In order to secure the part of Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath," Henry Fonda had to sign a long-term contract with Fox. Except for "The Ox-Bow Incident," Fonda disliked these other films he was forced to do, none more than "Lillian Russell." See more »
Dull biography only perks up when Alice Faye sings...
I don't know how much this fictionalized bio of Lillian Russell owes to the truth, but the truth is she led an awfully dull life to judge by the weak script developments. Yes, even for a gal who mingled with Diamond Jim Brady and married a well-known composer, she's awfully dull stuff to take, which is why so much footage was cut out of the final print.
Needless to say, when ALICE FAYE, costumed effectively in all those turn-of-the-century clothes and singing old-time songs in that breathy low-pitched voice of hers, gets to strut her stuff the story warms up a bit. But most of it is just so dull you want to fast forward and skip the bio completely.
No help is HENRY FONDA as a newspaper man who patiently waits his turn to have his fling with romancing the musical comedy star. And even the reliable DON AMECHE is at sea here. Not their fault. The script is the problem and it shows until the bitter end. EDWARD ARNOLD, in a comfortable role as Diamond Jim Brady, is the only bright spot in the supporting cast. HELEN WESTLEY, WARREN WILLIAM, LEO CARRILLO and NIGEL BRUCE are likewise not seen to advantage.
Maybe Technicolor would have brightened things. Hard to say, but I still think a livelier story and better backstage plot would have helped considerably. As it is, only ALICE FAYE's loyal fans will warm up to this one.
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