ROSALIND RUSSELL EXPLAINS: Why I’m Sorry for Career Women

This is an article written by Roz herself (well, as told to) in 1957. These are my favorite gems to find, things written by her. She was just wonderful. Please read!

LOS ANGELES TIMES, 01/27/1957

ROSALIND RUSSELL EXPLAIN: WHY I’M SORRY FOR CAREER WOMEN

The star who’s done most to build the myth of the glamorous lady executive now tells what she really thinks. Here’s why, in her life, her family always comes first

By ROSALIND RUSSELL

As told to Jack Stewart

I am writing this article to dispel a legend which I have helped to create: the myth of the chic, gay career girl. I’ve played the working woman in 23 different movies—Roz Russell, girl editor, doctor, lawyer, business executive, everything but the Indian Chief—and all but one role has been a fake.

I’ll tell you about that one later.

You must have seen some of these movies. Except for different leading men and a switch in title and pompadour, they were all stamped out of the same Alice-in-Careerland mold.

The script calls for a leading lady “somewhere in the thirties, tall, brittle, not too sexy. Has pin-stripe suit, will travel.” Then the stock opening: a big silvery plane wings across the New York skyline. This is followed by a “dissolve,” perhaps right into the Executive Suite at Radio City.

Remember me? In the first close-up, I’m the one behind a huge walnut desk, calling Paris on one of three telephones. Or I’m pulling on my gloves, ready for major surgery. Sometimes with four pencils behind my ear, I’m ordering my staff to make over the whole front page.

After racing through several reels making the right decisions, the scene shifts. I am being served cocktails by a cluster of admiring males. Soon, the most dashing one squires me to my sumptuous apartment—on Park Avenue, of course.

WIDE-SCREEN FAIRY TALES

After the usual preliminaries, Cary Grant or a reasonable facsimile thereof, bends his lips to my pompadour: “Matilda, under that executive mask lies a Real Woman. Let’s run off to my cottage in Connecticut and raise Cain, rhubarb and little ones.”

As any working girl knows, such stories are wide-screen, VistaVision fairy tales. But many reluctant debutantes and countless housewives continue to be envious of the woman in the gray flannel suit.

Well, weep no more, my ladies. I know many career girls personally in Hollywood, on Broadway and on Madison Avenue. Most of them are driving and driven women, lonely and vulnerable, leading dissatisfied and empty lives.

Now how did they get this way? It seems to me that the career web began to snare women during the late 1920s and early ‘30s when it became chic for well-to-do ladies to go to college. The feeling grew that anyone could get married, but it took a special flair to become, say, an interior decorator rather than a housewife.

Of course, I’m not objecting to working hard on reaching the top. I’ve been putting on grease paint myself for some 20 years. Lots of girls get jobs, hoping to find the right boy at the water cooler. Others work during the early lean years of marriage. But what is wrong is for women to put their careers above everything else.

THEY’RE ON A TREADMILL

Girls come to this mistaken conviction in many ways: lack of popularity with boys during their awkward teens, an unsuccessful marriage or even a feeling that children will tie them down, that they can put off having a family if they have the prestige of a good job.

More than anything else, women long for love; a feeling of being wanted. Denied this, many try frantically to prove their desirability by identifying with success. Once on this treadmill, they keep running in place for the rest of their lives.

The career woman never relaxes. She must be chic, chic, chic—in her clothes, her manner and her opinions. She must be seen at posh restaurants, doing the right things with the right people.

She keeps promising herself to find a man and settle down after she moves the next shipment of dresses or gets her next raise. Often, it never comes. If it does and she moves into the Executive Suite, the pressure gets even tougher. There are fewer men around. By this time, her living standards are so high that she can only afford to marry a top executive. And you can’t hardly find them kind no more.

When a career woman reaches her late thirties, the trap starts to close. She begins to realize that her business life, no matter how successful, does not bring fulfillment. Life ahead with a full scrapbook seems dreary.

But the trouble is that, though still slim and carefully manicured, she is no longer womanly. She has hidden the qualities of softness, sympathy and compassion for so long that it is hard for men to believe that she could fit into that little cottage in Connecticut, except on an occasional gala weekend—in season.

Even when she does succeed in becoming tender and thoughtful, the man tends to think it is just an act. Fellows who are still saying “Yes, sir, right away, sir” to 15 vice presidents rarely trust the girl at the top.

Because I understand this dilemma so well, I gave what may have been my finest movie performance without a single rehearsal. This was the only time that I played a working-girl role straight and honest. I’m speaking of Rosemary, the old maid schoolteacher in “Picnic” who kept company with an uninspired storekeeper, too weak to venture into marriage. When a handsome young bum drifted into the little Kansas town, Rosemary lost all self-respect. When he rejects her, she takes to drink. In her final scene, she kneels in front of her uncomprehending storekeeper, begging the man to marry her. When I finished the scene, I turned to Josh Logan, the director, knowing that he sometimes shoots a scene 20 or 30 times before he is satisfied. Josh shook his head: “If we ran through that one a thousand times, I couldn’t ask for more.”

“THE ROLE I WANT”

If “Auntie Mame” ever closes, more than anything else I would like to play the career girl as I have tried to describe her here. Not Rosemary, whose case is extreme. The role must be a typical professional woman with whom audiences can identify themselves. But the real story can be written only by someone who understands the poor schoolma’am’s pathetic plight.

The irony of the lonely trap into which so many career women fall is that it is one of their own making. The way out is easy to preach; hard to practice. It is simply to keep the goal of marriage and family always ahead of the job. Paradoxically, this sound priority will probably enable a woman to advance further in business. The more complete and well-rounded a woman is, the more valuable she is on the job as well as at home.

THAT FABULOUS CONTRACT OFFER

I am convinced that this is true because of my own experience. Since my marriage, my husband Fred Brisson and my son Lance have always come first. And I have had my share of success.

It could have happened differently. Fifteen years ago, Freddie asked me to marry him at the same time that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer put in a bid for my exclusive services. I decided to leave Metro and work as a freelance so that I would have more time with my family. But, after starring roles in “The Women” and “His Girl Friday,” the studio believed me to be a “hot property.” They again made a fabulous offer–$7,500 a week for seven years.

Sure, I was tempted 52 x 7,500 x 7…well, it’s a lot of multiplication. When Freddie heard of my decision, he exploded: “Are you out of your mind?”

The pressure from the studio mounted. Finally, Metro’s chairman of the board, Nicholas Schenck, promised to give me equal billing with Clark Gable, and urged me not to turn down the chance for greater fame and lifetime security. But I had decided to be a full-time wife and a part-time actress.

Thank the Lord, I stuck to my knitting. If I had signed that contract, who knows what would have happened? All I do know is that it would have been tougher to make a go of marriage. And between my family and 52 x 7,500 x 7 plus—it’s no contest. –THE END

2 thoughts on “ROSALIND RUSSELL EXPLAINS: Why I’m Sorry for Career Women”

  1. Alyssa, so glad you read it and enjoyed it. These are my FAVORITE articles to find!! She did quite a few like this because she loved to write. 🙂

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