Cover photo for Eleanor Ruggles O'Leary's Obituary
Eleanor Ruggles O'Leary Profile Photo
1916 Eleanor 2008

Eleanor Ruggles O'Leary

June 24, 1916 — July 2, 2008

Eleanor Ruggles O'Leary passed away Tuesday, July 2, at Hearthstone in Marlborough.�She was born June 24, 1916 in Boston but did not claim to be a "Proper Bostonian" since her mother (Alice Morrill Ruggles) came from Cincinnati, OH and her father (Daniel Blaisdell Ruggles - a judge on the Nantucket Circuit) was from Hanover, NH.

Her maternal great grandfather and great grand uncle wrote the McGuffey readers that taught the alphabet along with moral maxims to generations of Americans and they belonged, as did Vachal Lindsay's forebears, to what Lindsay called the "Daguerreotype World" of the pioneer Midwest.�Also one of Eleanor's ancestors was Doctor Daniel Drake (after whom the Drake University in Cincinnati was named), who at one time Doctored to President Lincoln.

Eleanor lived the early part of her life in Jamaica Plain, overlooking the Pond from her front door. Later her family moved to Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill.�She attended the Windsor School of Boston and then went on to Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she studied drama with Hallie Flanagan and John Houseman and English Composition with the late Alan Porter.�She was graduated in 1938 with a degree in English and Theatre Arts and went on to study acting in London, England with the distinguished dramatic teacher, Elsie Fogarty.

She returned to this country to become one of the directors of the Duchess Count Players and for a time worked with the Group 20 Theatre and The Theatre Guild of New York City.�It was here in the "Big Apple" that Eleanor rubbed shoulders with such luminaries as Franchot Tone, John Garfield, Clifford Odetts, and Orson Wells.

Eleanor later moved back to Boston where she met (and married) Robert Semmes O'Leary of New Orleans, a Harvard University faculty assistant who went on to become Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The couple settled in Cambridge and spent many summers in their Nantucket home. Eleanor, at this time, began an active career as an author.�Her early books included "Gerard Manley Hopkins - a Life" (one of England's greatest poets), "The West Going Heart" - the life of the "poet of Springfield" Vachal Lindsay and "A Journey Into Faith" - the Anglican life of Cardinal John Henry Newman.�These scholarly biographies were followed by her best known book "The Prince of Players" - the life of Edwin Booth (brother of the Lincoln assassin, John Wilkes Booth)�This book, published in 1953, was hailed by John Mason Brown as "...beyond doubt, the best book about Booth to have appeared."

It was subsequently made into a 1955 movie of the same name and starred Richard Burton, Maggie McNamara, Raymond Massey, Charles Bickford, John Derek, and Eva La Gallienne - a film described as
"well performed by an earnest cast." The script was crafted by Moss Hart.

Eleanor's retirement years were spent at Longview in Cambridge and later at Hearthstone in Marlborough.�She is survived by her two nephews, Daniel Blaisdell Ruggles of Salem and Thomas Morrill Ruggles of Concord, as well as three grandnieces, Rebecca Lachenal Ruggles of Balitimore, MD, Mary Ann Daland Ruggles of Somerville, and D. Fairchild Ruggles of Champagne/Urband, IL.


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