Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell (December 41860 – June 6 1922) was an American actress and singer.

Born Helen Louise Leonard in Clinton, Iowa, Lillian Russell became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th century and early 20th century, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.

Life and career

Russell's father was newspaper publisher Charles E. Leonard, and her mother was the feminist Cynthia Leonard, the first woman to run for mayor of New York City. Her family moved to Chicago in 1865, where she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Park Institute.

Early career

At the age of eighteen, she and her mother left for New York where Leonard studied singing under Leopold Damrosch. She joined the chorus of a touring production of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera "H.M.S. Pinafore" in 1879 and two weeks later married the orchestra leader, Harry Braham.

In November 1879, having changed her name to "Lillian Russell," she made her first appearance on Broadway at Tony Pastor's Casino Theater, billed as "an English Ballad Singer." [ [ From] ] Pastor, known as the father of vaudeville, was responsible for introducing many well-known performers. Russell immediately gained popularity, and she toured with Pastor and later starred in some of his comic operas. In the early 1880s Russell starred in the Bijou Opera House, on Broadway, and elsewhere in Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera roles, such as the title role in "Patience" and Aline in "The Sorcerer".

Russell married her second husband, composer Edward Solomon, in 1884 (a year after their daughter was born) travelled with him to England. There she starred in Solomon's "Polly", Grundy and Solomon's "Pocahontas" and Solomon and Stephens' "Virginia and Paul". While in London, she was engaged to create the title role of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Princess Ida", but she was dismissed during rehearsals. [Stedman, Jane W. (1996) "W. S. Gilbert, A Classic Victorian & His Theatre", pp. 200-01. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816174-3] She then returned to America, touring in Solomon's comic operas. They had a daughter named Dorothy. In 1886, Solomon was arrested for bigamy. Russell filed for divorce in 1893 and joined the J. C. Duff Opera Company, with which she toured for two years.

During these years, Russell continued to star in comic operas and other musical theatre. In 1887, she starred as Carlotta in "Gasparone" by Karl Millöcker in New York City at the Standard Theatre, together with Eugene Oudin and J. H. Ryley." [ [ "New York Times" review of 1887 New York production] ] When Alexander Graham Bell introduced long distance telephone service on May 8 1890, Russell's voice was the first carried over the line. From New York City, Russell sang "Sabre Song" to audiences in Boston and Washington, D.C..

She married actor John Haley Augustin Chatterton (known as "Giovanni Perugini") in 1894, but they soon separated. Russell continued starring with various opera companies, including the McCaull Opera Company and later her own company. For many years, Russell was the foremost singer of operettas in America. Her voice, stage presence and beauty were the subject of a great deal of fanfare in the news media, and she was extremely popular with audiences. Actress Marie Dressler observed, "I can still recall the rush of pure awe that marked her entrance on the stage. And then the thunderous applause that swept from orchestra to gallery, to the very roof." Among Russell's best-known roles were in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience" and "The Sorcerer" and W. S. Gilbert's "The Mountebanks", Alfred Cellier's "Dorothy" as well as Jacques Offenbach's "The Princess of Trebizonde", "The Brigands" (in a translation by Gilbert), "The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein", and "The Queen of Brilliants".

For forty years, Russell was also the companion of businessman "Diamond Jim" Brady, who showered her with extravagant gifts of diamonds and gemstones and supported her extravagant lifestyle.

Later years

In 1899, Russell joined the Weber and Fields's Music Hall, where she starred in their entertainments until 1904. Before the 1902 production of "Twirly Whirly", John Stromberg, who had composed several hit songs for her, delayed giving Lillian Russell her solo for several days, saying that it was not ready. When he committed suicide a few days before the first rehearsal, sheet music for "Come Down Ma Evenin' Star" was discovered in his coat pocket. It became Russell's signature song and is the only one she is known to have recorded. [Kenrick, John, (2002) [ History of the Musical Stage – 1890s: Part II] , Accessed September 22, 2008.]

filename=Lillian Russell - Come Down Ma Evenin' Star.ogg
title=Come Down Ma Evenin' Star
description=Lillian Russell's only known recording, from 1912

After 1904, Russell began to have vocal difficulties, but she did not retire from the stage. Instead, she switched to non-musical comedies, touring under the management of James Brooks, but she eventually returned to singing, appearing in burlesque, variety and other entertainments. In 1912, she married her fourth husband, Alexander Pollock Moore, owner of the "Pittsburgh Leader", and mostly retired from the stage. The same year, she made her last appearance on Broadway in Weber & Fields' "Hokey Pokey". She sang in vaudeville until 1919, when ill health forced her to retire from the stage.

In later years, Russell wrote a newspaper column, advocated women's suffrage (as her mother had), and was a popular lecturer, advocating an optimistic philosophy of self-help. During World War I, she recruited for the U.S. Marine Corps and raised money for the war effort. Russell became a wealthy woman, and during the Actors' Equity strike of 1919, she made a major donation of money to sponsor the formation of the Chorus Equity Association by the chorus girls at the Ziegfeld Follies. According to the March 17, 1922 edition of "The New York Times", Russell traveled aboard the R.M.S. Aquitania from Southampton, England, to the Port of New York on the March 11 to March 17 crossing. " [She] established a precedent by acting as Chairman of the ship's concert, the first woman, so far as the records show, to preside at an entertainment on shipboard."

Lillian Russell died on June 6, 1922, shortly after a completing a fact-finding mission to Europe on behalf of President Warren Harding. She was buried with full military honors. She is interred in a private mausoleum in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A full-length portrait of Russell was painted in 1902 by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947) who also painted another oval half-length, but both portraits are missing.


The Lillian Russell Theatre aboard the City of Clinton Showboat is a summer stock theater named after Russell in her hometown of Clinton, Iowa. [ [ From] ] A 1940 film was made about Russell's life. It was directed by Irving Cummings who, as a teenager starting his career, had acted with Russell in the play "Wildfire" in 1908.

ee also

*Cynthia Leonard
*Lillian Russell (film)



* [ Brief biography of Russell]
* [ Profile of Russell and description of papers in library's collection]
* [ Another profile of Russell]
* [ A Bio-Bibliography]
*Fields, Armond "Lillian Russell: A Biography of 'America's Beauty'" (McFarland & Company 1998) ISBN 0-7864-0509-0
*Brough, James H., "Miss Lillian Russell: A Novel Memoir" (NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, 1978) ISBN 0-07-008120-4
*Morell, Parker. "Lillian Russell: The Era of Plush" (NY: Random House, 1940).
*O'Connor, Richard. "Duet in Diamonds: The Flamboyant Saga of Lillian Russell and Diamond Jim Brady in America's Gilded Age" (NY: Putnam, 1972).
* [ Information about Russell's stage career]
* [ Chronology of marriages and other personal events]
*imdb name|0751291|Lillian Russell
*imdb name|0751291|Lillian Russell
* [ Article on Russell's involvement in the women's suffrage movement]

External links

* (Film credits.)
* (1940 film of her life.)
* (1947 film of the life of Chauncey Olcott, with whom Russell had a relationship.)
* [ Image galleries]
* [ Photographs of Russell]
* [ Interview of Russell from 1907]
* [ Interview of Russell from 1914]
* [ "Lillian Russell Flaunts Good Taste 1901"]
* [ "Famous Tightlacers" Photos of Russell]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lillian Russell — Nombre real Helen Louise Leonard Nacimiento 4 de diciembre de 1860 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lillian Russell — eigentlich Helen Louise Leonard (* 4. Dezember 1860 in Clinton, Iowa; † 6. Juni 1922) war eine US amerikanische Schauspielerin und Sängerin. Lillian Russell (um 1890) Über ihre Jugend ist wenig bekannt, allerdings soll sie in Chicago Musikunterr …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lillian Russell — noun United States entertainer remembered for her roles in comic operas (1861 1922) • Syn: ↑Russell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑singer, ↑vocalist, ↑vocalizer, ↑vocaliser …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lillian Russell — Helen Louise Leonard …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Lillian Russell (film) — Infobox Film name = Lillian Russell image size = caption = director = Irving Cummings producer = Darryl F. Zanuck writer = William Anthony McGuire narrator = starring = Alice Faye Don Ameche Henry Fonda Edward Arnold music = cinematography =… …   Wikipedia

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  • Russell, Lillian — orig. Helen Louise Leonard born Dec. 4, 1861, Clinton, Iowa, U.S. died June 6, 1922, Pittsburgh, Pa. U.S. singer and actress. She made her stage debut while still in her teens. She achieved stardom in Grand Mogul (1881) and later won acclaim in… …   Universalium

  • Russell — /rus euhl/, n. 1. Bertrand (Arthur William), 3rd Earl, 1872 1970, English philosopher, mathematician, and author: Nobel prize for literature 1950. 2. Charles Edward, 1860 1941, U.S. journalist, sociologist, biographer, and political leader. 3.… …   Universalium