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Lillian Russell (1940)

Passed | | Biography, Drama, History | 24 May 1940 (USA)
Life story of the musical star from her discovery in 1890 by band leader Tony Pastor till her retirement in 1912 when she married newspaperman Alexander Moore.

Director:

Irving Cummings

Writer:

William Anthony McGuire (original screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Alice Faye ... Lillian Russell
Don Ameche ... Edward Solomon
Henry Fonda ... Alexander Moore
Edward Arnold ... Diamond Jim Brady
Warren William ... The Famous J.L.
Leo Carrillo ... Tony Pastor
Helen Westley ... Grandma Leonard
Dorothy Peterson ... Cynthia Leonard
Ernest Truex ... Charles K. Leonard
Nigel Bruce ... William Gilbert
Lynn Bari ... Edna McCauley
Claud Allister ... Arthur Sullivan (as Claude Allister)
Joe Weber Joe Weber ... Joe Weber (as Weber)
Lew Fields ... Lew Fields (as Fields)
Eddie Foy Jr. ... Eddie Foy Sr.
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Storyline

Life story of the musical star from her discovery in 1890 by band leader Tony Pastor till her retirement in 1912 when she married newspaperman Alexander Moore.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 May 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Bela Lillian Russell See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Barbara, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After the huge success of The Great Ziegfeld (1936) MGM wanted to make a movie about Lillian Russell starring Jeanette MacDonald, but that project fell through. Twentieth Century-Fox then decided to make a movie about Russell. See more »


Soundtracks

Waltz Is King
(1940) (uncredited)
Music Charles Henderson
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Production number performed by chorus in the finale
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A fine biography--provided you don't mind that much of it is pure bunk...and quite dull!
10 August 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

In the 1930s and 40s, Hollywood made a ton of bio-pics. In most cases, the actual peoples' lives were only the barest of outlines for the films--with SIGNIFICANT padding (in other words, outright lying) to make the films more marketable. While the films were generally pretty enjoyable, they also were pure bunk--so when watching any biography from this period, take what you see and hear with a grain of salt. I say all this here because "Lillian Russell" is just one of those films--filled with fiction and is only a biography in name only.

While in some ways this film is accurate about the great stage actress Lillian Russell, here are a few ways where the film is total bull:

The film shows Lillian's parents as a loving couple. They actually separated when Lillian was 18 and she and her mother moved across country--leaving dad behind.

Lillian's first marriage in the film is the biggest problem in the film. Her creepy husband (Don Ameche) dies--leaving her a sad, sad widow who then sings HIS song as a tribute to him. In reality, it turned out this total louse was ALREADY MARRIED!!!! When Lillian discovered he was a bigamist, she divorced him! Some love story!!! He also was her second husband--and she'd been cheating on her poor old first husband!

Lillian was married four times...but not in this movie! She only married once and there is an implied marriage at the end.

Her beautiful baby is important in the film. The fact that it died as an infant was never mentioned!

Lillian herself was a feminist and suffragette--writing articles and speaking out for the cause. None of this is in the film and only her mother's political aspirations are discussed--odd considering the film is supposed to be about Lillian.

The film, despite having a completely dull and inaccurate plot, was a big-budget film--with AMAZING sets and lots of stars. It was odd, however, that despite having many big-name actors in the film that they were often used very poorly. Don Ameche, probably Fox's #1 male star at the time, plays a simpering loser--who also behaves VERY creepy 80 minutes into the film (where he basically says she can NEVER, NEVER leave him--even if she wants to!). Clearly it was NOT a role suited to such an illustrious star and might have been better for Boris Karloff! Henry Fonda basically plays a love-sick loser....and a creepy one who has stalked her from afar. Warren William is in the film...and that's all that can be said about his part. Pretty much the same can be said for Leo Carillo. Edward Arnold isn't bad as Diamond Jim Brady, however, and Helen Westley is GREAT as grandma. And as for the star, Alice Faye, this is one of her best films and the makeup and costuming folks have made her radiant. Clearly the women in this film outshine the men--as if the men, for a change, are more window dressing than people.

The overall verdict is that although the film looks great and has some decent moments, it's a dull, bloated and incredibly inaccurate film. By the way, there is a VERY funny glitch at the 89 minute mark. Lillian picks up her crying baby. The closeup of the kid is of a completely different kid--with the hair changing from brown to blond before your very eyes--and with a completely different face!! Didn't they think anyone would notice.

FYI--This film was wildly inaccurate that there is a special feature on the DVD entitled "A Woman Like No Other: The Real Lillian Russell"! It is worth seeing. It also shows that Lillian's life was FAR more interesting than the 20th Century-Fox film!


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