Ruth Cracknell

Ruth Cracknell

Infobox Actor
name =Ruth Cracknell

imagesize =
caption =
birthdate = birth date|1925|7|6|mf=y
location = Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
deathdate = death date and age|2002|5|13|1925|7|6|mf=y
deathplace = Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
birthname = Ruth Cracknell
Australian actor
spouse = Eric Phillips
notable role = Maggie Beare in
"Mother and Son"

Ruth Cracknell, AM (6 July 192513 May 2002), was an Australian theatre and television character actor. She was known variously as 'Crackers', 'Dame Crackers' and 'Dame Ruth', throughout a career spanning 56 years.

Early life

Cracknell was born in 1925 in the town of Maitland, in New South Wales, daughter of Charles and Winifred Cracknell. When Ruth was four years old, the family moved to Sydney.

She was educated at North Sydney Girls High School, and after graduating, worked at the Ku-ring-gai Council as a clerk.

At seventeen, Cracknell was taken to the theatre by a friend. She immediately wanted to become an actor, and joined the Modern Theatre Players drama school.


Cracknell's first acting jobs were in radio. By 1946, she was performing five episodes of radio plays a week. She also performed on stage with the Independent Theatre Company. In 1948, Cracknell joined the John Alden Company and had roles in "King Lear", "Measure for Measure" and "The Tempest". In 1952, at the age of twenty-seven, she left Australia to work in London for two years.

Cracknell married Eric Phillips on 25 June 1957, and together they had three children, Anna, Jane and Jonathan. Unlike many women of the time, she did not retire, and continued to act.

Cracknell appeared in many Australian film and TV productions, including the 1973 award-winning ABC-TV dramatisation of Ethel Turner's Australian children's classic "Seven Little Australians", but she is probably most famous for her role in the ABC television series "Mother and Son". Written by Geoffrey Atherden and loosely based on the cult Carl Reiner film "Where's Poppa?", "Mother and Son" first screened in 1984, ran for six seasons over nine years, and was often repeated.

Cracknell played an elderly woman, Maggie Beare, who was slowly becoming senile. She was cared for by her long-suffering younger son Arthur (Garry McDonald), to whom she was often indifferent but also dependent on, and whom she often cynically played off against her self-centred older son (Henri Szeps) and daughter-in-law (Judy Morris).

Ruth appeared in over twenty films and television series, including "Play School" (throughout the 1960s), "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith" (1978), the 1983 miniseries "The Dismissal" (playing Margaret Whitlam) and "A Country Practice" (two episodes in 1984).

Cracknell acted for most of the major Australian theatre companies, especially the Sydney Theatre Company. As well as other stage roles, Ruth Cracknell appeared in the stage production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" as the 'Lady Bracknell'. The production was so popular that it was an "ongoing" stage production between 1988 and 1992, and was televised by the ABC. She was also Patron of the Australian Theatre for Young People.

Cracknell died in Sydney on 13 May 2002, from pneumonia. She was survived by her three children and seven grandchildren. [ [ Ruth Cracknell Dies at 76, Sydney Morning Herald, May 14 2002.] ]


In 1980, Cracknell was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 1998, the National Trust of Australia named Cracknell one of "100 National Living Treasures".

Cracknell received honorary doctorates from the University of Sydney. [ [ The University of Sydney - Awards and honours] ] and Queensland University of Technology

In 2001, Cracknell was awarded the TV Week Logie Hall of Fame for her services to Australian Television. Her appearance at the ceremony was the last before her death. She is currently the only Logie Hall of Fame recipient who has appeared on a TV show that has also won the Logie Hall of Fame ("Play School", awarded in 2006).

She also narrated comedian Paul McDermott's, "The Scree", which was released in 2004.


* [ Ruth Cracknell] - Stage acting credits
* "The Importance of Being Earnest" — (information and photos):: [] , [] , [] , [] , [] , [] , [] , [] , [] , []

External links

*imdb name|id=0185635|name=Ruth Cracknell
* [ Australians: Ruth Cracknell] - Australian Broadcasting Corporation
* [ Ruth Cracknell - biography] - Aussiewood
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;page=0;parentid=;query=Number%3A359689%20|%20Number%3A363070%20|%20Number%3A352726%20|%20Number%3A351867%20|%20Number%3A352268%20|%20Number%3A353982%20|%20Number%3A353284%20|%20Number%3A352542;querytype=;resCount=10 Ruth Cracknell at the National Film and Sound Archive]

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