Rosalind Russell (June 4, 1907 – November 28, 1976) was an award-winning American actress of stage and screen, perhaps best known for her role as a fast-talking newspaper reporter in the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday, as well as originating the role of Auntie Mame on Broadway and in film. She won all 5 Golden Globes for which she was nominated, and was tied with Meryl Streep for wins until the 2007 awards when Streep was awarded a sixth. Russell won a Tony Award in 1953 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Ruth in the Broadway show "Wonerful Town."
Russell again displayed her talent for comedy in the classic screwball comedy His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hawks. She played a quick-witted ace reporter who was also the ex-wife of her newspaper editor (played by Cary Grant).
Over the course of her career, Russell earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Actress: in 1942 for "My Sister Eileen"; in 1946 for "Sister Kenny"; in 1947 for "Mourning Becomes Electra"; and in 1958 for the movie version of Auntie Mame. She received a Special Academy Award, The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1972. The awarded trophy for The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is an "Oscar" statuette.
Russell appeared as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line? on January 4, 1953. During her appearance, like most other Mystery Guests, Russell disguised her voice. Her voice however, was so well disguised that Dorothy Killgallen was convinced that the Mystery Guest was a man. After Russell's identity was guessed, she told the panel that her voice was so hoarse from "overwork in rehearsing" for her upcoming role in "Wonderful Town" that it made it very easy to diguise her voice in that way.
Russell scored a big hit on Broadway with her Tony Award-winning performance in Wonderful Town in 1953. The play was a musical version of her successful film of a decade earlier, My Sister Eileen. Russell reprised her starring role in the musical version in 1958 in a television special.
Russell returned to her native Waterbury for the world premiere of her movie The Girl Rush at the State Theater on August 18, 1955.
Probably her most memorable performance was in the title role of the long-running stage hit Auntie Mame and the subsequent movie version, in which she played an eccentric aunt whose orphan nephew comes to live with her. When asked which role she was most closely identified with, she replied that strangers who spotted her still called out, "Hey, Auntie Mame!" She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play in 1957 for her iconic role.
Russell was the logical choice for reprising her role as "Auntie Mame" when its Broadway musical adaptation Mame was set for production in 1966. She claimed to have turned it down since she preferred to move on to different roles. In reality, she did not want to burden the public with her growing health problems, which included rheumatoid arthritis.
Rosalind Russell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1708 Vine Street.
Russell died after a long battle with breast cancer in 1976 at the age of 69, although initially her age was misreported because she had shaved a few years off her true age. She was survived by her husband and son. She is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Her autobiography, written with Chris Chase, entitled Life is a Banquet was published a year after her death. In the foreword (written by her husband), he states that Russell had a breakdown sometime in the early 1940s. Details are scant (perhaps in 1944, the year she made no films), but it indicates that her health problems can be traced back to the 1940s.
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