Sif Ruud was one of the most prominent and well-loved Swedish actors of the 1900s. She performed hundreds of different roles on stage, on film, and in TV-productions.
Sif Ruud was born into a wealthy family in Stockholm in 1916. Her maternal grandmother was a wine merchant and her mother was a singer. Her Norwegian father, a lawyer who worked for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, died before she was born. Her mother then remarried, to an engineer who lived in Eskilstuna. The family fell into economic ruin due to this man’s poor business sense. The house they lived in, and all their belongings, were sold at auction. Sif Ruud and her mother moved back to Stockholm where they had to make do as best they could. Despite the fact that the wider family was financially comfortable Sif Ruud was still brought up under harsh conditions. She began to work as a teenager, initially at an art company and then at an imports firm, all the while dreaming of becoming an actor. She took voice lessons with the actor and speech instructor Karin Alexandersson, who was a friend of her mother’s. Following a year of these lessons Sif Ruud was accepted into the Dramaten theatre school on her first application, aged only 18.
In 1944 Sif Ruud married Sune Bergström, a playwright she had met at Dramatikerstudion when she was acting in one of his plays. They had two children, Marja and Kenneth. The couple divorced in 1953. The following year Sif Ruud married Per-Olof Fallde, whom she had similarly met within the theatrical world.
Immediately after graduating from the Dramaten theatre school Sif Ruud found a job at the Helsingborg city theatre, where she worked for three years. At the same time she also acted at Fredriksdalsteatern in Helsingborg, as well as at Hippodromen in Malmö. She then began to work at Nya teatern in Stockholm whilst also acting at the open-air theatre in Tantolunden. During the Second World War she also worked as a military entertainer for soldiers in the field. Sif Ruud was appointed group leader at the rank of lieutenant.
From 1953 onwards Sif Ruud was part of the permanent ensemble at the Dramaten theatre. Her last performance on the Dramaten stage was in 2001 and that was her 97th role performed on Sweden’s national stage. One of the many roles she became known for during her time at Dramaten was Lillemor in Idlaflickorna, a play specially written for her by Kristina Lugn. Sif Ruud also served as part of the theatre’s management for a time. She was often directed by Ingmar Bergman. In 1964 Sif Ruud was awarded the O’Neill stipend on Bergman’s recommendation, as he said: “You are one of the pillars of this house. You are one of the indestructible ones.” Sif Ruud won acclaim for putting her soul into performing each of her roles, no matter how great or small a part it was.
Further to her acting career, during the period of 1951–1964, Sif Ruud also trained many Swedish actors in the spheres of stage performance, speech techniques, and reading at the Dramaten theatre school. She also gave private lessons.
Sif Ruud was a member of the Sveriges Radio (later Sveriges Television) TV ensemble at two different points in time, one of which included the performance of her most acclaimed role. This was Madame Flod in the seven-episode 1966 TV-series Hemsöborna, which was based on the novel by August Strindberg. Sif Ruud decided to portray her character as a complex woman who pined for love, rather than the angry woman as described by Strindberg. Her portrayal became extremely popular. The younger generation probably better remember Sif Ruud as Linus-Ida in the TV-adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s Madicken, as well as the voice of Elvira Fattigan in Beppe Wolger’s Dunderklumpen.
Sif Ruud acted in one hundred films. She was awarded a Guldbagge for the best female lead for her performance as Siv Gustavsson in En vandring i solen. Following her appearances in *Pensionat
Oskar and Stora och små män* she was again awarded Guldbagge prizes for best supporting female.
In addition to theatre, film, and TV Sif Ruud also performed in radio theatre and appeared in radio entertainment programmes, including Packa Pekkas kappsäck. She also performed at various private theatres in Stockholm, such as Maximteatern, and she appeared in productions at the Student theatre, and toured with the Riks theatre. She also performed in revue shows at Södra teatern and with Kar de Mumma (Erik Zetterström).
Sif Ruud gradually came to hold a number of powerful positions within the Swedish theatrical world. For a time she was on the Ministry of Education’s arts council and she was deputy chair of Teaterförbundet (the theatre union). In 2000 the Swedish government appointed her professor in recognition of “her powerful and empathetic character portrayals”.
Sif Ruud died in Stockholm in 2011, aged 95. She is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.