Ruth Chatterton was the daughter of a respected and successful architects. She made her stage debut at the age of twelve, had their first engagement on Broadway at 18 and was two years later, through the participation in Daddy Long Legs to a stage star.
In spite of several offers made her first film, and only silent film, Sins of the Fathers on the side of Emil Jannings in 1928. With the advent of talkies her clear diction was quickly popular, and in 1929 the biggest star of the studio through the filming of the stage classic Madame X, in which Lionel Barrymore directed. She was hired for at MGM, and nominated for one of the first Oscars. The great success of the film brought in Chatterton the title First Lady of the talkies. The studio put them in the aftermath often as easygoing lady with a dubious background in melodramatic love stories, or as an elegant members of high society in comedies such as The Laughing Lady, or Charming Sinners, both in 1929.
She had her biggest commercial success in 1930 with the strip of Sarah and Son, which she showed as an Austrian singer, who must give up her illegitimate son and is happy in the end. The critics praised her ability, the heavy accent of the first in the course of action to modulate subtle. Given the still poor recording that was a significant achievement that won her her second Oscar nomination. The strip The Right to Love from the same year Chatterton presented in a dual role as stiff and whose restless daughter of a missionary.
The end of 1931 could be Chatterton, whose position as the biggest star of the studio by Marlene Dietrich has been compromised, poach for Wochengage of $ 6,000 from Warner Brothers. Simultaneously, Kay Francis and William Powell switched to the competition, a process that had been unique, and attracted much attention. Chatterton had insisted say in all the scripts and in selecting the cast and the director. The first film she shot in 1932, was an elegant comedy, The Rich Are Always with Us, in which the young Bette Davis had a supporting role. Davis later wrote in her autobiography, she had been standing in front of Chatterton, the first common scene: I'm so damn afraid of you, I'm speechless. The two actresses were then well together. The hoped-for career boost, however, remained out for Ruth Chatteron who allegedly earned 1933 on $ 350,000. She turned her last film for Warners in 1934 and left the studio in the dispute after they had refused to act as a prostitute in Mandalay.
After two cheaply produced films at Columbia, her career seemed to end the film when it offered to Samuel Goldwyn in 1936, the second lead role in his film version of age of love, time of departure (engl. Dodsworth), directed by William Wyler. Chatterton played an aging wife of Walter Huston and a new career seemed in prospect. Then she declined the offer in 1937 to play in the remake of Stella Dallas and the disgruntled Goldwyn had the actress put on a blacklist. You still making a film in England and then pulled back onto the stage and on TV. On television she appeared among others in a production of Hamlet.
1946 Chatterton staged her old friend Kay Francis on a tour of the boulevard comedy performance Windy Hill. In two recent biographies of Francis to the sometimes dramatic, sometimes comical events that accompanied the performances read.
Ruth Chatterton was married three times, including with the actor Ralph Forbes and George Brent. With renewed interest in movies that were filmed before the date of the Production Code, Chatterton was also known to a wider audience.