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Notes and Quotes-January 2, 2022

Notes+and+Quotes-January+2%2C+2022

An Audience To Remember

By Tom Morrow

There are times in one’s life when unexpected pleasures come flooding in. I’ve had several of those occasions, one of them occurring back in 1979, while a cast member of the venerable stage play, The Philadelphia Story at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido.
I was cast as Uncle Willie, one of the supporting characters. The movie version was a favorite of mine. The 1940 Oscar-winning film featured Cary Grant, Katharyn Hepburn, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey.

Oscar-nominated actress, Ruth Hussey

I don’t recall who, but one of my friends told me Miss Hussey lived in Carlsbad and had the popular actress’ phone number. She had played the photographer Elizabeth Inbrig character, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, It occurred to me it would be something of a coup having the popular star at one of our Escondido stage performances. I called her and she graciously accepted without hesitation – and, she asked if she could she bring some of her Hollywood friends? I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.
Ruth Carol Hussey, born Oct. 30, 1911, in Providence, R.I., worked as a model before landing a number of stage roles with touring companies. MGM signed her to a players’ contract and she made her film debut in 1937. She quickly became a leading lady in MGM’s “B” film unit, usually playing sophisticated, worldly roles. In 1941, exhibitors voted her the third-most popular “new star” in Hollywood. But it was her Oscar-nominated role as photographer Elizabeth Imbrie in “The Philadelphia Story” she is most remembered.
In 1942, she married talent agent and radio producer C. Robert “Bob” Longenecker at Mission San Antonio de Pala here in San Diego’s North County. They raised three children: George Robert Longenecker, John William Longenecker, and Mary Elizabeth Hendrix.
Following the birth of her children, Hussey focused much of her attention on family activities and in 1967 she was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
In 1977, she and her husband moved from their Brentwood family home to here in Rancho Carlsbad. Her husband died in 2002 shortly after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.
Their son, John Longenecker was a cinematographer and film director. He won an Academy Award for producing a live-action short film. “The Resurrection of Broncho Billy/” (1970). At age 23, he was the youngest producer in Hollywood to ever have won an Oscar.
During Miss Hussey’s long career, she made more than 60 films and numerous radio and television appearances.
Besides “Philadelphia,” other notable films Hussey starred in included working with Robert Taylor in Flight Command (1940), Robert Young in Northwest Passage (1940), Van Heflin in Tennessee Johnson (1942), Ray Milland in The Uninvited (1944), Alan Ladd in The Great Gatsby (1949), and Clifton Webb  in “Stars & Stripes Forever (1952). In 1960, she co-starred in The Facts of Life with Bob Hope. Miss Hussey also was active in early television dramas such as “Marcus Welby, M.D,” “The Jimmy Stewart Theater,” “Jane Wyman Presents,” “Studio One,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The New Perry Mason” show, and many others TV shows and commercials.
She also was active in Catholic charities, was noted for painting in watercolors, and was a lifelong Democrat although she did vote for Republican Thomas Dewey in 1944,, and for Hollywood friend and former co-star Ronald Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.
Dick Simmons,aka Sgt Preston

On the night she and her entourage arrived, I introduced the 18-year-old young lady playing the photographer’s role (unfortunately the years have robbed me of her name) to Miss Hussey after the show. While the youngster had never seen the Academy Award-winning movie, nor had any idea who the Oscar-nominated star was, Miss Hussey praised the  young girl for her Patio performance.
Among the friends Miss Hussey brought that evening was her film producer-husband Bab Longnecker, Dick Simmons (Sgt Preston of the Yukon), and three other familiar character actors, whose names unfortunately I don’t recall… if I ever knew them. That particular trio of feature actors was easily recognizable, (a.k.a. “what’s their names”) after having seen all of them numerous times down through the years in supporting character roles of various films and TV shows. At that time they all lived in the Rancho Carlsbad community just off El Camino Real.
Miss Hussey died April 19, 2005 at the age of 93, from complications from an appendectomy and was interred in Westlake Village, California.
During those years I had a number other encounters with Miss Hussey, but I always was hung-up on her performance in “The Philadelphia Story.” The dumbest question I ever asked her during one of those star-struck moments: “Did you ever work with any other ‘big name’ actors?” That question still bounces around in my memory of dumb questions to a celebrity. There were nearly 20 other earlier films, including “Madam X, in a career that began in 1937 and lasted until 1973. Her last big film was the 1952 classic “Stars & Stripes Forever” with Clifton Webb.

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Notes and Quotes-January 2, 2022