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It’s Ruth: Ruth Cracknell, Actor (1994)


It’s Ruth provides a glimpse into the professional life of one of Australia’s most well-recognised and loved actresses, Ruth Cracknell (1926-2002). The documentary features generous excerpts from Cracknell’s theatre performances (including Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, 1991, and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, 1992); film (including The Singer and the Dancer, 1977, an adaptation of the Elizabeth Jolley short story 'Woman in a Lampshade’, 1986; and The Night the Prowler, 1978); and television (Mother and Son, 1985-1994). Cracknell’s sharp insights into her working method and approach to acting are complemented by candid interviews with her former colleagues, including actor Garry McDonald, writer Geoffrey Atherden and theatre director Simon Phillips.

Curator’s notes

It is no small task to do justice to a person whose career spans over 50 years successfully working in radio (see clip two), theatre, television and film. In It’s Ruth, filmmaker Christina Wilcox reveals the subtleties which underlie Cracknell’s work by letting the actress speak for herself. Cracknell says that, through acting, she attempts to 'create a greater understanding of the extraordinary variety of humanity’. That complexity is revealed through Cracknell’s ability to balance comedy with tragedy, something she has negotiated throughout her career in both comic and dramatic roles.

In her latter years, through her memorable characterisation of the eccentric Maggie Beare in the ABC television series Mother and Son (1985-1994, see clip one), Cracknell became a household name, but her formative years in theatre reveal a significant figure of the Australian stage. These moments are well described, with historical footage of stage performances and rehearsals bringing Cracknell’s recollections to life (see clip three).

The only missing piece of the puzzle is Cracknell’s personal life. Her family – her husband, three children, and grandchildren – feature only briefly in the film, and while it is clear that they play a significant role in Cracknell’s life, they remain peripheral to her professional biography. It’s Ruth provides a valuable insight into the life and work of one of Australia’s best-regarded actresses.

It’s Ruth was first broadcast on the ABC in 1992. Filmmaker Christina Wilcox has produced and directed many documentaries including A Voice for the Wilderness (1983) and the award-winning docudrama The Nights Belongs to the Novelist (1987), about writer Elizabeth Jolley.