THELMA RITTER and CONNIE GILCHRIST: DYNAMIC DUO

They only had a couple of scenes together in one movie,but that’s all it takes.A dynamic duo is one you never forget, and one of my happiest screen memories are the scenes Thelma Ritter and Connie Gilchrist share in A Letter To Three Wives.

A Letter To Three Wives is a highly regarded Fox film from 1949 starring Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain and  Ann   Sothern.
Connie,as Ruby Finney, plays Linda Darnell’s mother and Thelma is her best friend,Sadie Dugan who is a maid at Ann Sothern’s house.
Ruby and Sadie’s favorite occupations are playing cards and bingo and drinking beer!

Thelma and Connie have a scene in the film which is a classic.
In the scene,Sadie,cigarette in her mouth,is sitting in Ruby’s small kitchen.They are playing cards. Ruby says,”Beer?” And Sadie replies,”Yes,if you’re all out of champagne.”

Ruby goes over to her pride and joy,a huge icebox, and takes out a bottle of beer. She gets a couple of glasses and stands at the table,starting to pour some beer into a glass.
Suddenly a noise outside the house breaks into a roar as we realise that Ruby’s house is smack up against the railroad track. The train takes about 10 seconds to speed by,the train’s lights flashing by through the kitchen window.

The proximity of the train and its effect inside the kitchen becomes clear.Ruby stops pouring. She and Sadie wait patiently and silently during this event which both are obviously very used to.Crockery on the shelf next to the window shake up and down.The table moves.Even Ruby seems to be bouncing on the spot.
It is so unexpected and funny!

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As soon as the train is gone,Ruby carries on pouring out the beer as if nothing had happened.

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So utterly natural and down to earth,you feel Connie and Thelma ARE Ruby and Sadie.
Why Thelma Ritter is not listed in the cast remains a mystery.She was at the start of her film career,having had small parts in It’s A wonderful Life and Call Northside 777.
Whereas Connie Gilchrist had appeared in over 40 films by 1949.Both actresses were born in Brooklyn at the start of the twentieth century and both actresses worked till the late 1960’s (Thelma died in 1969 and Connie in 1985.)

Thelma went on to great success and 6 Oscar nominations. She had memorable roles in All About Eve,Panic in the Streets, Rear Window.
Connie continued in small roles and had success on TV in 1955-57 as ‘Purity Pinker’ in The Adventures of Long John Silver.
They were never re-united. Such a pity.

Such a great,scene-stealing duo and definitely dynamic!

For other Dynamic Duos, check out the Dynamic Duos in Classic Film Blogathon  here

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13 responses »

  1. A Letter to Three Wives was the first film my sister and I saw with Connie Gilchrist and today it still remains our favorite. Her and Thelma Ritter were two classic character actors! They could pay any role and really make you believe that they WERE those characters. Truly fine actresses. Thanks for highlighting them!

  2. Yes, that’s it, isn’t it. A level of acting which makes you think they aren’t acting!
    A Letter to Three Wives is one I can watch again and again.

  3. This is a fantastic scene! These two are terrific together and it is a shame they didn`t work together more often. I just saw this movie for the first time a few months ago.

    And, as a huge Thelma Ritter fan…thank you for including her in the blogathon! 🙂

  4. Thelma is terrific,isn’t she. Glad you’ve seen Letter to Three Wives.
    I could have mentioned the later scene when Paul Douglas experiences the earthquake!

  5. When I read the title of your post, my first thought was, ‘Who the heck is Connie Gilchrist?’ And as soon as I read the name of the movie you were writing about, I knew exactly who she was. I love this scene, and these two actresses together — they do make a great duo!

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