Rosalind Russell — Rahs for Roz (1939) 🇺🇸

Rosalind Russell |

December 01, 2021

Rosalind Russell proves that time cannot alter, nor Hollywood custom stale a girl with a will — and a way.

by Kirtley Baskette

Ever since I left Rosalind Russell I have been poring over the fancy nourishes beneath the Declaration of Independence — through John Hancock, the Adams boys and Button Gwinnett.

So far I haven’t uncovered a Russell. But I’m sure there must be a mistake somewhere. One of those inky scrawls must mask a Revolutionary Russell’s true moniker. Furthermore, I don’t believe I understood her correctly when she said she was born on the fourth of June. I think she must have said July.

Only a very unusual inspiration, I’m sure, could drive me to such extensive historical research and abstract speculation. But then Miss Rosalind Russell is indeed unusual.

She is a Declaration of Independence walking.

Now that’s something — even in Hollywood, where you see dreams and all sorts of things ambling along. It’s more than something, too, when you consider that she trotted right into the current spotlight in which she basks today on that particular D. of I.

If you saw Rosalind Russell as far back as “Rendezvous” getting rather repeatedly into Bill Powell’s crinkly and graying hair, where Myrna Loy was formerly wont to roost, you might have reasoned then and there with a slight shudder that she was an audacious and forthright lady of dangerous possibilities.

If you saw her more recently standing up to Robert Donat’s dour Scots Doctor Manson in “The Citadel,” or helping Robert Montgomery track down murderers in “Fast and Loose,” or in the lusty free-for-all, no-holds-barred battle with Paulette Goddard in The Women, you might have concluded that time has not altered, nor Hollywood custom staled a girl who has both a will and a way.

You don’t know half.

Rosalind greeted me with a quick and faintly disapproving side glance.

“Goodness,” she goodnessed, “who makes your clothes?”

I did the best I could with the collar.

“It’s no use,” comforted Rosalind Russell, “it just doesn’t fit.”

I groped nervously for the teapot.

“No — I’ll pour,” she declared, and I felt much the way I used to feel when my hand was slapped reaching across the table for the sugar bowl.

Rosalind Russell is tall and pretty. She is definitely prettier than her screen image and younger looking. She has a small mouth which works into a surprisingly wide smile. She talks quickly and easily, with an air of finality. She is fast on the uptake. When she answers, which is right away, she darts her large dark eyes sidewise under elevated eyebrows.

She shakes her finger at you when she talks. She says, “You see.”

She would make a swell maiden aunt a swell schoolmarm.

She was almost a schoolmarm, in fact, and she may be a maiden aunt, for all I know. There were nine in her family. Seven children; stepping stones — boy, girl, boy, girl — on down the line. Rosalind rates somewhere along in the middle.

For a long while she worried because she was the only child blessed with a fancy theatrical name. The rest were normally tagged — Mary, Jane, James, and such. She wondered if her mother had been reading too much Shakespeare or something and asked her.

“Heavens, no!” cried her mother, wincing at the word “theatrical.” “You were named,” she informed her, “after a boat.”

On the S.S. Rosalind, it seems, the Russells, père and mère, had enjoyed an idyllic cruise a short time before the little stranger came, so they named her Rosalind.

When you are one of a large family, you learn to look out for yourself. If you don’t, you are soon lost in the shuffle. Rosalind figured this out early in life because, as I said, she is quick on the uptake.

The first urge for independence seized her while she was still tarrying at Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson and assorted fashionable institutes, learning to back in and out of a drawing room without tripping over the tiger rug.

She was fourteen and she could dance rather well. A chance popped up to join a professional dancing troupe. She asked her mother about it.

“Go on the stage?” cried that good woman. “Sit around in dressing rooms full of cigarette smoke and gin bottles and swearing women? Heavens, no!”

You can’t stall off a Declaration of Independence forever, though, and Rosalind meant sure ‘nuff about making her own way, although it’s hard to stir up any dire necessity in her past. Her father was prosperous in law in the old home town of Waterbury, Connecticut. The family’s social position was well set.

Rosalind got by with teaching horsemanship at a riding academy for her first pay-paycheck, then she persuaded the family to send her to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Not to act — heaven forbid! — but to teach drama after graduation. It sounded respectable enough; but after she got out, Rosalind eyed a schoolmarm’s weekly insult with dismay.

“I can’t live on forty dollars a week,” she complained (chorus of small voices, “We can, Rosalind!”). “I’ll just have to act to be independent.”

Broadway producers thought that was an admirable resolve, but they didn’t see what they could do about it. So Rosalind hooked up with a traveling tent stock show for twenty-six weeks. It rained for about twenty-five, and Rosalind emoted loud enough above the metronomic patter for Broadway finally to hear her.

A string of respectable hits and Rosalind moved on to where all good actresses end up — Hollywood — lugging her independence along with her.

She took it out for a ride, one day, not long after she had arrived. San Diego was the objective, and, although she had never motored there, Rosalind was a bit too self-reliant to ask the way. It was marked very plainly on the map — right below Hollywood. She set out south-southeast, disdaining the advice of gas stations and such. She ended up somewhere northeast-by-north, out of gas, dismayed to find that she had forgotten her purse.

The service station attendant to whom she hiked was a skeptic. He demanded cash on the barrelhead. Finally she wheedled him into accepting her fur coat for five gallons.

She had a little trouble like that when she was in Europe, too. First of all, Rosalind discovered that in London, where she’d gone to make “The Citadel,” you are practically nobody unless you know your stuff in politics and international affairs. In spite of the magnificent estate with swimming pool, tennis courts and hot and cold running Japs which she rented on the outskirts of London, Rosalind’s social rating was C -minus, because she wasn’t informed.

So she started hiking over to Parliament between scenes and soon caught up on all the debate about everything from death taxes to British policy in Upper Burma. The J.P. Kennedys, America’s Number One ambassadorial family, were awfully nice to her, too. Pretty soon she knew more about affairs of state than anybody around, so she got a little cocky about it. She decided personally to investigate the Mittel Europe situation during the last summer war scare. She went to Budapest, Hungary, all alone. The fireworks started popping in earnest then, and Rosalind, not so cocky, had to bribe her way out on a troop train!

Rosalind does better by her independence when she stays at home. For a long time, she held forth high in the Hollywood hills in a small housette, so tiny, in fact, that her maid, Hazel, had to dig in across the street.

Rosalind Russell lives alone now in a Beverly Hills house except for a maternal wire-haired terrier christened Cracker and her litter of offspring, Miss Russell christened “The Crumbs.”

Cracker has absorbed the “this house is my castle” idea thoroughly. She vents throaty growls whenever a gentleman friend so much as comes near. Rosalind thinks that is just fine, because it helps her keep independent of romantic rumors!

There is an off-and-on one involving Jimmy Stewart that keeps popping up, but Rosalind swears she is still very much foot-loose and fancy-free. Which is a shame, if true. Rosalind is much too nice to go to waste.

Not long ago, a mysterious man called her up for several nights straight along about four o’clock in the morning. He always apologized for waking her and then hung up. After a week or so of this, Rosalind, duly frightened, called the cops.

They rolled up in their radio car and listened to her story with skeptical leers. “How you doin’ with the boy friend?” they wanted to know.

Even the publicity department of her own studio, ever on the alert for intriguing copy, refuses to relent in their search for a romance. An actress without a romance is well — like hors d’oeuvres without cocktails. They forget that Miss Russell is independent.

She had a letter recently from an old friend of hers in New York. He complimented her on her grand success in Hollywood and said how about a picture with a nice little autograph.

Rosalind dug up one, scribbled thereon something like “with gratitude for your interest in my work,” dropped it in the mailbox and forgot about it.

In a day or so her phone jingled. The studio publicity man was on the wire.

“So you’re not in love?” he began.

“Absolutely not,” declared Rosalind. “What brings this up again?”

“A telegram,” said the press agent, “that just came here from,” — he named the man — “it says, INTEREST HELL STOP THIS IS LOVE.’ “

I hope I haven’t made Rosalind Russell out as too independent to be interesting. Actually, she’s far from a dull and driving career girl. What Mr. Winchell terms a “sensayuma” sparkles all over her — in her wise, excited eyes, in her ready grin.

The fact that she has made every part she has ever played stand out against big-league competition proves she’s well in the mood for laughs, if not for love.

Personally, too, she can take a wicked delight in dishing out amusing shocks, especially to her family, who still look upon her career as a sort of personal and terrifying experience. They’re very nice people, you know.

There is only one thing, so far discovered, that really burns Rosalind to a deep pink. It is to be called “Toots.” She has never reconciled herself to the fact that “honey” and “darling” are practically the same as “miss” and “madame” in the show business. When people she scarcely knows endear her thus she stifles an impulse to slay.

Perhaps her Declaration of Independence doesn’t exactly hew to the acting norm — but at least it’s honest. She started acting, frankly, to make money for independence, and that’s exactly why she’s acting today. There’s no soul-cry for expression, no divine prodding Muse, no phony frills to her formula — just serious attention to the business at hand.

Perhaps that’s why the formula works.

I forgot to say a while back that the S.S. Rosalind, after thirty-one years is still afloat and going places.

And so, after thirty-one years, is Rosalind Russell.

Source: Photoplay, October 1939

Rosalind Russell will blossom forth soon as a full-fledged author. Between pictures she is writing a novel based on incidents in her own life. “Roz” has started a new fad now, “maid’s night out” parties. Each guest brings his favorite dish. Such fun — and economical for the hostess too!

Source: Photoplay MagazineNovember 1936