Lillian Russell


2h 7m 1940

Brief Synopsis

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

Film Details

Release Date
May 24, 1940
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 15 May 1940
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,433ft (14 reels)

Synopsis

Helen Leonard, who was born in Clinton, Iowa at the beginning of the Civil War, moves with her family to New York, where, under the tutelage of music teacher Leopold Damrosch, she develops into a talented singer. While returning home from her lessons one day, Helen meets Alexander Moore, an aspiring reporter, when he stops her runaway carriage, and later, they make a pact to celebrate together when they find success. Success comes quickly to Helen when impressario Tony Pastor overhears her singing and puts her on stage as Lillian Russell. Lillian's rise to immediate stardom prompts her suffragette mother to warn that success will interfere with her personal happiness. Sadly, Mrs. Leonard's prediction comes true when Alexander, who is in love with Lillian, becomes intimidated by her fame and loses touch with her. Although showered by jewels sent by "Diamond" Jim Brady and pursued by Jessie Lewisohn, Lillian chooses to marry frustrated composer Edward Solomon. After the wedding, the newlyweds travel to London, where Edward's tempermental meddling provokes William Gilbert to fire Lillian. Soon after the birth of their daughter, Edward dies of a heart attack, and Lillian, driven by her husband's dream for her success in Europe, triumphs in London. Lillian returns home to a marriage proposal from Diamond Jim, which she refuses. That night, Alexander, who now owns a newspaper in Pittsburgh, comes to visit Lillian backstage, and their old love is rekindled.

Film Details

Release Date
May 24, 1940
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 15 May 1940
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,433ft (14 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1940

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, this film was shot on location in Santa Barbara, CA, and at the T. J. Bradford estate in Pasadena, CA, which Lillian Russell had leased in 1905 while on vacation. Studio publicity contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library notes that Madame Rosa Binner, who designed the diamond-studded corset in the film, also designed Russell's original diamond-studded corset. A 1939 item in the New York Times adds that Darryl Zanuck bought Alice Faye's radio contract because he believed that radio appearances by film stars were hurting the box office receipts of their pictures. Richard Day and Joseph C. Wright were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for their work on this film. In this picture, Edward Arnold portrayed Diamond Jim Brady for the second time; the first was in the 1935 film Diamond Jim Brady. In October 1940, Lux Radio Theater presented a radio version of Lillian Russell starring Alice Faye and Victor Mature.