Ruth Harriet Louise (1903-1940) photographed some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the 1920s. She joined MGM at the age of 22 and became the only woman working as a portrait photographer at a Hollywood studio.
Born Ruth Goldstein in New York, Ruth followed her brother Mark ( director Mark Sandrich) to Hollywood and set up her own portrait studio.
Ruth’s cousin, Carmel Myers, asked Ruth to photograph her whilst Carmel was making BEN HUR in 1925. Louis B. Mayer was impressed and Ruth went to work at MGM.
Ruth ran MGM’s portrait studio from 1925 to 1930. Garbo selected her as her exclusive portrait photographer. Clarence Sinclair Bull ran the Stills dept ( taking photographs on the film sets), while Ruth reported directly to Howard Strickling, head of MGM publicity.
In the 1920s, Hollywood was still generally hospitable to woman professionals – and many studio employees and executives were young, like Ruth.
However, in 1930 George Hurrell became the chief MGM portrait photographer and Ruth’s contract was not renewed.
I don’t know the exact circumstances as to why, suddenly,Ruth’s work was devalued to the extent she lost her job. I’ve read top MGM star ,Norma Shearer,preferred Hurrell’s photos.
She was only 25 and yet there is little evidence of her working in the 1930s. Could it be she chose family life after the tough routine at MGM. Her husband was director Leigh Jason (his films include “The Mad Miss Manton “, “The Bride Walks Out” and “Out of the Blue”.)
Ruth had a son who died aged 6 in 1938, and only two years later Ruth died a few days after giving birth to a second son who also died. She was 37 years old.
Joan Crawford posing as ‘Hamlet’!
Dressed in homage to John Barrymore, 6 stills of Joan Crawford by Ruth appeared in a 1929 edition of Motion Picture magazine under the caption, To wed, or not to wed! ( just before Joan’s marriage to Douglas Fairbanks Jr.)
(John Barrymore had played Hamlet on stage in the early 1920s. In 1933, two short scenes from “Hamlet” were shot in Technicolor for a possible film version . Barrymore was 51 and the proposal for a film was not taken forward.
In the few clips on You Tube, Barrymore is seen with Donald Crisp, Reginald Denny, Irving Pichel.)
The short announcement of Ruth’s departure from MGM.
Nice to see that Ruth’s career is documented in this book, RUTH HARRIET LOUISE AND HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR PHOTOGRAPHY (2002).
The book makes the point – “…..the extraordinary fact is that she was the most reproduced photographer in America during her tenure at MGM.”
- Ruth herself is quoted: “With actors, of course, having their pictures taken is part of their business and they are more or less in my hands…..I don’t mind bossing them around one bit……I realise some of their success depends on me.”
Ruth’s brother ,Mark Sandrich ( the original family name was Sendreich), with Irving Berlin, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire on the set of CAREFREE.
Mark had directed 5 of the Astaire/ Rogers films and had started work on BLUE SKIES in 1946 when he died suddenly.
(Mark’s son, Jay Sandrich, died this month aged 89. Jay won many Emmies for his television direction. )
Sandrich’s fedora hat was a constant on his sets.