best film:  Thelma Ritter plays Stella in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and that is the winner here without much deliberation. Any film on the level of Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve has to be at least mentioned as well. Ritter seems to almost be playing herself as Stella – or at least her trademark quick witted working class on screen persona.  She exchanges playful jabs with Jimmy Stewart’s L.B. Jefferies. Ritter and Stewart have a fabulous rapport.


Ritter was so easy in front of the camera. in 1954 in Rear Window it looked like she had been a Hollywood veteran for decades, but instead, she had just a handful of years of film acting experience.


best performance:   Ritter is absolutely commanding as Moe in Fuller’s Pickup on South Street. She plays the streetwise Moe and she is a perfect match for Fuller’s sordid world and the cracking hot dialogue. She has bags under eyes, playing cops against robbers, giving information, selling ties as a front. She has a great scene with Richard Widmark (man, are they good together) in the coffee shop and then her death scene soliloquy is perfect street poetry. The “I’m so tired” speech and the song on the record ends and the camera pans… gunshot (Fuller behind the camera is one hell of a dance partner for Ritter). Ritter is levitating as Moe.


Ritter’s finest moments on celluloid are in 1953’s Pickup on South Street.


stylistic innovations/traits:   Thelma Ritter was born in 1902, did not become a Hollywood actor until nearly the middle of the century, and passed away 1969. She is good in everything she is in from All About Eve to Rear Window (this is a stretch 1950-1953 where she was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award four years in a row). She would be nominated a total of six times (never won), Brooklyn born and first movie credit at age 45. The story goes that her bit part as a price conscious shopper in Miracle on 34th Street was expanded by super producer Darryl Zanuck himself. Ritter was in just about thirty (30) overall films with thirteen (13) making the archives. She is one of Hollywood’s great all-time sidekicks. She plays a great wing man to Bette Davis (All About Eve), Jimmy Stewart (Rear Window), and Marilyn Monroe (The Misfits). Now, all of her roles (and nominations) are for supporting, but Ritter shares the distinction of being nominated four times in a row with Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Al Pacino and just a select few others.


directors worked with:  Joseph Mankiewicz (2), Samuel Fuller (1), Alfred Hitchcock (1), John Huston (1), John Frankenheimer (1)


Ritter opposite Bette Davis here in All About Eve – a dynamic duo – spitting fire the entire film. Two of Ritter’s archiveable films are with Joseph Mankiewicz. One is All About Eve (1950) of course. Just the year prior Ritter worked with him as well in A Letter to Three Wives (1949). Ritter is actually uncredited in A Letter to Three Wives. This is her third film overall after Miracle on 34th Street and Call Northside 777.  Again, Ritter slays it in support –  “my union doesn’t like me doing this type of work for free” as she answers the door at her friends/employer.



top five performances:

  1. Pickup on South Street
  2. Rear Window
  3. All About Eve
  4. Pillow Talk
  5. A Letter to Three Wives


archiveable films

1947- Miracle On 34th Street
1948- Call Northside 777
1949- A Letter to Three Wives
1950- All About Eve
1951- The Mating Season
1953- Pickup on South Street
1953- Titanic
1954- Rear Window
1959- Pillow Talk
1961- The Misfits
1962- How the West Was Won
1962- The Birdman of Alcatraz
1967- The Incident