Rosalind Russell

  1. Myrna Loy, Libeled Lady, 1935.        MGM made  Roz into young millionairess  Connie Allenbury – then decided it would be more fun if it was Loy and William Powell…  Again. (In the fifth of their 14 movies).  The slick comedy was re-hashed as Easy To Wed in 1945 with Van Johnson and Esther Williams when one of the extras was a beardless… Fidel Castro!
  2. Virginia Bruce, The Garden Murder Case, 1935.      For the eighth of the 15 films based on SS Van Dine’s (actually, Willard Huntingdon Wright’s) snobbish, cynical bored, supercilious, dilettante sleuth Philo Vance, Aherne was to Vance with Roz as Zalia Graem. But once bitten… She had been in an earlier Vance detective thriller, The Casino Murder Case, 1934. “So bad – and I was so bad in it.” 
  3. Mary Astor, Dodsworth, 1936.      Producer Samuel Goldwyn’s casting director, Robert McIntyre, voted: Roz.Sam voted: Mary.Guess who won?
  4. Margaret Sullavan, The Shop Worn Angel, 1937.    Metro had no idea who should  – could! – inherit Daisy after Harlow’s tragic death.  First idea was Crawford, then  Russell – before being switched to The Citadel. Sullavan  partnered James Stewart. Two years later, comedy genius Ernst Lubitsch waited months  for the same couple for “the best picture I ever made in my life” – The Shop Around The Corner, 1939.  (In the meantime, he casually knocked off the equally enchanting Ninotchka!)
  5. Ann Sothern, Dulcy, 1939.   For the madcap comedy caper, the 1938 plan had been Florence Rice. By ’39, it was  Roz Russell.  Then,  Sothern breezed in as the dizzy Dulcy – described by The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther as “the daffy filly who always does the wrong things which invariably come out all right.”  He also suggested that Sothern must have been fed up with such  screw-loose comedies.
  6. Myrna Loy, Third Finger, Left Hand, 1939.   Loy, Russell and Marion Davies were in the  comedy mix for Margot, a single mom-to-be. The Production Code chief told MGM to cut several gags because illegitimacy was not a laughing matter.  Nor was the movie.
  7. Alice Faye, That Night In Rio, 1940.    During  a September 1940 meeting about what was then A Latin from Manhattan, head Fox Darryl F Zanuck, suggested Russell, Joan Bennett, Madeleine Carroll or Paulette Goddard for Baroness  Cecilia Duarte – before going with the contracted Faye in the sixth and final teaming with Don Ameche.  (She famously referred to her studio as Penitentiary Fox).
  8. Ida Lupino, Ladies In Retirement, 1940.     Roz had a non-exclusive Columbia deal and tried to head up the Creed sisters.  Director Charles Vidor preferred Lupino. She  preferred co-star Louis Hayward – her first husband during 1938-1945.
  9. Bette Davis, The Bride Came COD, 1940.   Bette hated it… …  Some suggested COD meant Cagney over Davis as Warner Bros fanfared the first co-starring of their  top attractions.  Or, that is to say  the first time since Jimmy The Gent  in 1933…!  It had almost been Cagney and Olivia De Havilland, Ginger Rogers, Rosalind Russell or Ann Sheridan. “It was called a comedy,” snorted Bette. “All I  got out of the film was a derriere full of cactus quills.” 
  10. Loretta Young, Bedtime Story, 1941.   Fredric   March who first warned Gary Cooper about  the new gu , being  groomed to take over his top spot at Paramount – after easily stealing  Merrily We Go To Hell,  from March in 1932,. Now Cary Grant was up for a role finally played by March.  Henry Fonda and Lloyd Nolan were also seen for the playwright trying to stop his actress wife from retiring.  Fine, OK… but which wife? Joan Bennett, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell or Loretta Young.

  11. Bette Davis,  The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941.   Eight guys  were seen for the titular and  acerbic critic, Sheridan Whiteside  (the first time that  Cary Grant and Orson Welles were considered  for thje same role!).   But just three ladies for Maggie Cutler (based on Dorothy Parker)  – Jean Arthur, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy  and Rosalind  Russell.  It was Bette who  wanted  John Barrymore as Whiteside, but he could no longer remember his lines.  In their boom(ing) days, the Burtons were due for a re-make. But who would  want Richard for dinner?
  12. Bette Davis,, Old Acquaintance, 1942.  Roz Russell and  Irene Dunne  were talked about  but the Bette Davis banner flew higher on the Warner Bros flagpole…  And she became the novelist Kit Marlowe (the name originally  by Columbia czar Harry Cohn for his new find, Kim Novak).
  13. Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away, 1943.    Once he secured a part for his lady, Jennifer Jones (his  “property, ”said Dennis Hopper) and Shirley Temple’s comeback, Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick worked hard on gaining the perfect Mrs Anne Hilton. He saw Russell, Irene Dunne, Ann Harding, Helen Hayes until finding his indomitable all-American mother in… the French Colbert!

  14. Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943.      English lady. French pirate. Love at eight bells. Also up for Dona St Columb (opposite Mexican star Mexican star Arturo de Córdova) were Russell, Irene Dunne, Vivien Leigh, Merle Oberon and Katina Paxinou.
  15. Paulette Goddard, Standing Room Only, 1943.    The salesman and his secretary became  butler and maid at a mansion for the  accommodation during their business trip to an overcrowded WWII Washington…  The daffy couple went went from Fred MacMurray and Rosalind Russell… to Sonny Tufts (all together now: Sonny Tufts??!!) and Paulette Goddard… before being solved by splitting the difference.  MacMurray and Goddard!
  16. Rose Stradner, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.   Once listed (so were Ingrid Bergman, Geraldine Fitzgerald and the inevitable rank outsider, KT Stevens) for the Reverend Mother Maria-Veronica. Co-writer Nunnally Johnson reported how writer-producer Joseph L Mankiewicz “practically got down on his knees” for his wife, Stradner: “This will save or doom my marriage.” Mankiewicz firmly denied it but she got the part. And the couple stayed wed until her1958 death. Bergman and Russell became meatier nuns in, respectively, The Bells of St Mary’s, 1944, Dixie: Changing Habits, TV, 1983, and The Trouble With Angels, 1965.
  17. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1944.      
    Bette Davis declinedThe Kind of Woman that most men want – BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE! Seeing Mildred as herself, a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother, Crawford swooped, sweet-talking producer Jerry Wald out of Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy, Rosalind  Russell, Anne Sheridan and Barbara Stanwyck.  Director Michael Curtiz did not want “the has-been,”and was forever cursing  – mainly in Hungarian:  Her and her shoulderpads!”  But they won her the Oscar while Davis soon had her first flop in 50 films with the aptly named Deception.  Bette always maintained that Crawford (and Miriam  Hopkins) lusted after her body as well as her success. Bette  played Joan, or a script based on her – with plenty of her “Bless you!” lines thrown in by Davis – in The Star, 1952. 

  18. Gene Tierney, Laura, 1944.      Unadventurous for once, Head Fox Darryl Zanuck  wanted  a titular Russell with Dana Andrews and Laird Cregar as the cop and the critic. Director Rouben Mamoulian agreed.  (He needed the pay-check!), When he was canned after his first two weeks of rushes, Otto Preminger dumped them all for Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and an instant classic. 
  19. Irene Dunne, Life With Father, 1946.    Mary Pickford won the rights to the Broadway hit, even agreed to test but, hell,  she hadn’t made a movie for 13 years! (They were never alarmed about William Powell having been off-screen for the nine years since  the tragically early death of his lover, Jean Harlow). So the Warner suits looked at Russell, Bette Davis and Rosemary DeCamp.. Director Michael Curtiz agreed that Dunne had more box-office pull (in her only colour film), although he really wanted Bette.
  20. Bette Davis, Winter Meeting, 1947.   The 30s; style melodrama might have worked better with Russell as Bette’s career was er on the rocks… in successive flops  leading to her  leaving Warner Bros after 18 years.  Her director, the French Bretaigne Windust, was no help. He would also mess up her third successive flop –  a rare comedy for her, June Bride. 1948. Both vehicles were full of his name’s commodities.

  21. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950
  22. Betty Garrett, My Sister Eileen, 1954.   Broadway’s 1953 hit, Wonderful Town, was based on the 1942 Columbia movie, My Sister Eileen. When Columbia decided to film the musical version, the rights were too wrong. A simple Eileen re-make was ordered instead – for Holliday in Rosalind Russell’s old role. But… Holliday was on Broadway in Bells Are Ringing; Russell, too, in Auntie Mame. And so the ex-MGMarvel, Betty Garrett, won her first film in five years since On The Town – due to just being the wife of McCarthyism victim, Larry Parks! (Holliday was also accused of Communist affiliations Being cleared by the Senate Internal Security Committee  did not  help her ruined career). During Judy’s vacation, Betty tookl over her New York role and and Roz Russell made Wonderful Town for TV (ie CBS could afford what Columbia wouldn’t!).
  23. Esther Williams, The Unguarded Moment, 1955.      Change of heroine as Williams leapt out of her pool…. But Russell was still on the screen – receiving her sole scenarist credit under her real name. (She signed Mrs. Pollifax – Spy as CA McKnight in 1970). Russell planned to star in the 40s. Better offers got in the way. By the time, Universal was ready to shoot, Roz was too old for a high school teacher, at 48.
  24. Maureen O’Sullivan, Never Too Late, 1965.      Spencer Tracy was the only  thought for Harry. Opposite one of a dozen choices for his wife – pregnant at 50, ho, ho, ho! From Russell to Katherine Hepburn (“but I’m too old for Edith?”). Plus June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Anne Baxter, Joan Fontaine, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Ginger Rogers, Ann Sheridan. Ultimately, Warner Bros went with the Broadway hit’s duo: Paul Ford and O’Sullivan. 
  25. Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966.  Before Queen Liz made it her personal best performance (more so than Suddenly Last Summer??), the earlier choices for Martha were Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Patricia Neal, Rosalind Russell…  and Katharine Hepburn, who told the playwright Edward Albee: “This play is much better than I am.”  Producer Ernest Lehmann wrote the script. The Burtons  changed it all back to Albee;’ original, except for two lines –  “Hey, let’s go to the roadhouse!” and “Hey, let’s come back from the roadhouse!”  Said Albee: “Two lines for $250,000 – 125,000 a piece. That’s pretty good.”
  26. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.  
  27. Kay Medford, Funny Girl, 1967.  Variety prematurely announced Russell as  Barbra Streisand’s mother.  Director William Wyler, tackling his first/last musical,  preferred Medford, who an Oscar nomination as Rose Brice, mother of funny Fanny.  Asked whether Streisand had been difficult to work with, Wyler said:  “No, not too hard, considering it was the first movie she ever directed”!


 Birth year: 1908Death year: 1976Other name: Casting Calls:  27