Rosalind Russell once said “Taking joy in life is a woman’s best cosmetic.” And no woman embodied that statement the way Rosalind herself did. Today is her birthday. Born on June 4, 1907, she would have been 108 years old today. Although she left this world and her legions of fans at the tender age of 69 in 1976, her legacy of films, charity work, and her influential presence. Ever since I saw that zany personality of hers in The Women, I have been hooked. At this point, no other actress can hold a candle to the amazing Rosalind Russell. And although she’s been gone a long time, I still like to think she knows how many fans, young and old, she still has, even in the year 2015. It brings me a lot of comfort to know her memory is not forgotten and I hope it never will be. Although she was beyond brilliant in her comedy roles (His Girl Friday, The Women, Auntie Mame to name a FEW), she was also a very accomplished dramatic actress. She is very underrated today and even in her heyday when it came to dramatic ability, but it must always be remembered that she was nominated for 4 Oscars and won 5 Golden Globes for her acting. She was always a very versatile actress, a woman full of life and wisdom—such an inspirational woman to me that I almost have no words to describe how much she inspires me. I never tire of her films, her personal quotes, reciting her characters’ lines, and her hilarious storytelling her autobiography Life is a Banquet. After all, “Life is a banquet” was really Roz’s philosophy of life. Eat up all those courses life has to give you and never regret one minute of it! Cheers, Rosalind <3
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first film Rosalind Russell made in 1938 was Man-Proof, which, although she had co-starred in 5 films previous and even been the star of one, only put her at third billing behind Myrna Loy and Franchot Tone. Although the film is fun in parts and Myrna Loy clearly steals the show, I have always felt it was unfair to Roz to put her in such a small role that has her disappear completely about 45 minutes after it starts. She deserved more than that at this point in her career, but the bright side is, at least she got to work with Myrna Loy, a beloved actress at the time and one of my favorites. Roz’s film debut was in a Myrna Loy film, Evelyn Prentice, but she never shared one second of screen time with Miss Loy. This time, they had several scenes together and I think although they break each other’s hearts a little by tossing one man’s affection around like a football, you can tell they like each other and are probably friends offscreen.
As the film starts, each main actor’s photograph appears on the screen with their name and their character’s name, accompanied by a different piece of music for each actor. Rosalind Russell’s music “as Elizabeth” is rather soft and subdued, much like her character tended to be. First we see Nana Bryant, who plays Meg Swift, typing out another one of her romance novels she is so famous for.
Next we see her daughter, Mimi (Myrna Loy), who is impatiently waiting on word from the man she loves, Alan Wythe (Walter Pidgeon). When the doorbell rings, she eagerly runs to the door, hoping it’s Alan. Unfortunately, it’s Jimmy Kilmartin (Franchot Tone), a family friend. It is rather amusing as the two of them exchange comical barbs back and forth, insulting each other. I think even at this early point in the film, there is something between them that they don’t see or want to admit. Mimi finally gets a telegram from Alan, but all happiness is drained from her face when she reads that he will marry her friend, Elizabeth (Rosalind Russell) and they hope that Mimi will be a bridesmaid. Devastated, she goes on about how she at least got the “consolation prize” and “Do bridesmaids ever wear black?” The way she says this last line is rather funny and will show anyone that Myrna Loy is talented in comedy.
At the wedding, all is serious and romantic as any other wedding, but nothing can take away from the bizarre and comical wedding veil Rosalind Russell is wearing in the scene. She looks rather like an alien and although they are saying their wedding vows, I can’t help laughing at her. I don’t know whose idea it was for her to wear such a ridiculous veil, but it was a terrible one at best. After they are married, Mimi, who is still heartbroken over it, gives her best wishes to Elizabeth and then to Alan, she says, “I hope you’ll be very unhappy… because anything I wish for never comes true!” While the other bridesmaids hurriedly get Elizabeth ready to go off on her honeymoon, Mimi starts drinking to ease her pain. Once Alan goes in to see his new bride and she has taken off her veil from Mars, we can all start focusing on what’s going on in the movie. Although it is later established that Alan married Elizabeth mainly for her money, I must say they are rather cute in this scene when they hug and kiss. After Elizabeth goes in to finish getting ready, Mimi comes in, drunk as all get out. She stumbles in, acting silly and giggling.
This is a very funny scene. In fact, I think it’s one of the best scenes and it’s fun to see Myrna Loy drunk. The way she is talking to Alan and giggling is hilarious and is more proof that Myrna Loy is stealing the show. We staggers over to the door where Elizabeth is and opens the door. She gives Elizabeth her congratulations and tells her goodbye. We do not see Elizabeth, but we hear her voice. Mimi ends her little speech with “Gee, you’re pretty,” then as she walks out of the room, she adds, “So am I!”
Mimi’s mother sends Jimmy on a wild goose chase, trying to track down Mimi, who is staying out all night getting drunk. Jimmy finds her in a bar by herself and they have a long talk about what has happened. She eventually finds herself home and wakes up the next morning with a debilitating hangover. As her mother comes in, she is expecting a lecture on what she was doing last night, but Meg tells her she’s not that kind of mother. She just advises her to find something else besides Alan to focus on. As her mother leaves, Mimi quips, “How’d I ever happen to get a mother like you?” and Meg says, “You’re much too young to know.” While funny, it’s also a little odd because it’s obvious Mimi is more than old enough to know exactly what she is talking about.
Soon afterwards, Mimi gets a job at the newspaper working in the art department, where Jimmy also works as a cartoonist. She is very excited that she has the opportunity to draw a bed for a furniture ad. She shows Jimmy the drawing and although he isn’t very impressed (“It’s a bed. What does it look like, a horse?!”), she is beyond happy. When they see an article in the newspaper about Alan and Elizabeth coming back from their honeymoon to give a big homecoming party. She beams and says she can go to the party because she “loves this bed!” and not Alan. She does indeed attend the party and when she goes out to the back porch and Alan joins her, he is disappointed that she doesn’t seem to carry a torch for him any longer. Elizabeth joins them and when Mimi tells her, “I love furniture!” Elizabeth replies with a very emphatic “Whaaaat?”
I have to mention this because ever since I first became a fan of Rosalind Russell’s, I have noticed the funny way she emphasizes her “what” when she is surprised, shocked, or even amused. She does it in many of her films and as I became more of a fan, I came to expect it and when she didn’t stretch that “what” longer than necessary, I was disappointed. As you study an actress more intently, you are bound to notice things like that. Besides that, there are the widened eyes deemed “Roz eyes,” the way she involuntarily raises her eyebrow in a dubious situation, her crooked front tooth that is only visible when she smiles wide or laughs, and the many words in the English language she pronounces in her own little way.
The next day, Mimi and Alan go to the fights without Elizabeth. Alan tells Mimi that his wife is sick and didn’t want to come. Elizabeth doesn’t mind if Alan takes Mimi. They have a grand ol’ time and even go back to the bar where Mimi had been drinking herself into a stupor after Alan’s wedding. This time, she is happy, and she is very impressed with how far she has come. They end the evening by coming around the corner toward Mimi’s apartment, arm in arm, dancing and singing “On a Sunday Afternoon.” I also notice that Myrna Loy is most likely not comfortable singing on camera. She sings very quietly, letting Walter Pidgeon take up most of the slack.
The next day, Mimi informs her mother and Jimmy that she is going to go after Alan after all and she is going to tell Elizabeth. Of course, she takes the coward’s way out and calls Elizabeth on the phone instead of telling her in person. After Mimi tells Elizabeth her feelings about Alan, Elizabeth stares, shocked and saddened by the news, and slowly hangs up. When Alan comes home later that night, she tells him that Mimi phoned in order to gauge his reaction. They get ready for a party but before you know it, she is back in bed, letting Alan know she is still sick and “doesn’t want to risk it.” She encourages him to go out by himself anyway. When he leaves, she stares after him longingly with tears welling up in her eyes. It is rather sad to see her so willing to give up her man that easily.
Later that night, Alan stops by Mimi’s place after having a confrontation with Jimmy at a bar and before long, he kisses her. However, there is suddenly a knock on her door and she knows right away that it is Elizabeth. It is indeed who she thought it was and dressed in a perfectly lovely dress, she enters the room and looks around, taking in what is in front of her. This is Rosalind’s best scene in the film and for once, she actually steals attention away from the star. She takes center stage right away and does all the talking while the other two just listen to her. She says she knows Alan never loved her, that he only married her because she’s a “rich girl,” and that he is just an ordinary man.
She was willing to stay with him because she loved him so much. However, eventually, Alan was trying to be in love with her—so hard—that the effort was desperate. She started to feel sorry for him because he is obviously a very lonely man who would be going after a parade of women throughout their marriage. However, now that he is really in love (with Mimi)… but she doesn’t know how to finish her thought. She passes up on the drink with Mimi and Alan, not able to be noble much longer. As she leaves, she says to Mimi, “Wouldn’t it be funny, Mimi, if Alan got sick and you and I went to the fights?” With that, she leaves and never comes back. Mimi watches her go and says, “There goes a general in any woman’s army.” Although Rosalind Russell has bid her adieu to the film, she ended it on an impressive note and with a funny line to boot.
Mimi is now happy that she can be with Alan, but he will have none of it. He tells her that no matter what, there would be a parade of women just like Elizabeth said. He leaves her, going back after Elizabeth instead. Mimi’s heart has been broken for the last time by Alan Wythe and she swings by Jimmy’s place. They go for a drive and Mimi insists they pick up an old man hitchhiking by the side of the road. He is played by the incomparable Harry Davenport and is on his way to see his young daughter, who has just had a baby. Jimmy and Mimi start making up a story about how they have twins that Mimi thinks should be named “Nip” and “Tuck.” It is funny how the expression on the old man’s face changes as they tell him that they are “just pals.”
The film ends with a fun scene in which Meg convinces Mimi and Jimmy that they are in love with each other and just keeps laughing and laughing. After Mimi tells Jimmy that she’s hungry, he kisses her. He says, “How do you feel now?” And she replies, “Well, I’m not hungry anymore.” As it fades out, Meg exclaims, “The end of a beauuutiful friendship!”
After Night Must Fall finished production, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell were put right into another film together—a film with a completely opposite atmosphere. Unlike Night Must Fall, which is an intense, dark drama, Live, Love and Learn is a rather silly comedy, although it has its sad moments. The way Rosalind makes her first appearance in the film lets the viewer know this will be a funny movie. Montgomery plays Bob Graham and he is a struggling painter. One day, he is sitting in a beautiful countryside, contemplating how to finish his painting. All of a sudden, horses start bounding over the hill behind him and he has to duck to avoid them. There is a fox hunt going on right in the middle of the meadow and he is irate! Finally, the last horse comes jumping over the hill behind the rest, but it throws its rider. The young woman crashes right through Bob’s canvas and she is appalled when Bob seems more interested in how his painting is faring than her, who took a nasty fall.
Her name is Julie and she and Bob are from completely different walks of life. He’s poor, she’s rich; he doesn’t always know where his next meal is coming from, she never has to worry about that; he lives in a tiny apartment, she lives in a big house. He insults her skills as a fox hunt participant and shoos her away. A few seconds later, he finds her unconscious on the grass and wonders what to do with her. Before they know it, differences aside, they are getting married. And even so, Bob is trying to talk her out of it because he knows she’s in for a bit of culture shock living with him.
However, all doubts are forgotten when the justice of the peace tells him to “kiss the bride” and he stares at her, dumbstruck by love. It is in this comedy that besides the sexual tension you see in Night Must Fall, Montgomery and Russell have great romantic chemistry when they get a chance to have romantic scenes. You want them to be together; they are just that cute. They start walking with all of their things to a bus to take them to Bob’s apartment.
Julie is actually quite fascinated with Bob’s lifestyle and is excited to live like this. She feels his lifestyle is more real and not full of fake people like in her more high-class community. To show her loyalty to Bob, she throws her wallet out the window and smiles at him. They soon start walking up to his apartment building and she is wearing this hat and the fabric on the top looks like bunny ears. It’s a hat I always remember from her film wardrobe because it is both so funny and cute. “Look, bunny ears!” Bob carries his new bride over the threshold and she takes a look around the tiny apartment, which isn’t even big enough for a full kitchen or bathroom.
She is really taken with it and is ready to start living hand-to-mouth, as long as she is by Bob’s side. Bob’s best friend, Oscar (Robert Benchley) suddenly stumbles into the room, drunk (as Benchley often was in films) and tries to kiss Julie’s hand, but falls right on his face instead. In disbelief, Julie questions Bob and he tells her that he’ll be living here with him.
After putting Oscar out in the hall, Jerry Crump (played by a young Mickey Rooney) comes yoo-hooing into the room, silly and hyper, and takes a good look at Bob’s new bride. Jerry is the landlady’s son and Bob tries to show him a certain technique in throwing a baseball, but ends up breaking a window. Bob wants so much to be a successful painter for Julie’s sake, and hopes to keep his word on that. The next morning, they all—Bob, Julie, and Oscar—go to the market to buy some groceries because they don’t have food. They have not paid their bill at the market and Felipe (Charles Judels), the owner, refuses to let them purchase anything.
However, trouble abounds when Julie figures out that Felipe has been overcharging Bob and Oscar for some time because they were too naïve to know any better. They immediately start protesting in front of his store, even telling passersby to tar and feather Felipe. Soon, they are bringing loads of groceries home for free. Julie’s uncle has sent her a letter and a substantial check because he doesn’t want his niece living in squalor.
Although Oscar eagerly wants to spend the money, Bob takes the check and glues it to the wall, never intending to cash it. Absolutely thrilled with her husband’s decision, Julie embraces him giddily. One day, an old pal from Julie’s old crowd comes calling on her. Her name is Lily (Helen Vinson) and she wants to get a good look at Julie’s new husband—a man so special that he got her to leave her comfortable life when she “could have married anyone.”
After mistaking Oscar for her new husband, Bob comes home with a monkey named Misery in tow—only one of the several odd things to happen in this movie. He is having a bad day because his work was put down by some art dealers. He goes to the park with his wife to paint. This peaceful scene gets out of hand when a few Marines (Leathernecks) and then a few Navy sailors (Tars) start gathering around Bob’s canvas, giving differing opinions on what they think of it.
The Leathernecks stick together and the Tars stick to their opposing opinion until they start fighting. All of a sudden, Bob and Julie are in the middle of a riot in the park and are blamed for starting it! They spend a night in jail and when they come home, they notice a large crowd of reporters on the stairs and sneak into their apartment.
Refusing to talk to reporters, one reporter decides to pose as an art dealer in order to get a story on them. Naturally, Bob is excited about this, but Julie notices the man’s press pass in his hat. The man is immediately thrown out (literally). Soon, the three of them have developed a new hobby. Since the reporters keep coming in droves posing as art dealers to talk to the poor, struggling painter, they devise new and unique ways of depositing them into the hall.
An important art dealer named Bawltitude (Monty Woolley in his usual grumpy, cantankerous, but hilarious role) becomes interested in Bob and visits his apartment to take a look at his work. Of course, Bob, Julie, and Oscar assume he is another reporter, so they proceed to anger him. They have stacked a large pile of books and put a pitcher of water on top of them and tell him to take a few steps backwards until the pitcher of water has poured all over his head.
They then do the silliest thing—they cut his buttons, suspenders, and tie in half. As Oscar and Bob try to pull on his beard, which they assume is fake, Julie finds out that he is the real Bawltitude. Bob stares at Bawltitude in disbelief and Bawltitude yells at him, “Get your hands off me, you homicidal maniac!” Hard feelings are obviously put aside when before they know it, Bob’s work is being presented in a gallery by Bawltitude.
It is at this time that Bob starts acting differently. He starts becoming more well-known and respected by the rich art buying community and Julie feels she is losing the old Bob that she fell in love with. When he buys a big, beautiful place for them to live in, Julie thinks it’s a joke and after bewildering him by yodeling in the place, then swinging her arm wondering if she could swing a cat in the place, she starts “skating” across the polished floors. (Let’s just say this is a very strange group of people!) She is saddened when she finds Bob is serious about it and is very unhappy when her old pal Lily starts attaching herself to Bob in order to build him up. Now again living the lifestyle she voluntarily left, Julie is very unhappy and only talks to Oscar, who has not changed a bit. They play games and Julie explains that when someone comes to the door, the third butler answers the door, who tells the second butler, who tells the first butler, who then informs her about it later.
They start pretending to be high-class snobs, Julie describing herself as “so, so alive, so eccentric—I mean electric!” Meanwhile, Bob has had many jobs painting boring, stuffy dowagers. Lily brings over a new client named Mr. Palmiston. He is played by E. E. Clive, who played a large part in getting Rosalind Russell’s acting career started when she pretended to be English in order to get into his acting troupe. It was acting in this troupe that got her discovered by a Hollywood scout. He also plays small parts in two other Montgomery-Russell films, Trouble for Two (1936) and Night Must Fall (1937). He is most memorable in this film, however, because of the way he says everything in threes. When he meets people, he says, “How do you do? How do you do? How do you do?” and thanks people like this: Thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you very much. Julie doesn’t like this atmosphere very much and goes off riding: “I feel like digging my spurs into something.” She comes back with a very kind old gentleman who is an art teacher and a very promising young pupil of his.
They want to give a “Robert Graham Day” soon and have him speak. However, he decides that painting for Mr. Palmiston is more important and Julie is gravely disappointed in him and where his priorities lie. After Bob snubs the two people, Julie gets very angry with him and tells him he’s become a big fake and she can’t stand it anymore. Lily tries to get her opinion in, but Julie walks very slowly up to her and says, “Lily, darling, has anyone before told you, in an awfully ladylike manner, to keep your pretty little schnozzola out of other peoples family fights?” She paints a mustache on Bob’s portrait of one of the old matrons he is working on. Bob yells at her and ends with calling Oscar a drunken clown and orders him out of the house. Having lost the man she remembered, Julie asks for a divorce and leaves with Oscar. It is this part of the film I don’t enjoy very much. It’s all fun and games until Bob becomes someone he’s not and causes terrible marital discord.
However, when Bob tires of this dull lifestyle, he goes to speak for the art teacher’s class like Julie wanted him to. She is there to listen to him and happy to have him back. She reunites with him and they decide to have some fun for the road. She and her two partners in crime go to Bawltitude’s place and bring in a portrait Bob did of Palmiston’s horse. Palmiston comes running in, his pants falling down (because they had cut his suspenders like they always do), and pleading with Bawltitude. Julie pulls her cape up over her head and growls at him like a tiger.
They proceed to tell him to back up, back up… until they yell “Ah, boo!” and he falls backwards right through his own painting. The three of them bellow, “And may we say we love you very much, Mr. Palmiston?” to which he replies from the ground, “Not at all, not at all, not at all!”