Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell
"Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly."
- Rosalind Russell

Induction Category:
Arts & Humanities

Born: 1906

Died: 1976

Inducted: 2005

Town: Waterbury

A brilliant, charismatic and charming actress, Rosalind Russell spent her more than four-decades long career reflecting her own life experiences and observations on the world in the characters she brought to life on stage and screen. She was the winner of five Golden Globe awards and a Tony Award as well as the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1973.

Rosalind Russell was born in 1907 in Waterbury, Conn., to an educated and affluent family. Her father was a prominent trial lawyer and her mother a fashion editor for Vogue. One of seven siblings, she was named after the Steamship S.S. Rosalind on which her parents had once traveled. Russell attended the Notre Dame Academy in Waterbury and then Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. After two years there, she convinced her mother that she intended to teach theater and was allowed to enroll in the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts in New York City. The plan, however, was always to become an actress.

In 1934, after a brief stint on Broadway, Russell moved to Hollywood and began screen testing. She first signed with Universal Studios, but immediately after she entered into her contract, received a better offer from MGM. Russell approached Universal, lamenting her naiveté and her lack of knowledge of the studio system, and convinced Universal to release her from her contract. She then signed with MGM. Her film debut, in 1934’s Evelyn Prentice, was well-received and, though she played a minor role, her talent was noticed. She went on to star in a series of comedies, often being typecast in roles where she played a wealthy, extremely ladylike character—an image Russell earnestly sought to change.

Her first major critical acclaim came in 1935 when she played opposite Robert Young in West Point of the Air. Her career received a huge boost in 1939 when she starred in The Women, based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play of the same name. Russell’s biggest break came in 1940 when she starred as ace reporter Hildy Johnson opposite Cary Grant in the screwball comedy classic His Girl Friday, creating one of film history’s most enduring feminist icons. Two years later, Russell would earn an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Ruth Sherwood in My Sister Eileen and a Tony Award for her performance in Wonderful Town, the theatrical adaptation of the film. She would go on to earn three more Oscar nominations and five Golden Globe Awards. Other highlights of Russell’s career include Craig’s Wife (1936), Mourning Becomes Electra (1947), Auntie Mame (1958), Gypsy (1962), and Mrs. Pollifax (1971). In 1966, she starred in The Trouble with Angels, which also featured Susan Saint James in one of her first film roles.

Russell was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. In 1973, she received the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award for her extensive charity work in the Los Angeles area and beyond, including Children’s Services in Connecticut. The American National Theater and Academy presented her with the National Artists Award in 1974. In 2009, Life is a Banquet: The Rosalind Russell Story premiered with Kathleen Turner narrating Russell’s life and career.

Rosalind Russell died in Los Angeles on November 28, 1976.

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