Category Archives: TCM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Four’s a Crowd (1938)

rosalind russell errol flynn on the set four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell and Errol Flynn filming a scene of Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became a popular, bankable screen couple starting in 1935 with the film Captain Blood and Warner Bros. wanted to continue that trend with the 1938 comedy Four’s a Crowd. However, it is not so much Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland who stand out. It is Rosalind Russell, playing an energetic, fast-talking ace reporter, much like her Hildy Johnson of His Girl Friday (1940). It is obvious from her turn as a reporter in this film that she was perfect for this type of role. A few years ago, I read a double biography of the de Havilland sisters, Olivia and her sister, Joan Fontaine. Something that has always stuck out in my memory was the fact that when Olivia, a mere 21 years old when they started filming Four’s a Crowd, was actually jealous of Rosalind Russell because of her impeccable timing, which—and I will not lie—made me smile. After all, Olivia was the star, wasn’t she? And yet she was envious of the skills of the supporting actress. And oh, she had reason to be –Roz completely stole the show from them all. She belonged in comedy, making people laugh, and it’s great to watch her in her first chance at screwball comedy.

olivia de havilland patric knowles errol flynn rosalind russell four's a crowd
Olivia de Havilland, Patric Knowles, Errol Flynn, and Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

The film opens with Miss Rosalind Russell as Jean Christy strolling happily into the newspaper offices where she works. She has a great scoop and is eager to start writing it on her typewriter. In the meantime, the reporter sitting next to her tries to tell her that the newspaper is going under and they will all probably lose their jobs. Not really listening to him, she keeps inserting insulting quips now and then: “Now listen, double ugly, please!” She finally wakes up out of her reverie and goes straight into the publisher’s office, a man she has never met. She finds Pat Buckley (Patric Knowles), the young publisher, who meets her without his pants on. Interesting meeting, to say the least. She tries to help him put his pants on, which makes him uncomfortable, but all she cares about is seeing that the newspaper doesn’t go under. She suggests rehiring Bob Lansford (Errol Flynn) as the managing editor because he is tops in the publicity department and getting the newspaper on top again. Pat has a personal problem with Bob because he is always trying to tell him what to do in his romantic relationships. Jean knows all about it and he says to her, “You know everything, don’t you?” She replies, “Well, that’s what you pay me for!” His girlfriend calls up. Her name is Lorri Dillingwell (Olivia de Havilland) and he coos over the phone to her, which annoys Jean. She leaves matter-of-factly, spouting “Oh, Mr. Buckley, please!

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

You may be a social lion to your friends, but to me, you’re just an animal cracker!” She turns to his assistant, pinching his cheeks and imitating Pat, she says “Coochie coochie coo!” before getting herself out of there.

Jean treks over to Bob Lansford’s office, intending to get him to come back to work on the paper. He doesn’t notice her at all the minute she enters his office, but she finally says, “Don’t look now, but I’m still here,” which is a line that is repeated throughout the film. He looks up at her and says, “Oh, so you are.” She tells him the problem with the newspaper and he doesn’t want to come back. But when she hears him trying to talk to John P. Dillingwell (Walter Connolly) and can’t get a word in edgewise, she slyly lets it slip that Pat’s romantic partner this time around is Lorri Dillingwell, John P. Dillingwell’s granddaughter, and she pretends that she is a romantic rival. Hearing the name Dillingwell and the club they’ll be at tonight, the Jamaica Room, he immediately drags Jean out of the office.

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

That night, they bust in on Pat and Lorri’s table. Lorri, who is quite bored at the club, is actually very amused when Bob starts insulting her by calling her a “nitwit type.” Pat lets Bob know that he isn’t keen on Jean’s idea to bring him back to the paper and Bob knows immediately what Jean is up to. “Tricky little wench, aren’t you?” he remarks to Jean. Desperate to land the big account of making her grandfather, the rich and unpopular Dillingwell, into an angel in the public’s eyes with his public relations business, he charms Lorri on the dance floor. Before Pat knows it, Lorri is being taken home by Bob and he is now alone at the club with Jean.

In the car, Bob starts telling Lorri the story of his life. He is still not finished at 8 o’clock the next morning and Lorri responds to this with “My goodness, you’ve had a long life.” When they get to her home finally, she introduces Bob to her grandfather, who naturally hates Bob. Once he hears his name, he whistles through his fingers and a large group of bounding, barking Great Danes start rushing toward him. Chased by the dogs, he runs quickly to the gate and stands outside it, laughing at the dogs. He bites one of the dog’s tails and the poor dog whimpers loudly in pain.

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Rosalind Russell and Errol Flynn in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Suddenly, a roaring laugh rings through the bizarre scene with the dogs and he turns around and sees Jean Christy sitting in a car, laughing at him. She happily yells, “At last I’ve seen it! Man bites dog!”

Back at the newspaper offices, Bob signs a contract to help them out. Bob, Jean, and Pat put their heads together and set out to make Dillingwell the most hated man in America through scandalizing headlines and articles. Of course, Lorri isn’t thrilled with their campaign and gives Pat a punch in the nose. Meanwhile, Bob sneaks into the Dillingwell house and convinces Dillingwell to have a race with model trains, which is Dillingwell’s hobby. If Bob wins the race, he finally gets to have a few words with Dillingwell. He agrees and at the same time, Bob also convinces Lorri that she is in love with him. The night before the big race, he sneaks into the kitchen and takes all the packets of butter out of the fridge, stuffing them into his pockets. Before the race the next morning, he rubs the butter all over Dillingwell’s track so his train will slip and slow down. After he wins the race, they have lunch and he gets a chance to talk to him. Unfortunately, Lorri has also invited Jean over and Bob is unhappy about this. Dillingwell still wants nothing to do with his services and Bob goes to discuss things with Jean.

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938) on the cover of a magazine

He finds out that Jean has in fact been in love with him all these years: “I’m in love with a man whom I dislike intensely, who’d cheat me, who’d lie to me, whom I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw the Queen Mary. I…” to which he replies, “You don’t mean, do you?” “Does the description fit? You big lug…” Suddenly, when he sees Dillingwell coming outside, he drags Jean over and kisses her in front of Dillingwell and Lorri. Right away, Jean can see through his act and knows he is up to no good. Unfortunately for him, Dillingwell has been told that it was Bob’s idea to make him the most hated man in America and once again, he calls the dogs on him. So there he goes again, running toward the front gate in just his swimming trunks.

However, in spite of everything, Dillingwell decides to use Bob’s services in order to improve his sagging reputation. He gives millions of Dillingwell’s money to a charity for infantile paralysis under an assumed name, H. Louis Brown. He will seem like a better man if he anonymously gives to charity instead of broadcasting it to everyone. What follows is one of the funniest scenes in the film – Bob, who has two women in love with him (Jean and Lorri), has both women on two different phones talking to him.

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938): “Don’t look now, but I’m still here.”

For anyone who thought Errol Flynn could only do adventure and drama, they should watch this scene. As he talks back and forth between phones, which looks like a very confusing task, it is funny how he gets each woman to believe that the other is not on the phone with him. This single scene elevates Errol to second funniest in the film (behind Roz, of course).

Back at the office, Jean and Pat have no idea who this H. Louis Brown is, so Pat sends Jean on a mission to find him. After a long search of every alternative of the name, she gets her shoes shined by a man named H. Louis Brown. He gets his photograph taken and now they know that there is a rich man giving millions of dollars behind this name. They just need to expose the man. She ventures over to Bob’s office, gently trying to get him to tell her who the man is, calling him “darling,” while he calls her “sweetheart.” As they coo pet names to each other, she roughly pulls his hair and he in turn bites her hand, causing her to squeal with pain. As soon as Bob leaves his office, Jean makes a run for his file room, going through every single file in the cabinets, searching for a clue.

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938): “Ouch!”

With no hope left in her search, she tosses the last paper and pensively places her fist under her chin, not realizing she is looking right at a miniature statue of Rodin’s The Thinker. The face she makes as she realizes she is imitating the statue is priceless. Just when she thinks all hope is lost, the Goodwill Clinic calls up Bob’s office and she figures out that Bob will be there that evening. She runs for the clinic and pretends to be Bob’s wife in order to get inside. Eventually, she sees Lorri and her grandfather begging to be let in and she immediately knows that Dillingwell is the culprit behind “H. Louis Brown.” She has Bob over a barrel with a juicy story like this to tell her paper. She is angry when she hears Lorri mention that Bob is her fiancé and she congratulates them, not meaning it at all.

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Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

When Jean meets Pat, telling him she has the story, she reveals that she will not tell him because she is in love with Bob Lansford and Bob doesn’t want her to leak it. However, after a fainting spell following a proposal from Pat, she agrees to marry Pat, but will only tell him the story after they are married. Once Bob finds out that Pat and Jean will be married that night, he goes after them with Lorri by his side, intending to marry her.

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Clockwise from top: Hugh Herbert, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, Errol Flynn, and Patric Knowles in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Once they get to the justice of the peace, they all act like they don’t care about who marries who, but we all know they are marrying the wrong people. In fact, they do all they can to get the other couple to get married first. After much confusion, they end up marrying the people they love, and it is a surprise, considering who the stars of this film are—Jean to Bob and Lorri to Pat. The film ends in a very silly way when the four of them get into a car together, trying to get away from Dillingwell, who has brought cars of dogs with him to chase after them (what?!) and then Bob and Lorri kiss in the car, as if they don’t know who they just married. “Hey! That’s my wife!” Oh, boy.

IMDB page for Four’s a Crowd

TCM overview of the film

A clip from the film for you to enjoy: