still residing on planet Earth remember her most for her roles after age 65, in the late 1960s and early '70s.  She was Natalie Wood's grandmother in Inside Daisy Clover, the satanic priestess in Rosemary's Baby, and as the almost-octogenarian who shakes up Bud Cort's world in Harold and Maude.

But that still doesn't tell you why you should care about this highly eccentric actress, screenwriter, and playwright whose first film appearance was in 1915.

Ruth Gordon in a still from cult classic Harold and Maude
What makes me often ask myself WWRGD is her spirit, her energy, and her love of life as a senior woman.  The fact that she actually appeared to become younger as she aged.  If you check out the link to her 1971 appearance on the tv program This Is Your Life at age 75, it's shocking how much younger she appears than her contemporaries.

She did not let life beat her down.  And she didn't take to heart what anyone else had to say about her.  Instead, she viewed life as a continuous, exciting learning experience -- and had her greatest professional successes after the age of 70.


And, there's this:  Her long-standing and happy marriage to a man 14 years her junior (some sources say 16 years younger) -- and they married in 1942, long before anyone coined the stupid and distasteful epithet "cougar". 

Do you love Tracy-Hepburn comedies?  Gordon and husband Garson Kanin wrote two of the best, Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike.  (Interested to know more about Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin, and their relationship?  Read this very interesting People magazine interview from 1980.)

But, I digress (as I so often do).

Here's another reason that Gordon is one of my guardian angels:  She is just so wise and full of pith and vinegar.  Here are a couple of my favorites among her quotes:

  • "Never give up; and never -- under any circumstances, no matter what -- never face the facts."
  • "If you believe, then you hang on. If you believe, it means you've got imagination, you don't need stuff thrown out on a blueprint.  And don't face facts -- what can stop you? If I don't make it today, I'll come in tomorrow."
  • [As a winner on Oscar night, 1969] "My husband told me if I didn't win this time he wouldn't bring me again. But I figured even if I didn't win I'd get a new dress out of it. I feel absolutely groovy."
With a point of view like this, how can you ever lose?

Yes, I do believe that sometimes it is time to give up.  But not because someone else tells you you're crazy.  Not because someone else tells you you're too old.  Not because you read a piece of research telling you that all the good ones are taken, or that women are past their prime at 35 or 40 or 50.  Who says these things, anyway?  Men.

There's only one person who can rule your world:  You.  (And, I'm sending you along a big kiss along with that.) 

If you click just one link in this blog post, please click this one, to a wonderful interview of Ruth Gordon by James Grissom.  The interview was in 1984, the year before Gordon's death.  The quotes directly above this paragraph are from his interview, and there's so much more that will inspire you in his full interview.  Among the topics are how to live life, how to intend outcomes in your life, and how to say "yes." 

For a little more about Ruth Gordon, here's the Wikipedia entry for her

And here's Ruth Gordon's appearance in a 1971 episode of This Is Your Life, recapping her life and promoting Harold and Maude.  It's pure tacky early 1970s tv, but worth a view if you're a fan.

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