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Lillian Russell
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Lillian Russell (1940) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 41% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
William Anthony McGuire (screen play)
View company contact information for Lillian Russell on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 May 1940 (USA) See more »
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. | Full synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. See more »
User Reviews:
"Back in the Days of Old Broadway: The Lillian Russell Story" See more (17 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Alice Faye ... Lillian Russell

Don Ameche ... Edward Solomon

Henry Fonda ... Alexander Moore

Edward Arnold ... Diamond Jim Brady

Warren William ... The Famous J.L.
Leo Carrillo ... Tony Pastor
Helen Westley ... Grandma Leonard
Dorothy Peterson ... Cynthia Leonard
Ernest Truex ... Charles K. Leonard

Nigel Bruce ... 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. ... Eddie Foy Sr.

Una O'Connor ... Marie
Joseph Cawthorn ... Leopold Damrosch
Diane Fisher ... Dorothy
Elyse Knox ... Lillian Russell's Sister
Joan Valerie ... Lillian Russell's Sister
Alice Armand ... Lillian Russell's Sister
William B. Davidson ... President Cleveland (as William Davidson)
Hal K. Dawson ... Chauffeur

Charles Halton ... Dr' Dobbins
Robert Emmett Keane ... Jeweler
Harry Hayden ... Mr. Sloane
Frank Darien ... Coachman
Frank Sully ... Hank
Ottola Nesmith ... Miss Smyth
Ferike Boros ... Mrs. Rose
Frank M. Thomas ... Official (as Frank Thomas)
Robert Homans ... Stage Doorman

William Haade ... Soldier
Irving Bacon ... Soldier
Paul E. Burns ... Soldier (as Paul Burns)
Cecil Cunningham ... Mrs. Hobbs
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Bonnie Bannon ... Woman (uncredited)
Esther Brodelet ... Woman (uncredited)
A.S. 'Pop' Byron ... Policeman (uncredited)
Richard Carle ... Bradley (uncredited)

Ruth Clifford ... Extra (uncredited)
Pauline Garon ... Extra (uncredited)
Leyland Hodgson ... Hotel Clerk (uncredited)
Thaddeus Jones ... Mose (uncredited)
Dennis Kaye ... Newly Born Baby (uncredited)
Tom London ... Frank (uncredited)
Paul McVey ... Stage Manager (uncredited)
Dave Morris ... Drunk (uncredited)
James C. Morton ... Bartender (uncredited)
Steve O'Brien ... Boy (uncredited)
Alexander Pollard ... Waiter (uncredited)
Robert Ryan ... Owen (uncredited)
Floyd Shackelford ... Valet (uncredited)

Robert Shaw ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
Stella Shirpsor ... Baby (uncredited)

Milburn Stone ... Jack - Reporter (uncredited)
Charles Tannen ... Reporter (uncredited)
Lillian West ... Nurse (uncredited)
Philip Winter ... Mr. Martin - Tenor (uncredited)
Lillian Yarbo ... Maid (uncredited)

Directed by
Irving Cummings 
Writing credits
William Anthony McGuire (screen play)

Produced by
Gene Markey .... associate producer
Darryl F. Zanuck .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
David Buttolph (uncredited)
Cyril J. Mockridge (uncredited)
Alfred Newman (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Leon Shamroy (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Walter Thompson (film editor)
Art Direction by
Richard Day 
Joseph C. Wright 
Set Decoration by
Thomas Little (set decorations)
Costume Design by
Travis Banton (costumes)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
D. Ross Lederman .... second unit director (uncredited)
Booth McCracken .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
Roger Heman Sr. .... sound (as Roger Heman)
Arthur von Kirbach .... sound
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Eugene Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Music Department
Alfred Newman .... musical director
Edward B. Powell .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Herbert W. Spencer .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Seymour Felix .... dances staged by
Madame Rosa Binner .... diamond corset (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
127 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Finland:S | Sweden:Btl | USA:Approved (PCA #6050) | USA:TV-G (TV rating)

Did You Know?

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 »
Movie Connections:
Spin off from Diamond Jim (1935)See more »
Ma Blushin' RosieSee more »


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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful.
"Back in the Days of Old Broadway: The Lillian Russell Story", 23 March 2006
Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida

LILLIAN RUSSELL (20th Century-Fox, 1940), directed by Irving Cummings, is a nostalgic film tribute to Helen Louise Leonard, better known as Broadway legend Lillian Russell (1861-1922), as portrayed by Hollywood legend Alice Faye in one of her more challenging roles of her career. Faye doesn't attempt to act nor sing like Lillian Russell, although it's hard to determine the actual personality of this legend, yet makes her characterization simple, sweet and sentimental in the usual Faye manner without making it look too much like a typical Alice Faye musical.

The story opens in Clinton, Iowa, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, with the birth of the fifth daughter of Charlie Leonard (Ernest Truex), owner of a newspaper business, and Cynthia Leonard (Dorothy Peterson), pioneer for women's suffrage whom, after moving the family to New York City, runs and loses her bid as mayor. As for Helen, she grows up into an attractive young lady with a remarkable singing voice. Her grandmother (Helen Westley) wants her to be trained for grand opera by Leopold Damrosch (Joseph Cawthorn), who feels she'd be far more suited for something else. While "playing theater" in her backyard for her father, Helen is overheard by producer Tony Pastor (Leo Carrillo) who immediately hires her for his theater under the new name of Lillian Russell. Over the years she becomes a famous star, against her mother's objections, loved by wealthy suitors Jesse Lewisohn (Warren William) and the legendary Diamond Jim Brady (Edward Arnold). She eventually marries composer Edward Solomon (Don Ameche), settles in England for a time where she gives birth to their daughter, Dorothy. Before dying, Solomon completes a haunting ballad "Blue Lovebird" dedicated entirely to her. While going through fame and despair, Alexander Moore (Henry Fonda), a newspaper man, who has been coming in and out of her life for some time now, and assigned by his editor for her biographical interview, keeps to himself his everlasting love for the girl he known back home as Helen.

The motion picture soundtrack mixing old and new song standards include: "Back in the Days of Old Broadway" by Charles Henderson and Alfred Newman; "Under the Bamboo Tree," "Comin' Thru the Rye" (Scotch tradition melody by Robert Burns); "The Strawberry Blonde," "My Evening Star" by John Stromberg and Robert B. Smith; "My Blushin' Rosie," "Adored One" by Mack Gordon and Alfred Newman; "Blue Lovebird" by Gus Kahn and Bronislau Kaper; "Blue Lovebird," "Blue Lovebird" (reprises); "He Goes to the Church on Sunday" by E. Ray Goetz and Vincent Bryan; "Waltz is King" by Mack Gordon and Charles Henderson; "The Tales of the Vienna Woods" by Johann Strauss Jr.; "After the Ball" and "Back in the Days of Old Broadway."

A companion piece to ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE (1939), with Faye in an unauthorized biography of Fanny Brice, along with supporting players assuming fictional names, ROSE and LILLIAN are met with production similarities. Originally a two hour piece, ROSE went through the editing process of 35 minutes, eliminating some great songs as well as comedy acts by the vaudeville comedy team of Joe Weber and Lew Fields. LILLIAN displays what ROSE might have been during its 127 minutes, indicating that maybe the wrong movie was dramatically downsized. A lavish scale musical-biography, LILLIAN succeeds most with its all-star cast, fine songs, plus added bonuses of Weber and Fields recorded on film, Eddie Foy Jr. playing his father, and for the second time on screen, Edward Arnold as Diamond Jim Brady, the role he originated in DIAMOND JIM (Universal, 1935). In spite of its pure accuracy in costume design and hair styles, recapturing the bygone era which ROSE didn't with its 1939 costumes in 1920s setting, the fault for LILLIAN lies on its weak script that might have be salvaged with Technicolor gloss instead of its standard black and white photography. Reviews then must have been mixed, but with fine support of big name and familiar actors, including Nigel Bruce and Claude Allister as Gilbert and Sullivan; and Una O'Connor as Marie, the maid, how could it fail? Yet, the big surprise is the third-billed Henry Fonda, straight from his triumph in THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940). Not necessarily associated with musicals, it's been mentioned by various sources, including Bob Dorian, former host of American Movie Classics, where LILLIAN RUSSELL aired regularly prior to 1989, that Fonda was unhappy with this assignment, feeling that after several important projects under the direction of John Ford that he would be offered the chance to star mostly in prestigious assignments. As it stands, this project should have been an honor for him for that Fonda's name at this point, supported by a strong cast, to be beneficial to LILLIAN RUSSELL, but of course he didn't or couldn't see it that way. While the real Lillian Russell married four times, the movie only depicts one briefly and the fourth possible prospect, eliminating husbands two and three. Maybe adding a roaster of other popular 20th-Fox actors as substitute to the film's weak points might have helped some with the continuity.

How much can be said about Lillian Russell that could stir up interest to a new generation today? Hard to say. At least with this depiction on her life, whether it be fact or fiction, Lillian Russell's name continues to live on, especially now whenever this screen treatment plays on the Fox Movie Channel. Thank goodness for film and what it represents. (***)

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