Category Archives: Character

Man-Proof (1938)

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The first film Rosalind Russell made in 1938 was Man-Proof, which, although she had co-starred in 5 films previous and even been the star of one, only put her at third billing behind Myrna Loy and Franchot Tone. Although the film is fun in parts and Myrna Loy clearly steals the show, I have always felt it was unfair to Roz to put her in such a small role that has her disappear completely about 45 minutes after it starts. She deserved more than that at this point in her career, but the bright side is, at least she got to work with Myrna Loy, a beloved actress at the time and one of my favorites. Roz’s film debut was in a Myrna Loy film, Evelyn Prentice, but she never shared one second of screen time with Miss Loy. This time, they had several scenes together and I think although they break each other’s hearts a little by tossing one man’s affection around like a football, you can tell they like each other and are probably friends offscreen.

As the film starts, each main actor’s photograph appears on the screen with their name and their character’s name, accompanied by a different piece of music for each actor. Rosalind Russell’s music “as Elizabeth” is rather soft and subdued, much like her character tended to be. First we see Nana Bryant, who plays Meg Swift, typing out another one of her romance novels she is so famous for.

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Rosalind Russell and Myrna Loy on the set of Man-Proof (1938)

Next we see her daughter, Mimi (Myrna Loy), who is impatiently waiting on word from the man she loves, Alan Wythe (Walter Pidgeon). When the doorbell rings, she eagerly runs to the door, hoping it’s Alan. Unfortunately, it’s Jimmy Kilmartin (Franchot Tone), a family friend. It is rather amusing as the two of them exchange comical barbs back and forth, insulting each other. I think even at this early point in the film, there is something between them that they don’t see or want to admit. Mimi finally gets a telegram from Alan, but all happiness is drained from her face when she reads that he will marry her friend, Elizabeth (Rosalind Russell) and they hope that Mimi will be a bridesmaid. Devastated, she goes on about how she at least got the “consolation prize” and “Do bridesmaids ever wear black?” The way she says this last line is rather funny and will show anyone that Myrna Loy is talented in comedy.

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Rosalind Russell in her bizarre wedding veil! (Man-Proof, 1938)

At the wedding, all is serious and romantic as any other wedding, but nothing can take away from the bizarre and comical wedding veil Rosalind Russell is wearing in the scene. She looks rather like an alien and although they are saying their wedding vows, I can’t help laughing at her. I don’t know whose idea it was for her to wear such a ridiculous veil, but it was a terrible one at best. After they are married, Mimi, who is still heartbroken over it, gives her best wishes to Elizabeth and then to Alan, she says, “I hope you’ll be very unhappy… because anything I wish for never comes true!” While the other bridesmaids hurriedly get Elizabeth ready to go off on her honeymoon, Mimi starts drinking to ease her pain. Once Alan goes in to see his new bride and she has taken off her veil from Mars, we can all start focusing on what’s going on in the movie. Although it is later established that Alan married Elizabeth mainly for her money, I must say they are rather cute in this scene when they hug and kiss. After Elizabeth goes in to finish getting ready, Mimi comes in, drunk as all get out. She stumbles in, acting silly and giggling.

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Myrna Loy greeting Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

This is a very funny scene. In fact, I think it’s one of the best scenes and it’s fun to see Myrna Loy drunk. The way she is talking to Alan and giggling is hilarious and is more proof that Myrna Loy is stealing the show. We staggers over to the door where Elizabeth is and opens the door. She gives Elizabeth her congratulations and tells her goodbye. We do not see Elizabeth, but we hear her voice. Mimi ends her little speech with “Gee, you’re pretty,” then as she walks out of the room, she adds, “So am I!”

walter pidgeon myrna loy john miljan rosalind russell man-proof
Walter Pidgeon, Myrna Loy, John Miljan, and Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

Mimi’s mother sends Jimmy on a wild goose chase, trying to track down Mimi, who is staying out all night getting drunk. Jimmy finds her in a bar by herself and they have a long talk about what has happened. She eventually finds herself home and wakes up the next morning with a debilitating hangover. As her mother comes in, she is expecting a lecture on what she was doing last night, but Meg tells her she’s not that kind of mother. She just advises her to find something else besides Alan to focus on. As her mother leaves, Mimi quips, “How’d I ever happen to get a mother like you?” and Meg says, “You’re much too young to know.” While funny, it’s also a little odd because it’s obvious Mimi is more than old enough to know exactly what she is talking about.

rosalind russell myrna loy man-proof
Rosalind Russell and Myrna Loy in Man-Proof (1938)

Soon afterwards, Mimi gets a job at the newspaper working in the art department, where Jimmy also works as a cartoonist. She is very excited that she has the opportunity to draw a bed for a furniture ad. She shows Jimmy the drawing and although he isn’t very impressed (“It’s a bed. What does it look like, a horse?!”), she is beyond happy. When they see an article in the newspaper about Alan and Elizabeth coming back from their honeymoon to give a big homecoming party. She beams and says she can go to the party because she “loves this bed!” and not Alan. She does indeed attend the party and when she goes out to the back porch and Alan joins her, he is disappointed that she doesn’t seem to carry a torch for him any longer. Elizabeth joins them and when Mimi tells her, “I love furniture!” Elizabeth replies with a very emphatic “Whaaaat?”

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Myrna Loy, Franchot Tone, Rosalind Russell, and Walter Pidgeon in Man-Proof (1938)

I have to mention this because ever since I first became a fan of Rosalind Russell’s, I have noticed the funny way she emphasizes her “what” when she is surprised, shocked, or even amused. She does it in many of her films and as I became more of a fan, I came to expect it and when she didn’t stretch that “what” longer than necessary, I was disappointed. As you study an actress more intently, you are bound to notice things like that. Besides that, there are the widened eyes deemed “Roz eyes,” the way she involuntarily raises her eyebrow in a dubious situation, her crooked front tooth that is only visible when she smiles wide or laughs, and the many words in the English language she pronounces in her own little way.

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Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The next day, Mimi and Alan go to the fights without Elizabeth. Alan tells Mimi that his wife is sick and didn’t want to come. Elizabeth doesn’t mind if Alan takes Mimi. They have a grand ol’ time and even go back to the bar where Mimi had been drinking herself into a stupor after Alan’s wedding. This time, she is happy, and she is very impressed with how far she has come. They end the evening by coming around the corner toward Mimi’s apartment, arm in arm, dancing and singing “On a Sunday Afternoon.” I also notice that Myrna Loy is most likely not comfortable singing on camera. She sings very quietly, letting Walter Pidgeon take up most of the slack.

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Walter Pidgeon and Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The next day, Mimi informs her mother and Jimmy that she is going to go after Alan after all and she is going to tell Elizabeth. Of course, she takes the coward’s way out and calls Elizabeth on the phone instead of telling her in person. After Mimi tells Elizabeth her feelings about Alan, Elizabeth stares, shocked and saddened by the news, and slowly hangs up.  When Alan comes home later that night, she tells him that Mimi phoned in order to gauge his reaction. They get ready for a party but before you know it, she is back in bed, letting Alan know she is still sick and “doesn’t want to risk it.” She encourages him to go out by himself anyway. When he leaves, she stares after him longingly with tears welling up in her eyes. It is rather sad to see her so willing to give up her man that easily.

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Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

Later that night, Alan stops by Mimi’s place after having a confrontation with Jimmy at a bar and before long, he kisses her. However, there is suddenly a knock on her door and she knows right away that it is Elizabeth. It is indeed who she thought it was and dressed in a perfectly lovely dress, she enters the room and looks around, taking in what is in front of her. This is Rosalind’s best scene in the film and for once, she actually steals attention away from the star. She takes center stage right away and does all the talking while the other two just listen to her. She says she knows Alan never loved her, that he only married her because she’s a “rich girl,” and that he is just an ordinary man.

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Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

She was willing to stay with him because she loved him so much. However, eventually, Alan was trying to be in love with her—so hard—that the effort was desperate. She started to feel sorry for him because he is obviously a very lonely man who would be going after a parade of women throughout their marriage. However, now that he is really in love (with Mimi)… but she doesn’t know how to finish her thought. She passes up on the drink with Mimi and Alan, not able to be noble much longer. As she leaves, she says to Mimi, “Wouldn’t it be funny, Mimi, if Alan got sick and you and I went to the fights?” With that, she leaves and never comes back. Mimi watches her go and says, “There goes a general in any woman’s army.” Although Rosalind Russell has bid her adieu to the film, she ended it on an impressive note and with a funny line to boot.

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Rosalind Russell and Walter Pidgeon in Man-Proof (1938)

Mimi is now happy that she can be with Alan, but he will have none of it. He tells her that no matter what, there would be a parade of women just like Elizabeth said. He leaves her, going back after Elizabeth instead. Mimi’s heart has been broken for the last time by Alan Wythe and she swings by Jimmy’s place. They go for a drive and Mimi insists they pick up an old man hitchhiking by the side of the road. He is played by the incomparable Harry Davenport and is on his way to see his young daughter, who has just had a baby. Jimmy and Mimi start making up a story about how they have twins that Mimi thinks should be named “Nip” and “Tuck.” It is funny how the expression on the old man’s face changes as they tell him that they are “just pals.”

myrna loy man-proof
Myrna Loy in Man-Proof (1938)

The film ends with a fun scene in which Meg convinces Mimi and Jimmy that they are in love with each other and just keeps laughing and laughing. After Mimi tells Jimmy that she’s hungry, he kisses her. He says, “How do you feel now?” And she replies, “Well, I’m not hungry anymore.” As it fades out, Meg exclaims, “The end of a beauuutiful friendship!”

 

IMDb page for Man-Proof (1938)

TCM overview of the film

Trailer of the film:

Live, Love and Learn (1937)

rosalind russell helen vinson live love and learn
Rosalind Russell and Helen Vinson in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

 

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

After Night Must Fall finished production, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell were put right into another film together—a film with a completely opposite atmosphere. Unlike Night Must Fall, which is an intense, dark drama, Live, Love and Learn is a rather silly comedy, although it has its sad moments. The way Rosalind makes her first appearance in the film lets the viewer know this will be a funny movie. Montgomery plays Bob Graham and he is a struggling painter. One day, he is sitting in a beautiful countryside, contemplating how to finish his painting. All of a sudden, horses start bounding over the hill behind him and he has to duck to avoid them. There is a fox hunt going on right in the middle of the meadow and he is irate! Finally, the last horse comes jumping over the hill behind the rest, but it throws its rider. The young woman crashes right through Bob’s canvas and she is appalled when Bob seems more interested in how his painting is faring than her, who took a nasty fall.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

Her name is Julie and she and Bob are from completely different walks of life. He’s poor, she’s rich; he doesn’t always know where his next meal is coming from, she never has to worry about that; he lives in a tiny apartment, she lives in a big house. He insults her skills as a fox hunt participant and shoos her away. A few seconds later, he finds her unconscious on the grass and wonders what to do with her. Before they know it, differences aside, they are getting married. And even so, Bob is trying to talk her out of it because he knows she’s in for a bit of culture shock living with him.

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Rosalind Russell is doing a radio stint here in 1937, but appears to be wearing the same outfit from a scene in Live, Love and Learn!

However, all doubts are forgotten when the justice of the peace tells him to “kiss the bride” and he stares at her, dumbstruck by love. It is in this comedy that besides the sexual tension you see in Night Must Fall, Montgomery and Russell have great romantic chemistry when they get a chance to have romantic scenes. You want them to be together; they are just that cute. They start walking with all of their things to a bus to take them to Bob’s apartment.

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Rosalind Russell retouching her makeup while her hair gets done while filming Live, Love and Learn (1937)

Julie is actually quite fascinated with Bob’s lifestyle and is excited to live like this. She feels his lifestyle is more real and not full of fake people like in her more high-class community. To show her loyalty to Bob, she throws her wallet out the window and smiles at him. They soon start walking up to his apartment building and she is wearing this hat and the fabric on the top looks like bunny ears. It’s a hat I always remember from her film wardrobe because it is both so funny and cute. “Look, bunny ears!” Bob carries his new bride over the threshold and she takes a look around the tiny apartment, which isn’t even big enough for a full kitchen or bathroom.

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Robert Montgomery, Maude Eburne, and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

She is really taken with it and is ready to start living hand-to-mouth, as long as she is by Bob’s side. Bob’s best friend, Oscar (Robert Benchley) suddenly stumbles into the room, drunk (as Benchley often was in films) and tries to kiss Julie’s hand, but falls right on his face instead. In disbelief, Julie questions Bob and he tells her that he’ll be living here with him.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

After putting Oscar out in the hall, Jerry Crump (played by a young Mickey Rooney) comes yoo-hooing into the room, silly and hyper, and takes a good look at Bob’s new bride. Jerry is the landlady’s son and Bob tries to show him a certain technique in throwing a baseball, but ends up breaking a window. Bob wants so much to be a successful painter for Julie’s sake, and hopes to keep his word on that. The next morning, they all—Bob, Julie, and Oscar—go to the market to buy some groceries because they don’t have food. They have not paid their bill at the market and Felipe (Charles Judels), the owner, refuses to let them purchase anything.

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Rosalind Russell, Helen Vinson, and Robert Benchley in Live, Love and Learn (1937) – pardon the watermarks from here on out!

However, trouble abounds when Julie figures out that Felipe has been overcharging Bob and Oscar for some time because they were too naïve to know any better. They immediately start protesting in front of his store, even telling passersby to tar and feather Felipe. Soon, they are bringing loads of groceries home for free. Julie’s uncle has sent her a letter and a substantial check because he doesn’t want his niece living in squalor.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in the middle of the riot in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

Although Oscar eagerly wants to spend the money, Bob takes the check and glues it to the wall, never intending to cash it. Absolutely thrilled with her husband’s decision, Julie embraces him giddily. One day, an old pal from Julie’s old crowd comes calling on her. Her name is Lily (Helen Vinson) and she wants to get a good look at Julie’s new husband—a man so special that he got her to leave her comfortable life when she “could have married anyone.”

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Rosalind Russell, Robert Benchley, and Helen Vinson in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

After mistaking Oscar for her new husband, Bob comes home with a monkey named Misery in tow—only one of the several odd things to happen in this movie. He is having a bad day because his work was put down by some art dealers. He goes to the park with his wife to paint. This peaceful scene gets out of hand when a few Marines (Leathernecks) and then a few Navy sailors (Tars) start gathering around Bob’s canvas, giving differing opinions on what they think of it.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

The Leathernecks stick together and the Tars stick to their opposing opinion until they start fighting. All of a sudden, Bob and Julie are in the middle of a riot in the park and are blamed for starting it! They spend a night in jail and when they come home, they notice a large crowd of reporters on the stairs and sneak into their apartment.

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Rosalind Russell and Robert Montgomery in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

Refusing to talk to reporters, one reporter decides to pose as an art dealer in order to get a story on them. Naturally, Bob is excited about this, but Julie notices the man’s press pass in his hat. The man is immediately thrown out (literally). Soon, the three of them have developed a new hobby. Since the reporters keep coming in droves posing as art dealers to talk to the poor, struggling painter, they devise new and unique ways of depositing them into the hall.

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Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Robert Benchley, and Charles Judels in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

An important art dealer named Bawltitude (Monty Woolley in his usual grumpy, cantankerous, but hilarious role) becomes interested in Bob and visits his apartment to take a look at his work. Of course, Bob, Julie, and Oscar assume he is another reporter, so they proceed to anger him. They have stacked a large pile of books and put a pitcher of water on top of them and tell him to take a few steps backwards until the pitcher of water has poured all over his head.

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Rosalind Russell and Robert Montgomery in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

They then do the silliest thing—they cut his buttons, suspenders, and tie in half. As Oscar and Bob try to pull on his beard, which they assume is fake, Julie finds out that he is the real Bawltitude. Bob stares at Bawltitude in disbelief and Bawltitude yells at him, “Get your hands off me, you homicidal maniac!” Hard feelings are obviously put aside when before they know it, Bob’s work is being presented in a gallery by Bawltitude.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

It is at this time that Bob starts acting differently. He starts becoming more well-known and respected by the rich art buying community and Julie feels she is losing the old Bob that she fell in love with. When he buys a big, beautiful place for them to live in, Julie thinks it’s a joke and after bewildering him by yodeling in the place, then swinging her arm wondering if she could swing a cat in the place, she starts “skating” across the polished floors. (Let’s just say this is a very strange group of people!) She is saddened when she finds Bob is serious about it and is very unhappy when her old pal Lily starts attaching herself to Bob in order to build him up. Now again living the lifestyle she voluntarily left, Julie is very unhappy and only talks to Oscar, who has not changed a bit. They play games and Julie explains that when someone comes to the door, the third butler answers the door, who tells the second butler, who tells the first butler, who then informs her about it later.

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Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, and Robert Benchley in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

They start pretending to be high-class snobs, Julie describing herself as “so, so alive, so eccentric—I mean electric!” Meanwhile, Bob has had many jobs painting boring, stuffy dowagers. Lily brings over a new client named Mr. Palmiston. He is played by E. E. Clive, who played a large part in getting Rosalind Russell’s acting career started when she pretended to be English in order to get into his acting troupe. It was acting in this troupe that got her discovered by a Hollywood scout. He also plays small parts in two other Montgomery-Russell films, Trouble for Two (1936) and Night Must Fall (1937). He is most memorable in this film, however, because of the way he says everything in threes. When he meets people, he says, “How do you do? How do you do? How do you do?” and thanks people like this: Thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you very much. Julie doesn’t like this atmosphere very much and goes off riding: “I feel like digging my spurs into something.” She comes back with a very kind old gentleman who is an art teacher and a very promising young pupil of his.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Live, Love and Learn (1937)

They want to give a “Robert Graham Day” soon and have him speak. However, he decides that painting for Mr. Palmiston is more important and Julie is gravely disappointed in him and where his priorities lie. After Bob snubs the two people, Julie gets very angry with him and tells him he’s become a big fake and she can’t stand it anymore. Lily tries to get her opinion in, but Julie walks very slowly up to her and says, “Lily, darling, has anyone before told you, in an awfully ladylike manner, to keep your pretty little schnozzola out of other peoples family fights?” She paints a mustache on Bob’s portrait of one of the old matrons he is working on. Bob yells at her and ends with calling Oscar a drunken clown and orders him out of the house. Having lost the man she remembered, Julie asks for a divorce and leaves with Oscar. It is this part of the film I don’t enjoy very much. It’s all fun and games until Bob becomes someone he’s not and causes terrible marital discord.

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the poster for Live, Love and Learn

However, when Bob tires of this dull lifestyle, he goes to speak for the art teacher’s class like Julie wanted him to. She is there to listen to him and happy to have him back. She reunites with him and they decide to have some fun for the road. She and her two partners in crime go to Bawltitude’s place and bring in a portrait Bob did of Palmiston’s horse. Palmiston comes running in, his pants falling down (because they had cut his suspenders like they always do), and pleading with Bawltitude. Julie pulls her cape up over her head and growls at him like a tiger.

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Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell on the set of Live, Love and Learn (1937)

They proceed to tell him to back up, back up… until they yell “Ah, boo!” and he falls backwards right through his own painting. The three of them bellow, “And may we say we love you very much, Mr. Palmiston?” to which he replies from the ground, “Not at all, not at all, not at all!”

IMDB page for Live, Love and Learn

TCM overview of the film

A clip from the film for you all to enjoy: