I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you probably haven't heard of Ruthelma Stevens. I hadn't either until I watched the Adolphe Menjou b-movie "The Circus Queen Murder" last week. The script was pitiful, the acting was mediocre and the plot was predictable. The one thing that stood out above all else was Ruthelma Stevens, playing Adolphe Menjou's sidekick, Miss Kelly.
I watched the film with my mom, who every ten minutes or so would say "she's really good... I wonder why we haven't seen her in anything else!" And so when "The End" appeared on the screen, I dashed off to imdb.com to find out what happened to this b-movie queen. I was very saddened to see her small filmography filled with parts like "(uncredited)... secretary" or "(uncredited)... brunette in theater." Her biography is empty, except for the name of her husband, and her birth and death dates (October 23 and October 23... she died on her 81st birthday.)
When I went looking for photos of her for this post, I couldn't find ONE. I looked on every search engine, every place I could think of, and "Ruthelma Stevens" turned up zero results. I finally resorted to playing my Circus Queen Murder DVD and taking screenshots in order to show you who she was.
Perhaps the saddest part of Ruthelma's story is the fact that she was actually a very good actress. It's easy to turn in a good performance when you have Dark Victory or Gone With the Wind for a script. But when you can turn a supporting role in "The Circus Queen Murder" into a chance to shine, and wring every existing drop of interestingness out of a mediocre, dull script, that's an accomplishment that deserves recognition.
Unfortunately, Ruthelma didn't get any recognition. In "The Circus Queen Murder," the title role went to Greta Nissen, who had about ten lines and one high-wire circus scene. Yet, Greta received top female billing. Squinting hard, staring at my screen I couldn't make out "Ruthelma Stevens" anywhere on the movie poster, at all.
Since her biography was so incredibly sparse, I can only hope that Ruthelma had a very happy life after films; that she and her husband enjoyed life out of the spotlight, and that her unfulfilled stardust dreams didn't haunt her.