Ruth McDevitt: What a Character – Delightfully Daffy

One of my favorite blog series is beginning again today: “What a Character !” Our first character actor is Ruth McDevitt. You might not recognize her name, but the minute you see a photo of her you will definitely recognize this busy television star. Her on-screen personality is perfectly captured in her imdb biography where she is described as “delightfully daffy and quite an apple dumpling of a darling, a cheerfully wizened character.”

On Love American Style with Meredith McCrae Photo: pinterest

Ruth was born in Michigan but she spent most of her early life in Ohio. Her father was the county sheriff and both of her parents were musicians. After graduation, she attended college (some sites give her college as Bowling Green and others Wooster) and after her graduation, she studied at the Toledo Dramatic Academy. She then moved to New York to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Art.

When she married Patrick McDevitt in 1928, she decided to devote her time to her husband, giving up her career. Her husband was a widowed contractor who lived in Florida, so she made the move south and participated in a variety of women’s clubs and community groups. Unfortunately, her husband passed away in 1934, and she then returned to her acting profession in her forties. She made her debut on Broadway in 1940 in several shows and later appeared in “Arsenic and Old Lace” in 1942 and “The Solid Gold Cadillac” in 1954.

In the thirties, Ruth also began her radio career, taking on the roles of Rosemary’s mother in “Keeping up with Rosemary” and Jane in “This Life is Mine.”

The Birds with Tippi Hedren Photo:

Ruth also found success on the big screen. Her first movie role was in The Guy Who Came Back in 1951. She would appear in a variety of movies during her career including The Birds, The Parent Trap, The Shakiest Gun in the West, Mame, and Angel in My Pocket.

With Frank DeVol in The Parent Trap Photo: imdb.com

It was in television that she found most of her fame. Her first appearances were in 1949 when she was cast in A Woman to Remember, The Ford Theater Hour, and Suspense. She continued to receive dramatic roles throughout the fifties. From 1953-54, she appeared in seven episodes of Mister Peepers as his mother.

Pistols and Petticoats Photo: pinterest

Ruth began the 1960s in several medical shows and then transitioned to comedies appearing in The Andy Griffith Show, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Debbie Reynolds Show, I Dream of Jeanne, and Mayberry RFD. She received a recurring role in The Doctors in 1963 as Mrs. McMurtrie. She also became a cast member of Pistols and Petticoats in 1966. She was described as pistol-toting grannie, Effie Hanks. The show was set in Colorado in 1871 where the Hanks family are beloved residents and run things better than the sheriff does. It was canceled after its first season. Ann Sheridan starred in the tv series and she passed away a couple of months before the show was canceled.

The 1970s was Ruth’s busiest decade. She showed up in various dramas including Ironside, McCloud, Mannix, and The Rookies. She popped up in Gunsmoke and Little House on the Prairie and took part in the medical shows Marcus Welby and Medical Center.

With Bert Mustin on All in the Family Photo:

However, comedies kept her employed. She accepted roles on My World and Welcome to It, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, That Girl, Here’s Lucy, Love American Style, Nanny and the Professor, Bewitched, Room 222, and Phyllis. among others.

She accepted a recurring role on All in the Family as Jo Nelson from 1973-1975. Her last starring role was in Kolchak: The Night Stalker from 1974-1975. Darren McGavin plays a newspaper reporter who specializes in solving supernatural mysteries. His only friend was a coworker who also had a column in the paper played by McDevitt. The show supposedly inspired the X Files in part.

Photo: wiki-fandom.com

Ruth’s last two roles were in 1976 in made-for-tv movies. She passed away the same year from natural causes at age 80.

Whenever I write about these character actors, it makes me happy and sad. I respect them so much and appreciate the depth they add to make our television series better, but I am always disappointed that there is so little information available about their lives and careers. I very much enjoyed getting to know Ruth McDevitt a little better—she certainly was a character and we all benefit from that.

I’m Feeling A Little Looney!

Today we get to explore one of my favorite animation sitcoms.  If you wait long enough, everything comes back into style. In looking at new movies which will debut in the next few years, we have remakes coming of A Star is Born, Dirty Dancing, and Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. All-white kitchens that were popular in the 1950s have returned.  One of the photos below is from the 1960s and one is from the past year.  Can you tell which is which?

In my opinion, most of the reboots are lackluster and not nearly as good as the originals. Case in point is the Parent Trap.  The original Disney version with Hayley Mills is much better than the remake with Lindsay Lohan.   Sometimes a gem is created.  Father of the Bride with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton is just as entertaining, if not better, than the original.

 

From 1930 through 1969, Warner Brothers produced tons of Looney Tunes cartoons – the golden age being 1944-1964. Many of us grew up with these cartoons and watched them in syndication with our kids. In 1996, many of these characters were featured in Space Jam, and a new generation of fans was created. In May of 2011, Warner Brothers again debuted Looney Tunes. Created by Spike Brandt and Tom Cervone, 52 episodes were produced in two seasons of shows that ran until August of 2014 on The Cartoon network. in reading the reviews of the shows and perusing blogs about the show, many people felt cheated by this new adaptation and considered it a betrayal of the Looney Tunes branding.  I, on the other hand, loved them.

 

In 2011, the gang had grown up just as I had.  Bugs Bunny lived in a wealthy, middle-class neighborhood.  He made his fortune inventing a new carrot peeler; he even won a Nobel prize. The 30-minute sitcom included adult-oriented humor and dialogue-driven scripts, but it also appealed to kids. We had three different generations watching it at our house and everyone enjoyed it.

 

Bugs has a great sense of humor.  He is extremely patient which is good because Daffy now lives with him.  Their relationship is a cross between Felix and Oscar on The Odd Couple and George and Jerry on Seinfeld. Daffy tries a variety of get-rich quick schemes but none of them pan out.  He can’t hold a job.  He is either fired for incompetence, or he quits from laziness.  He is constantly making trouble for Bugs with his friends and neighbors. Daffy is self-focused and rude to everyone.  However, he truly wants to be a good friend and his heart sometimes gets in the way of his hare-brained schemes, no pun intended. Both characters are voiced by Jeff Bergman.

 

The rest of the Looney Tunes characters are also in the show. Porky (voiced by Bob Bergen) is highly intelligent and interested in culture.  Daffy often tries to manipulate him. Porky quit his boring corporate job and opened his own catering service. He also serves on the city council.   We see Porky writing and performing opera on episodes.

 

Speedy Gonzales (played by Fred Armisen) runs a pizza joint called Pizzarriba.  The rest of the cast often dines there.

 

Several minor characters are Bugs’ neighbors.  Yosemite Sam (Maurice LaMarche voices him) lives next door and causes no end of problems for Bugs who tolerates him almost as well as he does Daffy. Granny lives across the street with Tweety. Voiced by the amazing June Foray, Granny was an allied spy during World War II and now teaches piano. I’m not sure of all the details but apparently the show did not have permission to use the witch Hazel so Lezah who looks identical to her lives down the street (voiced by Roz Ryan).

Elmer Fudd shows up now and again as a local news reporter.

 

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Lola, who appeared in Space Jam, is again Bug’s girlfriend. She is a bit scatter-brained and fast talking, but likable. (Kristen Wiig plays Lola.)

 

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Daffy also has a long-suffering girlfriend, Tina.  Tina is a female duck who works at The Copy Place. She’s very practical, and tries to get Daffy to grow up and become responsible. (Tina was voiced by Jennifer Esposito and Annie Mumolo.)

 

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There is a bit of a Friends-like atmosphere about the show. The characters have character flaws, but they are all likable and fun loving. The plots feature adult problems and issues:  dating, careers, fulfilling dreams, and mundane chores like going to the DMV.

 

There are three episodes that stand out for me as my favorites.

Newspaper Thief (2011) and Spread Those Wings and Fly (2013) are two shows that feature a lot of the humor that makes this show so much fun.

In Newspaper Thief, Daffy accuses the neighbors of stealing his newspaper. Bugs lectures him, and they plan a dinner party for Daffy to apologize.  Instead of apologizing, he gets Porky to help him set up a trap to capture the thief. There are some great one-liners in the show.

 

In Spread Those Wings and Fly, Daffy and Porky go to hear a motivational speaker. Daffy is a skeptic and wants nothing to do with it. Of course, he is reeled in and buys books and motivational tapes. Porky understands the goal is to fly by pursuing your dreams, but Daffy takes it literally.  He takes flying lessons, planning on becoming a pilot.  He is terrible and wrecks the plane. He then becomes a stewardess, wearing high heels and is dressed like a female, even though Bugs explains guys can be flight attendants now.  He quits when he realizes he literally flies back and forth to a city and doesn’t get any time to sight see. The ending of the show has everyone invited to Porky’s opera debut.  Porky has pursued his dream of singing and performs for his friends.  He is amazing, but Daffy totally misses the talent and complains about him the entire time.  Before they leave, the camera pans to Daffy’s feet and shows him still wearing the high heels.  He tells Bugs he likes the height they give him.

 

My favorite show though is Best Friend Redux. Bug’s best friend Rodney, whom he met at Camp when they were young,  comes to visit for a couple of days. Daffy tries to figure out if he or Rodney is Bug’s best friend. Bugs tells him adults don’t have best friends; they just have friends. Daffy tries to make Bugs jealous by hanging out with Porky.  When that doesn’t work, and he gets bored listening to Bugs and Rodney reminisce, Daffy steals Lezah’s time machine.  He goes back to camp and convinces Rodney to go home because they overbooked. It works, although Little Porky who was at the camp in another cabin gets brought back to the future. Daffy takes him to the adult Porky’s house and drops him off.  He goes home only to realize that Bugs doesn’t know him.  Lezah explains Daffy can’t change history without changing the present.  She said because Bugs never met Rodney, he never met Daffy because he meets Daffy at the post office mailing a letter to Rodney. Daffy realizes his error and goes back in time, taking little Porky with him. He stops Rodney’s bus and takes him back to camp to introduce him to Bugs. Then he puts Little Porky into their cabin instead of the boring one he was supposed to be in. At the end of the show, Rodney realizes why Daffy looks familiar.  He says he looks like their camp director, Chuck Winnanatke which confuses Bugs who says that was not the camp director’s name. Daffy quickly gets them to change the subject.

 

It seems like most people love or hate this reboot of Looney Tunes.  Take a day this winter and have a Looney Tunes fest.  Both seasons are available on DVD. You can revisit your nostalgic youth while enjoying the show from an adult point of view. I’d love to hear what you think of the show.