Ruta Lee

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Ruta Lee
Lee in December 2009
Born Ruta Mary Kilmonis
(1935-05-30) May 30, 1935 (age 81)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Other names Rita Kilmonis
Ruta Kilmonis
Education Hollywood High School
Alma mater Los Angeles City College
University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Actress, dancer
Years active 1953–present
Spouse(s) Webster B. Lowe, Jr. (m. 1976)

Ruta Lee (born May 30, 1935) is a Canadian actress and dancer who appeared as one of the brides in the film 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 The Twilight Zone sci-fi series called "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain".

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

Early life[edit]

Ruta Lee was born Ruta Mary Kilmonis in Montreal, Quebec, the only child of two Lithuanian immigrants.[1] Her father was a tailor; her mother, a homemaker.[2]

In 1948, her family moved to Los Angeles, California, where she graduated in 1954 from Hollywood High School and began studying acting and appearing in school plays.[2][3] She attended both Los Angeles City College and the University of California at Los Angeles.[2]

Lee worked as a cashier,[2] an usherette, and a 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.[4]


Lee then got a break as a guest on two episodes of CBS's The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.[2] She soon found an agent, who landed her a job in an episode of the 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,[2] she landed a role as bride Ruth in the Academy Award-nominated musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, still billed as Ruta Kilmonis.[3]

After that success, Lee appeared in several films including Anything Goes (1956), Funny Face, Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Marjorie Morningstar (1958) with Natalie Wood.

In 1962, Lee had the female lead in the Rat Pack comedy/western film Sergeants 3 along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Peter Lawford. She then co-starred with Audie Murphy in a 1964 western, Bullet for a Badman.

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 screen. From 1957 to 1959, she was cast in different roles in eight episodes of the CBS crime drama television series, The Lineup. In 1959 and 1960, she was cast in four episodes of John Bromfield's syndicated crime drama, U.S. Marshal. Lee 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 murderer Connie Cooper in "The Case of the Screaming Woman" (1958), and defendant Millie Crest in "The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll" (1959).

On December 10, 1962, Lee was cast as Lenore Walton Hanford in "Wanted for the Murder of Cheyenne Bodie", the penultimate episode of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Cheyenne, with Clint Walker in the starring role. In the story line, Bodie is mistaken for a notorious gunfighter and framed for his "own" murder. Others appearing in the episode are Richard Webb, Gregg Palmer, and Dick Foran.[5]

In 1963, Lee guest starred as Lucy Tolliver in the twelfth episode "Enough Rope" of the NBC/WB western series, Temple Houston, with Jeffrey Hunter as an historical figure, the frontier lawyer Temple Lea Houston, youngest son of Sam Houston. Temple Houston was canceled after twenty-six weeks. Of Hunter, Lee said, "He was one of the prettiest people that ever was put on the screen, God, he was gorgeous."[6]

Lee was further cast on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Sugarfoot, M Squad, Gunsmoke, 77 Sunset Strip, The Alaskans, Colt .45, Wagon Train, Hawaiian Eye, Rawhide, The Wild Wild West, Ironside, The Fugitive and Hogan's Heroes. Lee appeared in two guest spots of The Andy Griffith Show in 1962 and 1965. In 1963, she was cast in CBS's 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 films and television roles on Love, American Style, The Mod Squad, and a role in the 1972 film The Doomsday Machine. By 1974, Lee had grown frustrated by an increasing lack of roles, and took a job co-hosting the daytime game show High Rollers.[3] She remained with the show until 1976.

During the 1980s, she lent her voice to episodes of The Flintstones Comedy Show and The Smurfs, in addition to guest roles on CHiPs, 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.[7]

From 1988 to 1989, Lee had a recurring role on the CBS sitcom, Coming of Age. In 1989, she played the role of Sally Powers in the TV movie Sweet Bird of Youth with Elizabeth Taylor. In the 1990s, Lee continued to appear in episodic television, most notably in the series Roseanne. Lee appeared as the girlfriend of Bev Harris (Estelle Parsons) whose character disclosed she was gay.[8]

She played the wife of comedian Jerry Lewis in the 1995 British film Funny Bones, in which they play the parents of Oliver Platt.

In 2002, Lee was presented 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.[9] In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to Lee.[10]

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.[4] In October 2010, Lee played the role of Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, also at the Casa Mañana Theatre.[11] She had previously played the role there in 1982.[citation needed] She appeared in 2012 in a small guest appearance on the long-running NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives.

In 2009, she played a 'straight' role as herself in the British hidden camera comedy La La Land, a series about the stupidity of people trying to make it in Hollywood and those trying to help them.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In 1976, Lee married Texas restaurant executive Webster B. "Webb" Lowe, Jr.[3] They divide their time between their homes in Hollywood, Palm Springs, Fort Worth and Mexico.[12] She has no children. Lee describes her political views as "conservative"[13] and she appeared at the 1972 Republican National Convention.[14] On August 24, 2013, Lee was inducted into the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame.[15][16]


In 1964, Lee called then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, asking him to pardon her grandmother Ludvise Kamandulis,[3] who had been in an internment camp in Siberia since World War II.[4] The pardon was granted, and Lee's grandmother came to live with her in California in 1964.[3] Kamandulis died two years later.[17] 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.[18]

Lee has been involved with the charitable organization "The Thalians" for over fifty years.[3] In addition to raising money and providing services for troubled youth and mental health organizations, Lee, who is also the board chairman, has co-produced the annual Ball of the Thalians with Debbie Reynolds throughout those five decades.[19] In 2011, she stepped down after 55 years of involvement with the Thalians, and is now an emeritus member.



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
1972 Doomsday Machine Dr. Marion Turner Alternative title: Escape from Planet Earth
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 Christmas Too Many, AA Christmas Too Many Grandma Direct-to-DVD release
2011 Forever Young at Heart Shelley Felgerstein Short film
2013 For Better or for Worse


Year Title Role Notes
1950 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"
1955–1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Various roles 2 episodes
1956 I Led Three 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
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 Stacatto 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 Sheriff of Cochise (also known as United States 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 Theater 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 Outlaws Jennie Episode: "Farewell Performance"
1962 Poor Mr. Campbell Priscilla Edwards Television film
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 Various roles 2 episodes
1963 Bonanza Rita Marlow Episode: "A Woman Lost"
1963 Arrest and Trial Colleen Riley Episode: "Call It a Lifetime"
1963 Twilight Zone, TheThe 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 Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, TheThe Travels of Jaimie McPheeters Zoe Pigalle Episode: "The Day of the Lame Duck"
1964 Fugitive, TheThe Fugitive Mrs. Janet Loring Episode: "Angels Travel on Lonely Roads: Part 2"
1964 Virginian, TheThe 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 Guns of Will Sonnett, TheThe 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 Episode: "The City Planner"
1971 A Howling in the Woods Sharon Television film
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"
1974 Indict and Convict Phyllis Dorfman Television film
1974 Roll, Freddy, Roll! Evelyn Danton Kane Television film
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 Disney's Wonderful World Ernestine Di Gonzini Episode: "The Ghosts of Buxley Hall"
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 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 Episode: "Solid Gold"
1988 Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School Revolta (Voice) Television movie
1988–1989 Coming of Age Pauline Spencer 15 episodes
1989 Jake and the Fatman Leilani Simmons Episode: "Sweet Leilani"
1990 Timeless Tales from Hallmark Voice role Episode: "Rapunzel"
1990 Charles in Charge Gloria Episode: "Three Dates & A Walnut"
1990 People Like Us Faye Converse Television film
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. ^ "Ruta Lee keeps Fort Worth audiences starstruck", Mark Lowry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27, 2015
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "The Private Life & Times of Ruta Lee".
  4. ^ a b c [dead link] Lowry, Mark (February 10, 2008). "Homecoming Queen". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved March 28, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Wanted for the Murder of Cheyenne Bodie". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  6. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 108-109
  7. ^ "About Ruta Lee, The Legend". Desert Charities. 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 
  8. ^ Christine, Sparta (March 11, 2003). "Emergence from the closet". USA Today. Retrieved March 28, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Ruta Lee gets star on Hollywood Walk". USA Today. October 11, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated"[permanent dead link] (PDF format).
  11. ^ "News". Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  12. ^ Ruta Lee official biography Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "PRESS RELEASE: Lithuanian American Legends, Dick Butkus, Ruta Lee, Johnny Unitas Enter The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame 2013". Retrieved November 12, 2016. 
  16. ^ "August 24, 2013, The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame Welcomes Dick Butkus, Ruta Lee, and Johnny Unitas". Retrieved November 12, 2016. 
  17. ^ Gekko, Joann (August 15, 1986). "Oldest Active Military Officer in US Retires". The Fresno Bee. 
  18. ^ Mastick, Spencer (October 16, 1987). "Actress Gets Her Cousin Out of Soviet Union". The Fresno Bee. 
  19. ^ "Going For the Gold...51st Anniversary Ball of the Thalians". October 7, 2006. 

External links[edit]