New York born Ruth Chatterton stumbled into a theatrical career in Washington, D.C. at age sixteen (some sources give the incorrect age of fourteen) when the stage manager of a stock company asked her to try a part while she was visiting a friend in the company. She was an overnight sensation in New York when she premiered in "The Rainbow" in 1912. Literate, broad-minded, and capable of assuming a broad range of vocal styles, Chatterton enjoyed careers as an ingenue on stage, a film actress, and in the 1950s a best-selling novelist. "Daddy Long Legs" made her a Broadway star.
In 1924 Chatterton married her co-star in "The Magnolia Lady," English actor Ralph Forbes. After their mutual success in "The Little Minister," they went to Hollywood, he to act, she to direct theater. Inevitably she appeared before camera and enjoyed success in several films, notably "Madame X" and "Dodsworth." After a stint in England making films, she returned to the Broadway stage during the war, took up flying, and became increasingly concerned with producing and directing. In 1946, she produced, directed, and starred in "The Second Best Bed." She was active in support of the newly formed state of Israel, and turned toward writing fiction. David S. Shields/ALS