Ruth Morley Biography

RUTH MORLEY came to America at the age of fourteen, having escaped Vienna and the Holocaust one year earlier on a British bound Kindertransport in 1939. With limited English language skills, Morley survived school by drawing biology assignments for her classmates in exchange for help with homework.As a teenager that prodigal artistic talent helped Morley support her family by creating greeting cards and cell animation. Later, she studied painting with the great abstract impressionist Hans Hoffman while posing part-time as an artist’s model. When she found a position as a set painter in New York she could no longer continue night school at Cooper Union. Though Morley had focused on painting in the theater, costume designer Rose Bogdonoff became her mentor and champion. After several seasons designing costumes at the Tamiment Theater and the New York City Opera, Ms Morley designed costumes for thirty-five Broadway shows between 1950 and 1988. These include: The Miracle Worker, (1959), Toys in the Attic (1960), Wait Until Dark (1966), Deathtrap (1978), Death of a Salesman (revival 1984) and Spoils of War (1988). Ruth Morley’s intuition and intelligence blend theatrical artistry and character analysis. Her witty and knowing costumes grace forty-two memorable films which include: The Miracle Worker (1962) for which she won an Academy Award nomination, The Hustler (1961) Taxi Driver (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Ghost (1990) and The Prince of Tides (1991). For Annie Hall, Ruth Morley layered Diane Keaton in frumpy vintage men’s wear and defined that era. This quirky look fueled a world-wide phenomenon and a trend in cross-dressing that continued to influence women’s wardrobes into the 1980’s. Morley’s sixth sense for creating memorable characters contributed immeasurably to each remarkable film of her long career. Despite her impressive credits Ruth Morley was a very modest individual, although she did express that she would have loved to work with Fellini. She relished every opportunity to design period costumes and especially loved to create a fictional world from “nothing”. In 1998, The League of Professional Theatre Women created The Ruth Morley Designing Woman Award in her honor. Morley served on the League’s Board of Directors. This award ” recognizes, celebrates and remembers those artists who have pioneered the art of costume design setting the standard for years to come.” Also in 1998, Ruth Morley’s daughter, Melissa Hacker, directed the celebrated documentary My Knees Were Jumping; Remembering the Kindertransports, which told the story of this massive rescue operation of 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazi’s. We are grateful that Ruth Morley was one.