|Directed by||William D. Russell|
|Produced by||Paul Jones|
|Written by||Arthur Sheekman|
|Based on||the play Dear Ruth|
by Norman Krasna
|Music by||Robert Emmett Dolan|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$3.8 million (US rentals)|
Dear Ruth is a 1947 romantic comedy film starring Joan Caulfield, William Holden, Mona Freeman, and Edward Arnold. It was based on the Broadway play of the same name by Norman Krasna. A teenage girl has a soldier for a pen pal, but uses her older sister's name and photograph. Then the man shows up while on a two-day leave.
Although it is sometimes mistakenly believed that J. D. Salinger got the name for his character Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye and other works, when he saw a marquee for the film, the first Holden Caulfield story, "I'm Crazy", was published in December 1945, a year and a half before the movie's release.
Judge Wilkins and his wife Edie are puzzled when Lieutenant William Seacroft, a complete stranger, shows up at their home, asking for their elder, 22-year-old daughter Ruth. (She has gone to work at the bank, driven by her 34-year-old boyfriend Albert.) Bill has just returned from Italy, where he flew 25 missions over Germany as the bombardier of a B-26 bomber, but he only has a two-day leave. He explains that he has been corresponding with their daughter and has fallen in love with her long-distance. He makes a favorable impression on Ruth's parents and promises to return at 5:30 to meet her for the first time in person.
Ruth comes home and tells her parents she is getting married. They assume she has encountered Bill, but it turns out she is marrying Albert. They soon find out that their energetic 16-year-old daughter Miriam wrote to Bill 60 times, using her sister's name and sending him a photograph of Ruth, just one of her many contributions to the war effort and servicemen's morale. Ruth decides to tell Bill the truth immediately, but when he arrives, she cannot bring herself to do so. When Albert shows up for a date with Ruth, she slips away with Bill so that she can tell him privately, not in front of her entire family.
Bill takes her to a play, dinner and dancing until past 1 am. Albert and Ruth's parents wait up. Later, Ruth tells Albert that after Bill leaves for the Pacific, she will write to him and gently break off their relationship. She then gets the letters from Miriam and starts reading them.
The next morning, Bill's kid sister Martha waits for him in front of the Wilkins home. When Bill arrives, Ruth insists on taking Martha with them, supposedly because she has not seen her brother in two years, but actually to try to keep Bill's amorous behavior in check, so Bill invites a secretly fuming Albert too. Bill takes every opportunity to kiss Ruth, infuriating Albert. Then somebody pushes Albert off a crowded subway car at a station, and he gets separated from the others. He races to another station on the same line, but gets arrested for trying to get in without paying.
A further romantic complication ensues when both Martha and Sergeant Chuck Vincent, Bill's friend, arrive at the Wilkins residence. Martha broke up with Chuck very recently. Lunch is therefore very awkward. Then Bill and Ruth show up and announce they are engaged. When Bill leaves the room, Ruth tells Albert that it is only for a few more hours. However, Bill receives a telephone call informing him that he and Chuck will be instructors in Florida. Chuck and Martha reconcile and decide to get married themselves. Judge Wilkins conducts the ceremony.
Ruth then tells Bill that she only agreed to marry him because he was going back into combat, but nothing more. Miriam inadvertently reveals the whole truth to Bill. Bill accepts the situation, but after Martha and Chuck get married, Ruth has a change of heart. She and Bill also get married by her father, before leaving for Florida. Then a sailor appears, asking for Ruth. Startled, Miriam blurts out his name.
- Joan Caulfield as Ruth Wilkins
- William Holden as Lieut. William Seacroft
- Mona Freeman as Miriam Wilkins
- Edward Arnold as Judge Harry Wilkins
- Billy De Wolfe as Albert Kummer
- Mary Philips as Mrs. [Edie] Wilkins
- Virginia Welles as Martha Seacroft
- Kenny O'Morrison as Sgt. Chuck Vincent
- Marietta Canty as Dora [the Wilkins' maid]
- Irving Bacon as Delivery Man
Norman Krasna's play had been hugely popular on Broadway. Film rights were sold to Paramount in February 1945 for a reported $450,000 with the proviso that a movie not be made until the play finished a two-year run. It was the most money Paramount had ever paid for a property, exceeding the $283,000 paid for the film rights to Lady in the Dark. Henry Ginsberg, executive vice president at the studio, announced the male lead would be Sonny Tufts and that Ruth would be played by Joan Caulfield or Paulette Goddard while Miriam would be played by Diana Lynn or Mona Freeman.
In July 1946 Paramount announced that Joan Caulfield and William Holden would play the leads. It was Holden's first film since getting out of the army in November 1945. Filming was to begin in August with Sidney Lanfield directing and Paul Jones producing. Arthur Sheekman, Frances Goodrich and Arnold Hackett had worked on the script. In July 1946 Edward Arnold signed to join the cast.
Sidney Lanfield was to direct but in August he asked to be relieved by illness and was replaced by William Russell. Mona Freeman had tested for her role several times but Lanfield did not want her. However when Russell came in, Freeman was cast. Freeman joined the cast in August.
Columbia Pictures sued Krasna and the filmmakers for plagiarism, claiming the story infringed the copyright of a story they had bought in 1942 called "Dear Mr Private" and intended to make wit Lee Bowman. Columbia was unsuccessful, appealed the decision and lost the appeal.
Bosley Crowther praised the film in The New York Times, calling it "one of those simon-pure excursions in fun, which bubbles and sparkles its way into your heart and completely disarms any resistance which an unadorned outline of its conventional plot might invoke" and noting that "the pace never drags, even though the slim story is stretched out over ninety minutes."
The film was successful at the box office. It earned almost $4 million during the films first year of release in North America, and led to two sequels.
Paramount purchased the rights to use the characters again. In December 1947 the studio announced it would make a sequel.
- "Top Grossers of 1947". Variety. January 7, 1948. p. 63.
- "Screen News: 'Dear Ruth' Is Bought For Reported $450,000". The New York Times. February 8, 1945.
- Joseph W. Taylor (July 21, 1947). "Biggest Film Firm: Paramount's Puzzler: Will Attendance Slide Be Brief or Prolonged? Takes Precautions: Markets Borderline Movies, Keeps Best in 9-Month Backlog Televised Newsreels Tried Paramount Pictures' Puzzler: Will Drop In Attendance Be Brief Or Prolonged? Company Is Taking Precautions Markets Borderline Movies, Keeps Best in 9-Months Backlog; Pre-Tests Films". The Wall Street Journal.
- 'Dear Ruth' Paramount Purchase; Holt Signs Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 9 Feb 1945: A7.
- Paramount Lists Films for This Year Los Angeles Times 7 Mar 1946: 12.
- The Theatre: Doings Down-Under Wall Street Journal]31 Mar 1945: 3.
- NEWS OF THE SCREEN: New York Times 24 July 1946: 24.
- FOX GIVES 'AMBER' TO LINDA DARNELL New York Times 25 July 1946: 17.
- 'MAGIC TOWN' ROLE TO LORETTA YOUNG: SIGNED FOR NEW SHOW Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 7 Aug 1946: 19.
- Mona's Still Hunting for Fountain of Age: Actress of Many Problems Finds Biggest Difficulty Is Her Youth Mona Freeman Hunting for a Fountain of Age Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 19 July 1953: D1.
- Contested 'Arch' Role Goes to Ruth Warrick Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 22 Aug 1946: A3.
- "Col. Loses Again On 'Dear Ruth' Appeal". Variety. March 26, 1947.
- "Columbia Pictures vs Krasna". Supreme Court Appellate Division-First Department.
- "Col vs Krasna". Varierty. June 12, 1946. p. 24.
- "Court Says Krasna did not theft Ruth". Variety. August 21, 1946. p. 12.
- Bosley Crowther (June 11, 1947). "The Screen In Review; ' It Happened on Fifth Avenue,' With Victor Moore in Bright, Gay Mood, Opens at Rivoli -- Charles Ruggles Also in Cast ' Dear Ruth' Based on Krasna's Successful Play, Is Feature at the Paramount -- Holden and Coalfield in Top Roles". The New York Times.
- "H'Wood Sour on Costly Legits". Variety. August 25, 1948.
During 1947, there were 10 pix from plays, with Paramount's "Dear Ruth" ($450,000) the only real sockeroo.
- Thomas F. Brady (December 6, 1947). "Paramount Plans 'Dear Ruth' Sequel: Studio's Production 'Dear Wife' Will Use Available Members of Original Film's Cast". The New York Times.