This will be the first post in a series in which I will write about all of the films in Rosalind Russell’s filmography chronologically. That being said, let’s start with her debut—Evelyn Prentice. This film stars the versatile and loveable William Powell and Myrna Loy, a screen couple franchise—that’s what I like to call them—whom the public adored and made MGM a lot of money. Rosalind Russell, 27 years old at the time, was absolutely green in the movie industry, coming from a career on the stage (most recently with an English stage troupe led by the great C.C. Clive) right to sunny California where she didn’t know anyone. She was a lucky one, too, because although she wasn’t very well known as an actress, she got herself a contract with the most revered studio of the day, MGM studios, whose motto was “More stars than there are in heaven.” And for Roz to be put immediately into a movie with William Powell and Myrna Loy? That was just icing on the cake. While she shares no scenes with Myrna Loy, Roz became great friends with both Powell and Loy, two actors who enjoyed Roz’s sense of humor and bubbling personality. Rosalind came to adore William Powell, who was kind enough to help her with her first movie project. She didn’t quite know what to do in front of the cameras, and so she would simply walk across the soundstage, say her line, and walk out. But she was doing it all wrong, Powell pointed out to her. She had to hit the “marks” on the floor—walk and then stop on the chalk marks that guided the actors and cameramen. She appreciated his help and called Powell a “divine man and a great friend.” She was brought in as a back-up for Myrna Loy whenever Miss Loy didn’t like a movie she was put into or threatened to walk out. As Rosalind said, she was “a threat behind Myrna.”
Evelyn Prentice centers around John Prentice and his wife, Evelyn (William Powell and Myrna Loy). John is a busy lawyer who seems to spend more and more time at the office than at home, which has his wife restless and lonely. In the beginning of the film, he is busy on a case for Nancy Harrison (Rosalind Russell), who has been charged with manslaughter when she got into a car accident with a man who died at the scene. After John gets her acquitted, it is obvious she likes him as more than just her lawyer. She even takes a train for Boston because she knows he will be on the same train. Later, she sends a to John’s wife Evelyn, which is marked to be a gift to Nancy from John with a note saying it was found in John’s compartment. Roz’s character is a troublemaker, trying to ruin an already fragile marriage. She isn’t successful, and although 15 minutes into the movie, we never see her again, she certainly is noticeable. Being a widow, she always wears black in the film, and she looks lovely in the outfits, matching her equally dark hair.
I highly recommend this movie because of Myrna Loy. The movie includes a wonderful courtroom scene, where Evelyn is on the stand, giving her heart-shattering testimony. Her testimony is beautifully moving and I always find my eyes glued to the screen during this scene. Isabel Jewell also gives a great performance on the stand, sparking a few tears in my eyes.
Here are some links pertaining to the film:
The full movie on YouTube