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Obituaries : Ruth Roman; Former Warner Bros. Actress

September 11, 1999|From a Times Staff Writer

Ruth Roman, a noted film actress of the 1940s and '50s who was the last contract player at Warner Bros., has died. Roman, who was 75, died in her sleep at her Laguna Beach home Thursday.

Her first major film was the 1949 movie "Champion," in which she starred with Kirk Douglas. She subsequently signed a contract with Warner Bros. and worked in a number of films in the 1950s.

She appeared in "Beyond the Forest" with Bette Davis, "Three Secrets" with Patricia Neal, the Hitchcock thriller "Strangers on a Train" with Farley Granger, and "Maru Maru" with Errol Flynn. Other films included "The Far Country" with James Stewart, "Bitter Victory" with Richard Burton and "Dallas" with Gary Cooper.

Roman toured with the national company of "Two for the Seesaw" in 1958 and later appeared in such television shows as "Naked City," "Route 66," "The Defenders," "Dr. Kildare," "Knots Landing" and "Murder, She Wrote."

She was born in Boston to a show business couple of Russian-Polish descent but her father died when she was young. She started acting in community plays at age 9 and won a scholarship to the Bishop Lee Dramatic School. She then headed for Broadway, failed to get any roles and wound up posing for crime magazine stills at $5 an hour.

With some savings and borrowed train fare, she moved to Hollywood and made her screen debut in the Universal serial "Queen of the Jungle." She endured lean times before landing a role in "The Window," which led to her part in Stanley Kramer's "The Champion."

Portrayed in newspaper profiles as outspoken and tough, Roman entertained few illusions about the movie business. In a 1949 interview, she told Hedda Hopper: "I love everything about show business, even the junk. You can't change the junk. People have tried. So you might as well accept it along with the good. Acting is my life. The profession can break my heart. In fact, it already has several times. But I love it."

In a 1963 interview, she complained of the lack of roles for women, noting that during the previous season she had mostly played "crying mothers."

She is survived by her son, Richard Roman Hall.

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