Ruth Louise Ratny, founder and editor of ReelChicago and Screen Magazine – and a friend to those of us at Mobius Awards and US International Film & Video Festival – died Feb. 21 in her sleep. The only daughter of German immigrants who settled in Chicago, she jumped from high school to become a dedicated and successful supporter of the Chicago film and advertising communities.
At the beginning of her career, Ruth worked as a producer in the post-production industry and earned an Emmy. In 1979, she founded the print-based advertising and film publication Screen Magazine and served as editor and publisher for 23 years before selling it in 2001. She founded the digitally exclusive ReelChicago.com in 2004 and continued editing and writing much of the publication’s content until last week. She filed her final story on Feb. 10, 2017.
Along the way, Ruth earned distinction as a Chicago and Midwest Ad Woman of the Year, a member of Today’s Women Chicago 100 Hall of Fame, an honoree on Newcity Magazine’s “Film 50” list, a recipient of the Hugo Legend Film Award and a recipient of the Chicago Film Critics Award, among others. Additionally, she served on dozens of film juries, discussion panels, volunteer organizations and awards shows.
Lee Gluckman, also a Chicago native and chairman of Mobius Awards and US International Film & Video Festival, which were founded in Chicago, had known Ruth “going back to the late ‘60s not long after I formed Producers Group Ltd., a Chicago-based production company,” he said. “I always had great respect for her approach and opinions on everything about the business in Chicago. It seemed that she knew everyone who was anyone in in advertising and film.”
Gluckman, now based in Los Angeles, kept in touch with Ruth occasionally in person and more often by phone. “She had a sharp wit and strong opinions, but she was usually right. I will miss her,” Gluckman said.
In her personal time, Ruth completed two film scripts that generated a number of offers, but none of them matched the deal that she had hoped for. One was a love story about a young couple on different sides of the U.S./Mexican border; the other, a feature documentary about Mahalia Jackson, “The Queen of Soul,” who earned her fame and spent much of her career in Chicago. Ruth was also a fierce supporter of liberal causes, especially those devoted to women and children. Her contributions to charitable organizations would have been legendary if she had chosen to publicize them, according to her staff at ReelChicao.com.