Forsaking All Others is a 1934 comedy that is absolutely star studded. It stars Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, and Clark Gable, with the great character actors Billie Burke and Charles Butterworth in smaller roles. Our one and only Rosalind Russell has an even smaller part, and although her character is sprinkled here and there throughout the movie, her role is fairly tiny.
The upside of it is that her character, Eleanor, has some of the funniest lines in the film. In fact, all of her lines are comical. She is almost never serious and she entertains us.
This film is about three friends who grew up together—Dillon Todd (Robert Montgomery), Mary Clay (Joan Crawford), and Jeff Williams (Clark Gable). Dillon and Mary are about to get married as Jeff blows into town to tell Mary of his love for her. Fortunately, he finds out about their impending marriage before embarrassing himself. As the men are about to leave for the bachelor dinner, Eleanor (Rosalind Russell in case you got lost in all of the characters’ names) says she wants to go to the dinner and Shemp (Charles Butterworth) says to her, “Can you do a fan dance?” to which she replies, “Do one? I wrote the fan dance.” Roz’s role is one of comic relief—she’ll appear in the scene, say a funny line, and essentially disappear from the scene.
As the story unfolds, we discover that Dill will not be a faithful husband as an old flame of his, Connie Barnes (played by a very young Frances Drake), comes calling on him and before you know it, he has run off and married her, leaving Mary at the altar the next day.
Again, as Paula (Billie Burke) and Eleanor help Mary get ready for her walk down the aisle, Eleanor spews out this confusing line, something fast and funny that Roz would eventually become famous for: “She worries more about something to worry about than she worries about an actual worry.” Just as anyone else would respond, Mary says to her, “Can you say that again?” It is obvious that Eleanor is thought of as the friend who doesn’t think she’ll ever get married, and at one point in the scene, she says, “I’d rather be married in alcohol.” When Paula is shocked at this, she says, “Don’t worry, Paula, I’ll be so old they’ll have to pickle me in something!”
The rest of the movie centers around the three main stars mostly, with Charles Butterworth there for support as a close friend of Jeff’s (Clark Gable). Needless to say, the marriage between Dill and Connie doesn’t work out (yeah, I was expecting that) and he tries to make it work with Mary again. Stupidly, she falls for him again, but in the end, she realizes that Jeff is the one who will love her honestly and faithfully, and she goes after him as he leaves the States on a boat.
Some of the best scenes involve Robert Montgomery, such as when he gets drenched in the rain and when he comes to a cabin with Mary, he is forced to wear a silly-looking nightgown with frills. He then tries to make a fire because they are freezing but he doesn’t know anything about making one. He eventually sets the nightgown and himself on fire. Although this isn’t funny in theory (imagine if you were him!), Bob’s reaction to it is priceless and you can’t help but laugh. So the next day he has bandages on his hands from the burns and is nursing a cold. Another funny scene is at a party that Dill and Connie give for some friends and we see (briefly) Eleanor and Shemp dancing in the living room. The way they dance past all their friends, completely deadpan looks on their faces, is too funny.
While it is a pity that Rosalind Russell’s role was so small, we have to remember that this is very early in her career. Also, it was her very first chance to deliver comedy lines and she does so well, anyone can tell she would be a brilliant comedienne later in her career. Here are some other priceless quotes from Eleanor:
Eleanor: I wish I were a man.
Shemp: Were or had?
Eleanor: Oh, I’m so tired of being a bridesmaid. I’d like to get married so I could wear a decent hat.
Shemp: That’s the best reason for getting married I’ve ever heard.
Eleanor: [After Jeff has starting pounding on the door to get inside] Wait a minute, big boy! Don’t break it down. We’re in church! Who do you think you are, a fireman?
Eleanor: I was just wondering if they use lilies for weddings or funerals.
IMDB page for Forsaking All Others (1934)
Wikipedia page for Forsaking All Others (1934)
TCM overview of Forsaking All Others (1934)