Catherine Rosalind Russell, the product of a large, prosperous and devoutly Catholic Connecticut family, logged more than 55 credits over a nearly 40-year career by the time she died in 1976 at age 69.
She always felt her career took second place to her family, but (luckily for us) her family was not larger (she mothered one son) than the public demand for her services.
Russell is perhaps not the best-remembered Hollywood star of classic period, but she was undoubtedly a very big star in her time both in Hollywood, the Broadway stage and on tv. It’s certainly worth knowing more about her, and that’s the purpose of our quiz yesterday (to review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below). Today, the answers:
1) Answer: b) No question that 1939’s The Women, based on Clare Booth Luce’s play, made Russell a star. The picture has 35 speaking parts and the leads are played by Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Recalled Russell: I had the third part…I think I really won the brass ring there!
2) Answer: Russell was close to Cary Grant, who loosened her up and kept her laughing. But her apparent favorite was (d) Errol Flynn. Isn’t that funny?…I made ‘Four’s A Crowd’ with him in 1938 at Warner Brothers. Errol had meticulous manners and was such a handsome man.
3) Answer: a) True. Recalled Russell: During (‘His Girl Friday’) Cary introduced me to an agent named Frederick Brisson, a charming Danish-English friend of his who was to become my husband. My one and only! (There’s Cary, above, introducing himself to Rosalind.)
4) Answer: a) Ginger Rogers. At first, Hawks was not keen on the casting of Russell in His Girl Friday but warmed to her as rehearsals prgressed.
5) Answer: b) The Front Page, the crackerjack play about Chicago-style newspapering by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht. The play was made into a movie in 1931 costarring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O’Brien (and remade by Billy Wilder in 1974 with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau). The twist in His Girl Friday is that the principal role is played by a woman (Russell).
6) Answer: a) As Russell put it: I played 23 different career women…I always say those pictures were remade with Doris Day where they could get a little more sex into them than we were allowed.
7) Answer: a) Columbia’s 1942 screwball comedy, My Sister Eileen.
8) Answer: b) Carole Lombard. Russell never considered such contemporaries as Jean Harlow or Mae West as competition. But, Lombard could make me pretty nervous. She was a brilliant comedienne and far more beautiful than I.
9) Answer: b) Peggy Cass.
10) Answer: a) True. As she put it: I have always felt that I am a character actress.