Ruth Ford dies at 98; actress was member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre


Ruth Ford, a onetime member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre who appeared in numerous Broadway plays and in films and television, has died. She was 98.

Ford died Wednesday of age-related complications at her home in New York City, said her lawyer, Karin Gustafson.

On Broadway, Ford appeared in plays such as “No Exit” (1946), “Miss Julie” and “The Stronger” (1956), a revival of “Dinner at Eight” (1966) and “Poor Murderer” (1976).


For a 1959 Broadway production of “Requiem for a Nun” by William Faulkner, Ford costarred with her husband, Zachary Scott. She also helped the author adapt his 1951 novel for the stage.

Ford first met Faulkner in the 1930s in Oxford, Miss., where she dated both his younger brother and his nephew.

Ford’s longtime home in the Dakota, the historic apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, was a gathering spot for her many artist and writer friends, including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Edward Albee.

“They felt very comfortable with her, and she was beautiful, and they loved her,” Gustafson said. “She has an incredible archive of letters, because she knew many people and had many admirers.”

Born July 7, 1911, in Brookhaven, Miss., Ford spent five years at the University of Mississippi, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in philosophy.

She followed her brother -- poet, novelist and artist Charles Henri Ford -- to New York City in the 1930s after visiting him there on summer vacations and being impressed by his circle of writers, painters, poets and other “crazy, fascinating people.”


“Once I had seen New York. . . . Well, what the hell was I going to do in Mississippi? Marry a shoe salesman?” she said in a 1974 interview with After Dark magazine.

After moving north, she became a model for renowned photographers such as Cecil Beaton and Man Ray and appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle.

In 1938, Ford joined Welles’ Mercury Theatre and made her Broadway debut that year in the Welles-directed revival of “Shoemaker’s Holiday.”

She also appeared on Broadway in the 1938 Mercury production of “Danton’s Death” and played roles on Welles’ radio show, “The Mercury Theatre on the Air.”

Moving to Hollywood in 1941, she appeared in more than two dozen films during the next five years, including playing President Wilson’s daughter in “Wilson.”

But most of her roles were in B-movies, and in 1946 she returned to New York.

In the 1950s, she appeared on live TV anthology series such “Armstrong Circle Theatre” and “Studio One.” Among her later screen credits are “Act One” and “Play It As It Lays.”


Ford, whose first husband was actor Peter van Eyck, was married to Scott from 1952 until his death in 1965.

She is survived by her daughter, Shelly Scott; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.