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Lillian Russell (1940)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Drama, Musical  |  24 May 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 291 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 5 critic

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.



(screen play)
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Title: Lillian Russell (1940)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Solomon
Alexander Moore
The Famous J.L.
Leo Carrillo ...
Tony Pastor
Helen Westley ...
Grandma Leonard
Dorothy Peterson ...
Cynthia Leonard
Ernest Truex ...
Charles K. Leonard
William Gilbert
Lynn Bari ...
Edna McCauley
Claud Allister ...
Arthur Sullivan (as Claude Allister)
Joe Weber ...
Himself (as Weber)
Lew Fields ...
Himself (as Fields)
Eddie Foy Jr. ...


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


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 May 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Bela Lillian Russell  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The director of this film, Irving Cumming, played on stage with the real Lillian Russell in a 1908 Broadway play called "Wildfire". Though he may have had some intimate knowledge of working with Russell as a young man, it is hardly reflected in this film biography. See more »


He Goes to Church on Sunday
(1907) (uncredited)
Music by E. Ray Goetz
Lyrics by Vincent Bryan
Performed by Eddie Foy Jr.
See more »

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User Reviews

An Alice Faye film which is great for nostalgia
9 November 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Some historical films are totally worthless as guides to the lives and careers of the people they discuss. PARNELL, for instance, is a dismal film about the great Irish nationalist leader. LILLIAN RUSSELL is not a good guide to the career of the the famed singer and entertainer of the 1890s. There are omissions and polite bowdlerizing. For example, her marriage to Edward Solomon the composer(played by Don Ameche) was not ended by his dropping dead from overwork. Effective movie moment that it is, the marriage ended when Lillian discovered her husband was a bigamist with a living first wife. The relationship with Gilbert and Sullivan was not ended on such a sad but friendly note. Lillian did appear in PATIENCE, but she never played IOLANTHE (Gilbert claimed she did not want to rehearse as much as he insisted his performers do; rumor said that Gilbert tried to get Lillian onto the "casting couch" at the Savoy but she said no). Also, it is highly unlikely that Sullivan would have agreed to Lillian singing another composer's song in his operetta (even if between acts).

Henry Fonda's Alexander Moore is a bland enough character - handsome and kindly in the film, but not as colorful as rivals Ameche, Edward Arnold ("Diamond Jim" Brady) and Warren Williams (Jesse Lewisohn). In real life he was an important newspaperman in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, and (less acceptable in hindsight) a close friend of Warren Harding and Harry Daugherty's "Ohio Gang" of political spoils-men. Lillian, by the way, died in 1922, in the middle of Harding's corrupt administration.

The best things in the film are Faye, as pretty as usual in 19th Century costume, and warbling songs like "Blue Love Bird" in her best voice. That is worth watching. Then there is the color of the theater in the mauve decade. Tony Pastor's, the Savoy Operas, the stage of 19th Century Broadway (back then down near 14th Street and Union Square). My favorite moment: Joe Weber and Lou Fields in costume as their "Dutch" characters of the 1890s, demolishing a game of "Casino". It is a priceless moment of theatrical magic, that briefly tells us more about the real 1890s than the fake movie script for this film. Watch it for Joe and Lou and Alice.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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