In the spirit of the “Barbie” movie taking over theaters nationwide this weekend, there’s no better way to celebrate than with a brief history of Denver’s own Ruth Handler, who created Mattel.
According to KDVR, “Handler was born Ruth Mosko in 1916, the youngest of 10 children. Her parents both emigrated from Poland. Her father arrived in Denver in 1907, followed by her mother and the couple’s first six children in 1908.”
— Barbie (@Barbie) November 4, 2016
Ruth and her husband Elliot Handler created the company with their business partner Harold Matson in the 1940s, after they moved to California. Barbie was created when Ruth wanted to buy a doll for her daughter, but was unable to purchase multiple outfits.
Ruth died in April 2002 at 85 after surgery complications from colon cancer. While there was another doll type of movie created in 2005 called “Life-Sized” featuring Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan, there hasn’t been a movie about Barbie that wasn’t animated. For the first time, Barbie gets a human makeover, so it was only fitting for the movie to somehow nestle the trail-blazing businesswoman into the film — after all, without Ruth, there would be no Barbie. Handler is portrayed by “Cheers” actress Rhea Perlman.
“I didn’t know anything about Ruth Handler until I looked her up when I heard I was playing her. She was quite a fascinating woman. Probably brilliant, really,” Perlman said in an interview released by Warner Bros.
Here are a few fun facts about the Barbie:
- Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
- Twiggy was the first celebrity to have a doll in her likeness.
- Barbie has had over 250 inspirational careers, including astronaut, pilot, firefighter, journalist, and entrepreneur, to name a few.
- Barbie traveled into space in 1965, four years before man walked on the moon.
- In 1992, Barbie ran for president for the first time and has run in nearly every election year since.
- Barbie is the most popular fashion doll ever produced and the No. 1 fashion doll property.
- A Barbie Dreamhouse is sold every two minutes and was first introduced in 1962.
- The Barbie YouTube channel has over twenty million global subscribers and 23 billion minutes of content watched, making Barbie the #1 girls’ brand on YouTube.
“There’s this shot where Ruth hands Barbie a cup of tea, and the way we lined it up is the exact way that God is touching Adam on the Sistine Chapel,” says director Greta Gerwig.
“Barbie” seems to be more than just a movie for an iconic doll that helped change the lives of billions of children worldwide. The movie’s lead Margot Robbie had no idea she could have such a connection to a doll until she made the movie.
“I didn’t know this character was going to get down into my bones in this way,” Robbie says to USA Today. “I just didn’t ever expect to have so many big, profound conversations about the meaning of life or what true happiness is. I mean, we joke about an existential crisis, but it all did become very existential.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Barbie” has already raked in over $155 million this weekend.