Ruta Lee's family moved to Los Angeles from Montreal when she was 12 years old. Her movie career didn't get off to a great start — she was fired from her position as a candy girl at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater when her cash box came up short $40 one night. Lee was in luck though. She was doing a small theater production of "On the Town" in 1953 when she was discovered and landed a role as a bride in the 1954 Academy Award-nominated "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
She went on to do films like "Anything Goes," "Funny Face," "Witness for the Prosecution" and "Marjorie Morningstar." She wasn't afraid of the small screen and made notable appearances on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Sugarfoot," "December Bride," "Maverick," "U.S. Marshall," "M Squad," "Hawaiian Eye," "Gunsmoke," "Cheyenne" and many more.
Lee's bravery is evident not only in her career, but in her conviction. In 1964, she personally called Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to ask for a pardon for her grandmother, who had been in a Siberian internment camp since World War II. The pardon was granted in 1966. In 1987, Lee rescued another family member, securing custody of her 18-year-old cousin from Lithuania.
Her career remained robust well into the '80s, when she began to pick up voice-acting roles on "The Flintstones" and "The Smurfs." She was seen on classic TV shows like "CHiPS," "The Love Boat" and "Charles in Charge." One of her most memorable appearances was on "Roseanne" in 1997, when she played the girlfriend of Roseanne Barr's bisexual mother.
Lee continues to act, having most recently appeared in a stage production of "Steel Magnolias" with Sally Struthers in 2008. She and Debbie Reynolds run the Thalians, a charitable organization that provides mental health services for troubled youth.