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Ruth Warrick

Ruth Warrick

Dame Ruth Warrick, D.M., O.S.J., Regend of Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dame of Honour and Merit by the Imperial Russian Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Ecumenical Foundation was an American actress. She was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri in 1915.

By writing an essay in high school called Prevention and Cure of Tuberculosis Warrick won a contest to be Miss Jubilesta, Missouri's paid ambassador to New York City. Popular legend says that she made her debut in New York on the steps of New York's city hall with an armful of turkeys for Mayor La Guardia.

Warrick began her career in the 1940s as a radio singer where she met her first husband Eric Rolf, but her first big break was being hired by a young Orson Welles for his film Citizen Kane, where she played his first wife Emily Monroe Norton. When she auditioned for the part, she read with Welles. She said that because she was so new to the acting business, she was not aware that it was very rare to actually read with the star. What she also didn't realize was that this was also Welles' first film role. Kane proved to be a major moment of her life and the long term success of the film would follow her for the rest of her life. She celebrated her 80th birthday by attending a special screening of Citizen Kane to a packed, standing room only audience. It is a testament to the film that everyone stayed after the film to listen to her speak. Over the years she collected several books about Orson Welles and Citizen Kane, in each she would write property of Ruth Warrick, Mrs. Citizen Kane. It was during the filming of Citizen Kane that she learned she was pregnant with her first child, Karen Rolf. Her son Jon Rolf was born 16 months later.

The controversy surrounding Citizen Kane led to the film being a box office disaster and Welles, despite co-winning an Academy Award for the screenplay, was shunned by Hollywood. Nevertheless, Welles hired her again for his film Journey Into Fear alongside fellow Kane actor Joseph Cotten. She worked alongside Douglas Fairbanks Jr., in the film The Corsican Brothers and had a role in the Academy Award winning Disney film Song of the South, but by the late 1940's her film roles were becoming infrequent and less notable. In the 1950s she befriended soap opera inventor Irna Phillips and her protege, Agnes Nixon. Warrick became a cast member on the soap opera The Guiding Light, playing Nurse Janet Johnson from 1953-1954. Phillips was impressed by her performance and hired her as a cast member on her new soap opera, As The World Turns, when the show debuted in 1956. Her character, Edith Hughes, was madly in love with a married man, Jim Lowell. Phillips wanted the characters to live happily ever after, but Procter & Gamble, which owned the show, demanded that the characters be punished for their adultery, so Jim died. Warrick stayed on the show until 1960, but was so popular with fans that she would return several times for holiday visits.

From 1959-1960 she was Una Merkel and future AMC co-star Eileen Herlie's standby in the Broadway production of Take Me Along.

In 1965 she joined the cast of Phillips' primetime soap opera, Peyton Place, playing Hannah Cord. While there had been previous primetime soaps (such as One Man's Family) none had enjoyed the phenomenal success of Peyton Place, garnering a new respect for the form that helped to pave the way for shows like Dallas and Dynasty. Warrick received an Emmy Award Nomination for this show in 1967, the same year she exited the show. Peyton Place was cancelled two years later.

In 1969 she made her last major film, Disney's The Great Bank Robbery.

During this time, Agnes Nixon had been moving up the daytime television ranks. She had co-created the soap opera Search for Tomorrow with Phillips, and created her own show One Life to Live for ABC in 1968. However, Nixon only created One Life to Live as a means of opening the door to her real dream: a soap opera where she could hold creative control and tackle important issues of the day. This was realized when ABC greenlighted her new show All My Children in 1969, which had been based on a treatment that Procter & Gamble had rejected a few year earlier.

When All My Children debuted on January 5, 1970, Warrick was among the contracted cast, playing Phoebe Tyler (the character's full name via her marriages would eventually be Phoebe English Tyler Wallingford Matthews Wallingford). The show was an instant hit and Phoebe became a popular daytime character. Phoebe's first storyline involved her marriage to Charles Tyler. They were unhappy in their marriage. Mona Kane (Frances Heflin), Charles Tyler's secretary, fell in love with Charles and after several years, Phoebe and Charles were divorced.

Phoebe spent her time being a professional socialite. In the late 1970s she was wooed by, and later engaged to, Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds). She married him before learning the truth that he was really Lenny Wlasik, a professional conman. Despite the deception she still loved him and they remained married. The marriage was strained by the arrival of his daughter, Verla Grubbs (Carol Burnett), and by con artists intent on stealing Phoebe's fortune. In real life, Warrick became good friends with Edmonds, to the point where he was confident in confiding to her the secret that he was a homosexual.

Phoebe's clan was increased when her niece Brooke English (Julia Barr) joined the show. Phoebe prided herself on her proper place in society and had her hands full trying to keep her rebellious niece in check. Brooke tried to solve the case of who was the mysterious drug smuggler Cobra. She later found that it was her own mother, Peg English. The surprising revelation was that Brooke had been adopted and was not Peg's daughter at all. When Brook found her real mother, a mentally challenged homeless woman, Phoebe was launched into a tear-jerking storyline begging Brooke not to stop looking at her as a mother figure.

Warrick received Daytime Emmy Award nominations in 1975 and 1977. In 1985, she played Hannah Cord in the TV movie Return to Peyton Place.

For numerous reasons (most notable health problems), Edmonds left All My Children in 1995 and his character bid a goodbye to his loving wife to spend time on an archeological dig in Egypt. He died in 2001; his character was sent off to Egypt until during Phoebe's funeral, the show made a passing reference to Langley's death.. Langley's departure combined with Warrick's own health problems from old age signaled a reduction in her screentime in the 1990s.

Warrick broke her hip while on vacation in Greece in 2001 and had been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Head writer Richard Culliton was the last writer to utilize her character in a major way. In 2002, Phoebe schemed to get Brooke engaged to her true love Edmund Grey (John Callahan). One of her lines during this storyline was "They are happy... and they're going to be happy if it's the last thing I do in my life." This line lead to rumors that Culliton was planning to kill off Phoebe amid rumors that Warrick would be dropped from the show for budget reasons (General Hospital later did this to 90-year-old actress Anna Lee).

After this storyline collapsed due to Edmund's wife coming back from the dead, Phoebe was not seen on screen until All My Children's 35th anniversary show on January 5, 2005. This brief apearance would ultimately be Warrick's final screen apearance. When Warrick was wheeled into the building the cast and crew gave her a standing ovation to welcome her back to Pine Valley after such a long absence. This episode featured not only a rare appearance from Warrick, but the return of her step-daughter Verla played by comedic legend Carol Burnett. This episode also featured Agnes Nixon playing Agnes Eckhardt, a board member of Pine Valley Hospital who shared screentime with not only Warrick's Phoebe but also Susan Lucci's Erica Kane, Jill Larson's Opal Cortlandt, and other core characters.

She had three children from two of her three marriages. She has one grandson and six great-grand children. Ruth Warrick published her autobiography The Confessions of Phoebe Tyler (co-written by Don Preston) in 1980, the same year she won a Soapy Award (a prelude to the Soap Opera Digest Awards).

She received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was on hand to receive her Daytime Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004.

Warrick was a member of the Democratic Party, working with the administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter on labor issues and preventing children from dropping out of school. Upon Carter's 1980 defeat, she sent him a long letter thanking him for his efforts. He replied, telling her that if he had hired her as a speechwriter, he would have been reelected. Warrick had generally liberal political views. In her first years at All My Children, Warrick was flustered by Phoebe's support of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which she adamantly opposed. She decided to play the scenes as a bubblehead, until producers warned her she would be fired if she did not perform the scenes as written. In July 2000, she refused to accept a lifetime achievement award from the South Carolina Arts Commission, because she was offended by legislators' decision to move the confederate flag from the state Capitol dome, to another spot on the grounds in response to a boycott of the state by flag opponents. A life-long supporter of African-American rights, she felt the flag should be removed completely, and commented "In my view, this was no compromise. It was a deliberate affront to the African-Americans who see it as a sign of oppression and hate."

In her senior years, she became a spokeswoman for the Rights of Senior Citizens as well as the Disabled and was appointed to the U.N. World Women's Committee on Mental Health.

She was the last living main cast member of Citizen Kane.

She died of complications related to pneumonia. She received a memorial tribute at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. The day after the 2005 Academy Award ceremony former cast-mate Kelly Ripa expressed her outrage on her national television show Live with Regis and Kelly that Warrick has not been included in a similar tribute by the Oscars.

The January 24, 2005 episode of All My Children was dedicated In Loving Memory of Ruth Warrick. Phoebe was killed off screen in May 2005. With Phoebe's passing the show finally addressed the death of Louis Edmonds as Phoebe's last words were reportly Langley is waiting for me. Phoebe's funeral was aired May 12, 2005. The episode featured many of Warrick most notable performances as flashbacks and included the return of many of the characters who had been heavily involved in her storylines over the years. Many of the cast commented to Soap Opera Digest that although the episode was a funeral, it was surprisingly upbeat. Agnes Nixon again appeared on screen, albeit in the background and only for a moment. Julia Barr ended the episode by raising a glass of champagne: "To Phoebe, We love you, we'll miss you, but we'll never forget you", followed by a montage of Phoebe clips overdubbed with the song I'll Be Seeing You in all the old familiar places.

After her death her family put much of her estate in an auction by The Dawson and Nye auction house. This auction included her extensive collection of art and photographs as well as books signed by former United States President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton. Signed scripts from Peyton Place and All My Children as well as her broadway appearances were also in the catalog. The centerpiece of the cataog was the 25th anniversary reprint script of Citizen Kane signed by Warrick, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, one of only 100 that were printed.

Her family donated the Lifetime Achivement Emmy Award she won in 2004 to a museum in her hometown of Saint Joseph, Missouri.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

Ruth Warrick Facts

OccupationActress
BirthdayJune 29, 1915
SignCancer
BirthplaceSaint Joseph, Missouri, USA
Date of deathJanuary 15, 2005 (New York, New York, USA, age 89)
Height5' 6" (1m68)  How tall is Ruth Warrick compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Not available.