Ruta Lee

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Ruta Lee
Ruta Lee attending ceremony for Leslie Caron's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, December 8, 2009
Ruta Mary Kilmonis

(1935-05-30) May 30, 1935 (age 88)
Alma materLos Angeles City College
Occupation(s)Actress, dancer
Years active1953–present
Webster B. Lowe Jr.
(m. 1976; died 2020)

Ruta Lee (born Ruta Mary Kilmonis; May 30, 1935) is a Canadian-American actress and dancer who appeared as one of the brides in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She had roles in films including Billy Wilder's crime drama Witness for the Prosecution and Stanley Donen's musical comedy Funny Face, and also is remembered for her guest appearance in a 1963 episode of Rod Serling's sci-fi series The Twilight Zone called "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain".

Lee guest-starred on many television series, and was also featured on a number of game shows, including Hollywood Squares, What's My Line?, and Match Game, and as Alex Trebek's co-host on High Rollers.

Early life[edit]

Ruta Lee was born on May 30, 1935, in Montreal, Quebec, the only child of Lithuanian Roman Catholic immigrants.[1][2] Her father was a tailor and her mother a homemaker.[3]

On March 1, 1948, her family moved to the United States and ended up settling in Los Angeles, where she graduated in 1952 from Hollywood High School and began studying acting and appearing in school plays.[3][4] She attended both Los Angeles City College and the University of California at Los Angeles.[3] She worked as a cashier,[3] usherette, and candy girl at Grauman's Chinese Theater, but when she was $40 short in her cash account at the end of her shift one night, she was fired.[5]


Lee c.1960

Lee then got a break as a guest on two episodes of CBS's The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.[3] She soon found an agent, who landed her a job in an episode of The Roy Rogers Show, followed by a spot in 1953 on the series Adventures of Superman. That same year, while acting in a small theater production of On the Town,[3] she landed a role as bride Ruth in the Academy Award-nominated musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, while still billed as Ruta Kilmonis.[4] After that success, Lee appeared in several films, including Anything Goes (1956), Funny Face (1957), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Marjorie Morningstar (1958). In 1962, she played the female lead in the Rat Pack comedy/Western film Sergeants 3 starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. She then co-starred with Audie Murphy and Darren McGavin in a Western, Bullet for a Badman (1964).

In addition to films, Lee has appeared in dozens of guest-starring roles on television. For a number of years, she seemed to be everywhere on the small screen. From 1957 to 1959, she was cast in different roles in eight episodes of the CBS crime drama series The Lineup, and also played the leading lady in three episodes of Maverick: "The Comstock Conspiracy" (1957) with James Garner, "The Plunder of Paradise" (1958), and "Betrayal" (1959) with Jack Kelly. In 1959 and 1960, she was cast in four episodes of John Bromfield's syndicated crime drama U.S. Marshal.

She appeared as Ellen Barton in the 1960 episode "Grant of Land" of the ABC Western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams. She also made five guest appearances on the CBS courtroom drama series Perry Mason between 1958 and 1965, including the roles of murderer Connie Cooper in "The Case of the Screaming Woman" (1958), defendant Millie Crest in "The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll" (1959), as Vita Culver in "The Case of the Prudent Prosecutor", Vivian Cosgrave in the episode "The Case of the Libelous Locket" (1963), and as Irene Prentice in "The Case of the Gambling Lady" (1965).

Lee was further cast on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Sugarfoot, M Squad, Gunsmoke, 77 Sunset Strip, The Alaskans, Colt .45, Wagon Train, Bat Masterson, Hawaiian Eye, Rawhide, The Wild Wild West, Ironside, "Yancy Derringer", The Fugitive, and three episodes of Hogan's Heroes. Lee appeared in two guest spots of The Andy Griffith Show, in 1962 and 1965.

Also in 1965, she was cast as a movie star named Gloria Morgan in the episode "Gomer Dates a Movie Star" on the sitcom Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.. In 1963, she was cast in CBS's The Twilight Zone in the episode "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain" as a woman whose elderly husband undergoes a scientific experiment and then ages "backward".

Lee also began appearing regularly on game shows such as Hollywood Squares, You Don't Say, and Match Game. In the early 1970s, Lee continued to perform in both film and television roles on Love, American Style and The Mod Squad, and had a role in the film The Doomsday Machine (1972). By 1974, Lee had grown frustrated by an increasing lack of roles, and took a job co-hosting the daytime game show High Rollers.[4] She remained with the show until 1976.

During the 1980s, she lent her voice to episodes of The Flintstone Comedy Show and The Smurfs, in addition to guest roles on CHiPs, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Charles in Charge. Lee also performed extensively in the mid-1980s on stage, including the title character in the musical Peter Pan.[6]

From 1988 to 1989, Lee played a recurring role on the CBS sitcom Coming of Age. In 1989, she played the role of Sally Powers in the television movie Sweet Bird of Youth with Elizabeth Taylor. In the 1990s, Lee continued to appear in episodic television, most notably on the sitcom Roseanne. Lee appeared as the girlfriend of Bev Harris (Estelle Parsons), whose character disclosed she was gay.[7]

She played the wife of comedian Jerry Lewis in the British comedy-drama Funny Bones (1995), in which they play the parents of the Oliver Platt's character. In 2002, Lee was presented with one of the Golden Boot Awards for her work in Western television and cinema.

In 2006, Lee received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the television industry.[8] In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to Lee.[9]

In February 2008, Lee appeared as Clairee in a production of Steel Magnolias with Sally Struthers at the Casa Mañana theatre in Fort Worth, Texas.[5] In October 2010, Lee played the role of Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, also at the Casa Mañana Theatre.[10]

Personal life[edit]

In 1976, Lee married Texas restaurant executive Webster B. "Webb" Lowe Jr.[4] They divided their time between their homes in Hollywood, Palm Springs, Fort Worth, and Mexico.[11] Webb died July 1, 2020. They had no children. Lee describes her political views as "conservative"[12] and she appeared at the 1972 Republican National Convention.[13] On August 24, 2013, Lee was inducted into the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame.[14][15]

In February 2019, Lee had her Lithuanian citizenship restored.[16][17]


In 1964, Lee called then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, asking him to pardon her grandmother Ludvise Kamandulis,[4] who had been in an internment camp in Siberia since World War II.[5] The pardon was granted, and Lee's grandmother came to live with her in California in 1964.[4] Kamandulis died two years later.[18] Lee again rescued a relative from the former Soviet Union when she secured custody of her 18-year-old cousin, Maryte Kaseta, from Lithuania in 1987.[19]

Lee has been involved with the charitable organization The Thalians for over 50 years.[4] In addition to raising money and providing services for troubled youth and mental-health organizations, Lee, who is also the board chairman, co-produced the annual Ball of the Thalians with the late Debbie Reynolds throughout these five decades.[20] In 2011, after 55 years of involvement with The Thalians, she stepped down and is now a member emerita.



Year Title Role Notes
1954 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Ruth Credited as Ruta Kilmonis
1955 The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing Tennis Girl Uncredited
1955 The Twinkle in God's Eye Ruthie
1956 Anything Goes Girl Uncredited
1956 Gaby Denise
1957 Funny Face Lettie
1957 Witness for the Prosecution Diana
1958 Marjorie Morningstar Imogene Norman
1961 Operation Eichmann Anna Kemp
1962 Sergeants 3 Amelia Parent
1963 The Gun Hawk Marleen
1963 Hootenanny Hoot A.G. Bannister
1964 Bullet for a Badman Lottie Alternative title: Renegade Posse
1965 Invisible Diplomats Connie Wisner Short subject produced by AT&T
1972 Doomsday Machine Dr. Marion Turner Alternative title: Escape from Planet Earth; shot in 1967
1983 Rooster: Spurs of Death! Gayly
1983 Cracking Up Ms. Sultry (voice) Alternative title: Smorgasbord
1995 Funny Bones Laura Fawkes
1997 Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills Mrs. Poole
2001 Pretty When You Cry Antique Store Patron Alternative title: Seduced: Pretty When You Cry
2004 Quiet Kill Doris Alternative title: Nightmare Boulevard
2006 Sadie and the Slot Machines Sadie Silver Short film
2007 A Christmas Too Many Grandma Direct-to-DVD release
2011 Forever Young at Heart Shelley Felgerstein Short film


Photo from the television game show Hollywood Squares to celebrate the 2,000th episode in 1974. Pictured are Cliff Arquette as Charley Weaver, Rose Marie, John Davidson, George Gobel, Kent McCord, Peter Marshall, Vincent Price and Paul Lynde. Ruta Lee and Sandy Duncan, foreground.
Year Title Role Notes
1953 Adventures of Superman Teenager Episode: "My Friend Superman"
Credited as Rita Kilmonis
1952–1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Various roles 2 episodes
1953–1955 Burns and Allen Various roles 2 episodes
1954 Lux Video Theatre Marion Episode: "I'll Never Love Again"
1955 Science Fiction Theatre Student Episode: "The Unexplored"
1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ruby Boyenton Season 1 Episode 13: "The Cheney Vase"
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Angel Season 1 Episode 26: "Whodunit"
1956 I Led 3 Lives Louise Burke Episode: "New Member"
1956 Dragnet Episode: "The Big Daughter"
1957 Highway Patrol Lea Franklin Episode: "Armored Car"
1957 Suspicion Betty Episode: "The Story of Marjorie Reardon"
1957 Captain David Grief Rose Episode: "The Affair at Les Trois Magots"
1957–1959 Maverick Various roles 3 episodes
1957–1959 The Lineup Various roles 8 episodes
1958 The Gray Ghost Episode: "Contraband"
1958 Playhouse 90 Episode: "The Right Hand Man"
1958 The Walter Winchell File Joan Episode: "The Dice of Fortune: File #34"
1958 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Various roles 2 episodes
1958 Man with a Camera Dolly MacDermott Episode: "Second Avenue Assassin"
1958 Rescue 8 Ann Dagget Episode: "The Cage"
1958 December Bride Carol Hodges Episode: "Bride's Father-in-Law"
1958–1959 Sugarfoot Various roles 2 episodes
1958–1960 M Squad Various roles 3 episodes
1958–1962 Gunsmoke Various roles 2 episodes including "Jenny"
1958–1964 77 Sunset Strip Various roles 5 episodes
1958–1965 Perry Mason Various roles 5 episodes
1959 Yancy Derringer Romilly Vale Episode: "Two of a Kind"
1959 The Restless Gun Lucy Collins Episode: "The Painted Beauty"
1959 Peter Gunn Marie Gipson Episode: "Edie Finds a Corpse"
1959 The Millionaire Angela Temple Episode: "Millionaire Angela Temple"
1959 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Louise Episode: "Jukebox"
1959 Bat Masterson Nellie Fontana Episode: "The Death of Bat Masterson"
1959 Alcoa Theatre Emily Meadows Episode: "Medals for Harry"
1959 The Lawless Years Gloria Fallon Episode: "The Payoff"
1959 Markham Tammy Miles Episode: "The Duelists"
1959 Johnny Staccato Dee Dee Episode: "The Naked Truth"
1959 Tightrope! Laura Episode: "Stand on Velvet"
1959 Whirlybirds Ginny Episode: "Mr. Jinx"
1959 Hennesey Ruth Thomas Episode: "Hennesey and Peyton Place"
1959 The Man from Blackhawk Ginnie Thompson Episode: "The Legacy"
1959–1960 U.S. Marshal Various roles 4 episodes
1959–1960 The Alaskans Various roles 2 episodes
1959–1960 Colt .45 Various roles 2 episodes
1959–1963 Wagon Train Various roles 2 episodes
1960 Shotgun Slade Lilly Cody Episode: "Killer's Brand"
1960 The Rebel Ellen Barton Episode: "Grant of Land"
1960–1961 Hawaiian Eye Various roles 3 episodes
1961 The Tab Hunter Show Episode: "Turnabout"
1961 Michael Shayne Naomi Lester Episode: "Spotlight On a Corpse"
1961 Dante Peggy Braddock Episode: "Dante's Fickle Fate"
1961 The Brothers Brannagan Lynn Episode: "Shot in the Dark"
1961 The Case of the Dangerous Robin Episode: "Brink of Disaster"
1961 Zane Grey Theatre Jenny Aldrich Episode: "Man from Everywhere"
1961 Harrigan and Son Rose Episode: "The Legacy"
1961 Stagecoach West Various roles 2 episodes
1961 Laramie Opal Crane Episode: "Siege at Jubilee"
1962 The Outlaws Jennie Episode: "Farewell Performance"
1962 Poor Mr. Campbell Priscilla Edwards Television film
1962 Gunsmoke Jenny Glover Episode: "Jenny"
1962 Cheyenne Lenore Walton Hanford Episode: "Wanted for the Murder of Cheyenne Bodie"
1962 The Dick Powell Show Eva Gobel Episode: "Crazy Sunday"
1962–1963 Rawhide Various roles 2 episodes
1962–1965 The Andy Griffith Show Andy on Trial as Jean Boswell,

The Hollywood Party as Darlene Mason

2 episodes
1963 Bonanza Rita Marlowe Episode: "A Woman Lost"
1963 Arrest and Trial Colleen Riley Episode: "Call It a Lifetime"
1963 The Twilight Zone Flora Gordon Episode: "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain"
1963 Temple Houston Lucy Tolliver Episode: "Enough Rope"
1963 Fractured Flickers Herself Episode 20
1964 The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters Zoe Pigalle Episode: "The Day of the Lame Duck"
1964 The Fugitive Mrs. Janet Loring Episode: "Angels Travel on Lonely Roads: Part 2"
1964 The Virginian Various roles 2 episodes
1964–1965 Burke's Law Various roles 3 episodes
1965 The Bill Dana Show Yvette Renay Episode: "Beauty and the Bellhop"
1965 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Gloria Morgan Episode: "Gomer Dates a Movie Star"
1965 The Wackiest Ship in the Army Episode: "The Stowaway"
1965–1967 The Wild Wild West Various roles 2 episodes
1967 The Lucy Show Miss Audrey Fields; herself Episodes: "Lucy's Substitute Secretary"; "Lucy Meets the Berles"
1967 Judd, for the Defense Alida Nye Episode: "To Love and Stand Mute"
1967 Mannix Jean Coleman Episode: "Run, Sheep, Run"
1967–1969 Hogan's Heroes Various roles 3 episodes
1968 Ironside Marian Episode: "To Kill a Cop"
1969 The Guns of Will Sonnett Fan Episode: "Trail's End"
1969 The Flying Nun Faye/Sister Mary Grace 2 episodes
1969 Marcus Welby, M.D. Shirley Ballinger Episode: "All Flags Flying"
1969–1972 Love, American Style Various roles 3 episodes
1971 Mayberry R.F.D. Terry Phillips Episode: "The City Planner"
1971 A Howling in the Woods Sharon Television movie
1971 The Mod Squad Gloria Hardy Episode: "Exit the Closer"
1971 Arnie Miss Fletcher Episode: "Et Tu, Arnie"
1972 Me and the Chimp Lavelle Wiggins Episode: "My Pet, the Thief"
1973 Match Game Guest Panelist One Week
1974-1976 High Rollers Co-Hostess Daytime
1974 Indict and Convict Phyllis Dorfman Television movie
1974 Roll, Freddy, Roll! Evelyn Danton Kane Television movie
1979 Mork & Mindy Lisa Episode: "Mork's Night Out"
1979–1982 Three's Company Various roles 2 episodes
1980–1982 The Flintstone Comedy Show Hidea Frankenstone (Voice) 18 episodes
1980 Vega$ Gloria Garland Episode: "Love Affair"
1980 The Ghosts of Buxley Hall Ernestine Di Gonzini Television movie
1980–1983 Fantasy Island Various roles 3 episodes
1981 Elvis and the Beauty Queen Su-Su Television movie
1981 The Smurfs Additional voices Unknown episodes
1982 Three's Company Marsha Episode: "The Matchbreakers"
1982 Simon & Simon Penny Russell Episode: "Matchmaker"
1982 Madame's Place Kaye Jacobs Episode #1.42
1983 CHiPs Babe Episode: "Journey to a Spacecraft"
1984 The Rousters Mrs. Slade Episode: "Slade vs. Slade"
1984 Hotel Georgia Potter Episode: "Ideals"
1984–1985 1st & Ten Rona 4 episodes
1985 The Love Boat Harriet Wolters 1 episode
1985 Benson Zelda Romancova Episode: "Solid Gold"
1988 Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School Revolta (Voice) Television movie
1988–1989 Coming of Age Pauline Spencer 15 episodes
1989 Sweet Bird of Youth Sally Powers Television movie
1989 Jake and the Fatman Leilani Simmons Episode: "Sweet Leilani"
1990 Timeless Tales from Hallmark Scarlotta (voice) Episode: "Rapunzel"
1990 Charles in Charge Gloria Episode: "Three Dates and a Walnut"
1990 People Like Us Faye Converse Television movie
1990 Murder, She Wrote Renee Episode: "A Body to Die For"
1992 Delta Charlotte Tyler Episode: "How Much Is That Darden in the Window?"
1993 The Building Sylvia Episode: "Yakkity Yak Don't Talk"
1997 Roseanne Joyce 2 episodes
1998 Saved by the Bell: The New Class Mrs. Gore Episode: "Cigar Wars"
2000 Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue Koko Kashmere Episode: "In the Limelight"
2003 Life with Bonnie Mrs. Ruta Blanchette Episode: "Places, Stat!"
2005 Studio House Lily Fargate Television movie
2006 Christmas Do-Over Granny Conlon Television movie
2007 Christmas at Cadillac Jack's Rose Jenkins Television movie
2012 Days of Our Lives Tillie Inman Episode #1.11749

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Lowry, "Ruta Lee keeps Fort Worth audiences starstruck" Archived May 19, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27, 2015.
  2. ^ "Arts Interviews: Ruta Lee 2". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Schwartz, Harry (June 3, 1998). "Asian slaw proves a treat for Ruta Lee", Tulsa World; retrieved June 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "The Private Life & Times of Ruta Lee" Archived May 31, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b c [dead link] Lowry, Mark (February 10, 2008). "Homecoming Queen". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved March 28, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "About Ruta Lee, The Legend". Desert Charities. 2012. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  7. ^ Christine, Sparta (March 11, 2003). "Emergence from the closet". USA Today. Archived from the original on April 12, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  8. ^ "Ruta Lee gets star on Hollywood Walk". USA Today. October 11, 2006. Archived from the original on June 6, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  9. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated" (PDF format).
  10. ^ "News". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
  11. ^ Ruta Lee official biography Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Ruta Lee Profile". Glamour Girls. Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  13. ^ "Photograph of Henry Kissinger speaking to actress Ruta Lee at the 1972 Republican Convention". Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. 1972. Archived from the original on January 14, 2019. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  14. ^ "Lithuanian American Legends, Dick Butkus, Ruta Lee, Johnny Unitas Enter The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame 2013" (Press release). The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame. July 23, 2013. Archived from the original on November 12, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  15. ^ "August 24, 2013, The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame Welcomes Dick Butkus, Ruta Lee, and Johnny Unitas". The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on November 12, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  16. ^ "Hollywood actor Ruta Lee granted Lithuanian citizenship". The Baltic Times. February 28, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  17. ^ "1V-160 Dėl Lietuvos Respublikos pilietybės atkūrimo". February 18, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  18. ^ Gekko, Joann (August 15, 1986). "Oldest Active Military Officer in US Retires". The Fresno Bee.
  19. ^ Mastick, Spencer (October 16, 1987). "Actress Gets Her Cousin Out of Soviet Union". The Fresno Bee.
  20. ^ "Going For the Gold...51st Anniversary Ball of the Thalians". October 7, 2006. Archived from the original on August 23, 2010.

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