Category Archives: Drama

The Citadel (1938)

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

The Citadel, a film released in 1938, marked a few important events. First of all, it was the last time Rosalind Russell would play a British woman. After this film, she only played Americans (with the exception of the Russian Jewish mama in A Majority of One), but still with her very unique way of speaking. Secondly, the premiere of The Citadel in London was the first time Frederick Brisson, her future husband, caught a glimpse of her. He said he and his friend stretched their necks, trying, in a glimmer of hope, to see a real, live movie star.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

Neither of them had any idea they would fall in love and be married just 3 years later. When Rosalind arrived in London to film this British movie, she was not exactly welcome. Everyone in the cast (Robert Donat, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison, and so on) were British, except for the female star (Roz) and the director (King Vidor). The film revolved around the miners in a Welsh mining town, and so the labor unions were in an uproar about the main actress and director not being authentically British.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

She gave a good performance with several opportunities to turn on the waterworks, but being a doctor’s wife is clearly not where Roz excels, and the showstopper is Robert Donat, who was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

Robert Donat plays Andrew Manson, a young doctor eager to start his first job. He has been hired as the assistant doctor in Dr. Page’s practice.

rosalind russell rex harrison robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell, Rex Harrison, and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938) – looks like a deleted scene

Dr. Page (Basil Gill) is a very ill, old man who is confined to his bed, allowing his wife to take over everything. Andrew will be doing all the work at his practice because Dr. Page is simply unable to do anything. Andrew will be staying at their house while he works for Dr. Page, but he immediately gets a glimpse of what his life away from work will be like with the domineering, cruel Mrs. Page (Dilys Davies).

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

Mrs. Page does not pay Andrew well for his hard work. She does not feel she has to treat him as well as he deserves because this is his first job and he shouldn’t expect much. She also starves him by giving him a very small amount of food at mealtimes, while giving herself large quantities of food. He enjoys his work anyway, even though he comes up against some obstacles and disappointments along the way.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

One day, when he is examining a young boy with measles at the boy’s apartment, his mother tells Andrew that her other son is at school because it’s so hard to do her housework with both boys there all day. Andrew is outraged that the schoolteacher, Miss Barlow, has allowed this because the boy should be in quarantine. The mother assures him that Miss Barlow simply wanted to help out. He hurries over to the local school and first meets Miss Barlow, first name Christine, face to face. He calls her out immediately in front of her class and he finds that Christine (Rosalind Russell) is a feisty, stubborn young woman not willing to back down so easily. She yells back at him, “Does it occur to you that I’m the mistress of this class? It’s my word that counts!”

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

He threatens to report her and she replies, “Well, then you better report me.” She asks her class to say goodbye and thank you to him, and as he leaves, she shoots him a withering look to show her dissatisfaction. That night, he tries over and over again to write out a letter to report Christine, but he can’t finish it.

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

Soon after this, he delivers a stillborn baby and one can tell he is heartbroken over this bad reflection on him as a doctor. Just when he’s given in to defeat, he quickly gets some warm water in a basin and rubs the child desperately, giving him air into his tiny lungs until suddenly, the newborn baby has been given life, as everyone witnesses by the baby’s cries. Andrew smiles, immensely proud of himself for saving his first life. Nothing can shake the feeling of such elation as he walks away from the happy family.

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

Another doctor named Denny (Ralph Richardson) befriends Andrew and they start to notice a pattern in the deaths from typhoid in town. Denny discovers that a large number of people were being stricken with typhoid because of the dirty, tainted water in the sewers. So what do they do? They make their own dynamite, throw it down into the sewers, and blow it up. They have done something very illegal, but necessary to prevent a complete typhoid epidemic.

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

The next morning, Andrew sees Christine for the second time. She has come into his office to get a sore throat checked out, and it is obvious that although they were quite angry with each other in their first meeting, they seem rather fascinated with each other this time. Christine gushes about how wonderful it was that he saved a baby’s life. He thanks her, but acts like he doesn’t much care for anything she says. He tells her to sit down while he examines her throat.

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

This scene will show anyone that despite the dramatic proponents of this film, Roz has a way of being funny anyway. She makes comical faces as she opens her mouth wide and says “ah” and coughs a few times for him. As he writes out a prescription for her and she leaves his office, they discover they have a mutual friend in Denny and Christine seems vaguely eager about riding bicycles with Andrew, but doesn’t ask him. She finally leaves and they both seems happy to have seen each other again.

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

That same night, happy with his second meeting with Christine, he goes home only to have Hurricane Mrs. Page rip him a new one. He get into a very loud verbal argument and he starts insulting her, saying he’s fed up with her keeping portions of his salary from him and starving him to death. She fires him and he does one better: he quits and walks out as she continues screaming at him! Suddenly finding himself without a job, he hears about a mining town in Wales looking for a new doctor to treat the folks there. He interviews for the job in a room that includes the miners, who get a chance to ask the doctor questions and learn more about him. The man sitting next to him shooting him questions is named Owen and he is none other than Emlyn Williams, the one who wrote the plays Night Must Fall (1935) and The Corn is Green (1938), the latter made into a movie starring Bette Davis in 1945.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

Andrew seems like a good fit until they ask him if he’s a family man. The job comes with a large house and they only want a married doctor. He quickly says he is engaged to be married, which is a bold-faced lie. They accept him, but if he turns up without a wife, he will be in big trouble. He sees Christine riding her bicycle in the street and he walks alongside her, striking up a conversation. He informs her of the new job he has, but he mentions that he doesn’t really have it until he has a wife. As they stop in front of her house, she says she hopes she can fix his problem and she goes into her house. He suddenly blurts out, “You wouldn’t marry me, would you?”

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

As she sticks her head out of the upstairs window, she bursts into unrestrained laughter at the thought. She sees he is serious and although she loves being a teacher, for some reason or other (and still snickering), she agrees to marry him so he can have the job. Soon, they arrive in the Welsh mining town where he will be the doctor. They install themselves in their new house and not long after they have become settled, there is a cave-in at the mines and Andrew is hard at work underground, saving lives and helping the gravely injured. Christine rushes toward him, crying and so relieved to see him alive. This is the first of several occasions in which Christine has cause to burst into tears.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

While working in the mining town, Andrew starts to notice a tremendous outbreak among the miners of tuberculosis. After some initial research, Andrew figures out that they are getting it from the silica found in the coal down in the mines. Since nobody is willing to start searching for a cure or treatment for the disease, Andrew and Christine set up a lab in their home, using the treasured microscope Denny gave him. When Andrew isn’t working in town, he is doing experiments in their secret lab while Christine assists him. They test their findings on guinea pigs. Now, I am not sure if what they were testing was humane toward animals, but I am sure no animals were harmed during production of the film. You don’t even see the actual guinea pigs, although in my most recent viewing of the film, I noticed Rosalind Russell calls one of the guinea pigs “Clara,” something she tended to do in her films.

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

She mentioned the name “Clara” a few times throughout her career in different ways as an homage to her sister Clara and probably also to her mother, who was also named Clara. One day, all hope is shattered when a group of men break into Andrew and Christine’s home when Christine is home alone. Through her abundant tears, she tells Andrew that the men just burst in, broke all their slides and samples, and took the guinea pigs.

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

It was after this fiasco that Andrew and Christine got themselves out and moved to a bigger city, where Andrew opens up his own medical practice. They live in a tiny apartment and Andrew has a lot of trouble getting patients and so they are living hand to mouth at this point. Even so, Christine doesn’t mind the struggles at all. She loves all the locals, especially an Italian woman named Mrs. Orlando (Mary Clare) who runs an Italian restaurant in town, which she and Andrew consider to be the best food. She and her young daughter Anna are very kind and hospitable and they all become friendly.

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

One day, Andrew is called over for an “emergency” at a store. He finds a young woman named Toppy LeRoy (Penelope Dudley Ward) lying on the floor, screaming and obviously throwing a temper tantrum. He finds it quite distasteful for a grown woman to throw a temper tantrum in public like that and he promptly slaps her face a few times. This brings her out of it, at least. This is how Andrew suddenly becomes immersed in the lives of the spoiled rich. He meets an old classmate of his, Dr. Lawford (Rex Harrison in a very early role) in an elevator and he asks him to come over to the hospital with him. It becomes apparent that these doctors are mainly concerned with large salaries and benefits of serving the rich and famous and not with curing people or saving lives.

robert donat rosalind russell the citadel
Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

It isn’t long before Andrew becomes one of them and starts bringing home expensive presents for Christine, like some beautiful furs. When Christine sees things in the mail like checks made out to Andrew just for being present at operations without even doing anything, she becomes suspicious. She can see Andrew is not the same man she married and is more enamored with money than anything else. The next day, they have a beautiful picnic on a hill and she starts telling Andrew that she doesn’t want to have a rich lifestyle and she misses their old life. She explains, “Remember the way we used to talk about life? It was an attack on the unknown, an assault uphill, as though you had to take some citadel you couldn’t see but you knew was there.” After they meet up with Denny, whom they haven’t seen in a long time, he tells Andrew about his new idea of taking only small amounts of money from patients (what they can afford), so they can still receive the care they deserve.

rosalind russell robert donat the citadel
Rosalind Russell and Robert Donat in The Citadel (1938)

Andrew turns him down for the partnership and Denny can see the change in him as well. Although Denny was doing well with his sobriety, he suddenly goes off on a bender and in his drunken stupor, he gets hit by a car right in front of Andrew and Christine’s apartment. They both rush to the hospital and Andrew assists in the operation to save Denny’s life. However, the doctor performing the operation is one of those catering to the rich and famous and obviously does not try very hard to save Denny’s life. Denny is gone and that’s life—that’s his philosophy.

mary clare rosalind russell the citadel
Mary Clare, Unknown Actress, and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

Andrew tells him that “that wasn’t surgery, it was murder” and heartbroken that he has just lost his best friend, takes a very long, mind-numbing walk through town, thinking about the tragic circumstances that have just struck his life. He thinks about who he has become and who he used to be. He realizes he is a sliver of a shadow of the man he used to be and promises himself he will do better.

 

rosalind russell the citadel
Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

After his despairing walk, he remembers that Mrs. Orlando told him about her daughter’s hospitalization for an illness of her lungs and although he ignored her then, he will not ignore her now. He heads for the hospital and although it’s highly unethical, he snatches her from her hospital bed and making sure Mrs. Orlando tells the doctor that she is dissatisfied with his care, takes her out of there. It isn’t long before Anna is well and dancing just like she used to.

ralph richardson rosalind russell the citadel
Ralph Richardson and Rosalind Russell in The Citadel (1938)

The film ends with a very powerful scene in which there is a hearing at the English Medical Union for Andrew’s unethical medical practices and for his helping an American man with the tuberculosis cure, a non-medical man who shouldn’t be allowed to do anything. Although the union shoots Andrew down for his infamous conduct, Andrew says he is proud of his conduct because although “doctors have to live, they have a responsibility to mankind, too.”

IMDB page for The Citadel (1938)

TCM overview of the film

The trailer of the film

Craig’s Wife (1936)

john boles rosalind russell craig's wife
John Boles and Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Although Rosalind Russell did not say much about her last film of 1936—her few words added up to “I was playing a meanie in Craig’s Wife”—it is a powerhouse performance that finally cemented her place as a serious actress in Hollywood. Rosalind fought hard so she wouldn’t have to do this role. She was sure everyone would hate her if she played “Craig’s wife,” but in the end, she did it and she was very close to being nominated for her acting skills. She may not have wanted to do it, but she gave it her all and I personally am glad we get to watch her in such a different role.

jane darwell john boles rosalind russell craig's wife
Jane Darwell, John Boles, and Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

It shows how much range she was capable of and how well she could do it.

Craig’s Wife was the first film in which Rosalind received top billing. In the past, she was either relegated to the supporting cast or she was the female co-star behind the male star.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

But in Craig’s Wife, lo and behold, she was the star. And she deserved it! She needed to put those snobbish English lady and “other woman” parts behind her, put her acting shoes on, and go show the world how many emotions she could instill in them. No, she wasn’t a superstar, but she was getting there; she was getting more and more well-known and—I’m sure of it—loving it.

Directed by the famed woman director Dorothy Arzner, Craig’s Wife is about a woman who has complete control over her husband, the people who work for her, and her house, but who, in reality, just wants to be alone.

 jane darwell rosalind russell nydia westman
Jane Darwell, Rosalind Russell, and Nydia Westman in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Or does she? The film opens with an air of fear and stress as one of the maids, Mazie (Nydia Westman), moves one of the vases on the mantle just an inch. The older maid, Mrs. Harold (who is well-respected and more aware) immediately shouts out to her to leave it alone.

rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

If she moves even one thing in this house or leaves one speck of dust, there will be a lot of trouble in store for both of them. She calls the room in which they are standing the “holiest of holies.” Later that night, Walter Craig (John Boles) is having dinner with his Aunt Ellen (Alma Kruger), who also lives at the house. He is going over to a friend’s house to play some poker, which he hasn’t done in a long time.

rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Ellen mentions that he hasn’t gone out to have fun by himself in a long time because of his controlling wife, Harriet (Rosalind Russell). Walter doesn’t think much about it. He just hopes that Harriet will come home soon. She is in Albany visiting her sick sister in the hospital.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

When he leaves for his friend Fergus Passmore’s place, he exchanges a short conversation with their next door neighbor, Mrs. Frazier (played by Billie Burke). She often stands outside, watering her beloved roses, which she treats like her own children.

Walter visits his friend, a jealous man with a faithless wife, who tells him that his wife will be going out again and that nobody wants to play poker with him.

john boles rosalind russell craig's wife
John Boles and Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Walter is the only one who has come by. Fergus seems very distraught and angry, which worries Walter a bit. Meanwhile, in Albany, Rosalind Russell makes her first appearance as the icy Harriet Craig. She sits in her sister’s hospital room, contemplating what is going on. Her sister’s daughter, Ethel, is by her mother’s bedside, sobbing over her sickness. Harriet immediately fetches a nurse and tells her she will leave right away with her niece because she thinks Ethel will set her back.

rosalind russell john hamilton craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Hamilton in Craig’s Wife (1936)

It is on the train home that the viewer gets a first glimpse at the type of woman Harriet is. Ethel informs her aunt of her intention to marry a man who teaches at the college she attends, and that she would never marry someone unless she was in love.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Harriet doesn’t seem to agree with her views, saying that “love is a liability in marriage.” Ethel discovers that her aunt has never been in love with her husband, Walter, and that the main reason why she married him was to have a place in society and to have a lovely house, which we find out later is her “true love.”

rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

“I married to be independent… independent of everybody,” says Harriet, something that shocks Ethel. Harriet then sends a telegram to Ethel’s boyfriend in Ethel’s name, which immediately rouses suspicions in him.

rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

The next morning, Fergus and his wife have been found dead in their home and Mrs. Harold, one of the Craigs’ maids (Jane Darwell) suspects Mr. Passmore right away. Harriet arrives home ahead of schedule and exhibits some very obsessive compulsive behavior the minute she walks in the door. The first thing she notices is that the door was ajar when she came in and she will have none of that. While she tells Mazie to get Ethel’s bag up to her room, she looks around the room for even the tiniest thing out of place.

rosalind russell jane darwell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and Jane Darwell on the set of Craig’s Wife (1936)

She touches every surface to make sure no dust is visible and examines every object in the room to see that they have not been moved from their original position. It is clear—although it is subtle beneath her icy exterior—that she is unhappy when she finds some mysterious flowers in the room and a stray piece of paper on a table.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell on the set of Craig’s Wife (1936)

Her anger rises when she finds out each object is directly connected to something she didn’t control. The flowers came from Mrs. Frazier, who is visiting with Aunt Ellen upstairs and the paper has a phone number on it—a number where Walter could be reached since he went out last night. Despising the fact that he went out without her permission, she hurries upstairs and calls the number, trying to find out who it belongs to.

rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Because the Passmores were found dead that morning, any calls to the number are being monitored, immediately putting the Craigs into some hot water. Harriet simply doesn’t trust anyone, even her own husband, who clearly adores her. She doesn’t trust others to be in her house, especially her neighbor, Mrs. Frazier.

alma kruger rosalind russell john boles craig's wife
Alma Kruger, Rosalind Russell, and John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936)

When Walter comes home and finds out his wife is back, he runs up the stairs, excited as a little boy, and greets her with glee. It is awful to imagine the fake love Harriet has for her husband, a man whose love is genuine. One of the first things she tells him when he comes into her room is to not sit on the bed because he will muss it.

billie burke rosalind russell craig's wife
Billie Burke and Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

He doesn’t see why it matters, but he listens to her anyway (as he always does). He kisses her, so happy to see her, and she tells him that Ethel is here and that she doesn’t want Mrs. Frazier in the house. She doesn’t want her near the house or near him and Walter thinks it’s ridiculous. And it is indeed ridiculous to think a woman 23 years older (the actress anyway) than Harriet could steal her husband away.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

Later that evening, Ellen tells Harriet that “people who live to themselves are generally left to themselves,” a statement that would resonate with Harriet later on. She tries to explain to Walter what kind of woman Harriet really is, but Harriet immediately and nervously laughs very loud in reaction.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell’s withering glare in Craig’s Wife (1936)

She doesn’t want to hear it because she knows it’s true. Her husband has been fooled by Harriet’s motives in the two years they’ve been married and she wants it to stay that way. But once Harriet has left the room, Ellen tells Walter the truth.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

She explains that to Harriet, her life is all about her reputation and her lovely home, not the people in it. If she thought she could have this house without Walter, she would do so. After the enlightening conversation with his aunt, Walter takes a ceramic object off the mantle and smashes it on the floor in anger.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

He doesn’t care anymore that Harriet doesn’t want a thing out of place, for the room to be spic and span. He has been fooled for far too long and he will smoke in the house if he wants to.

The next day, Ethel finds out that Harriet had answered the phone when her boyfriend had called and told him she was not to be disturbed.

rosalind russell dorothy wilson craig's wife
Rosalind Russell and Dorothy Wilson in Craig’s Wife (1936)

She is angry about what she did because she wanted to talk to him. While she is explaining her reasons for leaving, Harriet is suddenly distracted by a noise outside. She gets down on her hands and knees in despair and rage, inspecting the damage the mover has caused.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

He was carrying a trunk across the hall and accidentally dropped it, causing it to slide across the floor, scratching it. To scratch Harriet’s beautiful floor is a terrible crime. She screams at him and doesn’t even notice that Ethel has already gone.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

It is at this point that everyone starts leaving her house, which is something she thought she wanted anyway. After Ethel, Aunt Ellen and Mrs. Harold hand Harriet their keys to the house. They leave together, leaving Harriet with Walter. However, the same day, after Harriet has discovered the broken pieces and cigarette butts all over her “holy” room, Walter also gives her his keys, saying she can keep the house.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

It’s all she wanted anyway and “you neither loved me nor honored me.” She is left alone in the house and she looks around, trying to take in what just happened.

She receives a telegram, informing her that her sister has died. Without any family or anyone in the house to keep her company, she is finally completely alone. She breaks down, crying about her plight, and realizes this isn’t what she wanted after all. When Mrs. Frazier comes by and hears of the news, offering condolences, Harriet decides she wants company after all. But by the time she calls out to her, Mrs. Frazier has already gone. Harriet looks around the big, empty house discerningly with glistening, beautiful tears in her eyes.

rosalind russell craig's wife
Rosalind Russell in Craig’s Wife (1936)

She now knows what it’s like to be “independent of everybody” and it’s too late to go back.

This role was a far cry from anything Roz did before or after, but I have to say, it’s fascinating to see her transformed into an ice queen with a domineering personality. I also have to admit her character frightened me at first. It was a bit of a shock to me, but what a performance!

IMDb page for Craig’s Wife

TCM overview of the film