best film:  Rosemary’s Baby is superior to Harold and Maude, but they are both masterpieces. Roman Polanski’s momentous 1968 horror film will forever sit at, or near the top, when discussing the best films in the genre’s history. Harold and Maude has always been considered a cult classic and sort of anthem for the counterculture – and it is a comedy – but the filmmaking from Hal Ashby is Wes Anderson-level. Obviously this is decades before Wes – so one should probably say that Wes Anderson is Hal Ashby-like in his ambitious filmmaking in the comedy genre.



the five (5) foot tall Ruth Gordon’s iconic role as Minnie Castevet from Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece



best performance:  Ruth Gordon plays Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby. Gordon (and Minnie) is a dynamo. She gulps up entire scenes where Mia Farrow and poor John Cassavetes are almost just left there with their mouth open in amazement watching Gordon run circles around them.  Gordon’s work in Harold and Maude is certainly worthy of an argument to the top slot as the actor’s overall best performance as well. She plays Maude of course – and she is in less than of the film than you remember (Bud Cort, playing her love interest at 51 years her junior, is the clear lead) but again Gordon takes over when she is on screen.



stylistic innovations/traits:  Ruth Gordon’s dueling performances in the late 1960s and early 1970s may be the textbook definition of screen presence.  Gordon is dominant in her time on screen in both of these masterpieces (one a horror – one a comedy). Gordon had an intriguing career. Her first archiveable film as an actor was at a much older age of course than most actors are even still working. Gordon was born in 1896 so she was seventy-two (72) in the year that her first archiveable film came out – incredible. After filtering out her television work and quick cameos – her entire career as an actor consists of about twenty-five (25) films but again her case here on this list boils down to just two films – so without a doubt – she had to make the most of it. Gordon had an entire career as a Hollywood screenwriter prior to her work as an actor on Rosemary’s Baby and Harold and Maude. She was nominated for three Oscars as a screenwriter from 1947 to 1952 (two of the three are Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn vehicles).



Ruth Gordon has an entire career as a stage actor and screenwriter in the early to mid 20th century before etching herself a place in cinema history in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Harold and Maude (1971 – pictured here) in the back half of the century.



directors worked with:   Roman Polanski (1) and Hal Ashby (1)


top five performances:

  1. Rosemary’s Baby
  2. Harold and Maude


archiveable films

1968- Rosemary’s Baby
1971- Harold and Maude