Ruth Berlau, an extraordinarily beautiful and feisty Danish novelist, actress, photographer, and director was born in Copenhagen in 1906. The film follows Berlau from her beginnings in Denmark, her involvement with the Communist party before World War II and in the Danish Resistance after the Nazi invasion, and then her exile in Finland, the USSR and then in the US where she came under the prurient gaze of J. Edgar Hoover who suspected her of Soviet spying. She moved in the company of stars such as Laughton, Chaplin, and Robeson. With the war over, we follow her back to Europe and her death by fire in Berlin in 1974.
From the time of her meeting with the German playwright Bertolt Brecht in 1933, her life was marked by her work with him and her love for him despite the fact that he, as the film shows, stole some of her best work and most of her earnings. Berlau contributed to "Brecht" plays such as The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Simone Machard, & The Good Person of Sezuan. She loved Brecht "not wisely, but too well."
Red Ruth: That Deadly Longing is a microcosm of lives lived under the threat of Hitler and of Stalin, of the bugging by Hoover of virtually all dissidents, and of Berlau's increasingly desperate attempts to make a contribution to sanity, justice, and equality in a Berlin driven by the Cold War and bitter personal jealousies.
The research for Red Ruth is taken from John Fuegi's book Brecht & Company which was named a New York Times "Book of the Year." In its English version, Red Ruth features the voice of international star, Liv Ullmann. The film also includes footage of Bertolt Brecht's appearance before the inquisitorial House Unamerican Activities Committee and of Charles Laughton in Galileo (which has been called the "rarest Charles Laughton item in movie history").
The one-hour documentary film was made by Flare Productions along with the Scandinavian company, Nordisk Film, producers of Academy Award winner Babette's Feast. With voice-overs in various languages, Red Ruth has been seen around the world from Germany to Finland to Canada to Australia.
Winner of the Danish TV Oscar as "Best Film" of 1992 and a Silver Diploma at Berlin's Prix Futura. Red Ruth is a moving, thoroughly-researched, visually fine program that has a very personal stamp, even though there were many involved in making it." --Attorney Johann Schlüter speaking for the Danish TV Oscar Committee (April 1993)
This film is a part of the unique new series on Women of Power. 60 mins.