Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Actress; Lecturer and Acting Coach
Birthplace: Pleasant Lake, IN
1937 Hollywood Hotel
1937 White Fires of Inspiration
1937 Columbia Workshop
1937 Lux Radio Theatre
1938 CBS Hollywood Showcase
1938 Silver Theatre
1938 Texaco Star Theatre
1939 Calling All Cars
1939 The Chase and Sanborn Hour
1939 The Jello Program
1940 Good News of 1940
1940 The Rudy Valee Sealtest Show
1941 The Great Gildersleeve
1941 Hollywood Premier
1942 CBS Looks At Hollywood
1942 Cavalcade of America
1942 The Adventures of Red Ryder
1942 Stars Over Hollywood
1942 Forty Years Remembered
1942 Hello Mom
1942 The Mayor of the Town
1942 Dr Christian
1943 Wings To Victory
1943 Victory Belles
1943 Lights Out
1944 Globe Theatre
1944 Mystery House
1944 The Star and the Story
1944 This Is My Story
1944 Columbia Presents Corwin
1945 Theatre of Famous Radio Players
1945 Arch Oboler's Plays
1945 On A Note of Triumph
1945 Twelve Players
1945 The Whistler
1945 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1945 Theatre of Romance
1945 Rogue's Gallery
1946 Strange Wills
1946 Hollywood Star Time
1946 The World of Rosalind Marlowe
1946 Encore Theatre
1946 Dark Venture
1946 The Adventures of Sam Spade
1946 Academy Award
1946 The Mercury Summer Theatre
1946 Favorite Story
1946 The Cat
1947 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1947 The Rudy Vallee Show
1947 The Smiths of Hollywood
1947 The Right To Live
1947 Operation Nightmare
1947 The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
1947 Mystery In the Air
1947 Sound Stage For Joan Crawford
1947 The Raleigh Cigarette Program
1947 Errand Of Mercy
1948 The Unexpected
1948 Your Movietown Radio Theatre
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 In Your Name
1948 The Diary of Fate
1948 Guest Star
1948 Hallmark Playhouse
1948 NBC University Theatre
1948 Make Believe Town
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 Let George Do It
1948 Camel Screen Guild Theatre
1948 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
1948 The George O'Hanlon Show
1948 The Red Skelton Show
1949 Sealtest Variety Theatre
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1949 The Prudential Family Hour of Stars
1949 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1949 Family Theatre
1949 The Adventures of the Saint
1949 Four Star Playhouse
1950 For the Living
1950 Presenting Charles Boyer
1950 Night Beat
1950 The Story of Doctor Kildare
1950 Sara's Private Caper
1950 Hollywood Star Playhouse
1950 Rocky Jordan
1950 The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
1950 The Miracle of America
1950 Tales of the Texas Rangers
1950 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1950 Mr President
1952 The Silent Men
1952 The Railroad Hour
1952 The Freedom Story
1953 The Hallmark Hall of Fame
1953 Broadway Is My Beat
1953 The First Nighter Program
1953 General Electric Theatre
1953 You Were There
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1956 Those Young Bryans
1957 The Ruggles
1958 Heartbeat Theatre
1959 Have Gun, Will Travel
Caption: Lurene Tuttle, Western radio actress, frequently plays in sketches on the CBS Hollywood Showcase (1938)
Lurene Tuttle circa 1940
Lurene Tuttle circa 1957
Lurene Tuttle with Howard Duff
as 'Effie' and Sam Spade circa 1946
Lurene Tuttle plays a duet at the piano with daughter Barbara
Lurene Tuttle rehearses with Dick Haymes for Everything for The Boys
Lurene Tuttle was also a Mom, one of her great pleasures in life.
Lurene Tuttle in one of her more sultry roles.
Lurene Tuttle shows her amazing versatility yet again.
News clipping about Lurene Tuttle, November 5, 1949
Lurene Tuttle with Rosalind Russell
in the Suspense production of 'The
Sisters' from Dec. 9 1948
Barbara Ruick, daughter of Lurene Tuttle and Mel Ruick circa 1954
Lurene Tuttle served as the first woman President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Union
Lurene Tuttle served on the Board of the Screen Actors Guild from 1951-1954
Lurene Tuttle served on the faculty of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts
|Lurene Tuttle's Radiography is arguably the most extensive and versatile in the annals of Golden Age Radio History. There was simply nothing she--and her amazing voice--could not do, and do superbly. She remains this author's all-time favorite radio actress. Lurene Tuttle was born in Pleasant Lake, Indiana in 1907, but was reared out west on a ranch in Arizona near the California border. O.V. Tuttle, her father, had performed in minstrel shows but relied primarily on work as a railroad station agent during the 1920s. Lurene Tuttle's grandfather had been a Drama teacher, managing an opera house at one time in Indiana, her birth state. Lurene studied acting in Phoenix and the cute, petite redhead showed her scene-stealing comedic talent early on.
After she turned 15, her family relocated to Monrovia, California, where Lurene Tuttle began her performing career in earnest. She obtained her formal dramatic training at the Pasadena Playhouse, appearing in many of their productions with great success. She later joined Murphy's Comedians, a vaudeville troupe, and began performing as a dramatic ingénue in stock productions.
Though Broadway eluded her, Lurene Tuttle performed on Stage regularly until the 1930s.
Known for her fine speaking voice and extraordinary range of dialects, The Depression Years lead her to work in Radio, a natural medium for her extraordinary voice talent. For the next 25 years of the Golden Age of Radio, Lurene Tuttle became one of Radio's most recognized voices in virtually every Radio venue in which she performed.
From the August 1947 issue of Radio Mirror, in Lurene Tuttle's Own words:
By Lurene Tuttle
I WONDER if the first "split-personality" a psychologist ever discovered wasn't an actress? And if you're a radio actress as well, believe me--my personality isn't just split, it's all in little pieces.
In the morning I wake up, peer at myself in the mirror and--yes--I can recognize the Ted hair and the grey eyes that belong to Lurene Tuttle; but an hour later I'm standing in front of a microphone, sneering my way through a broadcast as a blackhearted murderess . . . or as an eighty-year-old grandmother . . . or as a brat or as a queen . . or a barmaid.
And that goes on all day long.
Is it any wonder I sometimes wonder just who Lurene Tuttle is? Not only are there all these make-helieve characters I slip in and out of during broadcasting hours--but there's the me that is mother to my teen-age Barbara. And the me that likes to prowl around in dusty antique shops for the little porcelain dogs I collect. And likes to play crazy word games with friends or settle weighty problems over a midnight pot of coffee.
And there's the me that's known around the studios as "The Rock." (It doesn't apply, they tell me, to the way I look; I can't gain an ounce over my hundred and two pounds and I stopped growing at five feet three.) It's short for the Rock of Gibralter, that symbol of stability and dependability. Maybe it's not glamorous, but I'd rather be known as "The Rock" than as almost anything eise, because it indicates that I've been at least a little successful in being where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there, and in giving the best performance I know how no matter what the part.
I say almost anything else. That means that, above all, I want to be the me that's Barbara's mother. I don't understand actresses who are ashamed to admit they have grown-up daughters. Barbara is in High School, and I see no point in talking about her as "my little girl," trying to disguise my age, as I've heard some do. I'm a lot more apt to brag about her! She's bright and she's pretty and some day I think she'll be showing me how to act.
Barbara's father, Mel Ruick, and I were divorced a few years ago. We're still good friends. Though his radio announcing keeps him in New York, Mel was able to spend Christmas here with Barbara and they are still a close father-and-daughter team. But, for most of the year, it's just the two of us, and Miss Johnson, who looks after us both. And, of course, all of Barbara's friends . . . I'll never forget, for instance, last New Year's Eve. It's seldom I go to a party, but this one I was looking forward to. Yet--promptly at twelve midnight I had to excuse myself, explain hastily to my escort, and drive home and then taxi an assorted bunch of some twenty-five kids from Barbara's party to their respective homes which were scattered all over the San Fernando Valley! I got back to my own party and date at two-thirty in the moming, just as all the other guests were yawning their way out the front door.
But I'm no Big Sister, only, to Babs. I'm her mother. She comes to me with help with her problems as well as for her fun. Whether it's boy-friends or clothes or our endless discussions of what she will do when she's "grownup," I try my honest best to help her. We have our rules, too. When it comes to schoolwork--my share is helping in research, but she's the one to actually do the job.
And there's one opening night I'm looking forward to as intensely as if it were my own premiere of the movie "Heaven Only Knows."
Babs and her gang of friends have made a movie of their own, with themselves as actors, and they tell me its showing is to have an audience of one. The kids have decided that only Mother Tuttle is to be permitted to peek at it, because it seems they feel I'll take a professional attitude and not a parental one . . . and they're afraid of shocking their own families!
I do understand--because I remember wondering how my mother and dad were going to react the first time they saw me kiss a boy on stage!
Between that first kiss and that good part I mentioned in Seymour Nebenzal's "Heaven Only Knows" there have been a lot of years, a lot of disappointments, a lot of hard, hard work.
Before Barbara goes into anything like that, I want her to have all the sound preparation she can get; I want her to have the same safe, lovely life I had as a child. Not that my family was rich, or that I was sheltered from the world. But there had always been affection, family ties, experiences shared.
It was in a small mining town called Johannesburg, on the edge of the California Mojave desert that I spent my childhood.
DAD was station master and every day I met the trains with him. The mines at Johannesburg and Atolia and the Yellow Aster at Ransburg, nearby, were going full blast and it attracted people from all over the country. I was excited by all these colorful people and, unconsciously, I studied them and watched them. Afterwards I would imitate them. Dad always encouraged me, because his own hobby was putting on amateur theatricals.
It wasn't difficult to break into stock companies. For many years I was leading lady for major stock companies, among them the Henry Duffy Players.
Then came the depression--and stock was out. Came my marriage to Mel Ruick and Barbara.
Even if stock companies hadn't gone out of business, though, I had resolved to be a mother, entirely, for the first three years of Barbara's life. That kind of security I felt she needed because I knew how formative are these early years of a child. After that, I felt, she wouldn't need me with her; she would be sure of my love for her. But until she was three years old I had determined to forget the stage.
The time passed. Three years were soon over. Barbara had had everything, so far, that I could give her, and I was ready to go back to work. I was and am an actress; an actress has to act to be happy. But at that point, I suddenly discovered that I was a frustrated housewife with no future in sight. A person doesn't just walk out and get a good part on the stage or in the movies. I hadn't thought at all of radio. I got very, very discouraged indeed.
And all of a sudden a friend, Cy Kendall, called me to say that tryouts for the Hollywood Hotel program were being held at CBS and why didn't I rush right over? But I've never been in front of a microphone in my life, I worried--even as I was putting on my hat and running out the front door. I was scared, all right, but it was a chance to act, and I was passing up no chance at that stage of my career!
At ten o'clock I entered the studio. It was five o'clock before my turn came. But I got the part!
Though I signed a contract with the Hollywood Hotel program for three years, new parts came slowly. Then I heard Charles Vanda of CBS was producing White Fires. I begged for a chance. White Fi res was the weekly dramatic presentation of lives of famous people--just the kind of roles I wanted.
The next week I was on the show, and I stayed with White Fires for two years. I grew with that show.
I learned something very strange about myself, then. In a theater or in a movie you have costumes, and makeup men to change your appearance. But there is nothmg of that in radio. You wear the same dress you wore when you were out shopping an hour before and your make-up is just what you would ordinarily have on the street.
But I swear that with me there is an actual physical as well as emotional change that goes on when I pick up the script and start reading my lines.
The time I spent on White Fires really paid off and nowadays I have so much work it's like hopping on and off a merry-go-round every week, grabbing for the brass ring at every show.
Want to take a ride with me for one week? Here's how it goes--
MONDAY: Breakfast with Barbara. To the movie set of "Heaven Only Knows" (I play Mrs. O'Donnell, the
scrublady). Rehearsal of the Dark Venture radio show at five; broadcast at 9:00 (murderess) .
Tuesday: Movie set in the morning. Rehearsal for Academy Award show (fourteen-year-old girl). Home to spend an hour with Barbara.
Wednesday: Ten o'clock broadcast of serial Masquerade. On to movie set. Back to studio for Academy Award broadcast. Home, to check household accounts and plan week's menus with Miss Johnson.
Thursday: This was the day I almost fell off that merry-go-round. Morning, on "Heaven Only Knows" set in costume and make-up. Since we were going to be shooting off and on all day, I had the bright idea of keeping my scrublady costume on even when I went to broadcasts.
But it didn't work out that way. At 2: 45 when I put in an appearance for the Dick Haymes rehearsal, the director took one horrified look at me and loudly said No! Nothing to do but send a studio page for my own clothes on the set; showed up just in time for me to change and dash over to the first show of Burns and Allen at NBC; back to movie set at 6:30 (and into scrublady costume); back to Burns and Allen again for second show; to Dick Haymes broadcast on CBS; back to movie set again and into scrublady costume for night shooting that lasted until 12: 30 in the morning!
Friday: Up in the morning for Masquerade. Rehearsal then of Star Tune show (tough chorus girl).
For the future I want what every radio actress wants--a show of my own. Top billing, instead of building characters to prop up someone else. And a chance to use originality.
But until that time, I'll go on being "the Rock." It's not so bad really. And it has its rewards. There's a true story about an evening at the Robert Youngs' house where a friend was telling Mrs. Young that her husband was getting to be very popular in radio, in addition to his movie career.
"Why," the friend said, "every time I turn on the radio lately, I hear Bob on some program."
"Yes," Mrs. Young replied, "Bob is getting to be the male Lurene Tuttle of radio."
Aptly referred to as "The First Lady of Radio," she was most fondly remembered for her role as Effie, the deliciously endearing "Girl Friday," to Howard Duff's Sam Spade on The Adventures of Sam Spade. Dyed-in-the-wool Sam Spade fans universally refer to the interaction between Duff and Tuttle as pure Radio magic--and deservedly so. Her comedic timing and interplay with Duff was absolutely superb, rivalled only by the Radio chemistry between Frances Robinson and Bob Bailey in Let George Do It.
By the time Film and early Television discovered her acting talent she found second and third careers as a durable, versatile character actress in a wide range of roles characterized primarily by their depiction of archetypal middle-American wisdom and warmth. Later years found her in recurring characterizations as a 'brittle' world-weary matron.
She debuted in Film in Heaven Only Knows (1947), then appeared alongside Cary Grant in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and Room for One More (1952). She performed with Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother to Knock (1952) and Niagara (1953). She also appeared with Joan Crawford in Goodbye, My Fancy (1951) and Leslie Caron in The Glass Slipper (1955). To Film's everlasting shame, she never got her chance to appear as a lead, not for lack of either versatility or talent. As it was, she continued to develop her talent as a durable, reliable character actor--and occasional scene-stealer.
Indeed her innate ability to steal any scene--on big screen or small--with an impish, knowing grin or world-weary, cynical glance remained two of her signature characterizations throughout her remarkable career. Her only real lead during this period was her portrayal of the crazed Ma Barker, in Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960), a B-movie that's reached cult status.
Television was more cognizant of Lurene Tuttle's natural warmth and wisdom, which, given the kinder, gentler, family oriented fare of 1950s Television, found her performing regularly in a wonderful array of sitcoms, appearing as a starchy relative, gossipy gadfly, or archetypal down-home townfolk.
Lurene Tuttle married fellow actor and announcer, Mel Ruick a performer she met often while both were performing in Radio. Their daughter, Barbara Ruick, became an actress best known for her portrayal of Carrie Pipperidge in the wonderful musical comedy Carousel (1956). Barbara Ruick later married famed American composer John Williams, but died unexpectedly in 1974, just as John Williams' world-renowned talent was becoming recognized.
Lurene Tuttle became a widely-respected Drama and diction coach for several decades. She taught radio technique in the 1940s and re-trained several prominent actors returning from World War II duty. After her Television career in the 1950s, Lurene Tuttle returned to teaching. Her students included Red Skelton, Orson Welles, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and Jayne Meadows. She joined the faculty of The University of Southern California, teaching acting technique, and remained in Southern California until she succumbed to cancer at the age of 78.
"I have a full life - radio acting, TV shows, movies, and my daily teaching - all crammed with delight. I find that the best way for me to conduct my life is to run my life - my way." -- Lurene Tuttle
Thankfully, her fame endures as new generations of Golden Age Radio and Television fans continue to discover her anew. Thus she remains to this day--and throughout the forseeable future--as one of the most beloved, most enjoyed and most admired voice and character talents of The 20th Century.
Lurene Tuttle as listed with Wormser, Heldfond & Joseph circa 1986