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Cecil Scaglione, Editor

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An Audience To Remember

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By Tom Morrow

There are times in one’s life when unexpected pleasures come flooding in. One of them occurred 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.

A friend told me Miss Hussey was living in Carlsbad and had her phone number. The actress had been nominated for an Oscar for her role as the photographer Elizabeth Inbrie in that movie.

It occurred to me it would be something of a coup having this movie star attend one of our Escondido stage performances. I called her and she 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 was born Oct. 30, 1911, in Providence, R.I., and worked as a model before landing a number of stage roles with touring companies. MGM signed her to a contract and she made her film debut in 1937. She quickly became a leading lady and usually played sophisticated, worldly roles. In 1941, exhibitors voted her the third-most popular new star in Hollywood..

Some notable movies Hussey starred in include Flight Command (1940) with Robert Taylor, Northwest Passage (1940) with Robert Young, Tennessee Johnson (1942) with Van Heflin, The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland, The Great Gatsby (1949) with Alan Ladd, Stars & Stripes Forever (1952) with Clifton Webb, and The Facts of Life (1960) with Bob Hope.

She made more than 60 films and numerous radio and television appearances during a career that stretched from 1937 to 1973 and in 1967 she was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

Miss Hussey appeared in early television dramas such as “Marcus Welby, M.D,” “The Jimmy Stewart Theater,” “Jane Wyman Presents,” “Studio One,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,”and “The New Perry Mason” as well as many other 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.

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.

With the birth of her children, Hussey focused much of her attention on raising a family and, in 1977, she and her husband moved from their Brentwood home to Rancho Carlsbad. Her husband died in 2002 shortly after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

After she watched our Patio performance, I introduced the 18-year-old young lady playing the photographer. The youngster not only had never seen the Academy Award-winning movie, she had no idea who the Oscar-nominated star was.

Among the friends Miss Hussey brought that evening was her film producer-husband and Dick Simmons, known to the world as Sgt Preston of the Yukon. Ruth Hussey died April 19, 2005, at the age of 93, from complications from an appendectomy and was interred in Westlake Village, Ca

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 29, 2021 at 3:00 am