Sorry for the months long hiatus, no real reason for it, just hope to make it all up in the months to come! Anyway, Ruth Ownbey was a pretty girl who ended up as a Power Model that ended up as an actress. Sounds familiar? Of course it does, as anyone who reads this blog can say, been there, done that. Sadly, Ruth didn’t fare much better than most in this position – while she did appear in several really good, if classic movies, she never made a real impact and her career just fizzled out. Let’s learn more about her!
Ruth Lola Amber Ownbey was born on January 24, 1922 in Asheville, North Carolina, to Robert Lee Ownbey and Mary Lee Steelman, their youngest child. Her older siblings were Elda Caroline, born on May 4, 1914, Elbert Hubbard, born on October 4, 1915, and Clara Barton, born on August 17, 1917. Her father was a professional cook.
When the Ownbeys lived in Asheville, her father operated a restaurant, and Ruth attended Monlford elementary school. When Ruth was 10 years old her parents divorced and the family moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas. In Fort Smith she attended high school, and after graduation went on to try and find some employment. An unlikely profession came to her by accident when won a contest for the most beautiful redhead, and this is how her modeling career started.
From Fort Smith she went to Dallas, Texas, where she worked as a model and thru her brother Elbert went to New York. There she worked as a Powers model for four years, her pictures becoming familiar on billboard and magazine covers. In the interim she took part in many beauty shows. Her time came in the unlikely year of 1941 (When US entered WW2). She was crowned Miss America, named Miss Rheingold (the second Miss Rheingold ever, the first one the year before was Jinx Falkenburg), and as a result had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt. Finally she was put under contract with MGM Studio. And her career started!
Ruth always made small, uncredited role, making her a glorified extra in most cases. She made her movie debut in Du Barry Was a Lady, as Miss September, under her birth name, Ruth Ownbey. Then she got married and used her married name until 1946, when her career ended.
Like many, many girls profiled here, Ruth appeared in Up in Arms, a Danny Kaye movie. I really don’t know what more to write about it! It truly is full of beautiful starlets trying to make it in Tinsel town. Ruth was another showgirl in the aptly named Show Business, a breezy and easy Eddie Cantor/George Murphy musical. No big story, but plenty of music and dancing, in a very nice, old Hollywood way. They don’t make them like this anymore for sure! Ruth then appeared in three classics: Since You Went Away, The Woman in the Window, The Princess and the Pirate. We have a serious drama, film noir and a brawny comedy here, each very well made for it’s genre and with an enduring quality, making them immensely watchable.
After a string of such good movies, Ruth stayed somewhere mid tier. Her last 184 was Belle of the Yukon, a so-so western with Randolph Scott and Gypsy Rose Lee. I like Gypsy, so watching her movies is always watching Rose being herself, but it’s nothing to really write home about.
Ruth appeared as another Showgirl in It’s a Pleasure, a typical Sonja Henie ice skating movie. I mentioned quite a few times on this blog that I don’t quite like Sonja’s movies, they sure do have that “magical old Hollywood” touch, but I find then too one-dimensional and Sonja not a really good actress. She was a superb ice skater, that is for sure, but that hardly makes her a thespian. Ruth then appeared as a Goldwyn girl in two movies: Wonder Man and The Kid from Brooklyn. Both are Danny Kaye/Virginia Mayo classics, a joy to watch anytime, anywhere.
Ruth closed her career with Night in Paradise, a weird movie about Aesop and his life on King Croesus’ court. Yep, you heard that right, there is a movie movie where Aesop is a main character, and is played by the buff Turhan Bey! Merle Oberon plays his romantic interest, also lusted after by the King (well, nobody has seen that coming!). Ruth’s last movie was Linda, Be Good, a very obscure burlesque comedy with Elyse Knox, Marie Wilson and John Hubbard.
And that was all from Ruth!
When she came to Hollywood, Ruth tried to brand herself as a former-rural-girl-gone-Hollywood, and claimed she once had a cow of her own and similar stuff. At her Hollywood peak, she had rich auburn hair, was five feet four inches tall and weighted 115 lbs.
Ruth married her first husband, Alfred Licklider, very young, at 17, on May 15, 1939, in Manhattan, New York. Alfred, born in 1913, had a four year old son when they married (from his marriage to Patricia Pattison), and worked as an advertising man. The marriage did not last however, and they divorced after she went to Hollywood in 1942. Licklider died in 1992 in New Mexico.
Ruth married her second husband, Roger Valmy, in 1943, during the war. Here is an article about their marriage:
Ruth Ownbey, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starlet and John Power’s model, end Pvt. Roger Valmey of the DEML detachment were married at the post chapel. Chaplain George C. Pearson read the ceremony and the bride was given in marriage by Major William A. Perkins of the medical corps. The bride wore a purple crepe afternoon dress with a single strand of pearls and a short veil of white mesh accented with purple flowers. She carried a bouquet of pink and white carnations with shell pink ribbon streamers. Attending the couple were Lieut. Wright of the 91st infantry division and Mrs. Wright. As the couple left the altar the guard of honor formed an arch of guns beneath which they passed is they walked down the aisle. They received congratulations from friends In the vestibule ‘ and passed beneath the arch again to waiting cars In the street. Members of the DEML detachment who volunteered to serve as members of the guard of honor were: T. Sgt. Garth B. Farmer, commander of the guard: S. Sgts. Lester V. Anderson, Walter D. Brown, John L. Galane, Nicholas Ltwynec, Warren M. Waite, SRts. Robert C Kohlman Carrie B. Adams Battman Llveth O. F. Handel Director. The bridegroom who lived in Europe and spent many years in North Africa la now serving In the U. S. army. Mrs. Valmy appeared In “Madame du Berry” and has successfully modeled for national advertising and will continue to work In this field.
Valmy was an interesting character, born on October 6, 1912, in Cairo, Egypt. His family was in the cotton business and well of. His primary passion were horses and horse racing – he was bitten by the bug at the tender ae of 11. At the age of 15, he became editor of a racing magazine but was packed off to Paris and law school a few years later. He later became active in another family business -managing estates. Valmy came to California 1936 and began his integration into the horse racing scene and high society of Hollywood.
The Valmys divorced in the late 1940s, and Roger remarried at least twice (to Margaretta Smith and Dana K.). He worked as a managing director for several stores, and still dabbled in horse racing. In 1953, Valmy began an intensive three-year study of his idea for a stock-selling stable and in 1958 applied for permission from the Division of Corporations. He died on August 25, 2004.
Ruth married her third husband, Franklin G. Ellerbroek, in the summer of 1950. Franklin was born on December 4, 1916, in Sheldon, Iowa, to Frank Lewis Ellerbroek and Mabel Hornstra, the youngest of three children (his sisters were Hazel and Esther). After high school he went to California, where he worked as in the production of chemical products. He served in WW2 in the Air Corps.
The Ellerbroeks settled in California. After her Hollywood and acting career ended, Ruth kept herself busy with a variety of projects, including print, real estate and interior design. She was the chairperson of the ladies division of fundraising for the Variety Club. She remained an active fundraiser for many various charities throughout her life.
Ruth and Frank lived happily until Frank’s death on November 27, 2001. Ruth continued living in Rancho Mirage, and did not remarry.
Ruth Ownbey Ellerbroek died on July 30, 2008, in Rancho Mirage, California.