Ruth Roland

Active - 1915 - 1937  |   Born - Aug 26, 1892 in San Francisco, CA  |   Died - Sep 27, 1937 in Los Angeles, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Film, TV & Radio [nf]

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The daughter of an actress, Ruth Roland went on the stage herself at the age of three and soon gained some measure of fame in vaudeville as Baby Ruth. By her teens, she was residing with an aunt in Los Angeles and was spotted by a director for the Kalem company, who signed her to a 25 dollars-weekly salary. An expert equestrienne with a flair for comedy, Roland made innumerable split- and one-reel Westerns and comedies for Kalem, who raised her salary to 100 dollars a week when slapstick producer Mack Sennett showed an interest. Before leaving the pioneering company in 1915, Roland made The Girl Detective (1915) series and was henceforth seen as an action heroine. Several series for the Long Beach company Balboa followed, but she hit pay dirt with The Red Circle (1915), the first of her 11 serials. She signed with genre leader Pathé, who fully utilized her equestrian skills and starred her in one Western chapterplay after another, usually featuring her horse Joker. Hands Up (1918) made her a top rival for Pearl White and she became her own producer with The Adventures of Ruth in 1919.

A clever businesswoman, Roland actually made more money from real estate deals than from acting in serials. She became increasingly imperious on the set, unsuccessfully attempting to have leading man Bruce Gordon fired while making Ruth of the Range (1923), an altogether troubled production during which she also refused all communication with director W.S. Van Dyke unless absolutely necessarily. Haunted Valley (1923) followed, but Roland was tiring of the daily grind. She left films in favor of concert tours and vaudeville engagements. There were a couple of comeback attempts in the late '20s and she could not resist the chance of making a talkie. Reno (1930), alas, was panned by the critics who almost unanimously commented on Roland's now old-fashioned histrionics. Independently wealthy, she retired to marry actor/teacher Ben Bard. There was a vaudeville tour with Fanchon and Marco in 1931 and she returned to the screen in 1935, with the Canadian-lensed Nine to Nine, but it was a last hurrah and she was more or less forgotten by the moviegoing audience when she died of cancer, at the young age of 44, in 1937.