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Ruth Westheimer…despite her gesture here, she maintains size doesn’t matter

“ASK DR. RUTH” My rating: B

100 minutes | No MPAA rating

It’s easy enough to view Ruth Westheimer as a punchline.

Over nearly  40 years she has become a sort of self-caricature, employing a chatty-grandma persona and a thick German accent to dispense sex advice which coming from anyone else would turn your ears a flaming red. (“I’m not tall and blonde and gorgeous,”  acknowledges the 4-foot-7-inch dynamo.)

The great value of “Ask Dr. Ruth,” Ryan White’s insightful and informative doc, lies not so much in rehashing her public career as in exploring the personal history that has molded the now-90-year-old “happy Munchkin of sex.”

Born to doting Jewish parents in Frankfurt, Germany, Ruth (that’s her middle name…she was born Karola Ruth Siegel) was only 10 when she was sent to neutral Switzerland where she and other Jewish children were housed (and made to work) in an orphanage. Initially she exchanged weekly letters with her parents; after a few months the letters stopped coming.

White (perhaps best known for “The Keepers,” a Netflix documentary miniseries about the decades-old murder of a  young nun) relates key moments from Ruth’s childhood through somber animated sequences and, of course, the memories of Dr. Ruth.

After the war she moved to a kibbutz in Palestine where she served as a sniper (“Thank God I never had to shoot anybody”), nearly lost both legs in a bomb blast and married an Israeli freedom fighter. She followed him to Paris where he studied medicine; when he dropped out and returned home, the newly-divorced Ruth stayed on to study at the Sorbonne.

Husband No. 2 was an impossibly handsome Frenchman who took her to the United States. That marriage ended, she says, because she realized there wasn’t much intellect behind the good looks.

On a ski trip to northern New York she met engineer Manfred Westheimer, the love of her life. They moved into a New York apartment (she still lives there), had two children and enjoyed a long and apparently blissful marriage until his death in 1997.

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