Back in May TCM aired a batch of Ruth Hussey films. There is something about her I like– can’t quite put my finger on it. She’s definitely of her era, but she possesses a timeless quality too. I had created a Performer Spotlight thread about Hussey on TCM’s message boards, making a point of recommending a film the actress made with Robert Young. But as I thought about it, she made several very good pictures with Young during her time at MGM; and they are all worth mentioning. So here goes:
The Ruth Hussey film I most recommend is RICH MAN, POOR GIRL. She plays Lana Turner’s older sister in this one. She is planning to marry a man from the right side of the tracks (Robert Young), but family dramas nearly get in the way. It’s nicely directed, and Hussey has chemistry with Young in spades. Apparently, the bosses at Metro had come to the same conclusion and the pair would be teamed up on several more occasions.
One of those occasions was in HONOLULU. Though the movie is a showcase for the dancing talents of Eleanor Powell as well as the comic charms of Burns & Allen, the bulk of the romantic scenes fall to Hussey and Young. Though Young’s character winds up with Powell by the final fadeout, Hussey has certainly given the leading lady a run for the money.
The formula was repeated a year later in MAISIE. This time, instead of Eleanor Powell, we have the irrepressible Ann Sothern in the lead. Young plays a Wyoming cowboy named Slim who finds himself drawn into the wacky adventures of the title character, as well as the marriage problems of his boss (Ian Hunter) and the boss’ estranged wife (Hussey).
In the early 1940s, MGM cast the stars in two period pieces. The first was the adventure tale NORTHWEST PASSAGE, where most of the action revolves around the exploits of an explorer played by Spencer Tracy and his traveling companion (Young). Hussey turns up in a supporting role as a romantic interest. Then, in H.M. PULHAM ESQ., we have Young as a solid executive who is married to Hussey but wondering about how his life would have turned out with a former sweetheart, played by Hedy Lamarr.
The next year, the studio paired Young & Hussey as leads in the romantic trifle MARRIED BACHELOR. In the story, Hussey portrays a dissatisfied wife who feels her husband (Young) needs to develop a greater sense of responsibility. As they both find new careers outside the home, they find their relationship enduring a series of madcap crises.
Though Robert Young would soon leave MGM and move over to RKO, he and frequent costar Ruth Hussey continued to remain friends. Years later, in a 1969 episode of Young’s long-running medical series Marcus Welby M.D., they would reunite on screen. Here is a photo from a scene in the third season episode entitled ‘The Best Is Yet to Be.’ With these two pros, the best was always in evidence.