Saturday, February 22, 2020

THE BUTLERS & MAIDS BLOGATHON: Personal Maid's Secret, 1935


Your host for Day 1, Rich of Wide Screen World and yours truly Caftan Woman, the hostess on Day 2 are proud to present this blogathon tribute to the funny, the devious, and the devoted Butlers and Maids of the cinematic world. HERE is where the fun starts.


I hope you enjoy this look at Ruth Donnelly in Personal Maid's Secret, 1935. 

Ruth Donnelly is Lizzie

Lizzie is a treasure. Long in service among the stylish set, Lizzie has voluntarily left the Bentleys of Park Avenue. They're nice people, but they haven't paid her salary in three months. A trip to an employment agency brings Lizzie into the sphere of the Smiths. This middle-class family has touched her heart and Lizzie is willing to forego her usual salary to work for them.

Margaret Lindsay is Joan Smith, wife and mother, and she is looking for "a treasure." Warren Hull is Jimmy Smith who is in the insurance business. Frank Albertson is Joan's brother Kent Fletcher, an inventor at an auto firm. Ronny Cosby plays Bobby Smith, the couple's curious son.


Lizzie is a great friend to Bobby and a guiding hand to the Smiths. Lizzie finds the Smiths very open to suggestions. Her knowledge of how the "better half" lives and does business proves invaluable as she subtly guides them through the society of NYC, moving from their cramped apartment to a roomy place on the East Side, and then a Long Island Estate. Jimmy's business is booming and he's joined the country club. Joan plays bridge and hires a governess for Bobby although the little boy still prefers Lizzie. 


Arthur Treacher plays a butler of the Bentley's who maintains a strong friendship with Lizzie. On an outing, as they take a bus ride the pair can point out the great homes of the families they have worked for in their long careers. Lizzie had worked for the Abercrombies and a faraway look comes into her eyes. Owen mentions that they had a son who was a flyer who died in the war. Lizzie affirms that that was true and suddenly the picture of the pretty girl kept in her dresser is no longer a secret to the audience.


Anita Louise plays Diana Abercrombie who is unaware that her mother was once the family's maid. It is a secret kept between the Abercrombies and Lizzie. Now that the Smiths are in with the tony social set, Joan's brother Kent falls for Diana the debutante.

Diana likes Kent, but she is more interested in a married man, Warren Sherrill played by Bill Elliot. The Abercrombies do not approve, and neither does Lizzie. Will Lizzie be able to keep Diana from making a mistake? Will Lizzie's secret remain so? Will Lizzie and her friend Owen ever stop arguing and admit their true feelings?

Based on a story by Lillian Day, the script by Lillie Hayward (The Shaggy Dog) and F. Hugh Herbert (Margie) is by turns, amusingly edgy and sentimental. Touching on Lizzie's secret, I appreciate the self-aware wit when Lizzie complains to Owen that she hates the way the movies portray "suffering mother love" when he suggests they take in a movie, one specifically titled "Stella Davenport in Mother's Day".

Lizzie is a wonderful showcase for Ruth Donnelly during her prolific time at Warner Brothers. Although the more you see of her work, the more you realize she made even the seemingly insignificant roles a showcase.


Ruth Donnelly made her Broadway debut in 1917 and worked often as a comedienne for George M. Cohan. The last of her 14 Broadway plays was as understudy to Patsy Kelly in the 1971 revival of No, No Nanette. She toured with the production starring Don Ameche and Evelyn Keyes.

You can share some of my favourite Ruth Donnelly performances by checking out these movies: Blessed Event, Employees' Entrance, Footlight Parade, Havana Widows, Female, Heat Lighting, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, A Slight Case of Murder, The Bells of St. Mary's, The Snake Pit, I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, The Secret of Convict Lake, A Lawless Street, and Autumn Leaves.

Ruth was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1896. Her uncle, Frederick W. Donnelly was the Democratic mayor of Trenton from 1911 to 1932. Ruth was a lifelong Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 election. Ruth was married to airline executive Basil de Guichard from 1932 until his passing in 1958. 


After retiring from acting, Ruth released an album of her own songs, produced by Oscar-winning composer and arranger Ken Darby. Ruth Donnelly passed away in New York City in 1982 at the age of 86.












17 comments:

  1. At first I thought you meant Ruth Chatterton and I was totally confused! I see now this is a different Ruth.

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    1. And a Ruth worth getting to know.

      At one time, "Ruths" were as prevalent as "Kates" today.

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  2. If anyone in Hollywood was a treasure, it was surely Ruth Donnelly, one of the studio system's best-kept secrets! What a talented, endearing actress she was, who always stands out in any part. I haven't heard of this film (and Arthur Treacher is also in it!), but I'm glad to know of it -thanks!

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    1. You're welcome. My pleasure.

      One day years ago, I watched The Bells of St. Mary's in the afternoon and saw Autumn Leaves in the evening. The following day Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was on, and - aha! - Ruthie (she doesn't know I call her that) became a favourite.

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  3. Lovely tribute to Ruth. She brightened every film she was in.. Would love to see this one.

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    1. Thank you.

      I'm sure it will pop up on TCM sometime soon. They wouldn't deprive us Ruth. They're our friends.

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  4. Speaking of the name RUTH there were two fictional characters named RUTH MARTIN on TV. First there was Ruth Martin played by JUNE LOCKHART on LASSIE. (Earlier CLORIS LEACHMAN played the role for a year but I don't know those episodes.) Then there was Ruth Martin played by MARY FICKETT on ALL MY CHILDREN. She was a nurse who was married to DR. JOE MARTIN. Later LEE MERRIWETHER played the part. (Mary played Ruth from 1970 to 1996.) Another Ruth was RUTH CAMDEN on 7th HEAVEN. BARBARA RUSH guest starred several times as Ruth, the wife of COLONEL JOHN CAMDEN(played by PETER GRAVES). They were the parents of REVEREND ERIC CAMDEN(played by STEPHEN COLLINS). Eric and his wife had five children and then later they had two more-twin boys. One of their daughters was named RUTHIE. By the way, none of the characters called John by the name of DAD or GRANDPA. His wife didn't call him John except one time when she was worried that they were going to lose their new foster son. They all called him The Colonel.

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    1. My only "Lassie" mom was Jan Clayton. I was an occasional viewer of All My Children. I remember Mary Fickett's husband on the show was was played by Ray MacDonnell.

      I'm not familiar with 7th Heaven although I consider myself a fan of Barbara Rush and Peter Graves.

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  5. I love Ruth Donnelly - I had no idea she put out an album! A swell post on what sounds like a swell movie.

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    1. I expected it to go one way, with the family getting in over their head and a "Stella Dallas" bit. It didn't! It was refreshing.

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  6. I'm so glad you featured this film. It's so nice when a movie focuses on lesser known actors and characters as this one does. I discovered it last year and fell in love with it. It's such a sweet, but brisk little picture. I love Donnelly's character's interactions with the butler.

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    1. I'm so glad to know there are other fans out there. It's a wonder they didn't think to pair Ruth and Arthur again. What a team they made!

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  7. I've never seen Personal Maid's Secret, but it sounds like a fun movie!

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    1. It is fun, sweetly emotional, and at just around an hour, the time just flies by.

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  8. Except if you truly know a neighbor's adolescent or other competitor, talk with them similarly as you would any activity candidate. Get some information about their ability to carry out the current responsibility. Cleaners

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  9. Ruth was married to my cousin Basil De Guichard. I met Ruth in New York in 1980. We ate at Wolff's deli on 57th and 6th Avenue. She lived at the Wellington Hotel at the time. She was so sweet to me I fell in love even though there was 60 years between us. As a follow up to our meeting she sent me autographed pictures and some Obit clippings relating to my cousin Basil.

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  10. Recently, I moved to Singapore because of a corporate job. After shifting here, I couldn't manage the time to clean my house & to do other household works. Then I contacted a maid agency of Singapore & hire an experienced maid to do all of my household work.

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