Category Archives: Cary Grant

The Marriage of Rosalind Russell and Frederick Brisson

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Rosalind Russell and Freddie Brisson

Rosalind Russell and Frederick Brisson were married for 35 years, a record for a Hollywood marriage. As we have all observed over time, Hollywood marriages aren’t always the easiest to keep together, and who knows what factors are the cause of these breakups? Even though Roz and Freddie (as he was usually called) had their song, which their good friend Frank Sinatra sang to them in 1940 (“I’ll Never Smile Again”), I have a song in mind for them. Frank was a new sensation at the time and only about 25 years old, but he became good friends with the Brissons after that. But I digress. I made a video about a year or so ago celebrating the marriage of Roz and Freddie. I used the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Michael Bublé. It seems to fit them perfectly. And whenever I hear this song, I think “Roz and Freddie.”

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Freddie Brisson and Rosalind Russell at the Stork Club, 1945

It was about 1940 that Frederick Brisson and Rosalind Russell first started dating. A funny story was that when Freddie was on his way to the United States in 1939, all they played on the boat was “The Women,” and after he saw Rosalind’s insane antics over and over again, he thought, “I’m either going to kill that woman or I’m going to marry her.” And marry her he did. But it was difficult going at first. He begged and pleaded with his good friend Cary Grant to get him a date with her, as Cary was filming “His Girl Friday” with her at the time. And Roz said, “Every day Cary would come to the set and say, ‘Do you know Freddie Brisson? And I’d say, ‘No, what is that? A sandwich?’” Eventually, however, they ended up going to the races (at Santa Anita Racetrack) together and as most fairytales go, they fell in love and got married (the following year, 1941).

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Rosalind Russell and Freddie Brisson

When I gushed about his parents in a letter I sent to Lance Brisson, I was thrilled to receive a response. And he said something like (because I do not have the letter by my side at the moment) “My parents had a good marriage, albeit one that had them traveling a lot.”

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Lance Brisson, Rosalind Russell, and Freddie Brisson while Roz was filming “Auntie Mame”

I think one of the reasons they had such a long lasting marriage was because they knew how to laugh with each other, at each other when the time warranted. They had a lot of fun together and they loved each other very much. As Roz said at their 25th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas, “25 years is a long time. But it’s also a very short time when you love someone.”

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Rosalind Russell and Freddie Brisson

Roz usually radiated a love of life all around her, and I am sure Freddie just loved that about her. And I am sure they were both very happy that she made it to her 35th wedding anniversary. That is a milestone year and when Freddie gave her a little gold bracelet that had “35” encrusted in diamonds, she was so delighted that she said “I’ll never take it off.” She died the following month that year in 1976, and as Freddie wrote, she never took that bracelet off. Theirs was a bittersweet ending, but they had 35 years filled with joy and laughter and who wouldn’t want that?

Rosalind Russell and Freddie Brisson's 25th anniversary party, hosted by Frank Sinatra
Rosalind Russell and Freddie Brisson’s 25th anniversary party, hosted by Frank Sinatra

Favorite Characters?

Many of you already know and have read about my favorite character of all time, Mame Dennis from “Auntie Mame.” But let me tell you about a few more of my favorites. A few obvious favorites are Sylvia Fowler from “The Women” and Hildy Johnson from “His Girl Friday.” These are purely comedic characters and make me laugh out loud. I am not sure if all of you know, but comedy is my favorite genre of film (no, you probably already knew that, ha ha). I like these characters for different reasons besides making me laugh. For instance, I like Sylvia not because of her sweet personality (because there isn’t an ounce of sweetness there) but because of her insane antics, her hilarious physical comedy, and… okay, her physical comedy. I have always been a sucker for physical comedy. I think it’s just perfect to get a laugh out of people and it’s something you could easily encounter in daily life, too. Ever seen one of your friends trip and fall or run into a door when you weren’t looking? Admit it. It’s funny! Now, why do I love Hildy Johnson?

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Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday” (1940)

Because of her brains, her wit, and yes, her rapid speech! I have always been drawn to movies that have fast dialogue. There is something about quick banter back and forth that I think is absolutely enthralling and amusing. And in my opinion, practically no one could and ever will deliver dialogue as quickly and as brilliantly as Rosalind Russell.

What about some dramatic characters? After all, those types do exist in her filmography. You could include those “Lady Mary” types she played in the beginning of her career, but they weren’t exactly my favorite. I am not a fan, really, of snobby, “nose-in-the-air” types, although when she does it, I like them anyway. A favorite of mine is her characterization of Harriet Craig in “Craig’s Wife.”

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John Boles and Rosalind Russell in “Craig’s Wife” (1936)

One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because she actually scared me when I watched it the first time. That’s right–Roz actually scared me in a movie of hers! That’s unheard of. As she said in her book, she was “playing a meanie” and she did it very well. This was her iconic ice queen role and she did a great job, even though she didn’t want to play this role at first. Another dramatic character I love very much is Rosemary Sidney, the “old maid schoolteacher” in “Picnic.” She didn’t exactly have a very big role in this movie (although she received very special billing), but I had never seen a finer piece of acting by Rosalind Russell. You could tell she really dove into the part and gave it her all. She gave the role so much desperation, so much pity, that you could only feel sorry for her. She may have made a fool of herself in the dance scene when she got drunk and forced poor William Holden to dance with her, ripping his shirt in the process. And in the next scene, when she pleads so desperately with her boyfriend Howard Bevans to “please marry me… please…” you can only cry for her.

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Arthur O’Connell and Rosalind Russell in “Picnic” (1955)

While I’m on the subject, who are some of your favorite comedy characters and dramatic characters that Rosalind Russell played?

Who doesn’t love James Stewart?

I noticed I’ve been getting a bit lazy lately with the blog, haha, so I thought I’d talk a little about Roz and Jimmy Stewart. They may have starred in only one movie together [No Time For Comedy (1940)], but they had amazing chemistry and rapport, not to mention a lifelong friendship off screen.

They met in radio around 1936 or so. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the radio show, but this was the first time they acted together. They costarred in several more radio shows as well, and as the newspapers said, they already sounded like a great acting duo.

 According to some gossip column items in the late 30s (about 1938-1939), Rosalind and James dated quite often. Of course, Jimmy was dating several other women, too, because he was quite an eligible bachelor at the time. Then again, Roz had already been dubbed “Number One Bachelor Girl” several years before. Fate intervened in 1939 when Roz met her future husband, Frederick Brisson by way of their mutual friend Cary Grant.

By the way, the other couple with them is John Hall and Lana Turner 🙂
Jimmy and Roz did make that film “No Time For Comedy” finally in 1940 and they are both great in it, despite a not-so-great script. I always loved Jimmy’s characters on screen, with their polite demeanor and oh-so-cute awkwardness. I like to think he was polite off the screen as well, but I have no idea, of course. 🙂 
Jimmy and Roz stayed friends until her death in 1976. He and his wife, Gloria, gave a party in her honor just three months before she died. At the party, she said this, comparing life to a rope: “It is tied with lots of knots, and it goes straight up. I have been climbing that rope, and each knot I come to is one of you. And then I climb to the next. And to the next. I’m still holding on,” referring to her battle with cancer.
At her funeral, Jimmy was one of a few actors who gave eulogies, which included Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra.  At the end of his eulogy, he said these words: 

“Thank you, God, for giving her to us. Take care of her…We sent you our best this time.”

 That’s gossip columnist Louella Parsons on the far left.