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Old 05-13-2002, 15:07   #1 (permalink)
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RIP Ruth Cracknell

Ruth Cracknell, one of Australia's favourite actresses, died last night after a long illness. She was 76.

Cracknell died of a respiratory illness in a Sydney nursing home shortly after a visit from her children, Anna Jeffery, Jane Moore and Jonathan Phillips.

While her career in radio, revue, theatre, television and film spanned 56 years, it was as Maggie Beare in ABC television's Mother and Son that Cracknell established herself as a national figure.

Variously known as Crackers, Dame Crackers, Ruth, St Ruth, and, more recently, Dame Ruth, she was blessed with what admirers called ''the gift of pausation".

Her intelligence, grace and charm earned her widespread affection, and her natural talent commanded respect.


Cracknell's co-stars in Mother and Son, Garry McDonald and Henry Szeps, were rehearsing at Sydney's Theatre Royal last night when told of Cracknell's death.

Looking back over their 20-year association with her, the two had many fond memories.

''All I can say at the moment is that I feel a big hole," Szeps said. ''Not just personally, but a big hole in Australian theatre, which will be very hard to fill. She gave our work dignity."

McDonald said: ''She was just such a wonderful woman. Just so strong and just so generous and such a wonderful comedian.

''A gag depends on two people - the one who throws it and the person who catches it - and Ruth could always work with what we gave her.

''Even though her nickname was The Dame, it was never like we were working with someone we had to kowtow to. She was just extraordinarily generous."

The writer of Mother and Son, Geoffrey Atherden, said: ''There was no-one else like her. Nobody else had that range from high drama to low comedy."

His enduring memories were of ''her strength and fantastic sense of humour".

Cracknell first visited a theatre, the St James Hall in Phillip Street, at the age of 17. In 1945 she left her job at the Ku-ring-gai Council for her first acting job, in radio.

Yet at the age of 27, while in England, she was offered an alternative profession, with an import-export company.

But she returned to Australia, where she married the love of her life, Eric Phillips. They had three children and seven grandchildren.

Over the years, Cracknell received many accolades and awards. Last year she accepted the James Cassius Award for outstanding contribution to the performing arts, and was inducted into the Gold Logie Hall of Fame.

Cracknell was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1980, and received several honorary doctorates.

She won a number of television awards, including the Silver Logie for most popular comedy personality and for most outstanding actress.

Cracknell was recently named by Australia's National Trust among its list of 100 Living National Treasures.

In recent years her gift for writing was revealed with the publication of A Biased Memoir and her compelling account of the illness and death of her husband in A Journey from Venice.

Szeps believed Cracknell's greatest attribute was her ability to ''give and take".

''Some big names try to hog and they keep all the glory to themselves, but she didn't. She called herself 'truth Ruth'."

Szeps referred to Mother and Son as ''just one of those flukes".

''We still have to say that in a sense it's a standard of sit-com that hasn't been achieved since then. You had the brilliance of Atherden and this weird mixture of people who understood it and loved it."

Szeps said his recollections of working with Cracknell revolved around her strength.

''I remember us all wilting in the studio on the 32nd take of something that wasn't happening to the director's satisfaction. And she was the little rabbit with the correct batteries, which could just keep on drumming, as everybody else was just keeling over.

''She had such focus and such strength, and that my memory of her is so strongly with that strength makes nonsense of death. It doesn't compute that a person so strong could die."

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Old 05-13-2002, 15:31   #2 (permalink)
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Old 05-13-2002, 15:47   #3 (permalink)
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R.I.P Ruth.
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Old 05-13-2002, 18:31   #4 (permalink)
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I only saw her in Mother And Son and she was damn good in that.

RIP Ruth
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Old 05-13-2002, 19:29   #5 (permalink)
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R.I.P. Ruth
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Old 05-13-2002, 21:19   #6 (permalink)
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Yeah, she was a very talented woman... she was SOOOO funny in Mother and SON!!!... R.I.P Ruth, the acting and performance world will miss you dearly :(
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Old 05-13-2002, 22:10   #7 (permalink)
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Damn shame that.. Top Actress IMO..
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Old 05-13-2002, 22:34   #8 (permalink)
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I was saddened to hear this. I remember her on 'Mother and Son', it was one of my favourite shows during the 80's and was by far one of the best sitcoms I've ever seen (US and UK shows included). Simply world class. For me, it's the end of an era. She was a classy lady. RIP Ruth.
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Old 05-14-2002, 05:12   #9 (permalink)
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Loved that show Mother and Son.. she'll be missed.
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Old 05-14-2002, 06:17   #10 (permalink)
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Well I'll be buggered!


R.I.P. Ruth.
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