The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Herrity

September 9, 2013

Lillian Russell

The Gilded Age, in which Lillian Russell flourished, was known for the large hats that ladies wore and for the parasols which shaded their fair skin from the sun. You see, ladies of that day wanted to be neither ruddy of complexion nor excessively skinny. Those were signs which distinguished common folk, who often worked outdoors and couldn’t afford proper food, from a well-fed upper class. Oddly, there was little anorexia or skin cancer in those days! Lillian, like many ladies, was a bit plump and wore corsets to effect her hour-glass figure.

 

Helen “Nellie” Leonard was baptized in St. John’s Episcopal Church, Clinton, Iowa, in May of 1861. Eventually, the family moved to Chicago and then, after the Chicago Fire, on to New York. She was highly talented and ambitious and soon was the belle of the ball. Her show business career rocketed to the very top.

 

Lillian was trained in violin, piano, and voice. She, Mom, and her sister Susie went on to New York. She was ever the beauty and carried herself as such, designing all her own clothes including the “sheath dress.”

 

The exquisite movie about her life focuses on achievements, while mentioning more tragic aspects in a sympathetic manner. She chose her first three husbands poorly, with one a known bigamist! Her first child died in infancy. Yet, she rebounded from each adversity as an even bigger star.

 

The early 40’s film, (whose World Premiere was held in Clinton at the Orpheum), depicts a string of happenstances, that caused an emotional roller coaster ride, to which our heroine always responded admirably! In troubled times, she merely threw herself into her next Broadway show at The Casino or the next party at Delmonico’s.

 

In the movie, Don Ameche plays her first husband, Harry Brahms, who dies tragically, and Edward Arnold is very well-cast as the infamous Diamond Jim Brady, her lifelong friend. Henry Fonda plays her fourth husband, a wealthy Pittsburgh gentleman who follows her career for decades and, finally, wins her hand as the love of her life. Alice Faye, in the title role, sang some of Lillian’s most famous songs, as well as one which probably wasn’t hers. After the Party’s Over, is played hauntingly throughout the old score. A modern movie remake of her life, with contemporary staging and audio technology, might make a box-office smash, even today!

Text Only
Herrity
  • 4-14-14 Longman service Clinton hero laid to rest

    ROCK ISLAND, Ill.-- After 70 years, Lt. Louis L. Longman, of Clinton, finally has been laid to rest with full military honors in the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery. First Lt. Chaplin Jacob Grenier, of Muscatine, performed Catholic burial rite

    April 12, 2014 4 Photos

  • Drive-in theatre dominant Clinton's own drive-in theater Spring brings many thoughts, but taking the family out to see a big-screen movie at the Clinton Drive-In Theatre on Iowa 136 and North 16th Street is sadly no longer an option. Large families were thirsting for family activities after World War II.

    April 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Longmann 70 years in the making: WWII soldier to be honored Imagine three boys, orphaned in the midst of the Great Depression, moving from Minnesota to an adjacent state to live with extended family. How hard it would be to lose both parents and, then, have to move away and take up a new life in a strange tow

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dale Gardner astronaut collage Let's celebrate our successful people There are many famous and successful people who have called Clinton home. We need to celebrate their lives as well as all of their contributions. Recently, former astronaut Dale Gardner, 65, died. He and two other astronauts have connections with Cli

    March 14, 2014 3 Photos

  • Lyons photo for Herrity column HERRITY: Residents have pride in neighborhood

    To this day, thousands of Clintonians say, "I was born and raised in Lyons." Founder Elijah Buell first set foot on the banks of what would become Lyons, Iowa in 1835. He built a cabin, laid out a town, platted the community, raised a family, sold

    December 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • Dem Convention.jpg Famous Clinton Lawyers

    Clinton lawyers in our history are a group of hugely contributing citizens.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • slides0-R1-E042.jpg Dances in Lyons and Clinton

    Remember when people danced and they actually touched? There are still a few folks left who can “cut a rug.”

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • The Roundhouse.jpg Railroads Made Clinton Famous

    Most people would associate Clinton history with sawmills; however, without the railroad, no sawmills would ever have existed in this community.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Albany ComCntr.jpg Historic Albany, Illinois

    Albany historian and journalist Helen Hanson is gone, and with her, many thoughts and memories about her lovely, historic hometown of Albany, Illinois.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Volckmann at Surrender.jpg “We Remained” and “We Won!”

    It is incredible that Colonel Russell Volckmann survived at all, let alone as Public Enemy Number One of the Japanese, who hunted him like a dog!

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo