Roz Russell was, after Deborah, one of my first classic actress loves. I admired her, and still do, because where someone like Ava Gardner only had to slink across a room whilst nonchalantly pulling on a cigarette to command audiences, Roz made use of something else: her comedic talent. She may not have been a femme fatale, but she remained popular with audiences around the world because she knew how to make them laugh. On the flip side, as well as being a brilliant comedic actress, she was equally as well equipped to perform in more dramatic roles. In short, she was an incredible actress and everyone should love her as much as I do!
The Women, 1939
His Girl Friday, 1940
My Sister Eileen, 1942
A Woman of Distinction, 1950
Auntie Mame, 1958
The Trouble With Angels, 1966
The Women is a film that every fan of classic film should see and a good starting point for those looking to get into the classics. In terms of 1939 in film, I rank this as #1. As well as Roz's great performance as the delightful and hilarious Mrs. 'Prowler', The Women is filled with a veritable who's-who of great Hollywood names: Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, and Paulette Goddard, to name but a few. If you're looking for something with strong female leads, this if your film. In fact, I would go so far as to say that never has there been such a brilliant all female cast.
Like the film above, His Girl Friday is a must for all fans of classic film. The epitome of screwball comedy, Roz slays Cary with her quips, one-liners, and hilarious faces. It was the first film Roz films I saw and I've been hooked ever since. There's something so ageless about HGF that makes it all the more brilliant and worthy of praise.
My Sister Eileen tells the story of wo sisters, Ruth (Roz) and Eileen (Janet Blair), who move to New York in the hopes of boosting their respective careers of writing and acting. This may very well be the most ridiculous film in this box set. However, it's ridiculousness rules in it's favour because it's not a silly film trying to be serious, it really is just silly (and rather witty at times). Without Roz, however, I'm not sure that it would have been quite the same. It's contrived, full of scenarios that everyone has seen a hundred times before, but Roz brings a freshness to it which makes it quite impossible not to enjoy.
A Woman of Distinction sees Roz playing a college dean who firmly believes that her life is far to full and busy to leave any room for romance. So when an fantastical love story is cooked up by publicist Teddy Evans involving Roz's college dean and Ray Milland's English professor (of astronomy, no less), sparks being to fly - and not the sparks of love. The highlight of the entire film, for me, has to be the bike ride. I'm not the biggest fan of slapstick but that scene has me doubled up with laugher every time.
What can I say about Auntie Mame? Perfect films don't exist but if they did, Auntie Mame would be up there at the top. Roz IS the eccentric, extremely flamboyant, and always good fun Mame Dennis who, after her brother dies, is given charge of his only son, Patrick. Together, they manage to weather the ups and the downs of Mame's crazy life. With aspects of comedy, drama, and just downright craziness, no one with a heart will manage to get through this film without laughing and crying - quite possibly doing both at the same time.
Whilst The Trouble With Angels isn't actually a Disney film, it definitely has the Disney live action vibe that is present in films like The Parent Trap and The Moon Spinners (it probably helps that Hayley Mills stars in all three films!). Roz plays the Mother Superior of an order of nuns who run a private school for girls and she does so with wonderful gravitas and her usual dry wit (Fun fact: Roz was actually a Catholic in real life.). Everything about the film makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside - it's so heartfelt and so lovely. And, you wouldn't think it, but Roz has some absolutely hysterical one-liners!
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Thanks for reading!